A Terrible Human-Devouring God

A Terrible Human-Devouring God July 19, 2016

Two stories by Philip K. Dick (“Rautavaara’s Case” and “Faith of our Fathers,” both included in the collection Selected Stories of Philip K. Dick, with an introduction by Jonathan Lethem) explore alien gods and ideas of God. One contrasts the human image of Christ with the equivalent savior of plasma-based beings from Proxima Centauri. Whereas our human Christ offers himself to be eaten, intoning words from the Gospel of John, their Christ devours others. The other story envisages a world in which humanity has united under a Communist dictator whose true form is hidden from those he rules over.

The stories are striking because they capture an element of God as terrible and terrifying, utterly unhuman, in a manner that one can still encounter in the Bhagavad Gita, but which is largely neglected in the Biblical traditions in their modern expressions.

“Rautavaara’s Case” is particularly interesting because it is born out of Dick’s own religious experience and views. It relates to and explores ideas of religious possession, sacraments, and cross-cultural comparative theologizing. I am planning to add it to the reading list for my course on religion and science fiction, which I am teaching in the fall.

Have you read either of these stories? If so, what are your thoughts about their exploration of religion?


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