Horror Writers on God

I've been a Stephen King fan for a long time, so you can imagine my excitement at the fact that he has two books in the queue over the next few months. His novel Joyland will be available next week, while his Shining sequel, Doctor Sleep comes out in September.

I'll be reading both of them, of course, but for now I want to call attention to this interview with NPR's Terry Gross. You see, he said the following about belief in God:

I choose to believe it. ... I mean, there's no downside to that. If you say, 'Well, OK, I don't believe in God. There's no evidence of God,' then you're missing the stars in the sky and you're missing the sunrises and sunsets and you're missing the fact that bees pollinate all these crops and keep us alive and the way that everything seems to work together. Everything is sort of built in a way that to me suggests intelligent design. But, at the same time, there's a lot of things in life where you say to yourself, 'Well, if this is God's plan, it's very peculiar,' and you have to wonder about that guy's personality — the big guy's personality. And the thing is -- I may have told you last time that I believe in God -- what I'm saying now is I choose to believe in God, but I have serious doubts and I refuse to be pinned down to something that I said 10 or 12 years ago. I'm totally inconsistent.

It's a bit tendentious to say that atheists “are missing the stars in the sky” and whatnot. We've noticed them, we just think it's a bit simplistic to jump from that straight to the hypothesis of intelligent design. Science does a pretty good job of telling us how complicated things can arise naturally from simple beginnings. And if you wonder where the simple beginnings came from, it just creates more problems than it solves to hypothesize an omnipotent creator. Along with everyone else, I wonder why there is something rather than nothing. But since an entity with the abilities God is said to have is even more incomprehensible to me than the universe His existence is supposed to explain, then, to borrow King's phrasing, I choose not to believe.

I certainly agree with the second part of his quote, though.

Moving on, in my younger days I used to be a Dean Koontz fan as well. I gave up on him a few years ago, though. He keeps churning out the novels, at a rate that puts Stephen King to shame, but his recent work has been so clunky and unimaginative that I just couldn't take it anymore. The last straw was his 2010 novel Relentless, about a crazed book critic who terrorizes an author and his wife. The plot was so ludicrous I kept waiting for the twist where it would turn out that everything that was happening was just a figment of the author's imagination. But no! There was no twist. It was all happening exactly as described.

Anyway, it seems I was right to be skeptical of Koontz. He has contributed a jacket blurb to Steven Meyer's new book Darwin's Doubt. Meyer, if you are not familiar with him, is now probably the most prominent ID proponent in the biz. It's a lonely job, since ID has mostly been moribund since the big Dover trial, but periodically he writes a new book rehashing the usual talking points. The new one is about the Cambrian explosion. Yawn. The Cambrian explosion is a problem for evolution only in the sense that there are many plausible explanations for it, but too little data for deciding among them. But anti-evolutionists never let a good talking point go.

Anyway, here's what Koontz said:

Meyer writes beautifully. He marshals complex information as well as any writer I've read and far better than most. This book -- and his body of work -- challenges scientisim with real science and excites in me the hope that the origin of life debate will soon be largely free of the ideology that has long colored it.

Like I said, I think I won't be rushing out to read any more Koontz novels any time soon.

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I think you have to be careful with the first King quote and your interpretation of it. The second guy I do not know anything about but if he is a big ID guy, I do not agree with him. I find trying to impose faith as science or teach it to kids is something of a cancer to the actual scientific method.

King was proposing his faith. I think what he meant by "missing the stars" is not literal. Everyone can see them. I think he is referring to the poetic "seeing", that if we are to bogged by facts and science we overlook the innate beauty of something. Not always true, but I think that is what he is getting at. And I do not think he is saying evolution is a lie and ID is true. There are plenty of scientists who believe in some sort of creator. They just look for naturalistic explanation of the work using the scientific method.

I just think he is saying, from his point of view, that the world is that the world and universe are beautiful places and that is one of the reasons he wants to believe. Nothing wrong with that. Does not mean one has to believe in anything more than what they say, but they can choose to.

I, too, like Steven King's work, and I, too, have had too much of Koontz.. I think what did it for me was Koontz's The Taking, which was about god killing everyone who isn't a "good" person, which means virtually everyone on earth. It was deeply hateful and mean-spirited, and it completely ruined Koontz for me.

As to King's faith, I think he is more honest than most believers when he says that he chooses to believe. And, as much as I respect his work (and that's a lot), I think you have to admit that he is not a scientist.

