Aeons ago, I put out a call for guest posts on how your faith might influence your fiction. Author Nobilis Reed was kind enough to submit a post and then life intervened. In addition to NaNoWriMo I had some site issues. Anyway, with apologies I submit his post. If you’re interested in writing one up, please contact me!
If the Divine and I had a Facebook relationship, it would be defined as “It’s Complicated.”
Let’s start with my definition of faith: “Faith is the belief in something that cannot be proven by reason.” Pretty much everyone has faith in something, even hardcore rationalists.* My unprovable assertion is “There is at least one influence in existence that transcends human understanding.” It’s unprovable, because in order to prove it, you would have find this influence and understand it, and by doing so you would disqualify it from the assertion. As a result, my relationship with this entity cannot be anything but complicated.
When you’re dealing with an entity that transcends human understanding, the only way to think about it is with as-if constructs and metaphors. When it’s raining outside, and I step out the door and find that the storm has suddenly abated to a mere sprinkle, which then returns to a steady downpour once I’m inside the car, I raise my eyes skyward and say, “Thank you.” When that happens, do I believe that there is a deity which listens to my prayer in the same way a parent listens to a child? No, but it’s a useful as-if construct to describe the situation. When I describe the experiences of a friend of mine, who was rescued from a (pre cell phone) flat tire stranding by a muscular redheaded guy in a convertible sports car, and now describes Ares as her personal deity, do I believe that she met an actual god that day? No, but it’s a useful as-if construct to describe the situation.
Any deity you encounter in the real world, whether it’s the Christian God, or Allah, or Jehovah, or Zeus, or any of the dozens of other names for the divine or the infernal, what you’re talking about is an as-if construct created by people to describe that great unknowable entity beyond human understanding. We put a face on it, usually a human face, to make the relationship possible.
My personal spirituality doesn’t play a role in most of my books, but there is an exception in the Orgone Chronicles series. The cultures of these novels is entirely spacefaring; they don’t live on planets at all, but instead have space stations and starships scattered over the galaxy. To them, the great unknown is immediate and pervasive, always there just past the outer bulkhead; it’s space, hard vacuum, the void, the hungry nothingness outside the airlock. Different cultures see it slightly differently, of course; the Stationers see it as a cthonic ending, a sort of real-world hell, representing suffering and death. Scouts and Pirates see it as a veil of ignorance, that must be pierced to discover the unknown. They swear with the word “vack,” short for “vacuum,” and the worst punishment that can be inflicted is to expel a criminal out into the void without an airsuit.
In general, though, I think my worldview allows me to more easily empathize with people who have different constructs than I do. I have a work-in-progress sitting on my hard drive (one of many, I’m afraid) set in a future America where cultural divisions have led people to segregate themselves into ideological enclaves where any ideas challenging the local dogma are severely restricted. One of the enclaves featured in that story is an Evangelical Christian community, and I believe my worldview allows me to write them more authentically, because I can more easily get into their heads and avoid excessive caricature.
* If you count yourself a hardcore rationalist and you find this statement offensive, consider your opinion on the following assertion: “There exists no element of human experience that can never be explained by science.” And then consider the difficulty of proving that something does not exist.