Godless (novel)

Godless (novel)

infobox Book |
name = Godless
title_orig =
translator =

image_caption =
author = Pete Hautman
illustrator =
cover_artist =
country = United States
language = English
series =
genre =
publisher = Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing
pub_date = 2004
english_pub_date = 2004
media_type = Print ()
pages =
isbn = ISBN 0-689-86278-4)
preceded_by =
followed_by =

"Godless" (Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing, ISBN 0-689-86278-4) is a 2004 young adult novel by Pete Hautman. It won the 2004 National Book Award for Young People's Literature.

It is about a 15-year-old boy, Jason Bock, who develops a religion of his own called "Chutengodianism." His god is the Ten-Legged God, also known as the water tower, and he is shocked by the consequences of this seemingly obvious jest.

This book has sparked religious controversy with many parents questioning the motivation behind it. The author has written a response, which can be read [http://www.petehautman.com/godless.html here] .

Plot summary

Fed up with his parents' old religion, agnostic-going-on-atheist Jason Bock invents a new god – the town's water tower. He recruits an unlikely group of worshippers: his snail farming best friend, Shin; incredibly ordinary Dan Grant; cute-as-a-button (whatever "that" means) Magda Price; and the violent and unpredictable Henry Stagg. As their religion grows, it takes on a life of its own. While Jason struggles to keep the faith pure, Shin obsesses over writing their bible, and the explosive Henry schemes to make the faith even more exciting - and dangerous. But when the Chutengodians hold their first ceremony high atop the dome of the water tower, things quickly go from merely dangerous to terrifying and deadly.



Jason Bock is a large 15-year-old boy from St. Andrew Valley. He becomes fed up with his parents' religion, Catholicism, and invents his own religion. Jason creates Chutengodianism, a religion that worships the town's water tower. His father forces him into attending weekly Teen Power Outreach meetings, which Jason believes to be brainwashing sessions. He enjoys messing with the "head brainwasher," a car salesman whom Jason calls Just Al. His best friend is Peter Schinner (a.k.a. Shin), a snail farmer. He has uncertain feelings for Magda Price, and doesn't care much for the infamous Henry Stagg and his "three stooges." When his new religion starts out, it seems to be going great. As Founder and Head Kahuna of Chutengodianism, Jason must try to hold his religion together as it blows up in his face.

Shin (real name: Peter Stephen Schinner) is Jason's best friend and the First Keeper of the Sacred Text of Chutengodianism. He farms snails as a hobby and is the first member (other than Jason) of the church of the 'Ten-Legged One.' Unlike the rest of the group, Shin really seems to take the religion seriously and even believes to hear the water tower speaking to him. It gets to the point that he sneaks out in the middle of the night during a thunderstorm and climbs to the top of the water tower, seeking some sort of enlightenment. When Jason finds him and climbs up to him, Shin refuses to come back down. He wants to swim in the head of the Ten-legged One, as every other member had done in the ill-fated previous meeting of the Chutengodians.

Dan Grant is, as Jason puts it, is his ordinary friend. He is so average that one usually has to meet him six or seven times before one remembers his name. He is the second acolyte of the 'Ten-Legged One' and is also the preacher's son. At the very end of the novel, where Jason and the other members of Chutengodianism are doing community service as punishment for the church's activities, it is revealed that Dan holds a grudge against Jason for getting him in trouble and messing up his life.

Magda Price is a pretty girl who works at Wigglesworth and the third member of the new religion. She joins after she overhears Jason and Shin talking about their new church over a couple of Wigglesworth's famous Brainblasters. The two boys originally disapprove of her joining, but they eventually agree that they shouldn't discriminate genders. After Jason made a comment about breeding, she dumped his Brainblaster on him, but later apologized. Her relationship with Henry Stagg grows throughout the book, until they are seen at the mall together as a couple towards the end. Magda allegedly helped Henry create his commandments for the "Choots."

One of the first events in this novel is when Henry Stagg punches Jason under the water tower as he and Shin are collecting gastropods. Henry is much smaller than Jay, but he has an advantage: he doesn't care what happens to himself. He isn't afraid of getting hurt. So he has no problem with decking someone twice his size, as Jason found out in the first chapter. Henry is the last to join the Chutengodians and the most troublesome. He is permitted into the church and even declared the High Priest after Henry shows Jay how to climb the Ten-legged One. Shin disapproves of this decision, but Henry remains a member nevertheless. At the climax of the story, Henry saws through the padlock on the hatch of the water tower and jumps into the town's water supply. The others join him and the flashlight, their only light source, is knocked into the water. After swimming around for half an hour, the group finally finds the chain ladder that they use to climb back out. Once they got out, Henry tried to put his cowboy boots back on. He slipped, dropping onto the catwalk and injuring himself. When Jason visited him later, he found that Henry had been working on his own commandments for the "Choots." Jason was against his new ideas and his allowing his "stooges" to join the religion. Henry's relationship with Magda Price increases as the story unfolds, until the couple is seen by Jason at the mall at the end of the novel, with Henry still on crutches and Magda carrying his shopping bags.


Mr. Bock is Jason's devout Catholic father. He is bothered by Jason's disbelief in God and forces him to attend Teen Power Outreach at his church. For most of the story, he disapproves of Jason's new religion, although he later accepts it at the end of the novel. After the ill-fated meeting of the Chutengodians on top of the water tower, Mr. Bock made Jason write book reports of five Catholic books, all of which Jason couldn't focus on to save his life.

Mrs. Bock is Jason's mother. She is obsessed with a medical book (which Jay says she reads like the bible) and loves to diagnose her son with strange conditions he's never heard of. She often worries that Jason has some sort of sleep condition, although he insists that he just likes to sleep.

Father Haynes is the priest at the local church. His sermons and church services are particularly boring in Jason's opinion.

Just Al is a car salesman who is the "head brainwasher" at the church's TPO meetings. Jason often finds ways of annoying Al or disrupting the meetings in some way. Al usually responds to these disruptions by changing the subject or giving a small speech about faith and God. He is famous for his unique prayers, which typically state something about Jesus being "one cool dude" or other similar comments.

External links

* [http://www.petehautman.com Pete Hautman's website]

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