Christopher Beha, author of the remarkable What Happened to Sophie Wilder, from this conversation with William Giraldi
The problem of faith is the problem for me. It preoccupies me far more now than it did when I was a believer, perhaps because it wasn’t a problem then but merely a fact. And a fact it was: I wasn’t merely “raised” Catholic in a default sense; I was a believing Catholic, and it was important to me. It seems to me that the big thing that people who don’t understand religious devotion get wrong about it is the assumption that it is grounded in fear or in a desire for certainty. I’m sure this is true in some cases, but my own religious feelings were grounded in a sense of wonder at the mysteries of human existence. I would say that Catholicism trained me to have a particular set of emotional needs — in particular, the need to feel aligned in some way with these mysteries — that at a certain point the Church itself stopped fulfilling for me. An awful lot of my writing emerges from those needs. And I remain suspicious of scientific materialists who insist that there is no underlying mystery, that the sense of mystery is some kind of cognitive holdover from a time when science had not yet explained human existence. If any viewpoint comes from the desire for certainty, it would seem to be that one.
I could say much more on this topic, but I’ll just make one related point. It can be a difficult experience to abandon a strongly held belief. Very often the result is that whatever belief arrives in its place is held on to all the more strongly — the zeal of the convert, etc. What I’ve tried to gain from the process is some negative capability — the talent identified by Keats, “of being in uncertainties, mysteries, doubts, without any irritable reaching after fact and reason.” It’s not easy. But it’s a skill that can be quite valuable to a novelist or a critic. Or to a human being, for that matter. Whatever label applies.
This is my commonplace book and sometime-journal.
I blog at SpiritualFriendship.org.
My book is here: Washed and Waiting: Reflections on Christian Faithfulness and Homosexuality.
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