Kamrin’s Corner: Godless
By Kamrin Duncan
Godless is a young adult novel, published in 2004, by Pete Hautman. Godless stands out with its bold title, especially in the YA genre. Surprisingly, the book does maintain a neutrality between religion and atheism and rather evaluates the dangers of religion and power while exploring the idea of questioning religion and faith at a younger age.
The book revolves around 15-year-old Jason Bock whose family are devout Catholics. One summer, Jason questions his faith, challenges his youth group leader, and even begins to identify as agnostic. As Jason explores his new identify he decides to invent his own religion with his god being the local water tower. Jason soon recruits several other kids from the town and begins to take on the responsibility and power of developing and controlling a religion. Although it is a Young Adult novel, many underlying themes offer a deeper look into the foundation of religion and the dangers of power and control that comes with the hierarchical structure of religion.
A little about the author: Pete Hautman actually grew up and lives in Minnesota and won the Minnesota Book Award for Godless. During an interview Hautman states “I do not think religion is at all necessary for one to live a joyous, productive, and admirable life.” Although Hautman never truly identifies as an atheist, he makes it clear that religion does not play an important role in his life. In Hautman’s writing he focuses on having faith versus having a religion and the implications of each role in one’s life.
There are very few books on the market that look at the concept of children and young adults questioning their religion even though this is something that most children experience at one time or another. I know I went through many of these thoughts and emotions as I began to question Christianity when I was in college. This is an important topic that should be included in more YA literature because many people feel isolated when they begin to reconsider their faith and beliefs.
In the case of Godless, Jason is surrounded by his family and in particular his dad, who does not support his decision to leave Catholicism. Moreover, his father continues to force him to partake in religious practice, including attending youth group, prayer, and church. Allowing discussion of this topic helps to mend the void created when people begin to remove themselves from their faith and religious groups. Hautman approaches the topic respectfully and although there is not a blatant message that religion is bad, I did have the sense that this book trends toward the side of atheism. Regardless of one’s stance between religion and atheism, Godless breaks a few barriers and creates discussion on the very important, but taboo topic of reconsidering one’s religion.