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Satanic Verses

“You’re lucky to have invented a god who dances to your tunes.”   The youngest and the most beloved wife of the Prophet ridicules him thus in Salman Rushdie’s most controversial novel, Satanic Verses

“Lies! Lies! Lies!” is the reaction of Jesus on reading Mathew’s gospel in Kazantzakis’s novel, The Last Temptation of Christ.  Matthew tries to justify the lies he has written by saying that an angel dictates what he writes.  It is divine revelation.  How can lies be divine revelation?  Toward the end of Kazantzakis’s novel Matthew tells Jesus, “How masterfully I matched your words and deeds with the prophets!  It was terribly difficult, but I managed.  I used to say to myself that in the synagogues of the future the faithful would open thick tomes bound in gold and say, ‘The lesson for today is from the holy Gospel according to Matthew!’  This thought gave me wings and I wrote.”

We may never know whether that was indeed the real reason why Matthew wrote the gospel.  We may never know for sure how much of what Matthew wrote was what really happened and how much was imagined by the writer.  It is the case with most scriptures.

It is the case with any writing, in fact.  “I say one thing, you write another,” Kazantzakis’s Jesus accuses Matthew, “and those who read you understand still something else! ... Each of you attaches his own suffering, interests and desires to each of these sacred words, and my words disappear, m soul is lost.”

Every writer attaches his own feelings, interests and desires to what he writes, except maybe in purely objective subjects like the sciences.  Rushdie’s Satanic Verses is as much his personal reading into his religion as is Kazantzakis’s Last Temptation.  Both the writers were trying to understand their religion in their own personal way.  They have attached their own feelings, anxieties and desires to their novels and the characters in them.

If every reader reads every text keeping this fundamental fact in mind, the text will be understood more meaningfully.  The meaning is created by the reader.  When such creation takes place, fundamentalism will disappear. 

One cause of religious fundamentalism is the belief that the scriptures contain divine truths dictated or revealed by a god or an angel or any other supernatural entity.  Novelists like Rushdie and Kazantzakis show us quite a different truth.  And the truths of fiction may be truer than the truths of life, and quite definitely are truer than the truths of religions.


  1. Matheikal, when meaning is created at the level of the individual, what we would have is Protestantism, in a sense. And, that has been found to be no anathema to fundamentalism, the way I understand. I am sure I am wrong.

    Even if not exactly inscrutable, I pulled a thick tuft of hair from my head to understand the sentence that starts, "And the truths of fiction ...", the last sentence :)))) I have not yet understood, but I will stop here before losing all my hair! :)))))

    Said in the lightest spirit, the above is.


    1. Knowing your aversion to literature, I choose to desist from answering you, "Raghuram. Whereof one cannot speak, thereof one should be silent," I shall obey Wittgenstein.

  2. rightly mentioned, when scriptures become divine better know that religious stubborness(without reasoning ) is born.once we become submissive to the extent that we define something or someone divine,we star fearing along with ! Its human ! Fear kills curiosity and where there is no questioning,means no freedom to think-more like animals and then a herd with passing generations... none allowed to question (because the ancestors told to do so )herd fears asking question and rather inculcates aggressive behaviour when someone questions them(they never had answers). How many Hindus know why Shivling is worshiped?Goes with all religion ! Only literacy would allow you to question and when you question - the herd gets angry .. after all its a herd !
    Must say , your approach on complicated topics, the simplicity and the reasoning with which you put your point makes me wait for your posts , Sir !!

    1. Yes, ignorance is bliss in religion and that's the greatest problem with it. As you say, it's true of every religion - unfortunately.

  3. Rightly said everyone has right to express his feelings .

    Travel India

  4. I simply don't understand how the concept of religion survived and actually evolved since thousands of years, that too without any logic and without any evidence. Can we get a PHD degree only based on hypothesis and without any logic or concrete evidence.


    1. Religion is born when logic fails! It's a leap into the dark, as someone said. Faith. I have written pretty much about its relevance. I'm going to write yet another blog on the same issue :) Expect it to be posted in an hour from now.

  5. Very true. I believe that we should try to discover the GOD in us through a journey of self discovery rather than through books that can be interpreted in any way.

  6. The passage I loved the best in the The Last Temptation was the part describing how Mathew wrote the gospel when everyone else has slept...toiling till dawn on many days, writing everything down before he forgets anything...

    1. Kazantzakis being an excellent novelist creates characters who are complex and true to life. In the hands of lesser artists Matthew would have been a mere fabricator of history.

  7. kazantakis is master of lyrical thought , though i have given up reading diminishing eyesight diabetes ..i hold kazantakis last passion of jesus christ as an inspirational novel that has been conducive to my growth as a humanbeing.. religion was created as a one side mirror .. you end up seeing yourself through god ...

    i shoot all religion but a religion that does not pay importance to humanity is not a religion to me at all i have lived with catholics jews hindus parsis all my life and everyone added a drop that made me a good human being..
    thanks for the votes .. for a man in a leaking boat


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