Only God is an Atheist, Part 1

When she was twenty-one years old, far from home and as yet uncelebrated, Flannery O’Connor began keeping a journal to God. For the many who were moved by reading her correspondence with friends and admirers—a correspondence collected in The Habit of Being—the first publication of O’Connor’s journal in the September 16, 2013 edition of The New Yorker is a chance to revisit the workings of her mind.

Much will seem familiar. Always a seeker of knowledge, she nevertheless exhibits her characteristic wry wit regarding the limits of such pursuits: No one can be an atheist who does not know all things, she says. Only God is an atheist. The devil is the greatest believer & he has his reasons.

But much will also seem new. In the journal, the young writer speaks to God in direct address. And unlike the letters, which were always meant for at least some type of public audience—if only that of the addressee—the journal was likely never meant to be seen. As such, the candor found there unveils a raw, youthful side to the otherwise tough, wise-cracking, and often cocky, O’Connor—a side that to my knowledge was seldom shown in her correspondence.

In the balance of this two-part post, I will comment on some of the passages that are particularly striking, arranged by topic. Today, I will focus on her prayers about writing.

With only one story accepted at the time of her journal (1946), O’Connor displays both zeal and anxiety about her vocation:

I want very much to succeed in the world with what I want to do. I have prayed to You about this with my mind and my nerves on it and strung my nerves into a tension over it and said, “oh God, please,” and “I must,” and “please, please.” I have not asked You, I feel, in the right way. Let me henceforth ask You with resignation—that not being or meant to be a slacking up in prayer but a less frenzied kind, realizing that the frenzy is caused by an eagerness for what I want and not a spiritual trust. I do not wish to presume. I want to love.

The familiarity of such desperation is keen to all those who keep writing past the dilettante phase. Of course, the publishing world now is vastly worse than in O’Connor’s day; the ever-dwindling market for creative works is barred by gatekeepers who demand months-long exclusive readings, and blithely respond, if at all, with curt boilerplate: “while there was much to admire in these pages…”; “this does not meet our needs at the present time”; and the nastily dismissive: “it’s simply not for us.”

So O’Connor’s desperate calls for heavenly intervention are deeply resonant. Our pleas of please are all but screamed, as though God’s attention must be captured; as though he must be distracted somehow, since there’s no other explanation for the breathtaking speed with which the ever-towering failures come.

But what the writer speaks of here is that such tumult is not the right way to approach God on these matters. It smacks of a demand upon God, suggesting that his concession must be granted, given how deeply earnest the prayers are and how terribly hard the supplicant has worked.

Whether O’Connor was ever able to achieve the state she sought is unknowable, and moot, since her prayers were answered anyway. But it is the coupling of love with resignation that takes lesser souls like mine aback. That correlation—that if one loved more, he would not presume so much—implies that love allows for trust regardless of how things fall out; and trust does not exhibit itself in panic, in screams, in claims of desert.

Even in her youth, O’Connor knew that desiring to be a better writer, and to be an accepted writer, was not a matter of worthiness. She says:

That [publication] is so far from what I deserve that I am naturally struck with the nerve of it…. If I ever do get to be a fine writer, it will not be because I am a fine writer but because God has given me credit for a few of the things He kindly wrote for me.

Right at present this does not seem to be His policy. I can’t write a thing. But I’ll continue to try—that is the point. And at every dry point I will be reminded Who is doing the work when it is done & Who is not doing it at that moment.

This conviction—that good work must be infused with grace—became her strongest principle. She concedes that she is only the medium for the telling, and prays for a constant realization of that fact: Don’t let me ever think, dear God, that I was anything but the instrument for Your story—just like the typewriter was mine.

Setting herself at odds with the schools of realism and naturalism that have so utterly won the present day, she prays for the ability to get God’s own power into the narrative:

Oh dear God I want to write a novel, a good novel. I want to do this for a good feeling & for a bad one. The bad one is uppermost. The psychologists say it is the natural one. Let me get away dear God from all things thus “natural.” Help me to get what is more than natural into my work…

The supernatural, transcendent grace indelibly marking epiphanies such as those of the grandmother in “A Good Man is Hard to Find,” of the imperious Asbury in “The Enduring Chill,” and of the jovially complex Ruby Turpin in “Revelation,” are evidence that her prayers were finally met. To use O’Connor’s image, the Holy Spirit resides in these and other stories like a “great, crow-filled tree,” looming and portentous.

