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When I started writing the story that became Believe in Me (Wampus Multimedia, Nov. 29), it never occurred to me that faith would play a role in the narrative.

When I started writing this blog, it never occurred to me that faith would be a topic for one of my posts.

The fact that I was wrong both times begs the very question that I found unexpectedly developing as a secondary theme within the pages of Believe in Me: what about faith? Is the universe simply a random collection of atoms colliding with one another, or are there larger forces at work? What is this thing we sometimes call “fate”? And is it possible to disentangle faith and belief from the impossibly fraught ball of string that man and religion have raveled them into?

A significant part of narrator Tim Green’s journey in Believe in Me is working through the grieving process after his father—the only parent he has ever known—dies. This at times draws him into a sort of internal debate about faith. He instinctively rebels against the idea of being anybody’s pawn, but is equally unable to accept the idea that the universe is entirely random. He resists his aunt’s efforts to draw him closer to her own Jewish faith, yet eventually finds comfort in one of its rituals.

To me, this is the dance every thinking person goes through at some point along their own journey. My own extended family includes a huge range of views on these questions, a sort of microcosm of the spectrum of belief (and non-belief) in American society. That spectrum has a much wider middle than many of those on either end tend to grant it. I remember once years ago startling a group of fellow writers by correcting their reflexive assumption that I was a fellow atheist. “I don’t have a problem with God,” I told them. “My problem is with religion.”

And what bothers me about religion isn’t belief: it’s the conviction that often accompanies it, that one’s own belief is the only correct one. Tim and his friend Jordan Lee have somewhat similar views in this respect. They’re not fans of religion (as Jordan rather tartly puts it, “The middlemen, they screw it up every time”), but that doesn’t preclude them from belief. They see science and faith as more complementary than contradictory. As Tim suggests at one point, “Reason only gets you so far; sometimes the only logical thing left to do is to give in to wonder.”

I’ve talked before about the bands I listened to while writing this book. One that I listened to a lot during one of my most intense periods of writing was Switchfoot—a band with a distinctly Christian perspective, that nonetheless manages to ask the big questions about life and the universe without pretending to have all the answers. That approach—having an opinion, but remaining open to the possibility that other answers are also valid—is one that resonated with me then, and continues to now.

Humans question; it’s what we do. Faith is about asking the biggest questions it’s possible to ask, and discovering the answers that work for you. The fact that I’ve now twice tried not to talk about faith, and ended up talking about it a lot, is a lesson for me as a writer: faith is a subject you can’t sidestep. You can only pose the questions we all face at some point, and try to make sure your characters answer them as honestly as they can.

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