My Year of Belief


Welcome to The Year of Belief, where I will document my year-long exploration of what we believe, why and how.

Every New Year, instead of making a resolution, I choose a subject I want to explore over the following 12 months. Last year was my Year of Fantasy. I re-read The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, finished The Silmarillion (for the first time) and then moved on to other fantasy classics and critical studies of the genre.*

This year (2013) I have something more ambitious in mind. I want to explore the question of belief: specifically, spiritual beliefs.

I’ve been an atheist all my life. I don’t believe in any kind of God, I’ve never belonged to any religious faith, I’ve always assumed there’s no life after death or ghosts or spirits or supernatural beings. That doesn’t mean I’m opposed to spirituality; on the contrary, I’ve always been fascinated by everything from theology to telepathy, old school or New Age. It’s just that I’ve never believed in it.

Sometimes, though, I wish I could. Sometimes the idea of living in a spiritual world – a place where God or magic exist – appeals so much I feel sad that I don’t seem able to embrace it. And I have tried now and then; but no matter how beautiful or intriguing the idea, I always stumble at the same hurdle: I just can’t believe it’s real.

Instead I write stories about imaginary worlds, read fantastic novels, pretend to be wizards in role-playing games and seek out magic in movies, music and art. I spend a lot of time imagining what it must be like to live in an enchanted world. But I’ve never really experienced it.

So here’s the plan. This year, I’m going to dig deeper than I ever have before into the question of belief. I’ll read books (feel free to suggest some), watch movies (ditto), go to unusual places and try new things. And above all, I intend to listen, with as open a mind as I can manage.

I’m inviting a bunch of people to tell me about their beliefs and why they have them: friends and strangers, from all walks of life and around the world. I’m interested in what people believe, of course, but also in why and how and what belief means to them. I want to try and see the world through different eyes, in the hope that my own view of things is enriched.

This blog will include people’s responses as they come in, as well as occasional reports on my own adventures and explorations. To be honest, I’m not sure how all this will unfold, or whether it will amount to much. We shall see. After all, there’s a whole year ahead of us.

Maybe my own beliefs will change along the way, maybe they won’t. But I’m looking forward to finding out.

*Incidentally, one of the best things I read about fantasy was a wonderful novel by Jo Walton, Among Others, a beautiful meditation on the power of fantasy in general and Tolkien in particular.


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