A question of faith

Religion is a divisive subject. It’s one of the two you’re always warned against discussing at work (the other being politics). But I can’t seem to get away from it lately, and it’s partly my own fault.

I was following a Twitter conversation between Rayne Hall and Liv Rancourt not too long ago, on the topic of magic and choirs and chant. Then I decided to stick my nose into it, and ended up with a half-formed idea for a new story, starting with a secluded order of monks, deep in a mountain, chanting to unleash an insidious evil.

It snowballed from there, leaving me with two questions: why are there so few adult PNR/UF books about angels, and what would an agnostic do if presented with physical proof that God exists?

The first question, obviously, isn’t nearly as touchy as the second. Angels are all over YA fiction these days (and I’ve got two of them at home, waiting to be read) but I haven’t heard as much about angels in adult PNR/UF. Off the top of my head, the only ones I can name are Nalini Singh’s Guild Hunter series and Kristina Douglas’ The Fallen series. There are probably others, but adults these days are more into vampires and werewolves (with or without sparkles). I have to wonder if there’s a reason for that…maybe it just won’t sell?

The second question…I’m almost afraid to address it, for fear of setting off a firestorm somewhere. But if I can’t discuss it here, on my own blog, where can I?

So I’ll couch my thoughts on the second question in the form of that half-formed story idea.

The more I thought about evil chanting monks, the more I thought about guardians and half-bloods and all sorts of interesting things. Eventually I came up with a line about a young woman who doesn’t realize she’s half-angel, and isn’t even sure God exists. A major part of the plot would focus on what would happen if a staunch agnostic (such as myself) were presented with incontrovertible proof that God exists. That leaves it at put up or shut up time: you’ve got the proof you so loudly declared you needed. Now do you believe?

This led to other questions. What makes a good Christian? One of my oldest friends is as firm in her belief in God as any evangelical preacher spouting from the pulpit, yet she has a mouth that’s more foul than a trucker’s. Does that make her any less a believer? Or my personal favorite, a point a former co-worker made, years ago, about the difference in the way Muslims pray versus Christians. Muslims prostrate themselves before God. Christians, at best, get on their knees. Does the way you pray change the way you view God?

Then, of course, came the point where I had to figure out what the hell I’d call these half-angel creatures. One of my Twitter followers suggested nephilim, the name for the half-breed childย  of a human and a fallen angel. But too often fallen angels are considered demons (and OMG, Chloe Neill has an interesting point on demons and what’s considered demonic in Biting Cold, which I’ll review tomorrow once I’ve finished it), and this character is very much a half angel, white wings and harps and all. So far Wikipedia has failed me and not produced a viable term, so I may just have to make one up.

And I’m not the only one talking faith these days. Liv Rancourt posted recently on The Incorruptibles, those saints whose bodies couldn’t be desecrated by age and rot. She wondered why all the focus on the physical evidence of this life, rather than the afterlife, which is supposed to be the whole point? Or Rebecca Stibrany, whose exploration of Buddhist teachings as a counterpoint to everything she learned as a Christian, is proving to be fascinating reading. So much so, she’s got this agnostic thinking maybe there’s not so much wrong with a little dose of spirituality after all.

It’s all fodder for the imagination, and I’m sure some therapist out there is nodding his head in approval, that I’m working through my “issues” or other such nonsense in a healthy, meaningful way.

I’m not. I’m perfectly happy with my lack of belief. But this is a way for me to satisfy my rampant curiosity, and a challenge, as well. Can I write an urban fantasy novel that alternately skewers and tiptoes around some of the major sticking points of faith, without coming off as the pinko Commie heathen that I am? We’ll see.

8 thoughts on “A question of faith

  1. Sounds like a really neat story idea. After my WIP, I’m going to work on a novel where one of the characters is an angel who sat on the sidelines during the Fall, and as such finds itself banished to the mortal world.

      1. The basic premise is that there’s the immortal world Elysium (which is actually a collection of worlds), and the mortal world. Sometimes they intersect, which is the source of many of our myths and legends. But there are always those who don’t fit in, and these immortal beings wind up on Earth, trying to make ends meet.

        Back on the subject of this post, I really like your idea of trying to tackle thorny questions with UF. I’ve always felt that F/SF is at its best when it is more than “Hey, look at this cool monster/spaceship.” That’s why I love Ursula K. LeGuin and Robert Heinlein so much.

        On the subject of half-angels, you may want to consider reading Many Waters by Madeleine L’Engle, which is the only YA book in the SF/F genre I can think of that really looks at seraphim and nephilim.

  2. I honestly think it would be challenging to follow a character through that kind of shift in worldview without taking a hard look at your own beliefs. On the other hand, you already know what the character’s objections would be, right? And if you want help with chant resources, I’m your girl.
    ๐Ÿ˜‰
    Thanks for the mention, btw…

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