Persona 4′s “Key Plus Words”: Searching for Truth

Alexander of Ashita no Anime often provides me with thoughtful perspectives on things we’re both passionate about – particularly anime and religion.  Our discussions are interesting because we generally have diverging opinions.  For instance, Alexander is establishing a reputation as the alternative voice in episode reviews (he was disappointed in Sakamichi no Apollon before it was popular to feel this way), while I’m about as mainstream as they come.  Our religious beliefs are similarly disparate – though we both have Christian backgrounds, I’ve clung strongly to my faith while Alexander is now an atheist.

A few weeks ago, Alexander sent me a link to lyrics from “Key Plus Words,” the song used in the ED for episodes 13 through 22 of Persona 4.  I don’t think he’ll mind if I quote something he wrote about it:

This song is very powerful for me because it nearly perfectly mirrors the transition in my life from a confused Christian to a logical atheist.

The lyrics do certainly seem to mirror the journey many might take from starting as a Christian to discovering the truth that, as they might see it, Christianity is false.  Consider the first verse (courtesy of the Megami Tensei Wiki):

hide and seek
it wants to play again
like a detective,
I won’t let it get away
it’s constantly costuming
with loads of fake
I will strip search
if I have to
no I’m not afraid to know it
no no no
I am so determined
to chase after what’s hidden
and seize this day
this moment

Many might feel weighed down by Christianity or even imprisoned by it.  Adolescence and early adulthood often bring us to a point in our lives where we openly question everything we believed in (I know it did for me, as I investigated Daoism, atheism, and other beliefs).  So, for one who comes to believe that there is no God, it must feel like quite a release from the “constantly costuming with loads of fake,” to “chase after what’s hidden” – the truth of atheism.

But the truth is, I wish more Christians would also take the spirit of these lyrics to heart as they seek the truth.

A strong argument levied against western Christians is that we are unthinking.  Note that in Alexander’s comment above, he mentions that he is a “logical atheist.”  Does that infer we are illogical?  At the very least, it’s not a stretch to say that many of us Christians don’t think very deeply about our faith – really diving into scripture, thinking about the central tenants of the faith, or investigating claims that skeptics make about religion.

For some, like myself, it’s because we’re lazy or dispassionate.  For others, though, it might be because we are scared that if we dig too deep, we’ll find something we don’t want to find.

But being brave is part of faith, which “is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see” (Hebrews 11:1).  If you claim to have faith, put it into action and dig deep.  In the words of “Key Plus Words,” be a “detective.”  Don’t be “afraid to know it.”  Consider questions that non-believers have; study the history of church and of scripture; and pray and meditate about the doubts that might sneak into your heart and mind.

Asking questions of God and of our faith can be difficult and painful.  But for me, even though there are questions out there I just can’t figure out or adequately explain, my relationship with God has grown stronger.  The more questions I have, the more I understand my role in relation to Him and the more I seek His truth:

I wanna know
even it may hurt
even it brings pain within
my mind’s determined
I need to know
even it may kill
even it may change me
ready to face truth

Persona 4′s end song implies a great adventure into the truth.  Very few of us will ever have an experience worth telling as anime, but an adventure to find the truth is there, nonetheless.  The question is, are you ready to journey on it and learn more about your faith?

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About TWWK

TWWK, known to outlaws and lawmen alike as Charles, lives deep in the heart of Texas, where he drives cattle and boot scoots (not really - though he does sport a pair of rattlesnake boots). Somehow in this frontier, he also finds time for his wife, children, and church. Oh, and anime, too.

Posted on 06.27.2012, in Atheism, Christianity, Music and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. 19 Comments.

  1. Ah ha! I had a feeling you’d feel inspired by the lyrics of this song to come up with something good! It really helps that the meaning can sort of go both ways depending on how you want to read into it. That’s a big part of what makes this song such a good talking point for the topic of searching for the truth. The facts can only get you so far before it’s up to each person to decide what conclusions can be made.