Apparently, at some point—and to our great benefit—it seems that God decided to change his policy.

To be continued tomorrow.

A.G. Harmon teaches Shakespeare, Law and Literature, Jurisprudence, and Writing at The Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C. His novel, A House All Stilled, won the 2001 Peter Taylor Prize for the Novel.

  • Peggy Rosenthal

    I’m delighted to learn about O’Connors’ journals being published. And thanks for these quotes revealing her early prayers about her writing career. I recall (probably from The Habit of Being) that later in her career, when asked whether she was inspired by the Holy Spirit as she wrote, she responded something like: “I sit at my desk for 2 hours every morning. If the Holy Spirit is going to come, I’ve got to do my part and be there at work.”

    Looking forward to your post tomorrow.

    • Jana Reed-Marler

      i will look forward too! i’ll remember always her short story “a good man is hard to find”. what characters!

  • Brian Westley

    No one can be an atheist who does not know all things

    This is due to a faulty definition of “atheist”; an atheist is anyone who does not believe in any gods. The reasons for this, and to whatever degree of certainty they may hold to it or assert it, does not change the fact that they are atheists.

    • Patrick J Loveless

      Even God is not an atheist in this sense; He is God, and rightly proud of it.

      I think O’Connor – and I am only conjecturing – meant that everyone knows something is bigger, more powerful, more knowledgeable than you are- be that God, Allah, Vishnu and all the gods, Zeus, the sun, the volcano five feet from your house, or the man who has the access code to a nuclear bomb. Or whatever.

      But only God has no challenger. And that’s due to who He is – the source and summit of all things. How long does it take to count to infinity? This is like trying to best God. In such a sense then, God is an “atheist”.

      • Brian Westley

        I think O’Connor – and I am only conjecturing – meant that everyone knows something is bigger, more powerful, more knowledgeable than you are- be that God, Allah, Vishnu and all the gods, Zeus, the sun, the volcano five feet from your house, or the man who has the access code to a nuclear bomb. Or whatever.

        That still has nothing to do with being an atheist. If you or O’Connor want to make up a new word for whatever nebulous idea you want to outline, go ahead. “Atheist” is taken, and it already means something else.

        • James

          Well said Brian. Of course, theists tend to have a hard time wrapping their minds around the fact that to those who do not believe in god, i.e. “atheists,” the Christian god (or any other god) is no more real than Santa Claus. No atheist has ever claimed to have absolute knowledge, as this disengenious new definition demands on our behalf. What we ask for is evidence that the Christian god is something more than a man-made myth, i.e. the very thing Christians themselves believe about every other deity and supernatural being different from the one(s) they happen to believe in.

          • Patrick J Loveless

            It’s not real difficult to figure out that there’s no real good reason for eleven men to peddle an idea that completely goes contrary to human experience, except that it’s true.

            Visions and mythologies are part of the human experience. Resurrections are not. Other religions find visions and myths to be the fundament on which everything else rests.

            It is only Christianity which rests on the impossible: a Resurrection. If that didn’t happen, no point so much as bothering with it.

            Yet, here we are, discussing a religion whose main tenets include the rising of a man from the dead, and the subsequent belief that this man is God….

          • James

            There is very little reason for Muhammad to peddle the myth that he flew on a flying horse, except that he did. There is very little reason for Joseph Smith to peddle the myth that he looked into a magic seeing stone in his hat to translate plates, except that he did. There is very little reason for the Bab to think that he was the messiah and to willingly die for his belief, except that he did. There is very little reason for Simon bar Kokhba to think he was the messiah and to die for this belief, except that he did. I could go on, but you get the point.

            The fact is, the plain definition of a Christian is someone who believes that a man named Jesus is their lord and savior. No one disputes this basic definition; those who are not Christians simiply don’t find the claims Christians make to be credible. The universally aggreed-upon definiton of a Muslim is someone who believes there is no god but Allah and Muhammad is his prophet; again, everyone agrees this is the basic definiton. Those who are not Muslims simply do not find their claims to be credible. The same goes for Mormons, Jews, the Baha’i, the Sikhs and so forth.

            The universal definition of an atheist is simply someone who does not believe in any god. Nothing more; nothing less. You’re quite free to think atheists claims aren’t credible and you’re even quite free to think your lack of evidence is evidence. But don’t re-define atheism to mean something it isn’t – that’s just plain dishonest.

