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Thursday, December 20, 2007

Conversations on God and religion

Antonio Monda, a filmmaker, teacher at NYU film school and co-founder and artistic director of the literary festival Le Conversazioni, met with noted cultural figures (authors, artists, filmmakers and others) to talk about God and religion.

His book, Do You Believe? Conversations on God and Religion was published last month by Vintage Books. I read through it yesterday (it's very breezy) and found it raised some interesting points, but barely scratched the surface of the conversations.

This would have worked tremendously as an audio or visual project rather than a Q&A in print form. It would have been interesting to see Grace Paley or Saul Bellow or Martin Scorsese as they contemplated the questions and after I finished each brief conversation, I was left wanting much more.

Several themes emerged from the conversations with Paul Auster, Saul Bellow, Michael Cunningham, Nathan Englander, Jane Fonda, Richard Ford, Paula Fox, Jonathan Franzen, Spike Lee, Daniel Libeskind, David Lynch, Toni Morrison, Grace Paley, Salman Rushdie, Arthur Schlesinger Jr., Martin Scorsese, Derek Walcott and Elie Wiesel.

• Whether or not they believed Christ was the son of God, nearly all agreed that he was a great thinker.

• There was a great respect for believers even when those interviewed didn't believe and for those of other faiths.

• The power of redemption has the ability to transform humans.

• Most have some semblance of a spiritual life, but maintain skepticism about codified religion and in most cases "the church."

• While some mentioned the hazards of a Godless world (Nazism, Communism), nearly all mentioned the great evil, violence and destruction done in the name of religion.

• Many were asked of religious artists whose work they valued and three mentioned Flannery O'Connor, which was more than any other artist named.

• An overwhelming refusal to declare absolutes.

Some of Monda's key questions included:

Do you believe?

What is your image of God?

What was your religious upbringing?

What will happen after death?

Comment on Dostoyevsky's phrase, "If God doesn't exist, everything is permitted."

The comment that most reflects my own spiritual journey was made by Martin Scorsese in response to Monda asking, "Do you believe in God?":

"I think that my faith in God lies in my constant searching."


Michelle O'Neil said...

Open minds are so refreshing.

Happy Holidays!

Edna said...

Wendy, Do you think that your"constant searching" may be a special gift from God?

Wendy Hoke said...

I agree, Michelle!

Wendy Hoke said...

Hi Edna,
I'm willing to consider that my "constant searching" may be a gift, though I will admit that sometimes it feels more like a burden.