Thursday, May 14, 2009                                                                                       View Comments

Religious Disenchantment Narratives and the Arts

Andover-Harvard Theological Library, Harvard D...Image via Wikipedia

My name is Philip Francis, a doctoral student at Harvard Divinity School, writing a dissertation on religious disenchantment narratives and the arts. I am posting here to see if there are any readers who would be willing to contribute to my project a short memoir of their experience of leaving the Christian fold, making particular note of the role of the arts, creativity, literature, beauty, the combined work of a particular artist or aesthetic experience (most broadly conceived) in this process.

This memoir could be sent to me directly at pfrancis@hds.harvard.edu or posted on Exchristian.net. Questions about the project may also be directed to my email address.

The following are some basic guidelines and starter questions, but approach the writing anyway you like.

The memoir may be as short or long as you like and assume any form. It may be signed or anonymous.

Others have found it useful to structure their memoir as follows:

1. The Unsettling: reflect on your experience of the forces and factors that unsettled you from the system of beliefs and practices that you once held in a dogmatically unassailable manner. Were the arts in any way a part of this initial unsettling? Feel free to cite specific examples from the arts and literature, or your own creative projects.

2. The Liminality: reflect on your experience of the initial transition away from your previous system of beliefs and practices, the in-between space. Was there a time in which you had begun to disavow your previous religious beliefs and practices but had not yet established a new set of beliefs and practices? What was it like to dwell in that liminal, in-between space? Did the arts play a role in this phase?

3. The loss of faith: reflect on the experience of losing religious faith all together, or losing faith in a particular set of beliefs and practices, or a certain vision of God. And/or reflect on the various kinds of losses incurred in this process of disenchantment with Christianity (or some aspect of it). In all these experiences, was loss negotiated in any way by recourse to the arts, creativity and aesthetic experience?

4.The aftermath: reflect on your experience of the aftermath of disenchantment with Christianity (or with some other form of religious belief and practice). Have you found new forms of faith and practice? Have you found it unnecessary to construct new, fixed, systems of belief? Did your relationship to religious doubt, uncertainty and mystery change over the course of this experience?

What is the role of the arts in the aftermath of these experiences? Have the arts assumed any of the roles once played by your previous forms of religious faith?

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In all aspects of this memoir I am most interested in hearing about your lived experience, not merely your rational, theological or philosophical justifications for leaving Christianity (or other), although I recognize that it is not always easy to separate the two.
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Thanks very much for your contribution to this project. All the best, Philip (pfrancis@hds.harvard.edu)

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