King has simply fallen into a common error: pattern and organization in nature imply design. It’s a false assumption, but a common one.

sean s.

By sean samis (not verified) on 31 May 2013 #permalink

King and Koontz are far from the first. Look at Anne Rice's weird interactions with a god and organized religion, primarily since the death of her husband.

I first misread your post title as "Horror writers for God," and thought you were going to be posting about old tesmatement authors. :)

"Science does a pretty good job of ..."
And that's what believers are missing. They don't wonder about little mundane things like a chair holding my weight instead of falling apart. King is not a bit tendentious - he's completely wrong.

"Along with everyone else ...."
Not me. I have learned to wonder how instead of why. It's a far more intriguing question.

King has written some good books, but way too often I get bored as soon as he has revealed what kind of monster has brings up this time.

I'm not going to use your blog to promote my own work, but I'm a four-time published horror novelist (that is, published in actual "boards," as we say), and an atheist. Some of my novels are supernatural, some not, and in any case they involve deliberately stepping out of a rational mindset into one that allows for "belief" in all kinds of crap. It's fun, and good exercise for the imagination.

I'm a King fan, too, and his past statements about God are among the few things he's said publicly that struck me as not very well-considered (his similar claims for ESP are in the same category), but he's right about refusing to be held to things he said twelve years ago. Plus, it looks like he's reconsidering his god belief in a serious way.

As for Koontz, I gave up on him long before you did, so I didn't even run across his ID-ness. But don't you find it telling that Meyer is using a horror novelist to blurb his "science" book?

By NeverTheTwain (not verified) on 31 May 2013 #permalink

I loved Koontz as a kid, but I haven't read one of his books in years, once his plots started getting predictable. His book "The Taking" was also kind of a deal-breaker for me, not so much because I found it offensive or insulting but more because it was just plainly unoriginal. I remember getting to the end of it, closing the book, and thinking, "That's IT? Really??" I don't think I've picked up another one of his books since.

Now I'm still a King fan and probably always will be. A lot of my own horror writing has been deeply influenced by him, but unlike King, I remain starkly atheist.

A few years ago, I told my public library they should consider moving Koontz from "Fiction" to the "Religion" section, after gagging on some obvious proselytization in one of his novels.

Just read SK's 11/22/63 which was terrific!

By Gingerbaker (not verified) on 31 May 2013 #permalink

Hey Jason, long time reader here.. must be 2004... anyway, have you ever heard of a book called "Evolving out of Eden"? It seems to be about how evolution ruins salvation...

By Kevin Dowd (not verified) on 01 Jun 2013 #permalink

For the science of the Cambrian explosion, read "The Cambrian Explosion: The Construction of Animal Biodiversity" by Douglas Erwin and James Valentine, which has just come out, and which is excellent. If there is something planned by a designer in the Cambrian explosion, why all those weird critters in the Ediacaran which have no obvious continuity with the Cambrian animals. Erwin and Valentine have a nice discussion of the late Proterozoic, before the Cambrian.

I used to love, love, love Dean Koontz; his characters were appealing, his dogs awesome. A lot of his plots were about scientists gone bad or alien beings or crazed killers - then one year his books went from magically appealing to weirdly judgmental and cult-like (people have lost their values, society is going into the crapper, run for the hills). I think I noticed it when he wrote The Taking.

Stating that atheists are missing the stars, sunrises, sunsets, etc., etc., doesn't even make sense. I think it's time we stopped giving people who give out this line any indulgence -- excusing them by saying, "Well, they're just standing up for poetry and beauty and stuff."

Where, I'd like to know, does science eliminate beauty and poetry? Haven't these people paid any attention to Carl Sagan and the many writers who are in his chorus? That kind of "science kills poetry" stuff was fresh in the late 18th and early 19th centuries (say, from Blake to Wordsworth), but it's really stale now. Just people idly repeating things they heard long ago, because they don't want to put the minimum amount of intellectual energy into making what they say sensible.

I’m totally inconsistent.

He's ready for Somefisticated Theology now!

Yahveh, as per Richard Dawkins's description, always struck me as a Stephen-Kingish character.

By Pierce R. Butler (not verified) on 03 Jun 2013 #permalink

Terry went on to ask if King's belief in God was related to his interest in the supernatural - and then stumbled all over herself to say that she didn't mean to equate God and the supernatural...


By Robert Oerter (not verified) on 05 Jun 2013 #permalink