Why Did I Write Breaking Faith That Way?

It occurred to me recently that I’ve never explained what drove me to write the books I’ve had published. My hope was the intention would be clear from the story. But it seems that’s not very realistic. I know what motivated me, so I can hardly judge how effectively that motivation was transferred to the story, if at all.

Breaking Faith (a title I should’ve researched first, as it’s been used for too many books!) is essentially a love story, a romance. But it’s also a lot more.

The book inserted itself into my mind on a visit to the Buttertubs in the Yorkshire Dales, a beautiful National Park in England, UK.

Buttertubs? They’re narrow sinkholes, vertical caves, made by rainwater dissolving the soft limestone of the area over the eons. They vary in width and depth. At the time of my visit they were open and approachable. Recent obsession with ‘health and safety’, and ignorance of the need for risk in people’s lives, has fenced them off.

I was standing at the edge of the widest and deepest, about thirty feet to the bottom. My usual over-sensitive avoidance of heights (I’ve a fear of falling) failed to kick in and gave me time to study. I was visited by the image of a young woman’s body lying, discarded, on the floor of the shaft. Thus sprung the germ of the story.

One obsessive theme in my writing is injustice. As a small child I suffered several incidents at the hands of uncaring teachers (fortunately in the minority) that led me to examine and then to care about justice and fairness. Another obsession is religion. Raised in the Church of England, I served as a choirboy, attended Sunday School, and, as a young teenager, had a brief crush on a local curate causing me to believe I might become a priest.

Two days after my 16th birthday my mother was killed in a car crash. My stepfather was driving. He escaped physically unhurt but was mentally and spiritually scarred. During the following days of hell, we waited for support from the church our family had supported for many years. None came. On the way to the funeral, however, the streets were lined with respectful residents, not churchgoers, who’d loved my generous, caring mother.

This simple act of neglect by the religious community at a time of great need caused me to examine the nature of religion. I found it deeply wanting. And the more I looked into it as a generic philosophy, the more I grew concerned it had little to do with altruism, goodness and kindness and was mostly concerned with control of congregations; a method of ensuring people acted in certain ways, regardless of motive. It became clear most adherents of many of the huge number of different religious sects are concerned to behave according to a specified code so they’ll achieve a place in their particular version of heaven. This struck me as selfish rather than generous. I read a great deal about various world religions and concluded most were more concerned with increasing their numbers of followers and gaining status within the world rather than acting altruistically for the general good.

Over time I grew convinced religion has little to do with any god but a great deal to do with power and the status of each individual sect’s authorities. And I found the images of god, as described by these sects, nonsensical; none stood up to even basic analysis. It became clear that ‘god’ is a human construct, designed and created by humanity as a figure of either blame for natural catastrophe or an attempt to explain the inexplicable creation of the universe, as seen by ancients lacking scientific knowledge.

I became agnostic: we can never know whether or not any god exists, since an entity responsible for the entirety of creation would be so incredibly complex as to be utterly incomprehensible to us. On the other hand, gods created by humanity for their own purposes have, almost without exception, been constructed as versions of human beings (or anthropomorphically altered animals) with all their faults and prejudices. It’s wonderfully ironic that my conversion from faith to agnosticism was triggered by the indifference of the religious community to my family’s suffering at a time of real need.

So, I wanted to write a story that, in some small way, featured these factors. But I didn’t want to preach. I wanted to entertain, as I put forward ideas on morality and love from a secular point of view.

Romance is the most popular genre. Crime comes a close second. Once I had my cast of players assembled, the story developed to encompass both these genres. ‘Breaking Faith’ is essentially a love story with a hideous crime at its centre.

There’s eroticism, included to demonstrate the difference between carnal attraction and real love. There’s nudity, included as a natural consequence of the main protagonist’s views of life. Betrayal, hypocrisy, neglect, bullying, lying, cheating, hatred and violence all appear. But you’ll also find beauty of both setting and character, innocence, tolerance, intelligence, creativity, humour, altruism, and, most of all, love.

The novel can be read on different levels: those who seek escapism will find it in the landscape and the relationships. Those who prefer a deeper read will discover it in the events and the characters and relationships of those involved.

I wrote the book to portray many aspects of the human condition, hoping to entertain, move, and maybe even raise questions in the mind of the reader. Whether I succeeded is for readers to say. Some have reviewed the book and given their opinion in words. My thanks go to all who’ve taken the time and effort to express their reactions to my work. I’d love more readers, and invite everyone reading this post to give the book a try. Enjoy the read!

It’s possible, if not probable, some readers will be offended, maybe even hurt, by my description of religion. Please bear in mind my criticism is aimed at the institutions; people’s individual beliefs are their own affair.

10 thoughts on “Why Did I Write Breaking Faith That Way?

  1. Good read Stuart! It’s hard not to make the connection between mainstream religion and social control. Interesting how you wove your experiences into the plot of the book. I’d Tweet this one out today, but I discovered that Twitter suspended my account and erased all of my followers – no explanation given at all, and I don’t see how anything I posted could have been that offensive. I’m waiting for a response from them. At any rate, have a good day. Always enjoy your blog 🙂

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    1. Thanks, Stearley. The experiences informed my themes, rather than leaking into the plot: they replaced my former unthinking accpetance with what has become a lifelong tendency to question, and once that starts, there’s no going back on the religion issue.
      Sorry to learn of your problem with Twitter: they seem to do this from time to time; a few of my followers there have had similar issues and there seems no rhyme nor reason for it. Perhaps someone in their HQ was tinkering and clicked in the wrong place. I hope you’re soon back online and haven’t lost all your followers/following in the process.

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      1. It always pays to question. I regularly question myself too – learning everyday. And thanks, the Twitter thing really has me puzzled. I realize they are a private corporation and not bound the Constitution’s free speech provision, but I do find it odd. Perhaps some algorithm of theirs picked up on some term they don’t like, or perhaps they are censoring those questioning the activities of the current administration. I’ll be interested to see if they respond to my inquiry as to why the account was suspended. Have a great day. Always enjoy your perspectives 🙂

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        1. Twitter isn’t alone in its peculiar use of algorithms. I once posted a link from my own website onto my Author Page at Facebook and had it taken down as ‘spam’. As soon as I explained what it was, they restored it, but you do wonder what aspect made them remove it in the first place, especially as it’s something I do all the time!

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          1. Indeed, FB once took down a book review I posted that was published in the American Bar Association Newsletter. As a test, I posted all of the web links to all of the online booksellers advertising the book – they found all of those to be acceptable. Strange

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  2. Thank you Stuart for giving such a clear and deep background to the events and beliefs that formed your life. The deep questioning that comes after the loss of your mother was when your eyes opened.

    I haven’t read your book yet but am tempted now.


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    1. Thank you, Miriam. Yes, my eyes were opened by that tragedy; it took some years to complete the process, but that was the starting point.
      If you decide to read this book, I hope you’ll enjoy it, though there are a couple of difficult passages among the humour and the love.

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