As the world around them becomes increasingly unpredictable and unstable, the beliefs of the survivors are constantly challenged. With the escalating uncertainty and corrosion of fundamental beliefs, the characters search for other answers to fill the voids and answer their questions.
Several characters, most notably Miranda’s friend Megan, turn to religion to give them stability in the face of their anxieties. They express deep conviction that the moon strike and resulting damages are the result of a Judeo-Christian God’s intervention; that the catastrophe happened because it was meant to happen. This belief gives the catastrophe and the subsequent suffering it causes meaningful, as opposed to meaningless, and leads these characters to a fervent need to prove they are worthy of salvation. Megan becomes so devoted to proving her worth that she starves herself to death. Miranda, while rejecting an idea of a vengeful God, is also impacted by the faith of those around her, and she dreams that she’s being blocked from Heaven. However, while some characters do find comfort in their religious faith, prayer, supplication, and repentance are not presented as solutions to the problems of the novel, and the novel shows how some “religious” people take advantage of the religious sentiment of others: the reverend at Megan’s church remains overweight throughout the catastrophe—fed by the food offerings of his congregants.
On a more personal level, the weight of the characters’ faith in others also changes when the people they’ve always looked up to can no longer provide the answers that they need. Miranda struggles with how the disaster has redefined her mother’s role, in that her mother doesn’t have the answers or guidance Miranda has always expected adults to provide, and she cannot shield her children from the cruel realities of the world.
While there are many aspects of their everyday life that Miranda and her family take for granted (or have “faith” in) at the beginning of the novel, these are called into question as the narrative progresses. The family members experience a loss or change in their expectation or dependence upon things like: electricity, running water, heat, food, medicine, Internet, phones, and radio. On a much larger scale, even the rules of nature are rewritten by the asteroid’s collision, and the characters cannot depend on the fundamental “facts” that govern the natural world. For example, after Miranda’s watch battery dies, she is no longer able to tell the time of day because the ashy sky prevents daylight from penetrating. Despite having no real need for time, this disorientation is continually disconcerting and reflects the shift Miranda needs to make from faith in externalized elements, to internalized beliefs about her own capabilities.
Throughout Life As We Knew It, Miranda struggles to find a point of stability she can cling to. While others turn to religion or science, Miranda doesn’t find comfort in these, especially not in a world that feels deceptive and fickle. Denied the ability to lean on her core beliefs about the nature of life and the world, Miranda often repeats the few fundamental things she does know – that she loves her family; that they are doing their best to get through this together. The narrative privileges hope, family, self-determination, and the willingness to sacrifice. It makes it clear that even when the characters don’t have faith that they’ll live to see the sunrise—or even if the sun will rise—they can look to an internalized center of control and draw their strength from that.
Faith Quotes in Life as We Knew It
I know it’s dumb of me, but I keep thinking that once Matt gets home, everything will be okay. Like he’ll push the moon back into place.
One thing Matt did say to me was that no matter what the future is, we’re living through a very special time in history. He says that history makes us who we are, but we can make history also, and that anyone can be a hero, if they just choose to be.
“There are lots of different ways to be hungry, you know. Some people are hungry for food and others are hungry for God’s love.” She gave me a look then, pure Megan, to let me know which camp I fell into.
“You think we’re going to die,” I said.
Any sadness immediately evaporated and rage took its place. “Don’t you ever say that to me again!” she yelled. “None of us is going to die. I will not allow that to happen.”
But without hearing what’s going on in the real world, it’s easy to think there is no more real world anymore, that Howell, PA, is the only place left on earth.
What if there is no more New York or Washington or LA? I can’t even imagine a London or Paris or Moscow anymore.
How will we know? I don’t even know what time it is anymore.
“But as long as we don’t know what the future is going to bring us, we owe it to ourselves to keep living. Things could get better. Somewhere people are working on solutions to all this. They have to be. It’s what people do. And our solution is to stay alive one day at a time. Everyone dies in increments, Miranda. Every day we’re one day closer to death. But there’s no reason to rush into it. I intend to stay alive as long as I possibly can and I expect the same from you.”