How can a Berkley-educated intellectual who has achieved fame by writing blood and gore novels about vampires return to Catholicism after 38 years of being a proclaimed atheist? I had to find out!
Anne Rice's childhood experience of the Catholic religion was similar to mine: religion was present in all aspects of our lives and it felt good. When she wrote about her response to the rich symbolism of her religion as a child attending Mass at the magnificent cathedrals of New Orleans in the 1940s, I remembered how I felt when attending my little church in Wisconsin, also a beautiful place, full of statues and stained-glass windows and symbolic art that told magnificent stories.
When Rice wrote about how she then, as an adult, abandoned the church and God to become a proclaimed atheist, I connected to the empty feelings she described so creatively. As an adult, I have also abandoned the church, but not as an atheist.
I couldn't connect with Rice's claim that her vampire books were an important part of her search for her lost god. However, I was in awe of her complex mind as she wrote about this relationship and her atheism. "When people refer to me as a 'prodigal daughter' because I have given up writing 'about vampires and witches,' I am confused," she writes. "I feel no guilt whatsoever for anything I ever wrote. The sincerity of my writings removes them completely from what I hold to be sin. I also feel no real contrition for my years as an atheist, because my departure from the church was not only painful, but also completely sincere."
Rice begins her memoir by saying that it is about faith and that the heart is absolutely essential to faith. Her elaboration of this theme was important, as she confesses that her greatest challenge of all has been to love: "All that gossip, all that criticism, all that spitefulness, all that meanness, all the verbal sparring, all that anger—all that failure to love."
I was deeply curious to see how Rice reasons her way through the modern-day controversies within the Catholic Church. She writes: "I hadn't thought it radical, for instance, for a deeply orthodox Catholic to hope for the eventual ordination of women. Or for a Catholic to believe that our gay Christian brothers and sisters would soon be accepted into the fold."
Rice has recently published two books about Jesus: Christ the Lord: Out of Egypt and The Road to Cana. I will read these books and feel enormous gratitude to Anne Rice for having written them, as well as her intimate memoir about her search for God.
Anne Rice is the author of twenty-eight books. She lives in Rancho Mirage, California. Visit her website.
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