Bible Study

As I sit here contemplating the weekly Bible study I attend with my wife, I can’t help but think the role that religion plays in my writing.  I don’t intentionally write about religion, either the institution or the activity, but it always seems to be there somewhere.   Religion in some fashion has been an interest of mine since I was very young.

It seems like I’ve been through them all at one time or another.  There was Roman Catholicism, including a two year sentence in parochial school.  Then there was a bout with occultism (very popular in the late 60’s/early 70’s) and Orientalism (Taoism was cool until the television series ‘Kung Fu’ was cancelled).  Then came years of agnosticism, until I came to be where I am today, a confirmed Lutheran.

With that being said, I need to add that while I have the assurance of my faith, it does not preclude me from questioning everything.  But the desire to question everything should not be confused with my natural cynicism.

Questioning everything comes from twenty years as an Air Force intelligence analyst and demands that I try to see everything through the filter of cultural and historical context, rather than just blindly accepting what I am told.

My natural cynicism is embodied in my tendency to distrust people, institutions, and their motives.  Sure people do good things, but there is always an ulterior motive.

Actually the tendency to question everything and natural cynicism complement each other.  Together they make me wonder why people do what they do and compel me to try and determine their motivations.  This is especially important for a writer influenced by religion.

Religion is an activity whose greatest potential is salvation, but whose propensity is for exploitation.  It is that propensity rather than the potential that makes religion such a fertile field for inspired writing.  Think about the various types ― the exploitative preacher, the evil wizard, the pedophile priest, the draconian evangelist ― and there are so many, many more.

Please don’t get me wrong, it’s not that I am irreligious or anti-religious, but religion because it is so often binary ― right or wrong, no gray ― its doctrines invite conflict and conflict is what makes good fiction interesting.

So what do you think?  Wasn’t it Karl Marx who said that religion is the opiate of the masses?  Far be it from me to agree with Marx, but from a writing perspective he does have a point.  Religion, especially when it is effectively exploitive, creates the opportunity for self or even mass delusion.  That is, to believe in something so entirely that all else is secondary, even life.  Unfortunately real life provides many examples of how religion has been manipulated to destroy the very things it is assumed to protect and cherish.  Cults, I’m sure you know the kind, are a great example.  They’re fine until someone starts mixing the Kool-Aid.

Do you have good examples where religion has been used effectively as an element in your writing?

If you’d like to share an example or have a comment about this or any of my posts, click the Leave a comment link.  I’d really like to hear from you.  Thanks.

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About Kevin_Fraleigh

I am a novelist, and much of my writing is predicated on the concept that within each of us is a hole. For some of us, the hole is a divot, shallow and insignificant. But for many of us the hole is a cavern, deep and expansive. We try to fill it with sex or drugs or religion, but the cavern has an insatiable appetite. This is where the dark things live―the things that fill our nightmares. The things that claw at our minds. The things that inspire the stories of horror, madness, and twisted realities. From the depths of that cavern come the seeds of my stories. Won’t you join me in the dark edges of reality? Learn more about me from my blog at anytomorrow.wordpress.com. You can find my novels at amazon.com, smashwords.com, and most eBook retailers. You can also read some of my full length short stories at http://www.wattpad.com/user/Kevin_Fraleigh
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3 Responses to Bible Study

  1. I like this because you don’t really pretend to have answers. I like your picture because the profile looks like you have vision and you’re on your way. At the same time you’re paying very close attention to not go off the road. Very cool I think
    Here’s a quote that kind of sums up some things but still needs to be viewed as tongue- in-cheek:

    “With or without religion, you would have good people doing good things and bad people doing bad things. But for good people to do evil things, that takes religion.”
    -Steven Weinberg

    Actually in my blog I write about Spiritual Themes and I have a group of ideas of so called “reality”. It may read as arrogent but I think it’s really about spirituality in progress. Life is complicated. Real answers ARE hard to find. Keep Blogging. Keep Writing. Thanks.

  2. Jo Bryant says:

    This was an interesting post. i was raised both without religion and as a Catholic during different times. It has left me with many queries that I still try to explore and understand.
    I recently posted a poem that was a reflection on my childish infatuation with Catholic dogma, and my adult frustration with its hipocrisy.
    http://jobryantnz.wordpress.com/2011/03/15/death-rattle/

    • bert1482 says:

      It’s the wondering and exploration of the religious experience that is valuable, not necessarily surrendering to the dogmatic acceptance of a single philosophy or belief system. I’ve always believed that God has great respect for those of us whose questions outnumber our answers. If all we had was answers it seems like it would make God something less than infinite. It would limit both the creation and the creator.

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