‘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.
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 Desperation — maybe 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!