October 20th, 2010 / 12:34 pm

Have the years you’ve spent working on writing affected in any way your belief or lack of belief in god?


  1. Anonymous

      science is faith

  2. Eric

      Yes. I’ve realized I am God.

  3. M. Kitchell

      Growing up “Christian” taught me how to lie, which is certainly a thing to be good at if you’re writing fiction.

  4. Roxane

      Good question, Blake. I used to think I was an atheist or, more accurately, an agnostic. The more I write and the more I read however, the more I do believe in God, the more I feel like there is something greater than myself, than all of us, that I can have faith in.

  5. nubia

      No. The other way around though. My lack of belief affects how i feel about writing. Eventually, after producing something I really love (a phrase, a line, an entire piece), a paralyzing wave of nihilism will pour over me and ruin every bit of joy i ever associated with the act of creating.

  6. gavin

      My disbelief was sewn early, amidst a devout fundamental upbringing, and while I’m unsure if writing has affected it, I am sure an attention to language, a preoccupation with it, a relishing in its manipulation, a recognition of its slipperiness, a joy in its refusals, seemed to be occurring in me around the time that the things I had been taught and had at some point assumed about God were themselves unhinging into the same kind of slipperiness. And the more I became interested in and tried my hand with language, the more old certainties, about God and much else, seemed odd on the best days and perhaps completely wrong on the worst.

  7. Michael J Seidlinger

      Most certainly. I’ve found myself less interested in broad topics like god and politics and more interested in intimate and immediate issues like social isolation and personal value.

  8. jereme_dean

      this doesn’t feel like a blake butler question…

  9. Mike Meginnis

      I think writing lays bare the language games God largely subsists on.

  10. Tracy Bowling

      I believe in God less, or I derive less confidence from the idea that God exists than I used to. I think writing has made it difficult for me to hold basic ideas about existence with any kind of certainty. Most days I think of it as having traded one thing of value for another; I wasn’t totally satisfied when I believed in God wholeheartedly either. (Which, to be fair, tends to mean you’re doing it wrong from a theological standpoint.) And it makes sense to me from a writing perspective to think that the human condition is one of never really being satisfied.

      But I do feel it as a loss, and I do sometimes get a little bitter at writing for its role in the loss.

  11. Richard Wasserfall

      My belief in God is strong and I’ve spent most of my writing life trying to find a way to articulate a prophetic voice through fiction — last year Blake, I experimented with remixing one of your Scorch Atlas stories with the Bible book Lamentations (for a featherproof books contest). But trying to write “the word of God” through fiction is weird because plot is contrived and any “spiritual encounter” in a fiction is pupperteering on the part of the author. Word games as mentioned above. So I’ve come up with a character called Nehemiah Blake who believes he is a prophet. He’s a Don Quixote character, so my narrative strategy has been to pull the carpet from under his feet and state him certifiable mad through is scribe Marlowe. Because it is impossible to say for sure who is telling “the truth”, for me that gap between the two has become a way for me explore if any form of prophetic utterance is possible. I recently posted an extract of the novel I’m at on here: http://nehemiahblake.wordpress.com/the_dream_vison/ A bit cheeky on my part, but hey…

  12. sean k

      I was just thinking about this sorta…

      I used to be an atheist or agnostic, my attitude was there’s probably no god, let’s talk about something else. But more and more I find myself not believing in “god,” but believing very much in the things that god represents, and not in a new-agey “everything is connected by spirits, man!” sort of way. I like to tell people when this comes up that “god” is just one big metaphor, a useful way for talking about things inside ourselves not otherwise apparent.

  13. Daniel Bailey

      i’ve realized how much the question of god doesn’t even matter to me.
      i say this as i’m listening to time by hootie and the blowfish. don’t ask me why.

  14. sean k

      I guess this makes me still technically agnostic, but for some reason I feel more comfortable puking on people than just telling them “I’m agnostic.”

  15. Guest

      where’s deadgod?

  16. La Petite Zine

      The years have, the years themselves.

