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Change and Religion

haabibi's picture

Change and Religion -Draft


Was there a moment or an event I decided to change?

Yes. I have been a Christian for my entire life, but I felt like being a Christian was a duty or a role that I need to fulfill my parent’s expectations. I would normally do what other normal Christians would do: went to church every Sunday, made an offering with my pocket money, prayed before having meals and such. But I wasn’t fully living a life of a Christian. I envied those who spent Sunday doing more interesting things than merely attending the church. But beginning of this year, I had the very moment when I met Him personally during the church youth retreat. It was more than just an emotional experience. After that moment, I tried to see the world and the surrounding environment asking myself constantly –how would Jesus respond to those issues? If he were in my shoes, how would he handle such issues?

             For me, religion has been more than just a belief. Religion has shaped my identity, and it has been the main force that changed my perspective toward the surrounding environment. Throughout the novel, “All Over the Creation”, religious theme was pervasive. I got to wonder how religion is related to each character, especially Lloyd and Duncan; how each character’s identity has transformed or developed affected by religion. Was there moment that made the character’s change their perspectives? How did his life change or how did his religious view change after all?

             In the case of Duncan, he seems to approach religion holistically.

Quotes: (Pg275) There were new deities on Duncan’s desktop. … Duncan reached over and picked up a small bronze statue of a plump-bellied elephant wearing a diaper.

“Ganesh,” Duncan said. “Remover of obstacles.”

 “I felt myself moving away from Zen,” Duncan was saying. “I was finding Buddhism somehow lacking –too spare for new millennium. I was feeling that the times were calling for a more robust system of devotion, something more grounded in the body.” Duncan picked up another deity. “Hanuman,” he said.

“Creativity. The power of persuasion. A lively mind. Renowned for his complete devotion to Vishnu, the Lord of all Creation.” He have Elliot a skewering look. “He can move mountains for his master.”

(pg324) She had four arms and three eyes, and her tongue was snakelike and red. In one left hand she held a bloody scimitar, palms up, as though offering benedictions. ... “Kali,” Duncan said. “Goddess of Destruction. Quite something, isn’t she?”

(pg325) “She is all women, all nature, the dark secret of the Universe.” He pointed to the supine man, under her feet. “This is Shiva, by the way. Kali’s consort. You know why he’s lying here. To placate her.” He handed back the statue. “The Hindu pantheon has some truly remarkable lessons, Elliot.”

Even though he doesn’t appear very frequently in the novel, it can be easily implied that he is a very opportunistic person. He doesn’t stick with one religion, but clings to the other if he finds that other religion more useful. His appropriation of religion practices reflects his values toward relationship and work. He fires Elliot, when he thinks Elliot can serve him no more good and bring him profits.

Duncan advocates GMOs saying that “The future lies in the Third World. In Mother India. That’s where starving populations are, who need our help.”

             (Pg344) “I’ve suggested ‘Enlightened Compassion’ as the motivating theme to drive the new campaign, which will focus exclusively on the human health benefits of GE crops.” However, he never thinks about the Third World compassionately. He just wants people’s emotions to be moved to advocate his business.

             Lloyd, on the other hand, is a very conventional Methodist. His ideas toward seeds and GMOs are from his deeply-rooted belief on Christianity.

Quotes: Pg66

Mrs. Fuller and I believe, firstly, that anti-exoticism is Anti-life: “God giveth it a body as it hath pleased him, and to every seed his own body” [1Corinthians 15:38]

Mrs. Fuller and I believe the careful introduction of species into new habitats serves to increase biological variety and health. God in His great wisdom has given us this abundance.


We encourage you, our customers, to grow and save and multiply as you choose, in accordance with God’s Plan.

…God made Man in His Own Image.

… and here we must ask: Is our answer to that original transgression, once again, to defy God’s Will and to set our sights on the Tree of Life Itself?

Having eaten from the Tree of Knowledge, we should know the difference between good and evil, but we do not. We are not gods.

It is our nature and our sorrow to confuse Man’s mortal hubris with God’s Divine Will.


In the case of Lloyd too, his religious belief definitely affected his perspective toward other people. His religious belief contends the conventional structure of family as a norm.


“My goodness. What does your wife think?”

“Lilith isn’t my wife.”

“You’re living in a sin.”

“That’s the matter of opinion, sir.”

His strong religious belief had shaped Lloyd’s perspective toward his daughter, Yumi too. He scolds Yumi for her abortion, not considering the effect it had on her, but raging about how she had committed a murder –a sinful act.