          • Patrick J Loveless

            What unites Joseph Smith and Mohammed, though, two twofold: 1) they are one man, alone, having a vision, and 2) they were willing to fight, not die, for their faith. Mohammed’s jihad manifested in the conquest of Medina (originally a Jewish enclave) and other areas. Smith was a known liar, and had shot a man. Buddha had a vision as well. So did the Bab. Visions are common to the human experience.

            Eleven men all saw one man at the same time over the course of 40 days multiple times eating, speaking, touching His wounds, and walking. Tradition, at least, tells us all eleven of them died for, never killing in the name of, what they all believe they saw.

            Visions do not swallow solid food. Visions are not seen by eleven men all at the same time. Nor are they seen for 40 days continuously. Visions cannot be touched. And, again, visions are common to the human experience. If the Apostles had seen a vision, like Mohammed, like Buddha, like Bab, they would have said so. Not what they said.

            If you do not believe Christ rose from the dead, you are not a Christian, because if you do not believe He rose, you cannot believe He is Lord and Saviour, because He could not even save Himself. The Resurrection, if it did not happen, completely puts the kibosh on any Messianic claims He had. You don’t need to read deep into Jewish history to get that. Bar Kochba’s movement, and bar Kosiba’s movement, and Moses of Crete’s movement, all of these died when the man died. If Jesus died and never came back, no Jew would think He was the Messiah, much less the Son of God. Again, visions are common to the human experience. Those Jews who followed Jesus knew the difference between a vision and a risen man.

            Any man might believe a vision. The Catholic Church, and many Christian churches, are full of visionaries, just as Mohammed and Joseph Smith were. No sane man would believe in a resurrection, especially not of one executed as a criminal and dead three days – except if it were true.

            The Resurrection and its after-effects are simply far too crazy and alien to the human experience to be readily believed.

          • GMCrivello

            I stopped being a militant atheist shortly after I started vetting my sources, and my sources sources, and the sources of the sources of my sources. I had to stop terrorizing Christians on the internet, according to my conscience, because I was NOT being the rational mastermind that I venerated myself as. I quickly found that there was no sound refutation to the overwhelming witness of the Resurrection of God in the flesh – that claims about falsification were grounded on falsifications of traits of mythologies – that everything other than Christ was a faulty foundation. When I stepped away from other atheists and their opinions, I could come to no other conclusion than the exclusive Lordship of Jesus, that He is truly the Son of God. The instant of that conclusion was the moment everything began to fall into place like it never had before when I tried my hand at Judaism, Islam, Mormonism, New Age spiritism, and just outright naturalistic humanism and nihilism.

            How true wisdom trumps the reasoning and scheming and discourse of all mankind!

          • Bender

            I stopped being a militant atheist shortly after I started vetting my source

            Lying for Jesus, are we? I don’t believe you were ever an atheist.

            I was NOT being the rational mastermind that I venerated myself as

            Now that’s easy to believe.

            I quickly found that there was no sound refutation to the overwhelming witness of the Resurrection of God in the flesh

            That’s a good example of why reason is not your strong suit. Have you found “refutation” of Muhammad flying to heaven in a winged horse? Since when supernatural claims need refutation? What you should have looked for was evidence that it happenned.

            That’s why your claim that you used to be an atheist is extremely suspicious. That’s like saying “I used to be literate, but I stopped”.

          • Patrick J Loveless

            Apparently you’ve never heard of Francis Collins, then. He is a biologist, part of the team that decoded the human genome, and an evangelical Christian.
            Fascinating man if you should ever look him up.

            There is also an Anglican bishop, N.T. Wright who, if you ever care to have a look at the evidence for yourself, has many videos on YouTube and books on Amazon you can peruse to get an idea of where a rational man gets the idea that a miracle can happen.

            A thought to leave you with: the laws of science, why do we call them laws? Did we make them? Or do they come from something – or someone – else?

          • Bender

            Apparently you’ve never heard of Francis Collins, then.

            I did, and his reasoning is as flawed as every other christian.

            A thought to leave you with: the laws of science, why do we call them laws? Did we make them?

            Because they are constant and universal. No, we didn’t “made” them, we just observed them.

            Or do they come from something – or someone – else?

            Who says they have to “come” from anything?

