A Prayer For Owen Meany

A Prayer For Owen Meany

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The book A Prayer for Owen Meany brings forth various themes and questions that can't be answered easily. One of these questions is "Can religious faith exist alongside doubt, or are the two mutually exclusive?" There are several different possible takes on this question may be answered. How a person answers this question is related to their belief in faith.
Of the various answers to this question, I'll start out with "faith cannot exist alongside doubt." The two ARE mutually exclusive. This goes with the fact that complete faith means just that. Faith means "complete confidence that a person or a plan etc" (according to WordNet). To us, to have faith you cannot doubt. One example of this would be when Owen keeps asking John whether or not the statue is there, even though he can't see it through the fog. John's only answer is "I just know it." Owen replies with "that's how I feel about God." Now, John's "belief" is based on the fact that he's seen the statue in this position before, and he reasons that it could not have moved since he last saw it. Owen takes it a step farther and calls it faith.
The next answer to this question could be "I have faith, but I also have some doubt." This is the answer that most people can identify with. Very rarely will you find a person that has complete faith, and also rarely will you find person with complete doubt. Everybody believes something, yet almost nobody believes in something purely. This is much like John. Throughout the book, John develops from not believing in God, to believing in God, too (at the end of the story) mostly believing yet having a little doubt. Throughout the book, John has faith yet has doubt. When he moved to Canada and becomes part of the Anglican Church it takes him years to fully accept their doctrine. We see this as the predominant answer to the question "do you have faith." Even in biblical times, notable characters in the Bible had faith, yet were challenged with severe doubt.
The other answer to the question is that faith is doubt. This basis relies on the fact that since there is so little proof, one must doubt therefore one must have faith.

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The name person that this reflects upon in A Prayer for Owen Meany is Reverend Merrill. The Reverend approaches faith only through doubt. For him, doubt is the essence of faith. In his view gal is natural. Thus, because there is so little evidence in the world (of the existence of God), you must doubt. He goes on to state that in the absence of proof, faith is necessary. We must take note that John is attracted to this take on the world. What we must more significantly notice is that Owen does not like this view. Since Owen has complete faith, this seems wrong to him.
However, if you answer with a last option you must be careful of doubt. Later in the book, just before Merrill reveals that he is John's father, he realizes that he has no faith at all. The fact that he doubts so much has eaten up all the faith and left him with nothing else. This brings us to the paradox of "can you truly doubt and have faith at the same time?" we never get to hold this directly, but it is safe to assume that Reverend Merrill started preaching with "faith." As we move through the book, you must notice how the reference faith slowly turned to doubt. The doubt eventually left absolutely no room for faith.
My personal answer would be that faith can exist alongside doubt, yet neither faith nor doubt can be overwhelming. This stems from the fact that I have never really believed in God. I was always, and am still, a man of science. Pretty much everything must be explained with math and science. To believe something "just because" doesn't really do it for me. I haven't had any damning evidence towards God, nor have I had any evidence to the contrary.
For John Wheelwright, faith is an absolute. However, it wasn't always that way. He started the book not believing, yet ended as a believer. This story he tells explains how Owen Meany made John a believer through his actions, and Owens complete belief. Other things that convince John are the fact that Owens's life is a miracle. Not only do you have the fact of his permanently fixed voice, which led the Vietnamese children to trust him in desperate times, but you have the more overwhelming fact that Owen was a virgin-born. This is also the reason why Owen and his family don't like Catholics, because when they (Owens's parents) told the church how Owen was born, the church practically shunned them.
Owens further belief in God is added to when he has "visions" and "dreams." He sees his death date in a Christmas play as he plays the ghost of Christmas yet to come, and dreams the dream of the grenade going off with the Vietnamese children around. What he doesn't tell John is that John is a part of this dream, and thus, a part of God's plan.
Further, Owen believes he is "God's Instrument." When Owen hit the baseball that killed John's mother, Owen said he was sorry, but that it was part of the plan, and that he was the instrument of her death, thus God's instrument. This makes John angry and possibly furthers him from faith, putting him more into doubt. However, near the end of the novel, John hears Owens's voice as he is about to fall down the stairs in the secret cellar. He also hears Owens's voice through the Reverend Merrill's mouth. These occurrences, plus the fact that Owen created his gravestone (complete with death date and all) about six months before he died, lead to John's renewed confidence in God.
All of these viewpoints are experienced by various people, yet the most common (by far) is faith mixed with varying degrees of doubt. Not many people have complete doubt, or complete faith. This may be affected by the fact that to have complete faith takes work, and people don't generally like to exert effort.

Bibliography -
A Prayer For Owen Meany, book
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