Pretty much every human culture on the planet has some form of religion. Many you've heard of Christianity? Islam? Hinduism? Judaism? Some you haven't. And some don't exist anymore. (Poor Aphrodite; no one really believes in her anymore.) A lot of these religions have elements in common: there are a lot of floods, a lot of sin, and a lot of gods.
Mau's religion isn't much different—except they weren't expecting the flood. Mau gets seriously ticked off at the gods after that whole catastrophe (understandably), and he rejects the whole thing. But by the end of the story, he's found out that the stories of gods aren't just crackpot fables. They have some kernel of truth that got twisted over the years, like a game of tribal telephone…or tribal coconuts-with-string. So what's a boy to believe in?
Questions About Religion
- What are some the issues that Mau and Ataba disagree about?
- The events of Nation depend on two catastrophes: the plague and the wave. Are there such things as Acts of God? Are their messages always clear?
- By the end of the book, Ataba is dead and Mau is the de facto chief of the island. Has religion been replaced by science?
- Why does Ataba so fiercely defend his religion? And why does Mau so fiercely attack it?
Chew on This
Mau's people put their faith in religion because it's comfortable and familiar.
There are many things that science cannot yet (and may never) explain. That's why everyone needs a little faith.