    While I’ve never claimed that there is no god, like Tsubasa Hanekawa in the monogatari series, “I don’t know everything. I only know what I know.” And what I’ve seen has lead me to the truth as I see–the existence of any god is so unlikely that I behave on a day-to-day basis as if no god exists. When I say I’m an atheist, that’s what I’m talking about.

    You talked about faith, but that’s something I’d discarded a long time ago. It wasn’t working for me, so I had to go with something else. I’m open to the possibility of having my mind changed should new evidence be presented. While facts don’t change, our interpretation does and my perception of a dynamic truth allows for the possibility of a god. I have been told that when god reveals himself to the world, it will be too late for me, but that’s a price I’m willing to pay for the sake of being true to myself because “ignorance is not bliss.” ^_-

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    • Notably, being an atheist usually means “choosing to believe there is no God (/deity)”, and it’s a kind of faith in itself. After all, proving the non-existence of the supposed creator of probability and logic through probability and logic is a tall order. I think you might be more of an agnostic, according to the “I don’t know everything. I only know what I know.” principle. The distinction is a bit murky, though.

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      • Faith is belief that is not based on evidence. I don’t believe there is no god, I simply see no evidence to believe there IS a god. That’s atheism. Agnosticism is the position of not knowing or not being certain in something. It’s the default position when you don’t have enough information. It’s possible to be an agnostic atheist or an agnostic Christian.

        In fact, an argument can be made that we’re all agnostic since it’s not possible to know with absolute certainty whether a god exists. By that metric, agnostic becomes a meaningless word, which is why I tend not to use it.

        But saying you can’t use logic to disprove the arbiter of logic is circular and presumes the arbiter exists in the first place. Conclusions can only be made based on facts, which are true whether or not you believe them. And besides the point, evidence has been presented that logic may be an emergent property of either matter and/or minds.

        As far as the god argument goes, I’m currently unconvinced. So rather than make what I see as baseless assumptions, I wait for something more compelling.

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        • >”Faith is belief that is not based on evidence.”
          I don’t want to drag this thread off-topic, but I’ll just point out that this is incorrect. A better definition I came across recently is: “[Faith is] trust in what reason has revealed as truth and revelation has ratified, and vice-versa.” There are other ways of putting it, but that’s the most concise I know of.

          Returning to TWWK’s original post, though, it’s true that most Christians don’t think very deeply, if at all, about what they claim to believe. I’ve yet to encounter an atheist who can accurately describe what Christianity actually teaches, but unfortunately I can almost say the same about self-described Christians. The result is a great deal of frustration and confusion on both sides.

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          • You’re right – frustration abounds and confusion multiplies when atheists and Christians talk about Christianity, when one side or both are unable to explain the most significant facets of the faith. I largely try to avoid debate on this site for that exact reason – misunderstandings or ignorance often create an atmosphere where nothing is gained, but in which much can be lost.

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    • Thanks for the kinds words, man. And thanks for the inspiration as well! :)

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      • One thing I want to make clear about the meaning you interpreted about my quote, “Note that in Alexander’s comment above, he mentions that he is a ‘logical atheist.’ Does that infer we are illogical?”

        When I make comments like that I want to make sure that I’m never attacking people, only their ideas. So while I wouldn’t presume to call a large group of people illogical, to me their belief system is illogical, which is why I’m not Christian any longer. Hope that clears me of any perceived ad hominem I may have committed.

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  2. You might find this podcast interesting, TWWK:

    http://www.religiousstudiesproject.com/2012/01/30/podcast-carole-cusack-on-invented-religions/

    Most of it is on invented religions and doesn’t have much to do with this post, but at the end there are some interesting points made about why scientists can still be firm believers. Not exactly the point you’re trying to make, I believe, but somewhat related.

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  3. Ritsuioko23

    I love persona 3 and 4. Never really thought of the games like this though. Why is he an atheist anyways?!

