Study Guide

Gilead Religion

By Marilynne Robinson


Some people like to say, "I'm spiritual, but I'm not religious." Well, many of the characters in Gilead might say something a little different: "I'm spiritual, and I'm religious." The people of Gilead live their lives rooted in the beliefs, symbols, and rituals of American Christianity. It's an aspect of what they call home.

This book is about a family of preachers in a very small town in Iowa. You might think religion in such a family and in such a place would be relatively unchanging and uniform. But think again: the religious men and women in Gilead may share a faith, but they follow different denominations, they worship in different buildings, and they differ in their theologies. Ames and Boughton, close friends and both preachers, debate matters large and small. Theological disagreements lead to family break-ups. This is serious business for these people.

Questions About Religion

  1. What, for Ames, is the meaning of baptism?
  2. What did the ash on Ames's bread mean to him?
  3. Why does Ames say that right worship is right perception?
  4. Why does Ames read and respect atheist writers?

Chew on This

The faith of Ames's father was weak.

The faith of Ames's father was strong.

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