Monday, April 11, 2016

Reader's Diary #1291- Arthur C. Clarke: The Nine Billion Names of God


Always skeptical when it comes to vague talk about religion in popular art (my suspicion is that it too often gives the appearance of profundity though it has no point at all), I'm undecided about Arthur C. Clarke's "The Nine Billion Names of God."

It's not that he avoids some real points, themes, and statements. There's stuff about how all religions basically worship the same god, how science and religion make impossible bedfellows, and the idea that maybe it's possible that one can get too close to the truth about god. And these are fine, if not wholly original even back when Clarke wrote the story.

My issue is more with the overall plot. A group of monks are using a computer to discover the true name of god. At the end (spoiler alert), we assume that they are successful as the stars start to go out. If this interpretation is correct, however, it has merely reduced god to Rumpelstiltskin.


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