  17. rawbbie

      I consider myself an apatheist, meaning, God doesn’t matter, and I don’t care.

  18. reynard seifert

      there are a number of approaches to and types of atheism, in fact, and this is just a matter of semantics, but i’ve always felt that there is not actually such a thing as ‘agnosticism’ and this has been thoroughly debated by other people for quite a while, there is a decent explanation of it on http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Atheism in which it is suggested that agnosticism is actually what is known as ‘negative atheism’ – people, i think, prefer to say they are agnostic because it doesn’t carry such a negative connotation to believers because believers believe agnostics will not necessarily go to hell (because they’re just ‘uncertain’) whereas atheists will (because they have ‘rejected god’) – atheism is a very old word, dating as far back as the 5th century BC, whereas agnosticism was coined by thomas huxley in 1876 – atheism does of course mean literally ‘away from god’ and agnostic is more like ‘away from knowledge’ (gnosis being the latin for knowledge), and the word atheist was definitely an insult pretty well until the 20th century, but my feeling about it is a) embracing insults is probably a healthy thing to do (i.e. kmart realism, blurb, the ‘n word’ ((last one’s obviously debatable))) and b) since the central idea of believing in god or gods or whatever is ‘faith’ itself, the real meaning of atheism is something like ‘away from belief’ or a kind of disbelief in belief itself – so if someone asked i would call myself an atheist because i do not subscribe to the concept of believing, which is why i’m into science, which is not an idea that was created by man and its not something that requires faith, we discovered science and it is what it is, whether or not you want to ‘believe’ in it – i’m sorry, sean, for replying to you with all this, i dunno, my apartment almost burned down today and i’m kind of bored

  19. jereme_dean

      science is faith

  20. Landon Manucci

      In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

  21. M Kitchell

      Growing up “Christian” taught me how to lie, which is certainly a thing to be good at if you’re writing fiction.

  22. Weston

      I’m really curious about this. I guess with the notion of God standing in/for a notion of order, a schematizing/structuring force, the sense of God having to do with with what we’re willing to call “good” or “true” or whatever–this seems critical. For those who claim atheism, I’m curious: what force structures aesthetic notions for you? This isn’t to get into the Gardner bag, morality and blah blah, but still: If yr sitting down to organize the chaos of experience with a system, any system, you must, at some level, have a system in place for evaluating how the organization is going. I find it harder and harder to pinpoint work that’s fundamentally moving or “true” or whatever (that I either write or read) that doesn’t also involve itself in some moral ordering of the world. I second Roxane’s comments from earlier–seems pretty dead-on. The ghastly part of faith, of course, is how it’s something for folks to duck behind instead of investigate, but good writing never ducks behind shit. I’d be curious to hear from non-believers about what order they’re writing within/toward (“beauty” or “musical language” or whatever is a duck-behind, too: notions of beauty or musicality have as much to do with ordering principles as any prayer).

  23. Amber

      I’ve gone from being agnostic to being an atheist, in part because of studying mythology and history. But I think that would have happened anyway, just from being in the world. Though I usually say I’m a humanist, not because I care what people think of me, but because atheism feels like an anti-belief, and I do believe in something–in people, cheesy as that sounds. We’re our own best and only best hope.

  24. Anonymous


      and i think you are saying that science isn’t a faith because the gamut of disbelief is smaller for it than with religious faith.

      i still think it’s a faith.

      e equals mc squared is only purposeful within the walls of its infrastructure.

      i pray my soul to keep is only purposeful within the walls of its infrastructure.

  25. sean k

      But but but don’t you think that same impulse in us that creates belief in religion also creates the “discovery” of science? Isn’t the idea that science is a thing to discover that exists outside of humans that “is what it is” very similar to the way religious folk describe their belief in god? Isn’t it possible to “know” things without “discovering” them? Isn’t this the point of god? Sure science is a more rational way of going about things but rationality isn’t everything right? hmmmm

  26. jereme_dean

      the point of god is to assuage the fear of death. and to control you.

      so i would say science and god are on the same page, too.

