cover image Do You Believe? Conversations on God and Religion

Do You Believe? Conversations on God and Religion

Antonio Monda, . . Vintage, $12.95 (178pp) ISBN 978-0-307-28058-9

Monda, a Catholic who teaches film at NYU, offers 18 interviews with renowned writers, thinkers, artists and film directors in this brief collection about God and faith. Though many subjects express skepticism about religion, some reveal a deep longing for faith: Novelist Michael Cunningham discusses his childhood fascination with religion, when he painted religious scenes and made communion wafers out of Wonder Bread, and Jonathan Franzen speaks of being influenced by the simultaneously terrifying and comforting character of Aslan in The Chronicles of Narnia. Most of the interviewees voice concern about religious absolutism and fundamentalism, particularly when connected to politics; when Arthur Schlesinger, Jr., states that “there is nothing more dangerous than a person in politics who is certain that he is acting in the name of God,” he represents the group well. But there are also key differences here, from the Catholicism that infuses Martin Scorsese's films to the pantheism that Paula Fox espouses to Toni Morrison's idea of God as “an infinite growing that discourages definitions but not knowledge.” As a collection, there are uneven moments; Monda refers throughout to his interview with poet Derek Walcott, but Walcott's interview doesn't appear until almost the end of the book. Overall, though, this is a thoughtful, provocative and concise volume. (Nov. 6)