Sunday, July 08, 2007

If God were to die, would life change?

God Is Dead is a brilliant novel. In its exploration of a time when God dies, it is new and noteworthy. In spite of exploring such a farout theme, it succeeds in drawing out a taut tale that captures the importance of faith in our lives.

It begins with the premise that God acquires human form to trawl the burnt and emaciated regions of Africa, where destitution is a way of life. Roaming these arid lands in the garb of a Dinka woman, God is overcome by the futility of his creation which has brought immeasurable grief to so many. Racked by guilt and shame, God dies, literally.

The novel, in truth a collection of inter-linked stories that stand well on their own, then dwells into the aftermath of God's death. One of the most touching segments in the book relates to a feral dog which starts speaking after feasting on God's flesh. The dog becomes a sentient being, but this only brings it unhappiness. Coming to terms with a life where the "basic red" of primal anger has given way to "the scarlet of irritation, the vermilion of resentment, the deep crimson of fury" and where affection can be used to deceive, takes its toll.

Then there is the story of Arnold, right from the moment his parents think of having a child to his ill-fated journey back home after war has ruined his life. In one of the lighter stories, False Idols, Arnold's father is shown to be a CAPP (Child Adulation Prevention Psychiatrist), one of the many professionals asked by the government to work against a typical malaise that has gripped the country since the news of God's death spread. Devoid of the knowledge of a greater good, parents have begun to worship their children as mascots of innocence and purity.

The more things change, the more they remain the same. The world has split into two camps, the Postmodern Anthropologists (who advocate free will) and the Evolutionary Psychologists (who submit to fate). Matters come to head after a war for control starts, and one cannot help feeling that God or no God, human beings will find an excuse to erect barriers.

More than anything, at a time when the Richard Dawkinses and Daniel Dennetts of the world are howling into our ears about the problems with theism, God Is Dead comes through as a fresh gust of wind. In imagining what crises may befall humanity if the cushion of faith were snatched from it, Ron Currie, Jr. has paid a gleaming tribute to the collective spirit of believers.

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This review appeared in St. Petersburg Times.

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