Lying and Religion

Max’s post “Religion of the Crakers” brought to my mind the cynicism towards religious ideas in both Oryx and Crake and in other various forms of media. One excerpt particularly struck me in the book about concepts of immortality.

“‘Immortality,’ said Crake, ‘is a concept. If you take ‘mortality’ as being, not death, but the foreknowledge of it and the fear of it, then ‘immortality’ is the absence of such fear. Babies are immortal. Edit out that fear, and you’ll be…'” (page 303).

Crake never finishes his thought, and the reader is left to imagine what the human race would be like without the fear of death. This scenario reminded me a lot of a scene from a movie that I saw back in high school called The Invention of Lying. For the dedicated blog-post readers, here’s the link for that scene: For those of you who aren’t familiar with the movie, it’s set in an alternate reality where no one has the capacity to lie. This has some very interesting implications for society, creating a very matter-of-fact, extraordinarily blunt set of people. In the scene above, the main character, Mark, who has learned that he has the capacity to lie earlier in the movie, is talking with his dying mother in a hospital. She is greatly distressed by the idea that death brings an eternity of nothingness, and so Mark decides to comfort her by making up a story about an afterlife in which there is no pain, everyone is young again, all the people that you have ever loved are present, everyone has a mansion, and there is only love. This mirage allows Mark’s mother to die peacefully, but it creates some problems as the nurses and doctor overhear it and naturally (believing that no one has the capacity to lie) want to hear more about this amazing place. The movie goes on to illustrate how this results in the creation of a religion, and a few other things, but the main point is that it is the fear that results from the foreknowledge of death that has resulted in the need and eagerness to accept religion.

Where Max argued that the lack of threat of eternal damnation could potentially lead to madness of human society (basically, fear of divine punishment keeps the world from going into chaos), I can see the other side of the coin being just as, if not more, of a social guiding force. I think divine hope (this idea of peace or of a reward in an afterlife) is just as strong of a motivating force as fear. Hope can be used to manipulate the masses even more so than fear–just look at Crake’s method of destroying human life: he used the hope that this new drug would bring youth and health and beauty to single-handedly create an apocalypse. In some ways, Crake is almost freeing his Crakers. Because they have no concept of death or immortality, they are less easily manipulated. But if there is such a reality as a god or an afterlife, he has actually prevented them from being able to grasp that concept, which is in some ways even worse than leaving them with the potential to be manipulated.

-Mary Virginia Harper

PS Sorry this is a couple of minutes after 12am-I accidentally posted it to my blog instead of the class account. 

~ by mvharper on April 7, 2014.

One Response to “Lying and Religion”

  1. Both your post and Max’s have brought up some really interesting points about religion in Oryx and Crake. What is most interesting to me is that the Children of Crake follow a religion that Snowman literally just made up. Their entire religion, much like in the film you mentioned, is based on a lie. I can’t help but wonder if Atwood’s point about religion was more about the positive points of religion and that it is ingrained in humanity, or if she was hinting more bleakly that all religion is based on fiction and is therefore dangerous.

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