Monday, December 16, 2013

Margaret Atwood's Latest Journey into Creation (of Worlds, of Religions)

I've spent the last few weeks reading a variety of religious works.  Some, like Madeleine L'Engle's The Irrational Season and the latest by Ann Lamott, are clearly designed to be religious/spiritual in nature.  I'm not sure that everyone would see Margaret Atwood's MaddAddam as particularly religious/spiritual, but she gives fascinating insight into how religions could be created.

Astute readers of this blog will say, "Hey, haven't you written about this before?"  Yes, back in 2009, when I read Year of the Flood, the second book in the trilogy, I wrote this post.  And now I've read the third book, and I'm more fascinated than ever.

MaddAddam, the 3rd book, presents a variety of intellectual creatures.  There are the humans, some of which have vast scientific knowledge, while others have knowledge of plants, and others have knowledge of guns and weapons.  There are the Crakers, an engineered life form that have human traits and are lacking in other human traits (can they feel fear?  can they learn it?  oh, the philosophical questions!).  There are other engineered forms that aren't human at all, but might have enough human genes to give them an advantage; for example, pigoons are very intelligent.

Some of these creatures join forces in interesting ways, and they enter into commitments to honor each other once the battle is over.  And thus, the humans stop eating pork.  And I thought, yep, this could be how these religious taboos get started.

The Crakers demand stories, which the humans give them, and they take on a profoundly religious tone.  They want to know about the one who created them, and the humans tell them.  The gene splicers take on godlike qualities, and one sees how religious traditions are born.

Maybe it's that I'm reading the book during Advent, so I have messiahs on the brain.  Maybe it's that I'm also starting Reza Aslan's Zealot:  The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth.  Does my reading choice show that I'm predisposed to these stories of the creation of messiahs?

It's also an interesting book on literacy, which I also have on the brain.  And it shows how oral traditions become written traditions.

One can imagine the notebooks in MaddAddam being put into pots in caves for safekeeping.  And one can imagine these notebooks found later and disrupting 2000 years of what people had come to believe.

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