Sunday, October 7, 2012


The other day a friend asked me about my religious beliefs. I told her that I'm agnostic--I won't say there isn't a God, but I'm not convinced that there is. She said she doesn't believe me. She thinks that deep down I know there's a God, but I just don't want to admit it because I've been hurt by religion and I'm protecting myself. I don't agree with her assessment, but I'm fine with her believing that. Her belief is based on her worldview, and I won't claim that I never draw conclusions about others' motivations based on my worldview. But I'm self-aware enough to recognize what I do and don't believe, and my motivations for believing as I do.

In reality, I'm much more motivated to believe than not to. First, there's twenty-five years of religious training that has informed the way I interpret the world around me. When happy coincidences happen, I can't help but wonder if there's some divine force at play, guiding my life. Beyond that, there's my education in literature, which taught me to find meaning in everything. In a book, every word, every action, every act of nature is assumed to be part of the author's master plan, an attempt to convey some hidden meaning. It's only natural for me, then, to transfer this assumption onto the world around me, and if there's meaning behind every detail then there must be an author. 

But being a student of literature also gives me a pretty healthy understanding of the human psyche. Well-written literature gives us a peak into why people think and do what they do, after all. So applying my skills of literary analysis to the character Mr. Fob, I can see that there are reasons he is prone to reading meaning into everything. Apart from the above-mentioned, he is like most other human beings in that he wants to make sense of the world around him, and it would be very comforting for him to know there is a Master Author writing the story of his life. It makes him happy when a friend randomly shows up to talk on a night when he really needs to talk. He is grateful when another friend departs from her usual routine to read a blog post of his and reaches out to let him know that the content thereof does not, in fact, make her uncomfortable. And when he feels grateful, he needs someone to feel grateful to. So why not assume there is a Master Author, someone writing all these deus-ex-machina coincidences into his life? 

Really, I'm hoping that one day I'll find out that I'm the star of a comic book and get to meet the writer, like Animal Man did 

And perhaps there is. But I distrust my motivations for wanting to believe. The skeptic in me recognizes that these very same reasons--the desire to make sense of things that simply don't make sense--are likely what led humanity to invent God in the first place. There are too many ways theism fails to explain what it attempts to explain, reasons I won't get into here because I'm not trying to convince anyone and that's not what this blog post is about. So instead of believing in a Master Author, I choose to see life as the collaborative work of many authors. Just as with any collaborative work, it can be a mess if the authors are each trying to write a different story, but in the moments when those authors' visions sync up, the result is a synergistic masterpiece. And in those moments, I will be grateful to the authors who make it happen.