          • Patrick J Loveless

            Perhaps we should not trust his work on the Genome Project, then.

            Not so; consider the law of conservation of matter (and of energy). Ever hear of the Casimir effect? That, if it is true, violates that law. (Go on. Look it up.)

            Either that, or (and I truly think this is the real answer) the “nothing” from which virtual particles come is not really nothing. Either there is a scientifically explainable source of virtual particles, or if these do well and truly come from utterly nothing, we have good reason to believe they come, not from nothing – or else we would see atoms randomly materialising for no good reason from nowhere, and God alone knows what else – but from something science cannot understand ever. Period.

            In other words, the Casimir effect is either just another in a long line of mysteries, or it is a bona fide miracle.

            Because – in case you don’t get it – the overwhelming almost unanimous vote of the universe is that everything comes from something else. If virtual particles are the sole exception, the sole exception to the law of the conservation of matter and energy, which say all matter in a closed system (such as the universe) can neither increase nor decrease, the sole thing which comes from nowhere and nothing, that ought to scare the crap outta you.

          • Bender

            Perhaps we should not trust his work on the Genome Project, then.

            Typical Christian failure to understand the fallacy of the argument from authority. Look it up.

            Because – in case you don’t get it – the overwhelming almost unanimous vote of the universe is that everything comes from something else.

            Really? So where does your god come from? Cue standard cop out answer “oh, my god always existed”.

            the sole thing which comes from nowhere and nothing, that ought to scare the crap outta you.

            Why?

          • Brian Westley

            In other words, the Casimir effect is either just another in a long line of mysteries, or it is a bona fide miracle.

            Uh, no. It’s an observed effect that was even predicted by Casimir (which is why it’s named after him). “Mysteries” and “miracles” are generally not predictable; physics, in contrast, is.

          • GMCrivello

            Okay… on the off chance that you care to investigate, my username for Youtube (one of my many favorite venues, many of which, such as internet forums, I cannot recall because of a heavy stint with marijuana and hallucinogens in highschool – I am only 20) at the time was Firequacker. You may or may not be able to find a history of my commentary, and I admit that I do not know Youtube well enough anymore, with its many progressive variations, to claim that it can or does maintain a running list of all of a user’s commentary. Furthermore, you could look at my Facebook history from about 4 years ago, though you would only see a few comments – my name is Gianni Mario Crivello, and I am from Kannapolis, NC. You could also ask my family and two of my former girlfriends, to whom I declared atheism at their great despair and despondency. Hundreds of kids at my highschool respected me before I went Jesus-freak on them because I was known for one feat – in my Junior year, I scored an average of ~98 on all of my college biology exams while only attending ~20% of the classes because of mononucleosis, whereas 50% of my senior counterparts failed the class and none of the more determined students understood evolutionary biology to the extent that they could even approach my scores. I was also well-known to be an obsessive pot smoker and dealer throughout this period, and attained a perfect score on the college-credit exam at my most blazed moment. This is all to prove that I was and am a fool, now, I do not reveal it lightly. If you can prove that I am lying, I would have to undergo a very intense soul-searching process to determine how all of these false memories and records came into being.

            In regards to your pericope on Muhammad – you clearly are not analytically reading my comments, and are responding in vain presumption. You must admit that you make a fool of yourself.

            I observed much evidence – that is the whole point of this string of commentary. Patrick sums it up nicely, but not exhaustively. I observed less refutation than evidence – I could not find ANY refutation of 1. the validity of the claims or 2. the soundness of the details that did not quickly and violently fall under scrutiny (Zeitgeist-esque claims were all the noise back then, and they are utterly ridiculous and poorly researched – but they do not compose the entirety of the so-called refutations that I speak of). Furthermore, the strict accuracy and precision with which the Old Testament prophecies predicted all of the events and behaviors surround the Lord’s death and rising was evidence far and above that of circumstance.

            If 5,000 of the members of my community witnessed Mohammed landing on his winged horse, after which he promptly turned seventy of them into snakes and conjured massive vats of wine and wheat, I might be interested to investigate his claims about the source of his powers, and whether they are coherent at their essence and testified to elsewhere/otherwise. If I knew even one Mormon whose great-great-grandfather witnessed Joseph Smith healing a man from leprosy or total paralysis in the name of Jesus, I might reinvestigate the essences of their theology. Needless to say that miracle claims, *in and of themselves*, do not make a truth-sayer, but they are cause for investigation.