Quote: He moves, catching up with you on the bottom step. Then he grabs your shoulder and spins you around, bringing his hand down hard across the side of your face. … You fall at his feet. … When Lloyd finally speaks, his voice is shaking with rage. “What gives you the right?” he asks. “What gives you the authority to take an innocent life?” “That’s not a law, that’s a license to commit murder! … It’s a sin against God, Yumi! Don’t you see?” … “God creates life,” he says. “Only He can choose to end it.”

Even though he was a devout Methodist, however, when death came in front of him, he was afraid. In Christianity, death is a blessing, a bridge that connects man to the eternal life.

Pg 348

It was like we were playing some kind of strange word game.

“I’d always thought it was straightforward. Life or death. Black or white. I didn’t realize there were so many shades of dying. So many different levels.”


Pg 364

“It’s hard work, dying. I never realized.”


He suffered during the whole process of dying, and his view of world in dichotomy –black or white, life or death-shows human’s weakness, being afraid of dying and not realizing dying can open up a new world of eternity. However, as he meets the Seeds of Resistance and his beloved daughter Yumi, his perspective toward his seed and the relationship with his daughter started to get changed.

He saw his seeds as his own property that made his farm unique –and he was actually very proud of his seeds. But after meeting the Seeds of Resistance and actually planning to act with them, he decided to distribute his seeds for free to his customers.

 And his perspective toward daughter and his approach to the beloved people has also changed. He was the one who would never say words “I love you.” But he confesses for the first time how he loved Yumi by describing his dream.

(pg366) “I had… the most wonderful dream!” I held a tissue to his mouth so he could spit. “What did you dream?” … “I was there.” He sighed.

“Where Dad?” He paused, searching for the answer. He was as frail as a newborn. “At the beginning…” “The beginning of what?” “Everything,” he whispered. “Of life…” His words were like faint puffs of a breeze stirring. “So beautiful! Everyone I love… was there. Momoko. My father, mother. All my seeds. My potatoes…” “Daddy!” My voice was too loud, and I could feel my face flushing, but I needed to know. “Wait!! Am I there? Am I in your dream?” “Of course you are.” His words were no louder than air. 

After encountering emotional moment with her daughter, especially a moment before his death, he no longer shows his fear of death, but mesmerized with the idea going back to the nature, to the very beginning.

(Pg398) With no place to go, he felt like he was going back to the beginning.

 Whereas Duncan uses religion for his own benefits, Lloyd definitely changes throughout the novel as he clings to one religion and faces a number of events that moved him emotionally. So comparing two characteristics in the novel, here are some of the questions that I would like to investigate more. How does religion affect one’s life? If one clings to only one religion, would he have more possibilities for a change? How does appropriating religion affect one’s identity and environment? What would cause or be a catalyst factor to change people religiously? What does it mean to embrace religious fully into one’s life?



Anne Dalke's picture

I think that Duncan and Lloyd give you a nice contrast here (and that you've done a very nice job of culling all the relevant quotations to show this contrast): the former seems to use religious belief opportunistically (I would NOT say holistically), to advance his own causes. He changes religions, but his behavior continues the same, and he uses religion as a glib excuse for what he does (and wants others to do). Lloyd's behavior seems to be more expressive of, and congruent with, his religious beliefs, which do not change--but he does, becoming more accepting of difference.

But I'm not yet seeing how you'll be able to develop an argument, based on the behavior of these two characters, that generalizes to the larger questions which interest you: How does religion affect one’s life? [who is "one" here?] If one clings to only one religion, would he have more possibilities for a change? [what would be the logic of that?] How does appropriating religion affect one’s identity and environment? [or the reverse? how does one's identity/environment affect what religion one embraces/appropriates? and what does "appropriation" mean in this context?] What would cause or be a catalyst factor to change people religiously? [Duncan says Buddhism is "too spare," that he needs something "more robust"...?] What does it mean to embrace religious fully into one’s life?  [you've already answered that question, with your own story...]

Perhaps it would work better for you just to focus on the evolution of Lloyd's behavior? He has a strong Christian faith, which never wavers. And yet his behavior is that correlated (or not?) with his religious belief? Does he become 'more' Christian, less judgmental? What fuels that change?

Not unrelatedly, I recently came across this article in The Guardian, which raises questions about the correlation between religious belief and moral behavior: