I have been fascinated by this book all throughout the Christmas vacation. The story is what kept me spellbound here and I don’t want to discuss the writing which seemed to me simply all right, professional and without major flaws. I was not expecting anything spectacular. It is not something that one would read line by line. At least not me. It’s a long book with a ton of repetitions. But it is captivating, nonetheless.
And the story for me was not the child marriage or the rapes that marred Elissa’s life, but the brainwashing that goes along with being part of a religious cult. It appears to be the easiest and most profitable business on earth: starting a new religion. Because people need to believe. I heard some wise words over this weekend, and although I don’t remember who they belong to, I have to reproduce them here: human beings are religious in spite of themselves. A greater truth I have never heard. I don’ t think there is a stronger driving force in our existence than the need to believe. In something. Whatever that is.
Reading this book I asked myself how was it possible for Elissa’s father, a well-educated, highly-analytical mind (he held jobs technology companies) to accept fully the complete authority of another person, even if he believes that person has a direct phone line with God. I have been thinking how would any intelligent woman accept to be treated as being nothing without a man in her life to lead her to God? Why would any woman accept to be just one of many, to be told that she is of less value than a man (if there should be at least three wives for one husband, right? It’s three for one.) How can a mother accept to be redistributed to another husband and father for her children?
I would still wonder. I would still doubt. I have seen (read of, heard of, actually) many enlightened individuals who fell prey to small all too human vices, who became too self-indulgent. How can anybody accept to be told in the name of God to leave their job and let their family suffer, to sell their company (to the man who brings the revelation himself, or his family, whatever). How can anybody accept to be told when to get married, when to have sex, when to bring children into the world? And why?
I’ve been thinking about it and the only answer I’ve found is that we, human beings, have become so neurotic, so stressed and anxious that it’s almost impossible for us to function normally. Taking the smallest decisions in our lives becomes a burden so heavy that we would be happy to surrender that privilege to someone else, someone who we believe cannot make mistakes, cannot lead us to failure, someone who will ultimately lead us to God. And suddenly life becomes simpler, happier, lighter. We don’t make the decisions so we are not to blame. All we need to do is have faith, because if we fail at that, the whole edifice crumbles around us and we can discover having made the biggest of all mistakes.
I am a person of faith (or faiths) myself and I do understand. I know I could easily be that one and what’s keeping me on the other side is just a small veil of a different vision. I don’t know.
It is a book that makes one think, that’s for sure. I’m still going at it. In private.