            I am forgoing commentary on your latter-most remark…

          • Bender

            Okay. Let’s say you were an atheist. But the “I used to be an atheist” is such a common canard among certain fundamentalists that it seemed highly likely you were one of them. Anyway, your reasoning is still faulty.

            I observed much evidence – that is the whole point of this string of commentary.

            No you didn’t. There is no evidence whatsoever of God, or Jesus. All you have is a written text. The only thing a written text is evidence for, is that at some point a literate person had access to ink.

            I could not find ANY refutation of 1

            Again with the refutation thing. You don’t get it, do you? Let’s try this: I am God. Now, go and refute that.

            the strict accuracy and precision with which the Old Testament prophecies predicted all of the events and behaviors surround the Lord’s death and rising was evidence far and above that of circumstance.

            Um, has it ever occurred to you that the people who wrote the gospels also knew those prophecies, and deliberately altered facts to “fulfill” them? Like the census Luke pulls out his ass to justify why the alleged messiah was this guy from Nazareth instead of being from Bethlehem, like he was supposed.

          • Patrick J Loveless

            Exactly. Nothing else substantiates ALL the facts we do know:

            1) that the tomb of this man, Jesus, was empty three days after it was closed,

            2) three days after his execution and burial, the eleven of His disciples claimed to have seen him walking around again,

            3) they claim that before all this he claimed to be the Messiah, the Son of God, to forgive sins, to control nature, and to be higher than Scripture (all of which amounts to blasphemy, a capital crime in ancient Judea!),

            4) and they believed afterwards He truly was what He said He was,

            5) they did NOT believe this in the time He was buried – as they were hiding away, scared for their lives, according to them,

            6) it was NOT the Apostles, scared as they were, who saw Jesus first, but they all agree it was the women who first saw the empty tomb,
            7) They could tell the difference between a ghost and a fleshy man; men don’t eat as He did in Luke’s Gospel. They don’t linger for 40 days. 11 men don’t see ghosts all at the same time (all the Gospels AND the first letter to the Corinthians, written by Paul, agree on this point); ghosts are a subjective experience, not something experienced simultaneously, unless something was polluting the drinking water, in which case all of Galilee would have been seeing it.

            You have to come up with equally if not more improbable solutions to these problems – and more – that would surely violate as many natural laws as the Resurrection would, and it would not fit together nearly so cleanly as the Resurrection fits it.

          • Bender

            Those are not “facts” you “know”. Those are parts of a myth. And some are pretty silly. “the tomb was empty”? So what? Most likely somebody stole the body. “They claimed they saw…. ” some people claim they were abducted by aliens, does that make it true? etc.

          • Patrick J Loveless

            Thank you for bringing that up. Notice that it is all of the Gospels who claim the tomb was empty, and that the Gospel of Matthew, not any opposition to Christianity itself, that brings up the possibility of the stolen body. Rather strange that the supporters of the Resurrection should wish to incriminate themselves, no?

            But let’s say the body was stolen. By whom? The most likely would be the Apostles; no one else would gain anything out of it.

            But read the Gospels. There were armed guards at the tomb. Failure to do their duty would be death for them. But even if the Apostles overpowered the guards and unsealed the tomb, and stole and threw away the body, what good would it do? Remember, they were beaten, tortured, and eventually killed. Would you willingly undergo the termination of your life for something you know, positively is a lie?

            Even if it wasn’t the Apostles – maybe grave robbers, or whatever – the empty tomb would not have been enough. Visions would not have been enough. Seeing a piece of fish disappear into a vision’s gullet, or seeing that vision break a piece of bread in two is enough to convince you something is a man and not a vision. Touching a vision’s flesh and seeing it be touched with ten others is enough proof that a vision is a man and not a vision.

            As for the claims of the Gospels: I think even ancient people were smart enough to know the difference between historical fiction and reality. They’d written their own, you know: Judith, and Tobit are two examples. The Gospels are similar, but are also very different. They make claims very alien to the Jewish culture – such as that a man can claim to be God, or that He can forgive sins. Or raise Himself from the dead. These were things a Jew would have thought crazy. That Greeks would have thought crazy.

