I was reading Julia Spencer-Fleming's interviews this morning, and one of her questions is to what extent the authors' faiths influence or come into their writing. On the flip side, among several of the noir writing members, is atheism.

Which is it for you? Do you find your faith - or lack thereof - a strong influence on your writing/outlook/storytelling, or just marginal? When it comes to characters, would you want to write them with a faith (or lack thereof), or not even mention it? Would you ever write someone with opposite beliefs from yours, who was not an archetype?

I would say I probably couldn't write "inspirational" fiction to save my life. I don't believe that having faith makes everything better. In fact, it often makes things worse. Religion has done a lot of damage to a lot of people in a lot of ways - whether it insulates them too much, or doesn't support them enough, or encourages them to do bad things to other people. That said, I can't get away from my own prayer/faith experiences. I think most of my characters are probably agnostic, and if I ever wrote an atheist, I'd have to have an atheist read my work to make sure I got it right - atheism is not something I can easily comprehend, along with how some people are really good at math.

How about the rest of you?

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There was a scene I wrote (not telling in what) where an agnostic had a whole thought process about prayer. It was an extreme situation and she was asking herself why it is people who don't really believe in God tend to resort to prayer with faced with life-threatening circumstances. This was certainly my own experience when I almost died when I was 10 - atheist discovers prayer. And I lived, so what does that say?

Because most people tend to go through a searching phase or sort out their belief system on some level, or 'lose' faith they were raised to have in real life it seems fitting to me that characters would question it, regardless of what I personally believe. I think that's part of the reason I really connected to the Rebus books, although his days of debating the issues seem long gone. I'm not big on anything overt or over the head, but it's natural for people to wonder about this stuff and I'm interested in characters that have that dimension to them. That said, I don't write anything I consider extreme. I only write what feels natural for the story and the characters.

I also think noir is, in part, about coming to the conclusion that there is no God, no eternal justice, no balancing of the scales... There's a hopelessness, a pessimism, that runs through noir. And what could be darker than taking a person with faith and putting them through such extremes that you strip their hope from them? That's dark.
My characters reflect my lack of faith. All have been in places where God was conspicuous by His absence. It's probably the closest trait I share with my characters who are all taller, better-looking, and smarter than I am.

I do write characters with faith, but they're always secondary. Having been raised in a religious household, it's not hard understanding them, but I haven't made any a lead. Maybe the next book.

Interesting question.
As opposed to Sandra, I think it is hard to concieve of noir (as a writer) without faith. That is to say, the character who gets stripped of faith in a noir novel is not stripped of a delusion that was valueless or a negative influence. They get stripped of something quite valuable. It means something.

The hero in many noir novels has a faith that they can define what is right and what is wrong and, I think, for the most part, the reader is intended to go along with them. The sense that morals are relative is often downplayed. The hero is a hero because he's justified.

Of course, my reading is limited. Still, when I see a story where some guy battles the forces of evil against overwhelming odds - when the hero is on a mission or quest - I think of them as being on the side of good. In this sense, I don't think it even matters that the noir hero fails. That makes it tragic, and if the reader feels this, then they have bought into the idea that there was a GOOD that came close to being accomplished. Elusive as that good may be, it remains a goal, it remains a desire, it remains an object of our faith, it remains.
My own personal philosophy/theology definitely colors most of what I write, although I step outside that once in a while. I do find that I have a hard time reading or writing anything where there is not at least a crude form of Universal Justice that prevails, where Good (??) triumphs over Evil. Sometimes it is more that the lesser Evil that triumphs over the greater Evil, but there you go.

I definitely won't spend much time in a book or movie universe where the protagonist has no faith of any kind. Honestly, I don't see any sense to it. Of course, that means I'm using a broad definition of the word "faith." Books or stories where the protag drowns in a sea of despair with no hope of redemption are a waste of my time. I simply can't relate to them because no matter how low I've gotten at any point in my life, I have always felt there was hope and the possibility for triumph. If that is not a faith, no matter how you may or may not populate it with a Diety, I don't know what is. As a famous Jewish theologian once wrote, "Faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see."
All atheists are good at math, that's why they invented computers. Of course, once the computers become sentient, they will invent their own religion. And they will also be good at math.

I'm not a great fan of religion or politics in fiction, so I don't really deal with these themes in my own work. But it all depends on the story I feel drawn. The short I had in the last issue of Thuglit could easily be called Buddhist noir, which stems from my own fascination with Buddhism.

I say 'no rules', do whatever works for the story, use your imagination.
This is actually a question I've pondered about my own stuff a bit (when I'm bored and there's nothing on TV). In real life, I'm an atheist, and I don't believe in anything remotely supernatural - ghosts, psychic stuff, an afterlife, God, fairies, anything. But I find a lot of it creeps into my writing in a way that makes me feel like a total traitor to my rationalism. Sometimes it's conspicuous by its absence - a godless universe is a pretty grim prospect if you've just lost a loved one - and that's fair enough. But other times it's just there. A ghost, or something. But then, supernatural stuff is quite useful for some themes - forgiveness, redemption, and so on. And I figure since I'm making the rest of it up, what's another rule bent between friends?


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