May 30, 2013

Stephen King and supernatural intervention

More than 100 million Americans say they believe in theistic evolution. According to Gallup polls, the percentage of people believing that humans evolved with divine guidance has declined a bit in recent years, but there's still more than a few who say that's what happened. These people look at nature and natural processes and see, à la Intelligent Design, that "certain features of the universe and of living things are best explained by an intelligent cause, not an undirected process."

One of those 100 million Americans is named Stephen King.

King, the 66-year-old master of horror fiction who has sold more than 350 million copies of such works as Carrie,  'Salem's Lot, The Shining, ItCujo, and now Joyland, is obviously no stranger to the idea of the supernatural. But supernatural intervention into the normal course of events isn't, apparently, just a plot mechanism for King. He also sees signs of supernatural intervention in the world around him.

Interviewed by Terry Gross on NPR this week, King said:
If you say, 'Well, OK, I don't believe in God. There's no evidence of God,' then you're missing the stars in the sky and you're missing the sunrises and sunsets and you're missing the fact that bees pollinate all these crops and keep us alive and the way that everything seems to work together. Everything is sort of built in a way that to me suggests intelligent design. But, at the same time, there's a lot of things in life where you say to yourself, 'Well, if this is God's plan, it's very peculiar,' and you have to wonder about that guy's personality -- the big guy's personality.
King notes he's not too worried about being consistent, and says he's not sure there's evidence for God but he's chosen to believe anyway. He offers a version of Pascal's wager. "I choose to believe it ... there's no downside to that."

King also talks about the religious influences of his youth in the interview. He says he watched a lot of televangelists as a child, specifically Oral Roberts and Jack Van Impe, who he calls "a real hellfire guys." He went to a Methodist church as a child, and says it was like a "bottle of soda with the cap off for 24 hours," real "Yankee religion."

"They tell you you're going to hell," he says, "and you're half asleep. What kind of preaching is that?"

Christian interpreters of Kings work have long noted the religious undertones. In King's work, when he tells you about hell, you're not falling asleep. And when the supernatural intervenes, the author thinks that might not be so unusual.