English 321 – Masterpieces of American Literature

Grant T. Smith, Ph. D.

Discussion Questions: Godless

 

1.      What do the following words mean to you?

 

Faith

Miracle

Knowledge

Trinity

Myth

Ritual

Religion

Atheism

Agnostic

Evil

Church

 

 

2.      Do an internet research on the following:

 

Joseph Smith

Scientology

Ann Lee

The Oneida Community

Islam

Transubstantiation

Vatican II

Intelligent Design

Hinduism

Buddhism

 

 

3.      Read the following quotes from the book and respond to them:

 

·        “But there are something like ten thousand religions in the world.  What makes them think that they happen to have been born into the right one?” (34).

·        “I used to be an altar boy, one of those kids sweating uncomfortably in their black-and-white polyester robes.  That was back before I realized that it was mostly made up” (37).

·        “Being the leader of a growing religion is not all power and glory.  For one thing, there is way too much politics.  In other words, you have to lie a lot” (83).

·        Chutengodianism is important to me.  But that doesn’t mean I think that a big steel tank propped up on a few I-beams is omnipotent.  I might be a religious zealot, but I’m not crazy” (90).

·        “You live to be a hundred, you’re gonna remember it like it was yesterday.  It was probably one of the great moments of your life.  Sure, maybe they’ll send you to ding-dong school, take away your DVD player, whatever.  That’s nothing” (135).

·        “You have to realize, Jason, that your friends listen to what you say” (142).

·        “I envy everyone who has a religion they can believe in” (198).

·        Choose a passage in the book that you would like to read and discuss with the group.

 

4.      Discussion Questions:

 

·        How do the major characters evolve in the book?  Is each character’s evolution a positive change? 

·        What is channeling?

·        What do the members of the Church of the Ten-legged God have in common?  Why do they join the church?

·        Is the tone of the book sacrilegious?  Did it offend you?  Is the book anti-religion?

·        Is Shin crazy?  Is anyone in the book “crazy”?

·        Are the characters believable? 

·        What role does humor play in the book?

·        What does this mean:  “You can’t really understand something until you believe in it.”

·        What is the central argument in this book?  The central tension?

·        Are there Biblical allusions in the book?  Cite the page reference and discuss the importance of the allusion.

 

5.      Journal Prompts:

 

·        Have you ever had a “religious experience”?  Describe it

·        What do you believe?

·        Describe a great moment in your life—a moment you remember like it was yesterday.

·        Have you ever discussed religion with your parents, friends, clergy?  Describe that conversation.

·        What good have you seen your religion do for others?

·        Look at the water towers in your area.  What do you notice about them

·        Have you participated in a group similar to the Teen Power Outreach?  Describe your experience with the group.

·        If you were to organize your own religion, how would it look?  What would be the requirements for membership?  Would you have commandments?  What would be your basic beliefs?  Would you have rituals?

 

6.      Jason offers several criticisms of the Catholic Church (or organized religion).  How do you respond to the following:

 

·        Pedophile priests

·        Transubstantiation

·        Nature of  good and evil

·        Infallibility of the Pope

 

7.      How are the following themes developed?

 

·        A coming-of-age story

·        Relationships

·        Power of ideas

·        Power of the individual

 

8.      Writing Assignments:

 

·        Look up the term “anti-hero.”  Do a character analysis of Jason.  Does he fit the definition of an anti-hero?  What are his strengths and weaknesses as a person?  Is he the cause of the harm that comes to others?  Do you like him?  Would you like to be his friend?

·        This book is about relationships.  Write about one relationship in the novel that intrigues you.  Discuss the dynamics of the relationship and how the relationship functioned in the book.  What impressed you about the relationship? 

·        What role does water play in major religions, cultures, societies?

·        Many things have been done in the name of “God.”  Do some research and write a report on one such act.

 

For Teachers and Parents:

 

·        Did you like this book?  Would you consider teaching it in your classroom?  What challenges would it pose?  Why would it be worth the risk?

·        This book is a National Book Award winner.  Why?  Look at http://www.fairarosa.info/readingjournal/archives/00000057.html and http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-/0689862784/102-7142804-8740922?v=glance

·        To parents:  Have you had a discussion with your children about God, religion, belief, tradition?

 

Internet Sources:

 

http://www.petehautman.com/godlessguide.html

 

http://www.petehauatman.com/

 

http://www.lds.org

 

http://www.nationalbook.org/nba2004_phautman_winner.htm