Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Best of the Blogosphere, Part 7: Teresa Nielsen Hayden's Credo

(Seventh in an occasional and entirely whimsical series. Other entries here.)

Teresa Nielsen Hayden is an SF editor at Tor Books and (along with her husband, Patrick Nielsen Hayden, likewise an SF editor at Tor) blogs at Making Light.

As I've noted before, one of the central criteria for inclusion in this series is being worthy of rereading. And one sign of that is when you're digging through their archives, finding that no damnit they don't have subject archives what about Google Yes! Google comes through and then rereading the post -- particularly if you're doing all of this years afterwards. It was when I was doing that for the second or third time for this particular post that it occurred to me that, yes, it really deserved an entry in this series. So I hereby present the seventh official Attempts Best of the Blogosphere™ award to Teresa Nielsen Hayden's brief, powerful blog post "Things I Believe".

It is an Easter post, a declaration of a unique, intelligent and deeply moral faith. I myself do not share Teresa's beliefs: she is a Christian; I am an atheist (with a Jewish cultural identification). But I found her declaration extremely moving. Unless you have an extreme, visceral negative reaction to any Credo of any sort, I suspect you will as well. For that matter, she includes some entries that even a die-hard atheistic naturalist can agree with, such as "I believe it’s a sin to throw out awkward data" -- as long as one allows for an interpretation of "sin" which fits it within an atheistic, naturalistic framework (as I do, and as I suspect Teresa would understand as well).

I don't want to quote too much of it, because you should go read it for yourself (or reread it if you've already read it), but to whet your appetite a bit, here's the opening:

I believe that if God is as advertised, God’s ways and means and purposes cannot always be comprehensible to us.

I believe in the God of the Burgess Shale*, Who not only made creation stranger than we know, but stranger than we could ever imagine.

I believe it’s a sin to throw out awkward data.

I believe that the God who made (among other things) light, and space, and number, and time, and the spiral curve of Fibonacci numbers, must be acknowledged to understand more than I do about why there’s pain in the world.

I believe God put that itchy spot on our backs, just exactly where we can’t reach it, to encourage us be to nice to each other.

I believe God doesn’t play mean practical jokes on His children; for instance, the ones He makes gay.

(That asterisk in the second item is a footnote, by the way -- but I shan't give it here since after all the whole !@#$% point is to get you to go over to Teresa's blog and read the post there.)

It's a wonderful credo, and if more Christians believed it, rather than the Jesus-is-all-about-giving-money-to-the-rich-hating-gays-and-starting-wars version that seems current in today's America, the world would be a far better place.

Teresa Nielsen Hayden is actually the first author of any of the posts in this award series that I've met. She (and Patrick) are regular attendees at Readercon, my favorite SF convention, and I have spoken to her once or twice -- nothing serious or notable, really, but enough to know that she is as gracious and intelligent in person as she is online. She also is good an panels, but that's a whole 'nother topic.

Teresa regularly says that one of the best things about Making Light are her readers, and that if you miss the comments you're missing half the fun. I think this is quite true, although in all honesty the comments on this particular post don't show the fact off as well as many other posts -- they're heavy in the "that was beautiful, thank you" vein, complementing Teresa's post in the praise rather than complete sense of the word. Some people, however, add their own beliefs to Teresa's -- in something like the way that (later) people would add their own entries to John Scalzi's post "Being Poor", featured earlier in this series. So do take a look at the comments if you feel inclined.

But either way, do make sure to read Teresa's post. I am far from convinced that faith in general is a good thing; but the faith she displays there is not only powerful and moving, but clearly a force for good. It is a Credo worth reading, and worth rereading, whether or not you subscribe to it.

Would that it was more widely shared: that more of today's believers held a faith so imbued with wisdom, with charity and with love. For I believe that such wisdom and charity and love are the greatest part of any life of good will, whether or not that life is a life of faith. I believe such a faith as this, truly lived, could help to save us all.


Teresa Nielsen Hayden said...

Thank you! How did I miss this the first time around?

Stephen said...


It was an obscure post on an obscure blog -- of course you missed it. Personally I'm curious how you actually found it, since it's now an old, obscure post on an obscure blog. :)

And you're welcome. Thank you for stopping by.


Anonymous said...

I am afraid that Teresa Neilsen Hayden is a demented , and untalented editor who wastes her life away attacking others instead of learning to create something worthwhile. Maybe she is just too mentally ill to do so; at any rate, her case is pathetic. She has no recollection of her past, , does not remember facts or care to check her facts before she writes something. I too am a "Christian" but since shetakes malicious delight in trying to cause pain to others,I do not want to be there when she meets "St. Peter."Truly she is not someone to pay any attention to. Even her victims eventually forget about her and relegate her writings to the lunatic rantings of a raving maniac.