Part of the weakness of current theological warfare is that it is premised on stable, lifelong belief – each side congealed into its rival (but weirdly symmetrical) creeds. Likewise, in contemporary politics, the worst crime you can apparently commit is to change your mind. Yet people’s beliefs are often not stable, and are fluctuating. We are all flip-floppers. Our “ideas” may be rather as Woolf imagined consciousness, a flicker of different and self-annulling impressions and convictions. What if you were a strong Christian believer, and you woke one night, terrified by the sudden awareness that God does not exist? Hours pass in this unillusioned crisis, and then blessed sleep finally returns. The next day, you wake up and the awful doubt – a thing of the night – has mysteriously disappeared. You continue to “believe in God”. But what does such belief now mean? If it has not been annulled by the doubt of the night, does it now contain the memory of its inversion, as a room might trap a bad smell? An essay or work of polemic finds it hard to describe the texture of such fluctuation, whereas the novelist understands that to tell a story is to novelise an idea, to dramatise it. There is no need to make a tidy solution of belief; to the novelist, a messy error might be much more interesting. The Brothers Karamazov offers a famous example from the 19th century – a novel in which the author, a fiercely Christian believer, argued against his own beliefs so powerfully that many readers are swayed by Ivan Karamazov’s atheism (as Dostoevsky feared might happen).