Monday, August 18, 2008

Beware of God

I just finished reading Shalom Auslander's hilarious and thought-provoking collection of short stories, Beware of God.

With story titles such as "Smite The Heathens, Charlie Brown" and "Holocaust Tips For Kids," it's apparent that Auslander's perspective, and sense of humor, is not for everyone. Drawing upon the indoctrination he received growing-up Orthodox, and his keen observations of both day-to-day human nature and the hypocrisy of religion, Auslander skewers the religious closed-mindedness and bigotry of both Goy and Jew alike.

Stories such as "Waiting for Joe" and "It Ain't Easy Being Supremey" ridicule the blind obedience, moral certainty, and resulting factionalization amongst religious zealots by transferring those tenets of belief onto the worldview of Hamsters and Golems, respectively. "Heimish Knows All" does the same for preachy moralizing, from the viewpoint of a family dog. And the obsequiousness obedience to an unreachable deity is shown for what it is, just another form of celebrity worship, in "They're All The Same." Possibly the most moving of the stories is "Holocaust Tips For Kids," which relates a young boy's perspective on the Holocaust and how to survive it (presumably, Auslander recalling his own childhood thoughts on the subject).

Every one of the stories in Beware of God is an easy, entertaining read, while at the same time making keen observations on humanity and our relationship to belief. While the humorlessly observant and easily offended need not apply, the rest of us can have quite a good laugh along with our critique of the foibles of religiocity.