Despite it being published over ten years ago, I’d never heard of Godless until I was browsing Book Outlet. It was a quick (under 200 pages) read that was filled to the brim with a healthy mix of satire and philosophy.
by Pete Hautman
Release Date: November 2005
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Summary from Goodreads:
“Why mess around with Catholicism when you can have your own customized religion?”
Fed up with his parents’ boring old religion, agnostic-going-on-atheist Jason Bock invents a new god — the town’s water tower. He recruits an unlikely group of worshippers: his snail-farming best friend, Shin, cute-as-a-button (whatever that means) Magda Price, and the violent and unpredictable Henry Stagg. As their religion grows, it takes on a life of its own. While Jason struggles to keep the faith pure, Shin obsesses over writing their bible, and the explosive Henry schemes to make the new faith even more exciting — and dangerous.
When the Chutengodians hold their first ceremony high atop the dome of the water tower, things quickly go from merely dangerous to terrifying and deadly. Jason soon realizes that inventing a religion is a lot easier than controlling it, but control it he must, before his creation destroys both his friends and himself.
I knew from the blurb on the back of the book that I would enjoy Godless. I am a person who is intrigued with religion, comparisons, satire and everything else under that umbrella. I have a lot of respect for people who question the religions they grew up in as well as respect for people who have strong faith (as long as they aren’t fanatics about it.)
Godless commented on a number of concepts. Jason was bored of the religion of his father (Catholicism). He has a spiritual experience under the city’s giant water tower and decided to start his own religion. Very quickly, he learns that it’s easy to start a religion but not so easy to control it.
Many people have a religion but no faith. Some people go to church, mosque or temple simply because it’s what their parents do. Very few people believe 100%, including myself. I appreciated this part of the commentary the most. Finding a spirituality (or lack thereof) that works for someone is such a personal experience, no two are alike.
Out of all the inanimate objects to worship, I would agree that the water tower does make a lot of sense, seeing how every living thing needs water to survive. As a Pagan, I believe that I understand this choice better than someone who comes from a stricter Abrahamic faith.
Pete Hautman explains in his notes that the inspiration for this book came from all the questioning he went through as a teen. During a debate with his friends (who were from other religions) someone just asked the question “What if the water tower is God?” Godless answers that question.
Godless is very deserving of the National Book Award, and I recommend it to anyone who enjoys a bit of blasphemy and a bit of soul searching.