Yesterday I said that it was the Spiritual Factor, more than the Cool Factor, which drew me into The God Hater. Looking back, I think that’s a first when reading Speculative novels (although now that I think about that, A Star Curiously Singing is a close second, see what I had to say about that here).
But before I dive in, it amazed me the diverse responses to this book by the participants of this tour. Some loved it (like I did), while others found it lacking in different areas. Goes to show you how different people are and how varied our tastes are :). Check out the links I gave on the first day to see what others are saying about The God Hater.
Now, onto the Spiritual Factor.
Yesterday I stated that The God Hater is an allegory. It is a story used to illustrate abstract ideas or principles. Or in my own terms, an allegory gives handles to the basket so we can carry away the idea. For example, try explaining grace. God’s Righteousness At Christ’s Expense (a nice little acronym there). But can you picture that in you mind? All I come up with is a fuzzy grey picture. But when you add a story or illustration (i.e. Jesus hanging on the cross in our place), suddenly I have a picture. I can see Jesus in my mind, bloody and beaten for my sin. See how powerful a story or illustration can be? It helps us see the idea or principle.
As a teacher, this is what I strive to do. Take God’s Word and break it down into pictures that people can see and understand (probably why I write stories). I believe this is why I resonated so strongly with The God Hater. Bill Myers did a fantastic job of presenting the concepts of free will, grace, sin, and even God. And he did it through a means that we would not normally think: through a computer program.
Here are some parts I loved in The God Hater: (Warning, big spoilers)
Free will: As the programmers (and Dr. Mackenzie) try to save the digital world, one thing cannot be touched: the digital people’s free will. They cannot be programmed to make good choices; they have to choose to make good choices.
The Law: The Law is introduced when Dr. Mackenzie grudgingly realizes that these people need instruction from an outside source, specifically, from their creators (those who made the program). You can see why he is reluctant; it’s too close to the idea of introducing a god. However, these people need to know there is a greater reality than the one that they are experiencing inside the computer program and that those outside the program can help them. So Dr. Mackenzie gives them one command: “Treat one another as though you are sacred. Treat one another as you would treat me.” That’s all. Just love one another
Unfortunately, the people inside the computer program devise rules to make sure everyone is following this command. And if you don’t, you are taken to the Grid, which sucks some of your life out (how much life is dependent on the crime).
Grace: The digital people are better at following the letter of The Law (as they call the command to love now), rather than the heart of it. Once again, Dr. Mackenzie realizes that in order to show these people what meant, he will need to meet them personally. Through nanobots, an exact replica of him is made and put into the computer program.
As the virtual Dr. Mackenzie interacts with the people, he grows to love them. He is hurt by how they hurt each other and the pain of their own poor choices. He also sees there is no hope for the Lawbreakers because if they were to be taken to the Grid, their entire life would be taken because of how much lawbreaking they did. Near the end of the book, the only way the virtual Dr. Mackenzie sees the Lawbreakers being allowed back into civilization is to go onto the Grid for them and have his own life units taken as payment.
God: God is more complex, more superior, with thoughts so vastly outweighing our own that to compare him to a virtual Dr. Mackenzie is like a raindrop compared to the ocean. That said we get a glimpse of God’s love for us through the virtual Dr. Mackenzie’s love for the virtual people and his willingness to go to the Grid for them.
I could go on for a couple more pages about all the allegories in The God Hater, but instead I’ll say this: Go read the book. I highly recommend it :).