Monday, June 25, 2012

"American Gods" by Neil Gaiman

The story of Shadow and his chaotic journey across the American landscape and beliefs is both insightful and meaningless. It concerns itself with religion, that man-made concept that tries to explain and control the world. It is insightful in the way that it exposes the nature of all the belief systems that have emerged since the creation of man, the way that they live and die on the faith of followers and how they are all empty systems set up to merely feed the flame of faith. However, in dismissing any notion of a reality behind reality—deciding that the idea of a creator who would want anything to do with his creation is absurd—it makes this one of those stories that concludes there is no meaning after all.

Aside from that last sad conclusion, those who accept a Biblical worldview have a similar understanding of the many religions and deities across the world and history. The idea that spiritual beings would cultivate followings and systems of belief for themselves is even taught in certain parts of scripture. This idea that has trickled into popular culture and fantasy fiction over the past couple decades is nothing new. The difference being that believers would say that these spiritual beings are not merely seeking out worship, they are distracting people from seeing reality.

Beyond the help that this book provides for starting spiritually themed conversations, there is little to recommend it to a Christian readership. Some of the themes and a lot of the language would not sit well with most. Then there is also the disturbing self-examination some Christians would have to perform. There are plenty of people who claim to have a Biblical understanding of God and the world who have just another run of the mill religion. Gaiman sums that sort of thing up well here:

“Religions are, by definition, metaphors, after all: God is a dream, a hope, a woman, an ironist, a father, a city, a house of many rooms, a watchmaker who left his prize chronometer in the desert, someone who loves you—even, perhaps, against all evidence, a celestial being whose only interest is to make sure your football team, army, business, or marriage thrives, prospers and triumphs over all opposition.”

Religion is the sort of thing that happens when you try to understand God on your terms instead of His; that He exists to fulfill your wishes and not the other way around. Some Christians need to ask themselves, “Just who am I in fact worshiping?”

1 comment:

  1. Spoiler Alert:

    I appreciate your post and agree with what you wrote. I also wonder if Christ is not at work in American Gods (because or despite of Neil Gaiman's intentions, which I cannot judge). The reason I say this is because Shadow's "time on the tree" seemed a very Christian parallel, and also made me wonder if Shadow was not intended as a kind of "Christ" (who, many would agree, is "the American God") standing in opposition to the bloody/violent Old World God of Zeus/Odin/Thursday. Just a thought...?


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