Short Stories About Faith | Religion | Tradition

Religious beliefs play an important part in these stories. In some, long held traditions are a substitute for religious belief.

Most are realistic, but in a few something miraculous happens.

This page will also have stories where a character’s faith is challenged or shaken, or where a character’s actions are strongly motivated by faith.

Others have characters who live a religious life, or who have dealings with religious people.

Our Lady’s Juggler | Anatole France

A poor but adept juggler travels and puts on performances. Eventually, he joins a monastery and sees the monks using their abilities to praise God, making him wonder what he has to offer.

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Sinners | Sean O’Faolain

A canon takes the confession of a young woman. She is reluctant to answer his questions, so he draws her out, trying to get her to reveal her sins.

The Christening | Guy De Maupassant

A doctor recounts the christening custom of his god-son’s people, where the baby is left exposed to the cold.

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The Man to Send Rain Clouds | Leslie Marmon Silko

On an Indian reservation, an old man is found dead from natural causes. Two younger men prepare his body for burial according to their customs. One of their wives suggests that the local Catholic priest should be invited to take part in the ceremony.

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The Conversion of the Jews | Philip Roth

Ozzie, a teenage Jewish boy, argues with his Rabbi about God. One of their arguments escalates beyond words, leading to a standoff.

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The Second Death | Graham Greene

A man is told that his friend is dying. He thinks his friend’s mother is exaggerating the seriousness of her son’s condition.

The Worker in Sandalwood | Marjorie Pickthall

An overworked boy, an expert woodcarver, has to make a cabinet from sandalwood on Christmas Eve. A stranger seeks refuge from the cold in his work shed.

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Grace | James Joyce

An alcoholic’s friends stage an intervention and encourage him to attend a Catholic retreat.

Read “Grace”

Zlateh the Goat | Isaac Bashevis Singer

Hanukkah is approaching, and Reuven doesn’t have enough money for the necessary supplies. He sends his son, Aaron, to sell the family’s beloved goat, Zlateh, to the town butcher. On their way, the weather turns unexpectedly, and they get lost in the storm.

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The Pagan Rabbi | Cynthia Ozick

The narrator hears that a renowned rabbi and childhood friend, Isaac, has committed suicide. He visits Isaac’s widow and learns that he had become fixated on nature before his death.

The Spinoza of Market Street | Isaac Bashevis Singer

Dr. Fichelson, a philosopher, lives by the rationalist teachings of Spinoza. He lives on a small income after being fired from his post as librarian at a synagogue, due to his views, which contradict Jewish doctrine.

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Dead Men’s Path | Chinua Achebe

The new headmaster of an African school wants to modernize it and rid the locals of their superstitious beliefs. He blocks off part of the school grounds, even though that means blocking a path with great religious significance for the locals.

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Revelation | Flannery O’Connor

Mrs. Turpin and her husband are in a doctor’s waiting room.  Mrs. Turpin is racist and judgmental, and she attracts the attention of a young woman, who looks at her intently.

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A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings | Gabriel Garcia Marquez

In a small town, an old man with wings washes up on shore. There are many ideas about what he is and where he’s from. A couple takes him and locks him up on their property.

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The Lottery | Shirley Jackson

Citizens of a small town are anticipating the annual “lottery”, a local tradition that is believed to bring a good harvest.

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Young Goodman Brown | Nathaniel Hawthorne

Goodman Brown has to go on a journey through the forest one night on an errand. The walk is unsettling, and he meets others from his town on the way.

Read “Young Goodman Brown”

Saint Emmanuel the Good, Martyr | Miguel de Unamuno

Don Emmanuel is the priest of a small village. He is loved and respected by everyone, and does many things to help the community. A man who had left the village years ago for America returns, bringing atheistic ideas with him. This man has many talks with Don Emmanuel.

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The Smoothest Way is Full of Stones | Julie Orringer

Rebecca is staying for the summer with her cousin’s family. They are Hasidic Jews while Rebecca’s background is secular. Rebecca and her cousin, Esty, are starting to notice boys. Rebecca is exposed to many Jewish traditions and rituals that she isn’t used to.

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Parker’s Back | Flannery O’Connor

Parker is dissatisfied with his life. He’s not sure why he’s still with his wife – a deeply religious woman – and she’s pregnant. His main focus has been to get tattoos; there’s no room left on the front of his body. While driving a tractor, he has an experience that becomes a turning point for him.

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A City of Churches | Donald Barthelme

Cecelia is moving into a city full of churches. Every building is a church, and many also double as something else. Cecelia says that she isn’t religious, but she is assured that she will be integrated into the city’s ways soon enough.

The Rain Came | Grace Ogot

Labong’o, a village chief, is speechless when he comes home from a council meeting. There’s a drought and Labong’o knows what must be done to end it.

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Cloister | Ann Copeland

Sister Claire is going to the Reverend Mother’s office for her permissions – requests for material items, meetings with a priest, and leave from cloistered life for a trip. She wants to visit Father Purcell, and is wondering if her request to attend a linguistics conference has been approved.

The Procurator of Judea | Anatole France

Aelius Lamia has a chance encounter with his old friend Pontius Pilate. Pilate retired early from public service. They discuss the things that he had to deal with from the Roman authorities and the Jews.

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On the Road | Langston Hughes

An African-American vagrant looking for some food and a place to sleep gets turned away from a parsonage and a shelter before trying to break down the door of a church.

The Madonna Round Evelina’s | Pierre J. Mejlak

After a man and woman meet at a bar, she moves into his old house in a small village. They are happy in their routine, but clash over religion.

Read “The Madonna Round Evelina’s”

The Lightning-Rod Man | Herman Melville

On a very stormy night, a salesman calls on the narrator, warning him of the dangers of lightning. He tries to sell the narrator a lightning rod. Each strike of lightning makes his pitch more urgent, but the narrator trusts God with his fate.

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The Star | Arthur C. Clarke

The narrator, a Jesuit astrophysicist, didn’t believe that anything in space could affect his faith. He is part of a crew returning to Earth after a mission that has yielded data—soon to be revealed to everyone— that caused his faith to be shaken.

Read “The Star”

This Blessed House | Jhumpa Lahiri

A newlywed Indian couple has just moved into a new house in America. As they prepare the house, the wife finds many Christian items left by the previous owners. She likes them and wants to keep them, but her husband disapproves.

Read “This Blessed House”

Angel Levine | Bernard Malamud

Manischewitz is a fifty-one-year old tailor whose life suddenly goes bad. He loses his business, his children, his health, and his wife becomes ill as well. One day an unannounced visitor appears in his living room. The man makes a surprising claim about his origin.

Read “Angel Levine”

See also: A Simple Heart (Life), The Nine Billion Names of God (Sci-Fi)