It would be impossible for me to recollect how many times I have heard people say to me, “All religions are really the same. So I don’t believe in any of them.” I think they thought it was impressive to say it, perhaps politically correct and socially accepted in our culture. Besides betraying a lack of knowledge or understanding of what divides religious groups, what they were really saying was, “I’ve given up on searching for absolute truth, so I am not accountable to any worldview.”
Interesting? Not really. It’s sad. Sad that an individual will fall into the trap of giving up on finding the basis for their convictions. Their ethics become based on feelings and emotions, as they are subject to no supreme authority. It brings to mind that verse in Revelation 3:16. It is pertinent to quote it here: “So then, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spew you out of my mouth.”
Conversely, I have encountered people of faiths that differ from mine who will tell me in no uncertain terms where they stand. People like that I can respect, even if our beliefs are polarizingly opposed. They know what they believe and why they believe it.
When writing fiction this is an important consideration. What kind of characters do you want to create? Do you want generic individuals so that you have to rely on the plot? Or would you rather have characters of conviction who stand firm on what they believe and why they believe it?
Looking at history demonstrates this repeatedly. If a simple monk had not stood against the Pope, we would never have heard of Martin Luther. If Hitler’s worldview had not been so polar-opposed to Stalin’s socialism, he may not have turned on Russia.
A story that is filled with characters of conviction leaves a lasting impact on the reader because the reader finds themselves rooting for some while condemning others. Characters with conviction can be praised or condemned for their choices and actions. Characters without conviction follow the whims of society and leave little lasting impact.
Conviction feeds growth. It makes people uncomfortable or inspires them, but it certainly leaves an impact on society. Characters of conviction drive story. We can root for them or watch them fall.
Storytelling is a powerful vehicle for exploring the best and the worst in humanity. But characters without conviction fade into the background. They neither angered nor thrilled us… Well, perhaps I am wrong in that. Sometimes they do anger us in the same way that those types do in real life.
Q: Do you recognize what convictions drive your favorite fiction characters?
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