Thursday, August 13, 2009

Small Gods

What came first, the chicken or the egg? Or in this case, do we believe in something because it exists—or does something exist because it is believed? The idea of Thought-forms or Tulpas—basically that the belief of large amounts of people affect reality—has become popular in our culture lately. Everywhere from TV’s The X Files and Supernatural to books like Stephen King’s It and Neil Gaiman’s American Gods have explored the idea.

In Small Gods, Terry Pratchett explores the idea as it applies to religion. In his fictional world, there are millions of small gods. Their power and influence grows and shrinks depending on how many people believe in them. The main religion in this particular book is devoted to the worship of one such god, Om. However, in an interesting twist, the people of that religion have ceased to believe in Om and rather simply follow the traditions and power of the religion. So, Om himself has been reduced to a quite powerless small god trapped in the body of a turtle.

If you enjoy Pratchett and have the ability to absorb satire without getting personally offended as a person of belief, then the book is enjoyable enough. It is not one of his better books.

There are several interesting things about the concepts that Pratchett and others are suggesting. Religion is in fact a creation of humanity that depends on belief and holds power over its followers. The belief of any number of people will not generate a god, but it will affect their behavior and has caused countless problems in the world ever since sin has been a factor. And if you are not a materialist, then there is the real possibility that actual spiritual beings would use this fact to further the evil in the world. Thus the idea that religion is bad.

The other side of that coin exists too, though. What Biblical Christianity… (And here there is the problem of terminology, because religious Christendom is often not distinguished in the minds of most) What Biblical Christianity asserts is that there really is a God who has created everything and wants a relationship with His creation. He does not need His creation, its belief or its worship to exist. He is the source of creation not its result. He does not want religious devotion, but rather creaturely dependence. He wants people to live as they were intended and created to, not as some religious leader tells them they should.


  1. Have you read The Nation?

  2. You mean the Pratchett book? No, I haven't. It looks interesting. I'll have to check it out.


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