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Rethinking narrative and non-narrative religious thought

AnnaP's picture

Today in Anne Dalke’s section of discussion, we were talking about religion and how to reconcile foundational, non-narrative stories (like the Book of Genesis) with non-foundational, narrative stories (like perhaps that of evolution). I identify as agnostic and became less and less religious as I grew up, but my mother is a reborn Christian. Whenever anyone in the family was sick or something was wrong, she would tell me to pray before I went to bed. As I got older and questioned God, you would think I would have stopped praying; but I also didn’t want to stop hoping for people’s well-being even though I wasn’t sure there was a god. So, for a while I still prayed because I thought that whether or not God existed, putting positive thoughts out into the universe might possibly cause positive things to happen or some greater force out there to hear me. I can now revisit these linked yet semi-contradictory practices by realizing that I was writing a narrative element (i.e., my own hopes for change, and wanting to feel active in tough situations) into a non-narrative story (that there is a force out there that rules/watches over us).

In a sense, though, I feel as if I was combining a narrative with a non-narrative sense of the world, without many contradictory elements; through my bizarre quasi-religious practices in my late childhood before I could make sense of things, I felt comfortable with the idea of a narrative religion, of a god or force that watched over and listened to people’s prayers/stories and decided whether or not to incorporate them into the narration of life. Perhaps this would fall under the highly ambiguous category of “semi-narrative” in class, in that it accounts for change but still has certain static, hierarchical elements.



katlittrell's picture

Hybridisation of belief

As we discussed in the section, most of us seem to exist in some sort of hybrid belief state between foundational and narrative stories. Agnosticism seems to me to be particularly a belief system that revolves around this hybrid "doublethink", again to reference Orwell, in that to be agnostic it seems to me that you have to almost admit how unsure you are about the foundational story of a grand creator, but you're not necessarily objecting to it.

As an atheist, while we were discussing I assumed that my thoughts and beliefs would fall naturally into the narrative category, but the more I think about it, the less this is so. While I don't believe in a supreme creator being, for some aspects of my life I believe in something similar to Fate. Yes, Fate with a capital because sometimes I feel more ruled by her than by myself. The aspects that Fate rules are (to me) typically relationship turns in either romantic or friendship relationships, because it feels like in so many of those that people are either together or not because they are somehow guided to that point by Fate.

For the other parts of my life, I am perfectly happy to admit that coincidence and chance rules me. I don't think I have a higher purpose, I don't need to have a direction. I'm happy to live my life without some greater plan than the ones wrought by me.

So, this dual belief in Fate and coincidence may seem a little contradictory, but thinking of it in terms of a blending of foundational and non-foundational thoughts seems understandable and comfortable to me now that we've discussed it in class. I don't have to examine my own belief system too deeply, or examine it for flaws because I know they're there and that doesn't particularly matter to me.

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