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‘I Choose to Believe in God, But I Have Serious Doubts and I Refuse to Be Pinned Down’ – Stephen King

Recommendation: Desperation is the horror master's best book grappling with religious themes.

by
Andrew Klavan

Bio

June 4, 2013 - 9:00 am

Stephen King is the Stephen King of horror writers. When he’s on his game, he really is so good at what he does there’s no one to compare him to but himself! Recently, what Christopher Hitchens used to disdainfully call “God-botherers” (ie. believers like myself) were interested to hear King give an interview to NPR in which he said he leaned toward faith in the creator, though he vacillated and was inconsistent.

I choose to believe it. … I mean, there’s no downside to that. If you say, “Well, OK, I don’t believe in God. There’s no evidence of God,” then you’re missing the stars in the sky and you’re missing the sunrises and sunsets and you’re missing the fact that bees pollinate all these crops and keep us alive and the way that everything seems to work together. Everything is sort of built in a way that to me suggests intelligent design. But, at the same time, there’s a lot of things in life where you say to yourself, “Well, if this is God’s plan, it’s very peculiar,” and you have to wonder about that guy’s personality — the big guy’s personality. And the thing is — I may have told you last time that I believe in God — what I’m saying now is I choose to believe in God, but I have serious doubts and I refuse to be pinned down to something that I said 10 or 12 years ago. I’m totally inconsistent.

But if you really want to see King exploring the idea of faith and the nature of God, the novel to read is Desperationmaybe because it was written in the mid 1990s during one of King’s periods of deeper faith. Anyway, if you’re a horror fan at all, it’s an insanely gripping read. The first 300 pages or so are almost unbelievably compelling. Then the narrative drive lags a bit, but mostly because King starts to use his story to explore God’s presence in the midst of horrifying events and to talk about what it might mean. It never gets boring and there’s one five or ten page chapter in the book’s second half that’s as scary as anything King — or anyone — has ever written. (It’s about a woman locked in a pitch black room. Terse, controlled, brilliant horror. The man is truly a master of the art.)

By the end, you really do get a sort of theology, which is delivered in a way that’s both humble and touching. I understand there’s a companion novel as well — The Regulators — by King’s alter ego, Richard Bachman. I haven’t read that one, but this one is dynamite. And don’t settle for the movie — it’s only so-so.

And yes, yes, I know King’s a liberal and against the Second Amendment. He’s still a great horror writer. What can I tell you? Talent is blind!

*****

Cross-posted from Klavan on the Culture.

Andrew Klavan’s newest novel is Nightmare City.

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All Comments   (25)
All Comments   (25)
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I wonder about the statement "I choose to believe in God." Is it that simple? Can an honest man adopt a belief just because it feels good or protects him from a mob or helps him fit in socially? Of course, it is well within voluntary actions to SAY "I believe in God," but is it that simple to MAKE yourself believe? Does evidence count? Is evidence relevant? Does respect for authority count? If you believe on someone's authority, then the question is how you came to believe in that authority. Is it a struggle to bat down recurring appearances of doubt in order to preserve the claim to believe?
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Faith is an assertion, not a hypothesis.....'>>........
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
John Lennon said the same thing in fewer words:

I think I know of Thee, oh yes, but it's all wrong;
That is I think I disagree.

- Strawberry Fields
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
I've read a few of King's books and every one had a disappointing ending. Conversely, I've read a number of Dean Koontz's books and nearly all of them were good right to the end. I suppose it's just a matter of personal preference.
I can sympathize with King's position on God. Most of religion is useful - for other people. I get nothing out of it. I choose, though, to believe in Heaven. It seems to me there's got to be some purpose to all of this; plus I've seen good people suffer and die from terrible events and I choose to believe there's some eternal reward for all that pain they had to endure in life.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
The only King novel I read was Eyes of the Dragon, which was fantasy not horror. It was excellent, very well written with great story and character development.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
I literally have no interest in Stephen King. No interest in his books, what's on his mind, if anything, and certainly what he thinks about God. While identifying just some of His creation, he then doesn't want to be pinned down. What a freak! But I guess he's a good writer and many are obsessed in wonderment of just how his mind must work. I'm amused by the number of people who regale the famous author, but I'll pass, and have no concern that I'm missing something.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
I basically gave up on King after Tommyknockers. What a piece of crap that book was.

I think King was at his best when he wrote horror as a vehicle for his character studies. In books like The Stand (the shorter version; King is proof-positive why editors exist), The Dead Zone, Pet Sematary, Christine, he really is writing about the characters. The horror is real, but his love is the people caught in the stories. And it shows.

I know The Dead Zone gets a bad rap by critics, but it is one of my favorites. I think King outdid himself with his development of Johnny Smith. And the ending made me cry the first time I read it, which *never* happens.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
I'd pretty much agree, but with one exception. If you enjoyed his earlier work you should read 1991's "Needful Things" to visit Castle Rock one last time.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
I enjoy his short stories, most of his novels are long and drawn out, but I did enjoy 11/23/63.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
His "novellas" are great reads. Different Seasons is an incredible collection. Again, character studies.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
And have you noticed that it's those relatively low-profile stories that get made into genuinely good movies?
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
I was going to make that point, too, but it slipped my mind.

I actually wrote a paper for a graduate English class comparing and contrasting "The Body" ("Stand By Me" was based on this short) with "Adventures of Huckleberry Finn" as coming-of-age stories. The prof loved it, but frankly it was really easy, because King poured his heart into that tale. Truly one of my favorite short stories. It's no accident that Reiner was able to turn it into such a wonderful movie.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
I remember when he was at some gathering and saying something like people need to pay more taxes. All the while he has put two unpublished books into a safe as a sort of insurance policy for the future. He could publish them now, and pay taxes on the income, but doesn't want to do that. I especially liked his non-fiction book, "On Writing."
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
All I'll note is the heroine of The Stand was a black, female Reagan voter.

1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
I like King's short stories and novellas much better than his novels. The man does have a tendency to go on and on and on.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
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