Monday, 22 October 2012
Society holds a certain fascination with evil. As the Halloween holiday approaches and shops are filled with ghoulish decorations and occult-fiction books and movies skyrocket in popularity, this fascination is a lot more pronounced. Anne Rice became immensely popular with her book, Interview with the Vampire, as it helped launch her career as an occult-fiction novelist. What's especially interesting about Rice, however, is how she is presently an apologist for God -- well, kind of. Anne Rice has had a difficult time reconciling her personal ideologies with her faith and this is no less pronounced than in her latest YouTube presentation which portrays God as a politically correct higher power. There are a number of aspects I find interesting regarding Rice's life and beliefs, as noted in this summary list:
1. Anne Rice was an atheist who then chose Christianity but now believes in a politically correct higher power.
2. Rice claims that homosexuality is a challenge to Christianity.
3. Rice maintains an exchange with fans and critics on Facebook.
4. Based on her statements, Rice has basically chosen a worldview that is illogical based on a detail that has been unprovable.
In an "I am Second" interview in March 2010, Rice had expressed how she had been "haunted" by the knowledge of God deep down inside. In the video she said she was a “Christ-haunted atheist" as she outlined, “Not only did I believe in Him but I loved Him and I wasn’t admitting it.”
In August 2010 on Facebook, however, Rice made a flip-flop as she stated the following: "Today I quit being a Christian. I’m out. In the name of Christ, I refuse to be anti-gay. I refuse to be anti-feminist. I refuse to be anti-artificial birth control. I refuse to be anti-Democrat. I refuse to be anti-secular humanism. I refuse to be anti-science. I refuse to be anti-life. In the name of Christ, I quit Christianity and being Christian. Amen.” She added, "I remain committed to Christ as always but not to being “Christian” or to being part of Christianity."
As noted, one of her contentions was the Catholic stance on birth control, "I refuse to be anti-artificial birth control." She explained in an NPR interview how "more and more social issues began to impinge on me," however, she then still maintained a belief in a personal God: "Certainly I will never go back to being that atheist and that pessimist that I was," she says. "I live now in a world that I feel God created, and I feel I live in a world where God witnesses everything that happens."
Because Rice offers a rather public persona on Facebook and engages with commenters, I felt free to ask a question: "Hi Anne, I recently read about your decision to embrace Christ but not Christianity. I'd be curious of your opinion on whether you believe that Jesus would approve of your occult fiction novels and the reason(s) why or why not."
As a reply, Rice simply offered a link to a YouTube monologue from September 2012. Dressed up in a gothic-period crushed-velvet blazer, Rice summarizes her present understanding of God: "I believe that there is a higher power." However, she states that she is not sure if God is a personal being or not, though she prays to God regularly. "Do I pray to this higher power? Yes, I pray every day... I talk to God, the maker - to whatever's out there that can guide me and help me to do right by the gift of life, because the thing that I have believed in all my life is the gift of life." Rice's "higher power" is a bit paradoxical. If it's likely just an abstract force, then why pray to a higher power daily in a personal manner? Why ask for help? If her higher power has no identity, who would the "gift" of life be from? A gift requires a giver. If someone told you that a book lying on a table was a gift from someone, a logical question would be, "Who is the book from?" If life is a gift, then what is the identity of the giver? And while being thankful has been proven to be quite helpful, giving thanks to a non-identity is not very logical. The phenomenon of Giving thanks (and all the health benefits this includes) is more supportive of the theist understanding of God than other variants.
There are many, many people like Rice around today who have run into a quandary because they apparently realize that an intelligent Creator must exist in some form. However, they believe it is necessary to adjust God to fit their own preconceptions and ideologies of what God must supposedly stand for. This approach of "making God after your own image" is the essence of idolatry and it runs into logical problems because it is simply not true. Only acknowledgement of the true and living God offers a logically cohesive explanation of the universe. There is plenty of logic and evidence to show that the God of scripture is indeed the true God. Scriptural evidence regarding fulfilled prophecy, research into the nature of identity, physics and logic, and moral arguments for God's existence, are just a few examples.
Rice's main consternations with Christianity have to do with the Catholic position against birth control and the view that homosexuality is immoral. The first is an interpretation not shared with Protestant believers and is open for debate biblically. In this case, it seems Rice's ideological commitment to the Catholic church has been a stumbling block to her. The second issue regards what she believes about homosexuality. Anne Rice's opinion homosexuality is that "Gay rights challenge Christian faith." However, in reality, they do not challenge it at all. At the basis of Rice's belief is a preconception that gays are born gay. Her strong convictions about homosexuality may have been subtly influenced by the fact that her son Christopher is a gay rights activist. It seems that she has taken a detail out of life and has shaped her entire worldview on her perceptions. It has never been scientifically proven that gays are born gay, but Anne seems to be willing to gamble everything on this belief. So, to summarize, Rice has chosen to believe what is illogical (daily praying to what is likely an abstract higher power in her opinion) based on what has been unprovable (gays are born gay). This is sad. She is living daily in a paradoxical and self-contradictory world.
Most intellectual atheists reject the concept of objective good and evil in the transcendental sense. Sam Mulvey at "Ask an Atheist" summed it up: "As a humanist, I don’t believe in an objective concept of good and evil in the way “objective” is usually defined. Hitler is bad because he did bad things by my standards. I think the beginnings of the standards we’re using to judge go pretty deep into our development, but they’re certainly not defined by anything inherent in physics or the creation of the universe, nor are they immutable."
New Age religious advocates also frequently reject the concept of objective good and evil, as noted by trending New Age figures: "Good and Evil Is a Huge Collective Myth Says His Holiness Paramahamsa Nithyananda" Sri Krishna Bhagwan is very clear - Partiality in existence is not absolute reality. So catch this one truth and meditate on this one simple truth. Questions of good and evil aside, Sam Harris' recent attempt to base human morality on his atheist precepts failed miserably, even by atheist standards.
In the Author's Note section from her book Christ the Lord: Out of Egypt, Rice states: "Stained-glass windows, the Latin Mass, the detailed answers to complex questions on good and evil—these things were imprinted on my soul forever." Rice is still basically a God apologist in some sense, but the question is, which god or mystical force is she promoting? From a philosophical perspective, Anne's positions on contraception and homosexuality have not undermined the reality of the biblical God's existence and the reality of good and evil.
What seems to be a main point of confusion is Rice's understanding of the nature of good and evil. If a personal God exists, then there is an objective basis for good and evil, right and wrong. If a personal God does not exist, then there is no such basis. If God does exist, it is God's holy nature and character that forms the basis of moral truth, not societal trends with regard to homosexual rights. It seems that Rice holds personal and ideological commitments on a higher level than scripture and logic and these "social issues" are the hinge upon which her world view swings. Social views, however, do not form a basis for determining spiritual and philosophical truth. I pray that Anne is able work through her struggles and give the scriptures another chance, this time with an open mind not committed to Catholicism or social preconceptions. These seem to be hindering her understanding of the nature of God and the nature of spiritual salvation.
What do you think about Rice's perspective on Christianity? Do you have similar feelings about God and Christians? What can we learn from Rice's experience with Christianity that can help us understand why people sometimes love God but dislike Christians?