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  4. Alternatively, I think it’s because of anime that my faith became stronger.
    Funny Marlin-sama should mention Hanekawa, since I also take her famous phrase to heart. “I don’t know everything, I just know what I know.”
    Though, in the opposite way, what I’ve seen has lead me closer to God than it has before and given me more of a reason to believe He exists (and man, I’ve seen some pretty heavy/mature stuff in anime). In fact, I’d give anime credit for making me stop being the fake Christian I was for a majority of my life and own up to my true self and see how much I need God.
    But, it’s important to realize that you don’t have to know everything either. Yet, while the search for absolute truth may be fruitless in the end, does that mean we just stop searching for it?
    Take Tsuritama for example (I haven’t watched the last episode yet, so my whole analogy may come falling on my head later). Everyone is looking to catch a pretty big fish to save the world. They don’t know what this fish looks like or how big it is (except Haru, but he doesn’t tell anyone anything important like that), but this doesn’t stop them from trying to catch it. They keep seeking it, not only to save the world, but because they love fishing!

    Back to the Persona 4 topic, though. I’ve been recently playing the game (I love it, but I’m so terrible at it XD), and I find it relates more to real life than a lot of other games I’ve played. The most notable example being Social Links. Who knew that in order for relationships to grow you have to spend time with people! It seems obvious. Plus, it can not only be applied to our human relationships, but our relationship with God as well. If we just treat Him like an extra party member to only help you whenever you need it (like I treated poor Yukiko for far too long) and not build up a “Social Link”, you won’t get too far and you’ll be like me and stuck in a freaking bath house with a creepy Kanji and never get farther in your adventure.
    The other prevalent element in P4 actually relates to the topic of this post (yes, I finally got here, apologies, I like to type too much), Personas. Or rather, our true selves. For those of who who watched the anime or played the game, you know that Personas are “our true feelings” and often those true feelings are bad ones that we don’t want to accept (or “evil side”of ourselves for a comparable example). I think a lot of Christians are like this, honestly. The refuse to accept that they are indeed sinners and they do make tons of mistakes and put up a front to look better than they actually are.
    And of course, you know where this gets us. Fighting a really annoying boss and having to use one or two of your Moon Tsukubame because SOME PEOPLE can’t dodge hits well enough and end up DYING (I’m looking at you, Protagonist). But all in all, not being true to yourself kind of affects everyone else around you too, a lot.
    Erk, this is getting long and will probably stem into some dreadful rendition of my own experiences, so I’ll cut it off here. XD;

    Great post, TWWK. I’m always happy to see more people talking about Persona 4, because not only is it a great game, but it has some solid messages in it that apply rather well to life.

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    • “In fact, I’d give anime credit for making me stop being the fake Christian I was for a majority of my life and own up to my true self and see how much I need God.”

      Yeah, it was just the opposite for me. One of the early steps I took towards atheism went something like, “wow, god doesn’t do anything for us. We’re on our own. I need to take responsibility for my actions.” I would later extend that line of thinking to, “oh, god can’t do anything for us because he probably doesn’t exist.” I’d be curious to know what anime you’re talking about that led you closer to god, because what I get out of most anime is the message that divine intervention doesn’t happen–it’s humans who deal with the problems of other humans (or whatever the antagonist may be).

      P3 and P4 are great games. Something I found interesting is that P3 actually makes a pretty thinly veiled reference to Jesus being one of the protagonist’s available personas. If you fuse Orpheus with Thanatos you get Messiah; a persona whose attack animation is to hold his arms out at his side like he’s being crucified.

      As an atheist I like these little details that are slowly working their way into the public consciousness that all religion is myth. Just the same as Greek, Roman, Egyptian, Norse and Shinto pantheons are often used as source material or inspiration for stories, so too Jewish, Christian and Muslim beliefs are not some sacred, unquestionable idea that’s any better than those of the ancients.

      But just as you see P4′s relationships as a metaphor for a relationship with god, I simply took it at face value as the anime puts it, “Bonds of people is the true power.” To that I say that P4 is telling us we don’t need god(s) managing our lives. We are fully capable of doing just fine on our own. For me, it’s one of the most compellingly uplifting things about the Persona franchise.

