In January 2006, I was (barely) nineteen years old. I was six weeks into a long and grueling Army medic training program, intermittently single and engaged (it was complicated), and a devout Christian. I genuinely believed that God was the only path to happiness—yet I felt miserable almost every day, and my misery could be explained only partly by my extremely negative experience in the U.S. Army.1
Every aspect of an Army trainee’s life is heavily controlled. During the first portion of my medic program (“Black” phase), soldiers were allowed only two books and no electronic devices. One of my books, of course, was the Bible. The other slot usually was occupied by a generic fantasy novel—something to pass the time on Sunday mornings after church.
When I went to the base library and picked up Wizard’s First Rule by Terry Goodkind, I had never heard of the author, and I had no particular reason for selecting that particular book. It was in the fantasy section, and I hadn’t yet read it; that was good enough for me. By the time I finished reading it, I knew that Wizard’s First Rule was anything but generic fantasy—but I couldn’t yet put my finger on what was different about it. . . .
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1. For an indication of conditions in the military similar to those I experienced, see Matt Young, “I Hope the Military Doesn’t Change My Brother Like It Did Me,” Time, March 13, 2018, https://time.com/5193840/military-afghanistan-service-marine-corps/; Liam Brennon, “How Veterans Affairs Denies Care to Many of the People It’s Supposed to Serve,” Washington Post, November 8, 2019, https://www.washingtonpost.com/outlook/how-veterans-affairs-denies-care-to-many-of-the-people-its-supposed-to-serve/2019/11/08/2c105b48-0183-11ea-9518-1e76abc088b6_story.html; David Barno and Nora Bensahel, “Lying to Ourselves: The Demise of Military Integrity,” War on the Rocks, March 10, 2015, https://warontherocks.com/2015/03/lying-to-ourselves-the-demise-of-military-integrity/.
2. Although the Uniform Code of Military Justice does not explicitly prohibit the burning of religious texts, the “catch-all” articles “§ 909. Art. 109. Property other than military property of the United States—Waste, spoilage, or destruction” and “§ 934. Art. 134. General article” can and have been used to punish the destruction of such texts.
3. The short-lived TV series Legend of the Seeker, although (very) loosely based on the Sword of Truth series, bears almost no resemblance to the books and cuts out virtually all of the philosophically important content. I don’t recommend it. Also, be advised that the Sword of Truth books contain graphic, sometimes sexual violence. These scenes are often disturbing, but never gratuitous; they’re intended to portray the consequences of certain antilife ideas. Finally, note that some versions of the Sword of Truth e-books are riddled with typos and formatting errors. The paperback versions are much cleaner.