  27. reynard seifert

      i think one of the biggest misconceptions about science is that it is rational, it only seems that way after certain ideas have been accepted as truth, one of the reasons rationality is dangerous (as in the case of nazi ideology, say) is that it is relative to what is currently accepted as truth, so if the truth is distorted so is ‘rationality.’ the problem is, truth is not a constant, it is a function of power, it is a variable. for instance, the idea that the earth revolves around the sun seemed irrational to almost everyone at the time it was proposed because it did not correspond to what was accepted as truth which was of course what was written in the scriptures, in which it said quite clearly that the earth was the center of the universe, that was their truth, that was what they learned. so it’s easy for us to say now, well the catholic church was irrational, they were slow to accept what we now know to be astronomy (they had astronomers, they were just working with incomplete knowledge, and were very very sloppy), but that’s because we have a totally different conception of truth today, which of course includes astronomy. today, the catholic church has even said that if it turns out there is life outside of earth that this life could have a soul and that there could still be a god, something that would have been unthinkable even thirty years ago when they officially apologized for the galileo affair. take a more contemporary example: string theory; right now it is perceived as irrational, even by those who study it very closely, and yet it makes a strange sort of sense, probably, i think, the same strange sort of sense that saying the earth revolved around the sun did, it seems to be at times very random, and it requires a lot of things that we have not proven, and this is of course why most scientists reject it, because it requires a new kind of truth, which will only come with new types of proof, which will only come with new experiments, and, ultimately, a whole new paradigm for physics: a unifying theory of physics, where the macro and the micro can be understood using the same equations and this has been thought to be an irrational undertaking since the fields were established because that is what we currently accept as the truth. i’m also aware that almost any scientist would disagree with a lot of what i’ve just said, they would probably just explain the scientific method as if i were a child because many of them are, i think, as simple-minded as the average priest, or jereme dean. however, i still think they are very different things, religion and science, mostly because religion has gone about trying to explain everything very simply with a broad idea, because it was invented, and has worked its way down to claim smaller and smaller amounts of truth, while science has gone the other direction, because it was discovered, taking small steps in order to make its way to the larger truths. but this too, is not to say that i think both are necessary to achieve some harmony, which is what a lot of people think. i don’t necessarily have ‘faith’ in science, but i do think it is a better approach. if i believed in it, i guess i would be a scientist, rather than whatever i am.

  28. reynard seifert


  29. deadgod

      there is not actually such a thing as ‘agnosticism’

      I think you’re right, reynard. I’d qualify the “not” by saying that lots of people who are pretty sure (one way or the other) still commit themselves with nagging or residual dubiety – I think dogmatism is often problematized by cracks of open-mindedness – , but there are far fewer people on the fence than the number who claim commitment to ‘not being sure which side they’re provisionally on’.

      The point is that one who doesn’t actually believe is a ‘non-believer’ – however much they want to ameliorate their chances in case their non-belief turns out to have been mistaken.

      (I don’t think your etymology of “atheism” is accurate. The “a-” doesn’t come from the prefix apo, ‘away from’ (when it’s a preposition), but rather is an alpha-privative, like the “a-” in “atypical” and the “a(n)-” in “anarchy”. So “atheism” means ‘absence of god; commitment to no god’. ‘away from god’ would, like the blasphemy of Faustus, imply/require the presence of faith.)

      If you’ve read this post so far, I don’t want you to be left with nothing to embrace, so: reynard is an “agnostic” ha ha.

  30. Guest

      Recently the University of Tulsa found video footage of James Joyce. Proof. He walks.

  31. deadgod

      jeremy, particular institutions of faith and science might often manipulate populations socially, political-economically, and militarily in similar ways, but these “pages” are from different books.

      A major distinction is methodological: science is defined by its qualities of self-criticism and interpersonal comparison of data, where faith, by definition, discards self-critical reason and is characterized, qua evidence, by unreproducible data (regardless of believers’ taking up of the rhetoric of rationality).

      In saying “science is faith”, I think you’re conflating the overcoming of some particular skepticism with a refusal to be skeptical of something empirically undemonstrable.

