Rethinking narrative and non-narrative religious thought
Today in Anne Dalke’s section of discussion, we were talking about religion and how to reconcile foundational, non-narrative stories (like the Book of Genesis) with non-foundational, narrative stories (like perhaps that of evolution). I identify as agnostic and became less and less religious as I grew up, but my mother is a reborn Christian. Whenever anyone in the family was sick or something was wrong, she would tell me to pray before I went to bed. As I got older and questioned God, you would think I would have stopped praying; but I also didn’t want to stop hoping for people’s well-being even though I wasn’t sure there was a god. So, for a while I still prayed because I thought that whether or not God existed, putting positive thoughts out into the universe might possibly cause positive things to happen or some greater force out there to hear me. I can now revisit these linked yet semi-contradictory practices by realizing that I was writing a narrative element (i.e., my own hopes for change, and wanting to feel active in tough situations) into a non-narrative story (that there is a force out there that rules/watches over us).
In a sense, though, I feel as if I was combining a narrative with a non-narrative sense of the world, without many contradictory elements; through my bizarre quasi-religious practices in my late childhood before I could make sense of things, I felt comfortable with the idea of a narrative religion, of a god or force that watched over and listened to people’s prayers/stories and decided whether or not to incorporate them into the narration of life. Perhaps this would fall under the highly ambiguous category of “semi-narrative” in class, in that it accounts for change but still has certain static, hierarchical elements.