Society has instinctively come to assume that ‘religion’ and ‘faith’ are brother and sister terms with the same meaning. Although Merriam-Webster states that the word ‘faith’ means “belief or trust in God or the doctrines of a religion”, there is one question to ask: Cannot faith also be in something quite isolated from religion itself?
On September 17, 2011, the eleventh episode of the sixth series of the British science fiction TV series Doctor Who premiered on BBC One. In this episode, an alien time traveler named ‘the Doctor’ and his companions Amy and Rory find themselves trapped in a 1980s hotel with constantly shifting and changing corridors. They meet a group of people who all have no clue as to how they arrived in the hotel: Rita, a Muslim medical student, Joe, a gambler, Gibbis, an alien, and Howie, a nerd in his late twenties who lives with his parents. The Doctor eventually realizes that the hotel captures people of ‘great faith’, and a creature lives off their faith by first ‘relocating’ their faith to itself by terrifying them with their worst fear. In their dying moments, the victims lose their personality, worship the creature, and continually utter the words ‘praise him’. The victims lose their faith to the creature, and in doing so, they lose their souls, too.
At one point in the episode, the Doctor says something remarkable about why the hotel is desensitizing its victims by exposing them to their worst nightmare:
It’s not fear. It’s faith. Not just religious faith, but faith in something. Howie believed in conspiracies, that external forces controlled the world. Joe had dice cufflinks and a chain with a horseshoe—he was a gambler. Gamblers believe in luck. They [Rita, Howie, Joe, and Gibbis] all believe there’s something guiding them, about to save them. That’s what it [the creature] replaces. Every time someone was confronted with their most primal fear they fell back on their most fundamental faith…[Amy’s] faith in me is what brought us [the Doctor, Amy, and Rory] here.
There is one phrase in this spiel that stands out with a pale haze of white light hovering around it:
“Not just religious faith, but faith in something.”
In Life of Pi, Pi, the main character, finds out that his biology teacher, Mr. Kumar, is an atheist. Mr. Kumar states proudly to Pi, “I don’t believe in religion. Religion is darkness.” He then states later that he “believes in the virtues of science.”
At the age of six, Mr. Kumar fell sick and had lain in bed for six months. Those six months were “the worst days of [his] life. He eventually recovered, but at the “price of his faith”. He firmly believed that “medicine had saved [him], not God”.
Atheists may not believe in God, but that doesn’t mean they do not believe in anything. Mr. Kumar did not believe in God; he believed in science. As Pi says later in the chapter, “Atheists are my brothers and sisters of a different faith, and every word they speak, speaks of faith.”
There are innumerable types of faith. Yes, there is faith in God (or gods), but there is also faith in a loved one, in science, in luck, even in the most arbitrary fascinations imaginable. Rita had faith in Islam, Amy had faith in the Doctor, Mr. Kumar had faith in science, Joe had faith in luck, and Howie had faith in government conspiracies.
One may live without religion, but that doesn’t mean one lives without faith.
The Wikipedia summary of “The God Complex”
Digital Spy review of “The God Complex”
“The God Complex” Quotes
The Shmoop page for Life of Pi
“The God Complex” Preview Clip #2