Faith in words

Why does so much of my writing seem to revolve around matters of faith? This is the question on the minds of some readers, apparently. In his review of my novel, Satya, one reader wrote:

“Secondly, this book is heavy on religion. I’m not entirely sure whether I like that or not… To say that the entire book is just wholly religious would be a lie; there’s love, compassion, teenagers fighting, crying, sadness, happiness but at the same time, there’s a lot of references to God, faith, being at peace with oneself…”

Well this is a book entitled, Satya—but perhaps that is too subtle to grasp. It is a book about a journey, more than an individual. It is name-play, I suppose. Personally, I would not describe my novel as being heavy on religion, but then it occurs to me that I reside in a different world. According to the 2011 census of England and Wales, just over 14 million citizens describes themselves as having no religion, the second largest group behind 33.2 million who consider themselves Christian. For many, religion really is a matter of the periphery, to be largely ignored and set aside.

Yet I cannot imagine a world devoid of faith, for my life has always been centred upon it. Even when I was an agnostic, questions of faith and belief seemed of utmost importance. My mother was amongst the first women to be ordained as Priest in the Church of England. My father was a lay preacher for 30 years before finally becoming a Priest himself. Various relatives served as missionaries in east Africa. Even my sister who works in the field of Quantum Physics is a committed Christian. At every family gathering where the wider extended family is in attendance, it becomes quite apparent that our lives revolve around faith: apart from me, every single individual is a believing, practicing Christian.

Writing about matters of faith just seems natural to me—indeed it drives my writing to a large extent. Faith is not always about belief, for it can be about disbelief too. In another yet unpublished work of mine entitled, Lead us not,  the main character walks that tightrope between belief and disbelief, and between repressing the inner calls of the self and submitting to them. I could write unfantastic romances or tales of a distopian future, but these are not the tales that speak to me, or which press out from my fingers dancing on the keyboard. I am interested in questions of sin, temptation, regrets, pain, addiction, gratitude, love, and yes: our relationships with God and with the inner self.

I am not a populist writer, delivering works that appeal to common trends: I am an eccentric, penning tales of the heart. This appeals to some, but not to others. In another review, the reader wrote:

The other feeling that drew me on was authenticity. T J Bowes, who was an agnostic at the time of writing Satya, is able to fluidly and momentously navigate the topic of religion that is addressed broadly, offering not self-focussed philosophical ruminations that would not behoove a novel but a natural, living material of growth and conversation among Satya, Ben and Anjana and others.

Why does so much of my writing seem to revolve around matters of faith? Well, why not? These have been to concerns of mankind throughout the ages. Must we dull the inner voices because the modern era considers them tired, foolish, irresponsible? Must we only write what sells? Of sorcerers, vampires and teenage suicides? Surely not! Let us write what occurs to our hearts.

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