Anne Rice: 'I felt I had to step aside' from Christianity

The author Anne Rice, best known for her vampire novels, made waves recently when she declared on her Facebook page that she had "quit being a Christian." Twelve years after her return to Catholicism, Rice said she still believed in God, but that, "In the name of Christ, I refuse to be anti-gay. I refuse to be anti-feminist. I refuse to be anti-artificial birth control. I refuse to be anti-Democrat. I refuse to be anti-secular humanism. I refuse to be anti-science. I refuse to be anti-life."

Rice spoke to The Times by phone from her home in Rancho Mirage, Calif.

Q. You were raised Catholic, became an atheist, then returned to Catholicism in 1998. Why are you quitting now? Well, I've been living with this now for 12 years, and I've come to the conclusion from my experience with organized religion that I have to leave, that I have to, in the name of Christ, step away from this. It's a matter of rejecting what I've discovered about the persecution of gays, the persecution and oppression of women and the actions of the churches on many different levels. I've also found that I can't find a basis in Scripture for a lot of the positions that churches and denominations take today, and I can't find any basis at all for an anointed, hierarchical priesthood. So all of this finally created a pressure in me, a kind of confusion, a toxic anger at times, and I felt I had to step aside. And that's what I've done.

Q. You have said that you quit Christianity "in the name of Christ." From a practical standpoint, what does that mean, how do you follow Christ without a church? Are there rituals that you intend to maintain?

I think the basic ritual is simply prayer. It's talking to God, putting things in the hands of God, trusting that you're living in God's world and praying for God's guidance. And being absolutely faithful to the core principles of Jesus' teachings.

Q. Your characters in fiction, you've said, have reflected your own spiritual journey throughout your writing career. What can readers expect now?

Well, I want to keep writing about my new hero, Toby O'Dare, and I want to write about the fears and the questions that Toby has even though he's been visited by angels, and even though he's converted. What will he face as he tries to walk the walk? I think now that I've made this, what I consider, morally necessary declaration, there will be a greater freedom to explore those things.

Q. Any single moment that led you to say, "I'm done?"

There was. There was a last straw. But it's very important to emphasize that it was the sum total of a lot of things. There were some last straws that had to do with papal pronouncements, the pope going to Africa and declaring that condoms were not a good idea and would not help in the AIDS epidemic; the pope standing up in Portugal and saying that one of the most insidious evils faced by the world today is same-sex marriage. You know, we live in a world where genocide and human slavery are realities, and the pope chose to focus on same-sex marriage. But the real last straw, the very last straw, was the bishop of Phoenix, Ariz., Thomas Olmsted, coming out and publicly condemning a nun named Sister Margaret McBride for authorizing a life-saving abortion for a dying mother in a Phoenix hospital. What he said in essence was that she had ex-communicated herself by authorizing the abortion, and I could write a book on why I think that was a ruthless and immoral decision.

Q. More than one person has said online that you're doing all this as a publicity stunt because you have a book coming out this fall.

That's nonsense. That's a very cliched accusation that's made against authors in particular. I can tell you this: Offending the Christian right in this country is not considered a good career move for anybody, especially not someone who has written two books about Jesus Christ.