The God of small things

Sep 21, 2014, 03:15 IST | Rinky Kumar

What if you had the power to create a new world religion? What tenets and principles would you choose? These are some of the questions that debutant author Satyajit Nair explores in his e-book, The God in the Middle 

Debutant author Satyajit Nair explores atheism for the first time in fiction in his novel The God in The Middle. Through the story of two men who start Ergoism, a modern religion based on science, the book urges readers to participate and examine their own beliefs. After the e-book went live on September 1 on, within 11 days, it became the number one bestseller on the website in the genre of religion and spirituality. The entrepreneur, who has his own digital agency, talks about the inspiration behind his debut novel: 

Satyajit Nair

Q. What is The God in the Middle about?
A. It explores the concept of atheism. It’s about the losing relevance of religion in everyday life. The world is in a flux, evolving at a never-seen-before pace. Many religions, which are at least 2,000 years old, are still trying hard to be relevant today.

The story is the journey of two men who start Ergoism, a modern fictitious religion based on science. They do this to spread knowledge and peace in the world, which was ostensibly the reason most religions came into place. Though the central character is Indian, the story pans across the world and the ideas are universal in nature.

Q. How did the idea for the book come about?
A. The idea of the book struck on a road trip when I was travelling with some of my best friends. We were joking around about launching a religion and becoming a baba as that’s the sure shot way to make money in India. Later, I thought, if indeed I were to launch a religion, how would I go about that? How would I reconcile modern knowledge with ancient faith?

Q. What challenges did you face?
A. The biggest challenge was to present the concept of atheism without talking about any one particular God. Also, people are religious in different ways. Some are traditional while others have tweaked their own beliefs and arrived at some customised version of faith that is compatible with contemporary life.

The minute you talk about one religion or one belief, others who don’t follow it immediately disassociate themselves from it. Hence, I created Ergoism and left the argument for religion open. To get the most out of the book, the reader should ideally argue in his mind and ask himself where does his belief stand. It’s not a pedantic book, but one that invites participation.

The other challenge was to present a philosophical concept through an easy-to-read fictional narrative and a plot that didn’t overshadow the book’s essence.

Q. Did you write the novel to provide an outlet to what you feel about religion?
A. The 1992-93 riots in Mumbai took place when I was a child. I saw the city burn and the image of a smoke cloud billowing, spreading darkness over a clear blue sky is etched in my head. I still picture it outside my window. I have never understood men killing men. I want to scream and make the whole world hear my plea to stop religious violence.

Q. Were you apprehensive that the book will stir a hornet’s nest as it’s based on religion, a sensitive subject close to many people’s hearts?
A. We have had a glorious history of very renowned and learned atheists. Our first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru was an atheist. I’m merely taking that idea forward. I don't think any book that fights for peace among people will or should offend anyone.

The cover of the book The God in the Middle
The cover of the book The God in the Middle 

Q. How has writing the book influenced your personality?
A. My readings on the systems of Indian philosophy were a profound experience. The evolution of ideas from the Vedas, the Upanishads, to Buddhism and Advaita Vedanta showed what great thinkers we have had in India. The word secular means an attitude toward things without any religious basis. Now I’m secular.
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