After a break for multiple reasons, the Power of Belief is back, and the multi-talented author and musician, Catherine Fearns, takes the theme in a new direction. Over to you, Catherine.
Miriam’s new blog series instantly leapt out at me, because ‘the power of belief’ is a major theme in my books. The characters are motivated by religious beliefs, and the readers are free to interpret my novels according to their own personal beliefs. The main concept running through the Reprobation series is the dialectic between truth and belief. The truth is only what we tell ourselves happened; there are infinite alternatives. We act based not upon the truth, but upon what we believe to be the truth. And since reality is only that which conjures itself into being, beliefs can become truths; they can act as self-fulfilling prophecies.
Christianity has been a constant presence in my life, but I have always been a spectator on the side-lines rather than a genuine participant. I attended a Church of England school where we prayed and sang hymns, every day, from the age of four through eighteen. I can still recall in their entirety countless hymns and prayers all these years later. My grandfather was the warden of an eleventh century Norman church in the Lake District, and I spent my weekends and school holidays running in and out of the gravestones and pews and messing about on the organ. I attended Christ Church college, established by Cardinal Wolsey, functioning as Oxford’s cathedral, and with religion at its heart. I gravitated towards the religious topics for my history degree – the European Reformation, the architecture of Wren, the writings of Bede. I married into the Greek Orthodox church, where religion is very much something you ‘do’ – Easter, Christmas, saints’ days – they are all as important for the family, the food and the ritual as for the belief. I adore exploring churches, listening to religious music, even reading religious texts. I’ve read the Bible many times.
And yet I remain an atheist. No, that would imply believing in something. I’m an agnostic. I was never moved. Why? Billions of people practise a religion today, base their lives around it, draw comfort from it, kill for it, believe in it. I’m the one in the minority.
I have had ‘spiritual’ experiences in my life, sure. The births of my children, for example. The times I experimented with drugs as a student. And nowadays when I go to a heavy metal concert, yeah, I get it. But God? I can’t get past the notion that if God exists, he’s kind of a bad guy.
In the Reprobation series, Detective Inspector Darren Swift is a confirmed atheist, an eternal cynic, who is gradually drawn towards the supernatural, towards a possible world beyond our own, by the realisation that people act based on their beliefs.
Sister Helen Hope is a nun who breaks her vows, loses her Christian faith, but then gains another sort of faith.
As for the criminals and victims in the books, I’m not giving away any spoilers, because what they believe would give it away! But every crime in my books has a double interpretation, depending on the reader.
And as for what happens to Mikko Kristensen, the devil-worshipping death metal guitarist – well, you’ll have to wait for book four, which I have almost finished writing!
Recently I have been trying to work all this out. It’s no good saying ‘religion is bollocks’ when many of the world’s conflicts and injustices are based on religion. It’s important to understand how and why people believe, because it will help us to be more tolerant. And to understand why people believe in dangerous things like conspiracy theories. Climate change denial, anti-vax campaigns, populism – these are the movements that will bring about the apocalypse far quicker than the Second Coming.
Stephen Hawking famously said that ‘if we discover a theory of everything, then we would truly know the mind of God.’ Many scientists are religious, and even those who are not acknowledge that religion is unfalsifiable.
Recently I’ve been trying to work all this out. I have been reading a lot of Rene Girard. In fact, I had to stop underlining passages in ‘Things Hidden Since The Foundation Of The World’ because I was underlining the whole book. I’ve been reading about synchronicity, about esotericism, about Judaism, Islam, Eastern religions. I’m learning about the function of religion, how if God didn’t exist humanity would have created him anyway. And perhaps I’m approaching the beginnings of a faith of my own; no sudden revelation, no thunderbolts from heaven, but perhaps an acceptance of the presence of magic and mystery in the world.
Ok, I’ll give you a clue about Mikko Kristensen. He’s one of my most popular characters, a nihilistic Norwegian death metal musician who covers himself in blasphemous tattoos and screams songs about Satan. But why is he so obsessed with Satan? In ‘Lamb Of God’, he decides to try Pascal’s wager. The philosopher Pascal posited that rational beings bet with their lives whether God exists or not. It’s safer to believe. So Mikko tries Moore’s paradox: he tries to believe in something that he knows is not true. What happens? You’ll have to wait for ‘Lamb Of God’.
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And also from the Reprobation online shop, where you can also buy exclusive merchandise. All merchandise profits to Sefton Women and Children’s Aid.