The Gods Garden
Each religion – or let’s say, as many as we can fit in – each of them will get an equally sized space in the garden. A religious group can use its slot to build whatever they like as long as the building doesn’t exceed the allowed maximum height. All we provide is the main structure with lanes, plots, little garden patches and maybe some sort of central meeting point for everyone. The rest is up to the representatives of each religion.
Oh, and I would love a beautiful gate with one door for each religion and one door for the curious visitor.
book 1, beginning
Thoughts on religions
Back in 2012, when I made the first notes for the Easy Town idea, I soon realised that I would have to deal with religions at some point. Having a personal unfavourable history with Christianity, in particular with Evangelic Free Churches, the thought of having to take religions into account annoyed and worried me.
It annoyed me, because I didn’t want anything to do with any religion any more. And it worried me, because the town experiment is supposed to explore any idea without any bias and without catering to anyone’s views.
But I knew I had to find a way to address religions.
And then the idea for the Gods Garden came up. A place where people can worship their gods – outside the town experiment.
I used many stories to explore the ideas included in the Easy Town experiment. And each time, I had a Gods Garden built, and then I forgot all about it.
The same happened when I did the story you’ll find in the easy town book series. But when I did the notes for the book version of that story, I thought: hang on, you have the Gods Garden, why not use, at least a bit?
Mind you, religion plays only a marginal role in the series.
Probably the most significant conversation about religions and about my experiences with Christianity is in book 2/2, travelling, Otaon.
NOTE: I decided to postpone the publication of this collection until the key scene from book 3 has gone through some more polishing.
‘Tell me about your Gods Garden.’
‘There isn’t much to tell. There will be a garden outside the town. The garden will have equally sized plots, and any religious group can use one of these plots to build whatever they want and to practice their faith.’
‘All religious groups in one garden?’
‘Yes. Or as many as we can fit in.’
‘Because I don’t want to favour any one religion.’
‘Why a garden at all?’
‘I don’t want to forbid religions. I just don’t want them inside the town.’
‘To keep the town experiment simple and to make sure we can discuss any subject freely and test any rule without having to double-check with anyone.’
‘Which means your rules will contradict religious practises?’
‘It means, we will consider rules without reference to any religion.’
‘Why not?’ Alice retorted sharply. Then she sighed. ‘Look, this is exactly what I don’t want. I don’t want to fight about religious believes. I’m not building a town to worship a god or to find a truth. I’ve done truth once. I know how stupid, dangerous and arrogant it is. I want to build a town to explore what’s good for us humans. And I don’t want to be restricted by the teachings of people who can’t possibly have known how much the world would change, and who knew a lot less than we know today.’
‘Then you have no respect for faith?’ Prince Harun asked.
‘I have a lot more,’ Alice returned quietly. ‘I have patience. I give religions space despite the ferocities which have been — and are — committed in the name of religions.’
‘Is there nothing positive in religions?’
‘Is there any good in a single truth no two people interpret the same way? Well, there is good in the unifying potential of a belief. Look, I guess you know as well as I do that this is a complex subject. But if you want my opinion: I wish we could learn to do without religions.’
‘Is there no wisdom in the holy texts?’
‘I can only speak for the bible. And yes, there is wisdom. Some. But sometimes you need to clear the board, put aside all you think you know and make a fresh start. Sometimes believes and even knowledge stand in the way of discovery. Besides, a lot of the trouble we are in today can be traced back to the influence of Christianity. I know too little about Islam to judge its influence.’
‘Give me an example.’
‘Which?’ Alice uttered with a humourless laugh. ‘The seven day week? Arrogance? Self-righteousness? Dogmatism? The superiority complex? Divisions? Prudery? Puritanism? The damaging work ethic? Mental health issues? Inequality? Abuse? Overpopulation? Wars? Poverty? The slaughter of indigenous tribes? Exploitation? Colonialism? The destruction of the planet?’
Prince Harun inclined his head a little sternly, apparently expecting more than keywords.
She hadn’t come here to discuss the mess the Christian way of thinking had heaped upon the planet. Also, she didn’t trust herself to stay calm on this subject.
Pick one issue, a thought told her.
In another corner of her mind, a whirlwind of thoughts was gathering momentum, all of them readying to start shouting.
Pick one issue and be done with it, the former thought pleaded.
book 2/2, travelling, Otaon
Extracts from book 1
- Gardens for the town
- Alice recounts a nightmare
- Meeting the cardinal
Extracts from book 2/1
- Have you ever killed?, Rio de Janeiro
- Traumatic run-ins with women, Rio de Janeiro
- The past catching up, Buenos Aires
- Bess, Buenos Aires
- No, I don’t understand, South Africa
- The priest, South Africa
- Those who already felt bad, Flight to Sydney
- Bobby and Ron, Australia
Extracts from book 2/2
- In the palace garden, Otaon
- Prince Harun, Otaon
- Introduction to the drafts
Draft for book 3, shaping
- Planning the Gods Garden
Drafts for book 4/2, building
- Viewing the Gods Garden
- 1 April 2018
- The opening
- The guy on the bridge
The Gods Garden
work in progress
I did this draft in September 2017 to test how many religions I could fit into a garden, and to identify some of the problems the teams would have to face.
When I allocated the plots in the garden, I wanted an element of randomness, and jumped over plots I would fill in the next round. But I admit that, looking at the draft today, I’m not so sure any more how exactly this order came about.