            A good reckoning for where they came from was from outside of the culture of the time. In other words, from either reality, or a supernatural vision. And as a vision is certainly NOT what the Apostles saw, I gotta lean towards thinking the Resurrection, as such, actually happened, as did the life of Jesus.

            Mohammed has no such excuse. Joseph Smith has no such excuse. They borrowed from their surrounding cultures – Mohammed from Judaism and Christianity, Joseph Smith from Protestantism. (There are also philosophical arguments against Islam, and Mormonism, such as the question of where the born god Elohim came from, and whether he would then be “God” as such.)

          • http://empiricalpierce.wordpress.com/ EmpiricalPierce

            The problem is that you’re assuming the gospels are reliable accounts of events even though they contrast with our knowledge of history in many places, and are even internally contradictory. For one example, Luke’s story places Jesus’s birth at 6 AD, whereas Matthew’s story places Jesus’s birth to before 4 BC. At least one of them must be wrong, proving that events in at least one gospel account have been fabricated.

            http://www.infidels.org/library/modern/richard_carrier/quirinius.html

            To further reinforce the point: Luke has Mary and Joseph travelling from their home in Nazareth in Galilee to Bethlehem in Judea for the birth of Jesus (Luke 2:4).
            Matthew, in contradiction to Luke, says that it was only after the birth of Jesus that Mary and Joseph resided in Nazareth, and then only because they were afraid to return to Judea (Matthew 2:21-23).

            In order to have Jesus born in Bethlehem, Luke says that everyone had to go to the city of their birth to register for the census. This is absurd, and would have caused a bureaucratic nightmare. The purpose of the Roman census was for taxation, and the Romans were interested in where the people lived and worked, not where they were born (which they could have found out by simply asking rather than causing thousands of people to travel).

            As for a completely internal contradiction: John the Baptist’s first encounter with Jesus was while both of them were still in their mothers’ wombs, at which time John, apparently recognizing his Saviour, leaped for joy (Luke 1:44). Much later, while John is baptizing, he refers to Jesus as “the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world”, and “the Son of God” (John 1:29,36). But chronologically after that, in Luke 7:18-19, John hears about the miracles Jesus has been performing… and responds by sending his disciples to confirm Jesus’s identity.

            Why did John, who apparently had absolute certainty of Jesus’s identity even before his birth, suddenly forget who Jesus was and need to send disciples to confirm Jesus’s identity after Jesus had performed miracles? Simple: Because events in the gospel accounts have been fabricated and modified multiple times throughout the years. It’s not surprising that there are plot holes.

            I’ve got several more examples, but this should be enough to demonstrate that the notion that the gospels are reliable historical accounts doesn’t have much going for it.

          • Bender

            But let’s say the body was stolen. By whom?

            I don’t particularly care. If you arrive home and the tv, the xbox and the computer are gone, do you assume they came alive and escaped, or that somebody stole them, even if you don’t know who it was?

            There were armed guards at the tomb. Failure to do their duty would be death for them.

            There were? Really? How do we know? The gospels may claim that, but how do we know it’s true? And even if it was, here are still a lot more plausible explanations that “the body just ascended to heaven”. The guards could have been bribed, or just incompetent.

            As for the claims of the Gospels: I think even ancient people were smart enough to know the difference between historical fiction and reality

            No offence, but you yourself can’t do that. I don’t see how illiterate peasants from 2000 years ago could do better.

  • Nemo

    Atheism simply means the lack of belief in gods. Whether you simply have no position at all in regards to religion (meaning you do not positively assert the existence of any form of supernatural being) or you take the route of saying there are no gods, period, both positions and everything in between are atheism. An agnostic, and I define this because the phrase often comes up, denies having knowledge on the matter. I am an atheist because I see no reason to conclude that any supernatural beings, let alone a god, exist; for that matter, certain supernatural claims, including SOME branches of Christianity which make demonstrably false claims, can be labeled false. I am also an agnostic, because I do not claim to have absolute knowledge on the subject. A person can also be both an agnostic and a theist, since some forms of deism and pantheism deny having absolute truth.

  • agh

    Thanks for the comments. Here’s a quote from O’Connor given to a journalist interviewing her. She said she was a Catholic, “not like someone else would be a Baptist or a Methodist, but like someone else would be an atheist.” Her novel, “Wise Blood,” concerns a protagonist who tries to create a Church of Christ Without Christ, and explores the faithful zeal of both those who believe and those who don’t.


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