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      • I had this huge long post thing that was three pages typed out, but then I was like, “screw it”, I doubt you want to read that much of my rambling. XD

        But, I’ll try to give you a response as briefly as I can since I think we agree on many points.
        God “doing things” for me is something I continually struggle with. But, God never promises to make our lives perfect once we’re Christians, so there is that. XD; But on the topic of anime, my line of thinking is similar to your’s, but forks off in another direction.
        One of the things I like about anime is how realistic it can be, in terms of characters and their development, as well as relationships. This makes it so almost any person can relate to at least one anime, no matter their stage in life.
        So when I say that my faith has grown stronger by watching anime (FMA;B, Casshern Sins, Giant Robo, Clannad After Story, Hellsing (Ultimate as well), Fruits Basket, Gurren Lagann, the Precure series, and even Medaka Box to name a few.), it’s because I’m looking at things from where I am in life (spiritually, emotionally, mentally). This is also why sometimes I won’t like an anime now, but I’ll watch it either a few months or a year later and end up having it being one of my favorite series. Gurren Lagann and Samurai Champloo were like this.
        But, it’s the same with P4 (though, I don’t often view games as much more than just fun things to pass the time, P4 is rather unique), I apply it slightly differently to my life than you do because my life is different from your’s. Plus, I don’t see it just as a analogy with a relationship with God. XD; Human relationships are some of the most important things that exist. Building those will give you strength (unless you’re Araragi and believe they “drain your power as a human being”, but we’ll have to wait until Kizumonogatari for that), even though I am admittedly a bit of a hermit. :)
        Actually, narrow interpretations is the main reason why I have a love/hate relationship with people wanting to make “Christian” anime. The beautiful thing about anime is that it makes people think, and not just from one viewpoint, either. It gives viewers the opportunity to see all sides of things, which I think is one of the most important things a person can do in their search for the truth.

        Life is a different journey for everyone, so I don’t have the secret formula for it; nor do I have the way of proving God is God and that He loves every single person in the world enough to save them and stay with them forever (I can prove it for myself through my own experience, but I cannot prove it for anyone else. Again, like Hanekawa, I don’t know everything, i just know what I know.). I think the forcing of these types of formulas on people is what makes people turn to either a different religion or come to believe that there is no god (it is the only logical conclusion, I think. If all you see is a “leashed” life in religion and if God is only presented as an all powerful being you have to tip toe around and follow dozens of rules in order to stay happy with your life. If having faith had to be that hard, I definitely wouldn’t do it either. XP). My faith is just the conclusion I came to through events in my life (and anime helped things along too), and I’m still searching. Guessing you might be too to an extent? If you are, I hope you do find something to believe in, whether it be God, somebody else, yourself, your friends, etc. But, life is much better when you can have hope in someone. :3

        Gah, this ended up being long anyways. D: I suppose I could go into specifics on anime that affected me positively in making my faith grow, but not here because I feel bad enough taking up Charles’ precious comment space. XD Plus, I tend to not be too vocal about anime is terms of how it affects my faith as much as just “Hey, I like this anime because it was super heart warming and the battles were cool!”. But, for the sake of giving you more of a chance to bug me if you want to (since I was kind of brief, even in my wordiness!), feel free to shoot me an email at goldenspines27@yahoo.com.

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    • Goldy, thanks for the comment! I think I’m gonna copy and paste it and make it into a post (or several).

      Just kidding.

      Maybe.

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  5. otakuandrain

    Oh boy I can’t WAIT for you to see the Persona 3 movie that’s incoming if you’ve not played the Original 3. The story of Persona is the concept of lifting the curtains, seeing the Truth, and taking responsibility about what you find. It’s a series that dives deep in the human phyche. It’s one of the reasons its my favorite series of all time. Still this was an interesting read. I’m a citizen of the internet and therefore I have seen it all in the most random of places. People I’ve grown up with have changed so much and I get new experiences all the time. It’s definitely hard sometimes to live my way. Still I know I can ask the Father to let me out and to save the last beat of my soul. He can burn the dream and give me the strength to throw the god of fear into Hell’s flame! Ha…I could go on but I won’t. Still it is important to spread your wings and go forth and find the truth. Staying static and not challenging everything you know is not the way to grow. It’s pretty darn boring too.

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