In Margaret Atwood’s Maddaddam trilogy we see religion being used as a tool to manage people. The Gardener’s use their religious doctrine to support their political platform/ rebellion against the corporate world. The leaders of the Gardeners see God as a way to manage a human population that is out of control.
On page 188 of The Year of the Flood it is implied that mankind is inherently flawed but that our ancestors weren’t always that way. It is explained that as removed ourselves from the natural world we became increasingly imperfect… It is stated that:
“…the Fall of Man was multidimensional. The ancestral primate fell out of the trees; then they fell from vegetarianism into meat eating. Then they fell from instinct into reason, and thus into technology; from simple signs to complex grammar, and thus into humanity; from fireless into fire, and thence into weaponry; and from seasonal mating into incessant sexual twitching. Then they fell from a joyous life in the moment into the anxious contemplation of the vanished past and distant future.”
This quote coincides perfectly with the Gardener’s way of life and explains why they aspire to live simply and remove themselves from mainstream society and the material world. However, what is not so obvious to every Gardener is that their leaders are not as focused on religious doctrine as they appear to be on the surface, rather, religion is used as a means to an end. On page 241 of The Year of the Flood, Toby asks if “…with God in the story there’s a penalty” and Adam one replies that there is indeed. However, Adam one also states that there is a “penalty” without God. He goes on to talk about the “penalties” of people’s actions and states that ” if there’s a penalty, they [the people] want a penalizer”… He puts it plainly stating that people “dislike senseless catastrophe”. In doing so, Adam one suggests that people need God and that the belief in a God who penalizes is both necessary and comforting. By this logic, religion is a way to manage people.
It is an interesting idea and worth contemplation… In the link below professor Frans de Waal suggests that religion may be necessary to manage large groups of people. Perhaps that is the underlying idea that Adam One is trying to get at through his conversations with Toby.
What do you think? Do you think religion is an effective way to manage people? Do you think that through Adam one’s character Atwood is suggesting that this is one way to manage complex societies of incredibly flawed people?