This is the third in a series of Aniblogger Testimony posts, where select writers will discuss their personal faith. Today’s post is by Niko of Anime Savvy. The previous posts in this series were written by Lauren Orisini and R86.
I’ve always been fascinated with belief. I even went to graduate school to study folklore and wrote my thesis on fairy belief. And yet, talking about religion makes me uneasy.
For me, religion is interesting in the same way mythology is–after all, every mythology was once the sacred stories of a religion–but for many people, religion is not something that sould be scrutinzed. Belief is something to be, well, believed, and not to be studied. For many people, religious belief is dimished if questioned; it must be taken on faith or it’s somehow less valuable. I find that . . . well I don’t want to say creepy, but I can’t understand why a person would choose to believe anything on faith alone.
Maybe that’s a fault in me. I often tell people that my biological clock is broken (or else I was born without one) when they ask me when I plan to have kids (a pet peeve of mine, but not something to talk about here and now). In the same way, I think maybe that hard-wiring for religion and belief that humans are supposed to have built in was miswired in me or missing altogether. Because, you see, I’ve never believed in a higher power. Sure, I tried. I grew up in a fairly non-religious environment, but it was always assumed, by everybody, that everyone believed in something.
So I tried a few religions out to see if the problem was just that I hadn’t found the right one. I started with Christianity–I was baptized Anglican as a baby by my grandfather, the Reverend Silvester (retired). I studied neo-paganism and was even initiated a Wiccan. But whatever belief system I studied or practiced, I always got hung up on the faith part. On the believing that prayers and spells could do any good. Because it always seemed so much more effective to go out and do something than to wait and hope.
Eventually I was forced to the inevitable conclusion that the problem wasn’t that I simply hadn’t found the right religion, it was that I didn’t believe in any sort of higher power. And you know what’s weird? It’s way harder to come out as an atheist than it is to come out as a witch. Somehow, people think there’s something fundamentally wrong with not believing, but if you believe in what they think is the wrong thing, well, at least you believe in something. Even now, I usually use the word “non-theist” instead of “atheist,” because it’s less confrontational (and see how long it took me to get around to this point, even in the safe space our host has created in this blog post?).
And to be very clear, because a lot of people seem to be confused about this: As an atheist, I simply have no belief in God–in any god–because, if life the universe and everything can be described as an equation, a higher power would be a redundancy. I do not actively believe that there is no God. Show me good, logical proof and I’d be happy to re-evaluate my thinking. In other words, I have a lack of belief, not a belief in a lack. And please don’t tell me you’re sorry for me because I’m an atheist (yes, this has happened to me). How condescending that is! I feel the same awe at the universe that some might label a spiritual experience. To me it’s a mind-boggling sense of wonder, but there’s nothing supernatural about it.
And now that I’ve gone on way longer than I meant to, I’ll get to the real point of this post: anime and my religious beliefs. Since I don’t actually have any religious beliefs, I can’t say they’ve affected the anime I choose to watch or the way I perceive it. However, the way I think about religion has had some effect.
Because I’m interested in all beliefs, from those that haven’t been actively believed for thousands of years to those invented by contemporary “prophets,” I do tend to gravitate more to watching anime and reading manga with supernatural, folkloric, or belief-based components. And I appreciate how a lot of anime uses Christian myth and elements the same way it might use the elements from Chinese mythology, or Shinto, or ancient Norse belief. I’m also a storyteller (well, writer of fiction), and I appreciate how all religion becomes fair game for source material.
Human beings are storytelling creatures, and while I am often bothered by the evils that have been done in the name of religion (yes, I do know that good has been done as well), I love how thousands of years of recorded belief (and more) have given us some truly great and inspuring stories.