by Spencer Irwin
This article will contain SPOILERS. If you haven’t read the issue yet, proceed at your own risk!
I recently read a Dear Prudence column featuring a letter from an atheist who still enjoyed going to church because of the traditions and social aspects. This probably seems almost blasphemous to those who look to religion as a path to salvation, but it turns out that there are many who look to religion to meet other needs entirely. Simon Spurrier and Jonas Goonface run with that idea in Godshaper 3, as they examine the role of organized religion in a world where everybody already has their own personal deity.
As it turns out, organized religion’s role in the world of Godshaper isn’t all that different from its role in ours. While the preacher’s sermon makes it clear that some worshippers are there in order to be saved (albeit through their own gods rather than any overriding deity), many more attend for the same reason as that atheist I mentioned earlier: for community, tradition, and charity.
“The congregation matters more than the creed” is a well-observed statement, one that describes the way many churches work to better the lives of both believers and non-believers alike in their communities. Of course, a discussion of organized religion would be remiss to ignore the downsides, which Spurrier and Goonface dig into with relish.
The Church of Small Gods is all too eager to turn on those different from them. I shouldn’t even need to explain how this relates back to real life, where many organized religions have practically lead the charge in promoting war, racism, anti-semitism, and homophobia.
Spurrier and Goonface never quite reconcile those two opposing takes on religion, but instead dig into the contradiction with Mr. Benotti, the crime boss who was raised Catholic. He remembers the lessons he learned in Church, but has only internalized the ones that benefit him (such as a form of “humility” that acts more as a way to protect his wealth), and is more than happy to toss aside any teachings that would hold him back. In the end, that probably says more than anything about the way people approach religion — and the way religions approach their own teachings — in any world.