I’ve been meaning to get around to (re)writing this piece for quite some time as it was the idea that really got me into writing about the intersection of anime and my faith. I have alluded to this comparison many times in the past, but I don’t think any I have ever gone into detail with it before. I am sure many are familiar with the Madoka series, but as a necessary forewarning, this post will contain spoilers to the ending of the first season.
At the end of the final episode of the first season, Madoka has saved all mahou shoujo from becoming witches in the past, present, and future, which is an all too obvious, though certainly imperfect, comparison to the sacrifice of Jesus and salvation of sins. But that parallel was not what I found most intriguing about the ending. Instead, I was drawn to the final conversation between Homura and Kyuubey. Homura has explained to Kyuubey that the current world they live in and experience is not how it’s always been. She has memories of Madoka’s sacrifice in saving mahou shoujo from becoming witches. As a result of that wish, however, the laws of the universe have been rewritten and no one else remembers the world as it was before. Kyuubey, naturally, is not convinced that her pet theory is the truth.
“It’s not a theory. It really happened,” she insists.
“Even if it were true, we have no way to verify it.”
Indeed, Homura has no way to prove that her claim is real. However, she does not deny that she has no proof of Madoka’s existence. She accepts her inability to provide any form of evidence yet simultaneously continues believing that she is correct. This is the essence of faith both internally and outwardly. Oftentimes, Christians get insulted when people call their faith baseless with no proof of God’s existence. But that argument is not inherently an insult (though often intended as one); rather, it is by definition the faith we hold. If there were some hard, scientific proof of God, it wouldn’t be faith; it would be fact. Although it might seem obvious, as Christians, we need to remember this unpleasant truth about how baseless faith really is; yet, it is by faith we are saved. When others insult our faith, their arguments are more often than not grounded in reason, and that much should be given the respect it deserves. Although they could do without the insults, faith, by definition, is not based on facts and cannot be proven by facts (if it were someday proven, it would cease to be faith).
Homura quietly accepts her lack of proof as a fair counterargument not only because it is definitively true but because her faith is unwavering. The lack of anything to prove to Kyuubey that her claims are true is naturally upsetting in the context of an argument. I think this is why Christians can get so riled up when people present this side of the argument. If your faith is lacking, it is because to some degree, you understand your beliefs to hold little scientific weight. It creeps into your mind and attacks your faith not with lies but with truth – the truth that faith has no objective basis. When that happens, we try to deny it by insisting that our beliefs are correct. And if our beliefs are correct, there must be some form of proof that we are not mistaken – the Biblical records of miracles, the long history of Christianity, the fellow believers we are surrounded by. We want such things to be an acceptable form of proof to justify our faith to ourselves, and we project this insecurity onto others. Unfortunately, anything we come up with is far from adequate proof – a truth that is oftentimes hard to accept. But Homura’s faith does not break despite acknowledging the absence of evidence because she has absolute confidence that what she believes has happened is true. In the same way, we must acknowledge and accept the reality that there is no way to prove Christianity as real. In the context of an argument, this means that we who are of faith have no argument to present. However, by recognizing our lack of an argument, we can be more like Homura, who calmly and proudly shows off her faith without any semblance of doubt.
Since you’re the only one who remembers that world, there’s no way to tell if your memories are real or simply imagined.
Kyuubey goes on to explain that perhaps Homura dreamed it all; perhaps she really did experience what she claims but that doesn’t make it an objective reality. Homura’s response is, again, silent acceptance that maybe, just maybe, she is actually wrong and it was all an imagined dream. With no proof that her tale of Madoka is the truth, with no one else speaking in agreement with her, it is only logical that she is the one in the wrong. Homura understands that to the outsider, deeming her claims as a dream is completely logical and normal. This next step is even harder to accept, but it is also necessary to fully come terms with our faith. No one can discredit what a singular person believes or feels. Individual truth is a very real thing, but it holds no greater scientific or objective truth. A person can fully believe something is true and believe it because he or she has experienced a very real feeling, change, or even apparent supernatural phenomenon. But when explaining this to others, it is greeted with disbelief and labeled something different. The human mind is prone to misinterpreting information all the time, after all. If we accept disturbingly realistic dreams or extreme delusions that are often associated with mental illness as real, then we must accept that our interpretation of the spiritual is perceived by others as something akin to mental illness. An individual’s personal experiences can be “true” without it being an objective truth; this is the basis of dreams and delusions (for example, this study on schizophrenia where patients are in fact hearing voices: their own).
Once again, such “attacks” against Christian faith are not inherently attacks; they are the result of someone who doesn’t share our beliefs and is making, usually, a very fair and reasonable assessment based on their own experiences and understandings. I think it is so important as a Christian to recognize the logic of attacks on our faith. When someone asks if you aren’t simply imagining everything, perhaps the best response is “yeah, I might be.” To have faith in God is to hold strong to your beliefs while also comprehending the disbelief of those around you. At no point does Homura argue back against Kyuubey; in fact, she agrees with him but continues to hold steadfast in her beliefs. Faith is not the stubborn denial of counterarguments, which so many people seem to mistakenly believe. Rather, faith is the acknowledgement of counterarguments as possibilities on a logical level but rejection of them solely on a personal level. Despite understanding the lack of logic, we choose to believe. Hebrews 11:1 says it best “Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see” (NIV).
While the many Christian parallels to the Madoka series may all fail to be perfect in their analyses, perhaps Homura is the perfect parallel to a person of faith. Her faith is unwavering regardless of the evidence provided against her, not because she denies the evidence but because she believes in spite of it. In fact, Homura is not merely a Christian example, but an example to those of all faiths of all religions. Religions may have vastly different beliefs, but the basis of faith is virtually the same – a belief in something which cannot be proven. Thus, while I may be interpreting Homura’s stance as a Christian, it can certainly be applied to any other religious belief as well. Therefore, I do hope that all readers, regardless of where your faith lies, can find inspiration in this parallel and Homura’s confident faith. When it comes down to it, one of the most fundamental problems across all religions is the question “why do I believe what I do?” The answer is not one that can logically convince others; it is simply a choice to believe and hope in something that you cannot fully understand. So when it comes to your faith, always remember that just like Homura, faith is not something you can or should have to justify because faith is not logical in the first place.