  32. Amber

      I’ve gone from being agnostic to being an atheist, in part because of studying mythology and history. But I think that would have happened anyway, just from being in the world. Though I usually say I’m a humanist, not because I care what people think of me, but because atheism feels like an anti-belief, and I do believe in something–in people, cheesy as that sounds. We’re our own best and only best hope.

  33. jereme_dean


      and i think you are saying that science isn’t a faith because the gamut of disbelief is smaller for it than with religious faith.

      i still think it’s a faith.

      e equals mc squared is only purposeful within the walls of its infrastructure.

      i pray my soul to keep is only purposeful within the walls of its infrastructure.

  34. Josh Spilker

      i identify as a christian & that is often very difficult to incorporate into writing & fiction, even though if i went against my own personal artistic standards (…those standards also a spiritual conviction of sorts), i could probably make some $bux$ in the christian fiction world….(it does exist). or i may not get accepted there either, though once i tried, though it wasn’t a very good manuscript–christian or not.

      from some of the comments, you may be interested in the books/writings of this guy–brian mclaren. he takes an approach i think ppl w/ the html giant bent might find refreshing and/or interesting: http://www.amazon.com/Secret-Message-Jesus-Uncovering-Everything/dp/084990000X


  35. deadgod

      gamut of disbelief

      Well, we disagree. I’m saying that, to the degree that a dispute is ‘scientific’ at all, “disbelief” is irrelevant. Let me put it this way: to the degree that a commitment is ‘faithful’, evidence is irrelevant.

      You could point out that this ‘science/faith’ discernment is mere idealism: in cases of real people trying to understand the world (or their experience of it), there’s always aspects of both unquestioned acceptance and methodological rigor in the having of a point of view. But this muddying occurs with imperfectly scientific scientists (all of them) and rationalizing believers (all of them) – in order to see the mixture in people, what is ‘mixed’ has to be understood as though separable conceptually. The idealism of ‘science’ vs. ‘faith’ (or, more polemically, “magic”) is present in the claim that “science is faith”, unless you mean that ‘science is all faith’.

      Put in yet other terms, the difference is analogous to the difference between accuracy (over which perspectives can rival each other) and absolutely noncontingent commitment (with which there’s no quarrel).

      If you say you don’t see a yellow bird, or come to a conclusion different than e=mc2, I can dispute your vision or your data/math/logic. If you don’t “believe in” a yellow bird/s or e=mc2, I have only your data/math/logic to appeal to you with.

      (The point that ‘science’ and ‘faith’ are different ‘walled infrastructures’ is implicit in my argument; where we disagree is whether those ‘walled’ zones differ in essence. I’m saying: Yes.)

  36. zusya

      this is like asking if all the years you’ve spent working on writing has affected your belief or lack of belief in carbohydrates.

      at some point, humanity is going to comes to terms with how irrevocably personal faith is, and how incessantly annoying it is to drone on at length on all topics pseudo-and-faux-philosophical.

      wow. that’s great. the world we live in is a ponderous place indeed. no fucking shit. next question.

  37. reynard seifert

      yeah i think you’re right about the latin deadman my latin no so bueno i got a c i think i was 17 and believe i was doing heroin round that time it was not such a good time for me i’m glad you could come with me on that train

  38. ryssiebee

      In class on Tuesday, I realized I was talking about God more than I was talking about poetry. I did an exercise very similar to this one (http://htmlgiant.com/craft-notes/today-in-class-2/), because my students are obsessed with the question, “But what does a poem mean? We need to know what it MEANS!”. I finally said, “Listen, we could read interviews with the poet and guess at what the poem means. But ultimately, the poet is not going to walk in this classroom right now and give us a definitive answer. Even if he/she did, how would we know that answer is true?”. It’s an obvious concept, but some of their minds were blown. We started talking about the meaning of life – is there meaning to be discovered, or do we have to make our own? I wasn’t sure if such discussion was appropriate for a creative writing class.

  39. HaydenDerk

      My writing has become my religion.

  40. HaydenDerk

      My writing has become my religion.