Sunday, April 7, 2013

The Crisis of Faith Theme

There is an interesting page about the Crisis of Faith theme on the website TV Tropes. (TV Tropes is a site that identifies various conventions and common narrative devices in TV, cinema and books-- you know, like the convention of the bomber not even looking around or flinching when the bomb he's planted goes off.)

Sometimes I think that almost every story is about faith lost and regained, or else faith discovered for the first time-- whether that be religious faith, faith in makind, faith in oneself, faith in a loved one, faith in a cause, or faith in the future. So this subject is of very compelling interest to almost everybody, but especially religious folk.

I remember I went to see a film whose central character was a cleric who had lost his faith. (I won't say which, for fear of spoiling the ending if you haven't seen it.) Eventually this former cleric does regain his faith, but he does so as a result of various events in the story which seem obviously Providential. I felt annoyed at this at the time (I was an agnostic-atheist back then, but not a fervent one by any means, and not in the least hostile to religion.) I felt that a story of faith regained should not trade upon improbabilities or coincidences or miracles, that this was cheating.

I am more often surprised by the hospitality of the world towards faith, than I am by its hostility to it. I am often struck that even those people I know who are rather hostile towards religion, or towards the Catholic Church in particular, tend to be very respectful of my religious beliefs. Of course, this is just good matters, to a great extent, but it seems to go deeper than that. I am constantly expecting to be taken to task for my gullibility/weak-mindedness/bigotry. But the anticipated challenge never really appears. I am fairly regularly challenged about particular Church teachings, but nobody ever really accosts me for believing any of it in the first place. In fact, I even detect (I may be wrong) a funny kind of sympathy for my beliefs, even amongst those who absolutely do not share them. I often ponder this. It is accounted for by a latent religiosity in the sympathizer's own soul? Or is it simply that the great religious traditions of humanity have a certain dignity in most peoples' eyes, as being (at the least) beautiful and profound myths?

Faith is a funny thing. We walk by faith, not sight, and if you practice a religion, than you are building your entire life on something whose very existence is extremely controversial. And yet, it seems fitting and noble at the same time. It is dramatically satisfying. The love lives and working lives and social lives and intellectual lives of human beings are so very disparate, and in truth the builder of a business empire has a much more satisfying and exciting working life than a security guard. But the adventure of faith is the same for everybody; it gives grandeur and poetry and sublimity to even the plainest and most uneventful of lives. Nobody is going to invent an app or a device of some kind that solves the mystery of the universe, or that saves your soul. This drama is blessedly immune to such plot contrivances. That the ultimate adventure of life is one in which intelligence and wealth and beauty and connections avail you very little, if at all (and might even be a hindrance) seems to me to be a wonderful source of human dignity.

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