Everybody loves a good story. It’s incredible, when you think about it, just how universal our appreciation of stories is. Whether in books, plays, films or songs, humans across the world have always enjoyed stories. This was a fact that I’d never been forced to consider quite so much before coming to UEA and beginning my Creative Writing course. It’s really brought to my attention the importance of structuring stories to appeal to our human sensibilities for clarity and closure. But there was one comment that didn’t sit well with me.
My tutor brought up religion and claimed that our love of stories helps explain why their grand universal narratives are attractive. Belief in a world with God provides comfort and order to our universe by turning every aspect of human life into a story that has meaning and purpose.
But I, as a religious believer myself, am not convinced by this. I want to look deeper into this unique relationship between humans and stories and ask the question of why it exists.
An audience goes into a story with certain expectations. A story must have a conscious structure, everything must make sense and every action should have consequences that are paid off in a satisfying way, every ending should feel right, as if it were always building up to end that way.
Yet, according to an atheist worldview, this is precisely how the universe works: random and without any conscious structure. Could it be that we love our stories to have a structure that makes sense, not just as a hopeless wish, but because it reflects a structure that does exist in our universe?
When considered in this way, it seems almost a paradox that our hatred for randomness and love of structure would lead us to reject the idea of a structured universe and feel more assured in a random one. The alternative, I think, is at least worth considering.