Mark Reads ‘Small Gods’: Part 3

In the third part of Small Gods, Brutha suffers an existential crisis. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read Discworld.

Trigger Warning: For torture, religious persecution.

THIS BOOK IS GIVING ME SO MANY FEELINGS, HOLY SHIT. I’m like, reliving an entire part of my life that I honestly don’t visit all that often. But I feel better about it than I used to; I couldn’t even talk about it for many years. I just got that Bad Religion tattoo on my neck and hoped that it provided all the information a person needed if they ever tried to talk to me about religion, specifically of the Christian variety: please don’t.

But then this site happened, and nearly four years ago, I finally let go. I wrote openly about how I became an atheist, and it helped me to accept that something terrible had happened to me. So I don’t feel the weight of guilt or shame anymore, and it means that it’s easier for me to just casually talk about religion. While I am including a trigger warning for what’s discussed here, it’s nice that this isn’t triggering for me right now. I’m enjoying Small Gods and the many jokes that Pratchett is making at the expense of something that harmed me for many years.


The Turtle Moves

Ah, so we know now that both Drunah and Fri’it belong to the secretive group that’s trying to destroy Vorbis and the church. For how long? What made them doubt the church in the first place? For some as well-traveled as Fri’it, how did he come to be a part of the hierarchy of the Great God Om? I have so many questions, but the most important one?

What are they going to do in Ephebe? They’re gonna ride the wave if it presents itself, but what could that be?

The Butterfly of Doubt

I endlessly empathize with Brutha because it is not an easy thing to suddenly doubt your faith. I like the metaphor that Pratchett employs here because it really did feel like a “butterfly of doubt” for me. I don’t know that I could name a single moment that put that butterfly in my mind. I started doubting the existence of the religion my mother believed in at a fairly young age, but that doubt came with a heavy dose of guilt and shame. So I never followed up on it. I denied it, I deluded myself, and I tried my very hardest to be a good Christian. But as I got older and knew I couldn’t deny my sexuality or any of the other lingering doubts that I had, I started to panic. Was it as bad as what Brutha goes through here? Perhaps not as dramatic, but it’s distressing to have your world fall apart.

I’m glad that Om realizes at the end of this how detrimental it may have been to reveal to Brutha that literally everything he’s ever learned about his God is completely untrue. I admit that during the scene itself, I was utterly entranced. It’s such a unique situation, and it’s one that I often wish could actually happen. I mean, I wanted it so much growing up because I hated the idea that belief and faith went together so viciously. I just wanted confirmation that what I believed in was real. Unfortunately, Brutha gets the opposite confirmed. The Laws, Prophet Abbys, the Codicils, the Book of Creation… man made it all. (And I’m using a gendered term here because as far as I can tell, this church is intensely patriarchal and always has been.)

How does a kid deal with something like that? Despair, honestly. And I don’t blame him at all for it. It’s a perfectly fair reaction to having his life torn apart. Based on what we hear from Brother Nhumrod later in the chapter, Brutha has always been the most loyal novice he’s ever taught. When you’re that loyal to a God, only to find out that your loyalty was somewhat pointless, what do you do?

The Reality of Belief

On the same page, Om gets a very unique experience as well. After Brutha’s life falls apart, Om’s does, too, though it’s not nearly as dramatic. Pratchett has not shied away from portraying Vorbis as one of the worst antagonists in the entirety of the Discworld. And it’s important to acknowledge that plenty of what he does is based on ACTUAL HISTORY. So when Om, determined to find any high priests, makes his way into the Citadel, he accidentally gets a glimpse of what Vorbis and his men do in his name.

They torture them.

I am very interested in his reaction to this. His silence spoke volumes to me because… well, what can you say or think when you discover that kind of violence being done for you, even when you didn’t ask for it? It’s upsetting and terrifying, and I don’t think Om is going to be okay at all.

The original text contains use of the word “insane.”

Mark Links Stuff

– The Mark Does Stuff Tour 2015 is now live and includes dates across the U.S. this summer and fall Check the full list of events on my Tour Dates / Appearances page.
– My Master Schedule is updated for the near and distant future for most projects, so please check it often. My next Double Features for Mark Watches will be the remainder of The Legend of Korra, series 8 of Doctor Who, and Kings. On Mark Reads, Diane Duane’s Young Wizards series will replace the Emelan books.
– Mark Does Stuff is on Facebook! I’ve got a community page up that I’m running. Guaranteed shenanigans!

About Mark Oshiro

Perpetually unprepared since '09.
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