Neil Gaiman’s relationship with Christianity

Neil Gaiman is one of my biggest heroes, shaping my teens and early 20s in a way no other author has quite done so. I also picked up a good deal of his sensible pagan understanding of things, which I had use of until I found Christ (that is, He found me) less than 20 months ago.

Literal gives way to literary

Reading ‘The Sandman’ at 14 opened me to the fascinating world of archetypes in which every thing including or particularly religion could be classified as mere points of view. It was fiction, sure, but I didn’t even realize how it influenced me, a Christian with poor foundation for my faith, into treating God as a fiction, the particular characteristics of which depended on one’s culture. And Gaiman himself has said in interviews that God is real, that is, real in the DC universe alongside Superman and friends. God is assumed as the antagonist of his Lucifer character, who is based on the Bible/Dante/Milton/Göethe, and on whom the Netflix series is based. Whatever religious sense Gaiman had growing up, has long been discarded by him. Or rather, it’s taken a different form, in his work.

I love Gaiman’s ‘Books of magic’ mini-series.’ There are few books I’ve treasured the experience of in such a way. In its second issue, Gaiman has skeptic Doctor Terry Thirteen give a modern view that claims of magic are all logically explainable by physical laws and coincidence, to which John Constantine explains another view, of relativism, that the existence of magic has to be chosen for it to be real to someone.

Magic is real, and not good

Something also stressed in the series, and in other Gaiman stories, is that names have power. I’m sure Gaiman used much of world literature in his discussion of the power of names — which he differentiates yet from that which someone is called by — but I find it so significant to my Christian faith, in which Jesus’ name stands above all else and is used to drive out demons both in the Bible and in true stories of exorcism. To think that I found out only very lately that demons are a real thing and not just something explainable by psychology.

Another important point that Gaiman himself probably treats only symbolically is that magic has its price, usually great suffering in the long term. As a Christian, I now see such gravity in getting into things such as Ouija boards, tarot cards, even positive affirmations, anything where we shift our attention away from God to other things, including ourselves, wherein we stop trusting Him and in effect make idols of creations rather than Him our Creator.

Faith in disguise

It is notable though that one of Gaiman’s literary heroes is also one of the most influential Catholic writers of the 20th century, G.K. Chesterton. Long before I read Chesterton — and in hindsight, doing so probably gave me the extra shove I needed to accept Christ within a year’s time — I encountered his likeness in the character of Fiddler’s Green, a dream figure in the realm of the Sandman. Fiddler’s Green was a sweet chap, and I probably will resemble him a good deal when I’m older, if not in bulk then in attitude to life, generally humorous and hopeful amid great evil in the world.

The ‘Sandman’ original run ended with Gaiman doing his second story centered on William Shakespeare, ‘The tempest,’ wherein Will does as Prospero in the play does, breaking his staff so to speak and renouncing the magic that had sustained him. Might this be a portent of Gaiman eventually ceasing to treat his stories as magical worlds divorced from reality, their own escape for escapism’s sake?* Might a life of faith yet await him?
* Gaiman has used this wonderful Chesterton quote though.

Final remark

For me, being Christian has meant hoping and praying for everyone to accept Christ, knowing all the while that the evil one is still setting up traps for me, waiting for a weak moment to strike. If Gaiman ever does turn to Jesus our Lord and Savior (JoLaS), I will know that the signs were all there in his books, long before he recognized them as pertaining to himself.
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How does an atheist experience experience?

Maybe God had me encounter this dude Matt Dillahunty on YouTube today as a fearful reminder of what I could become if I succumb to a crisis of faith. From what little I gather, Matt’s position is to be doubtful of anything by default, and to only accept what could be demonstrated as true, though he’s enough of a truth seeker to acknowledge a variety of ways by which we determine things as true. He doesn’t seem to equate knowledge with quantitative knowledge, or visible knowledge, for instance.

Still, his bias towards the scientific method as the primary if not sole determinant of truth is present, which would actually invalidate much of what he implicitly accepts as true, such as:
1. His being here at all, not just existing but being aware of it as from the inside, which isn’t so much proven as it is self-evident, and that
2. There is a way to discover reality, which assumes that consistency with reality is affirmative of one’s position.

Our modern ‘evolved’ way of thinking makes it the easiest thing to look at the world as a science laboratory, in which the only meaningful answers are those deduced through experiment. One is unaware of how one’s assertion of things often hinges on mere familiarity, e.g. cars as opposed to mystical experiences. The latter’s noetic quality, though sworn by by mystics as providing knowledge as clear as what is observed in the everyday, is brushed off by the outsider skeptic as ‘warm and fuzzy feelings.’

By being a default skeptic to everything, all arguments that aren’t presentable to the mind in a sensible manner are void. The divine, of things unseen (Colossians 1:16), escapes one’s scope of attainable or relevant knowledge, and it doesn’t help that much of what was once unseen is visible with current technology, giving the impression that everything is knowable, provided sufficient advancement of technology.

Faith remains elusive but for grace, of which apparently Dillahunty has not accepted yet, though I pray he does. No better witness than a former inner-circle unbeliever, except he frequently comes across as an uncaring jerk. But the Holy Spirit does wonders.

My parting shot is, if you’re a fan of Dillahunty, and were to find out that Christ is the truth, that there’s an explanation to the absurdity surrounding Him — including those terrible Bible verses you detest — and for whatever reason it’s only made clear to you now, would you ask Him into your heart? Maybe you should try asking then. I dare you.

[UPDATE: Maybe it’s Providence, maybe it could be explained away by algorithmic wizardry, but Matt Fradd hosted a Resurrection debate between Dillahunty and Trent Horn the day after I wrote this article. To think I’d never heard of or paid attention to this guy before. It’s clear that the D Man is completely closed to the idea of God, let alone God as a man rising from the dead, and wouldn’t consider it even reasonable to suppose a person could be brought back to life even if everybody else gave witness to it. To Dillahunty, he’s maintaining an intellectual standard, but this also means a rigidity in adjusting his presumed rational worldview. This reminds me of the final chapter in Michael Crichton’s ‘Travels’ in which he tries to get the reader to consider widening their possibilities frontier, so as to include mental spoon bending for one. Dillahunty claims to live by reason, but an ad hominem of the scientist Crichton’s open-mindedness might be what D-Bone needs.
Trent and Dillahunty are way more experienced in debate than I am, but a couple of questions I would have posed to D Dude would go something like:
“Is it possible for others to have a truer scientific and philosophical worldview than you, one which would reject some of what you now hold to be undeniable?”
“Could it be that Christians hold such a worldview?”]
My new book, How to be Catholic during your rebellious years, is on Amazon.