Janie Ross
Janie Ross asked:

Is there a large emphasis on religion either Catholic or Jewish in this book? For a book club choice would it be too decisive, controversial, or upsetting?

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Cheryl Our book group read it some years ago, and had a great discussion. 2 members are Jewish, 2 Catholic, 1 Presbyterian, 1 raised Catholic, converted to Judaism, 1 atheist. The book is definitely unsettling, but not because of religion. I realize your question was asked two years ago, but I'd love to know if you decided to go for it!
Jaksen Most definitely yes. A scientific expedition to another planet turns into a discourse on religion, with a decidedly 'Catholic' slant. This is not meant to be derogatory, just the way it reads. In fact, I'd say this is a book on religion masquerading as SF. There is just too much of it, almost in every conversation. More than half the main characters are Jesuits.
George There is a large emphasis on those two religions, and also on agnosticism and atheism. If simply seeing them in action (not proselytizing, except in the sense of showing that good rational people can HAVE religious beliefs) will bother one or more of a group's members too much, y'all should avoid it. Otherwise, go to it. It's an excellent book.

And your group will have to work with what Hythlodaeus says here: That the novel asks the question "How could the God of Christianity be true if there is so much pain in the world?"

I disagree with him, however, in that I don't think the question is simple! The theologians call it "theodicy" and I don't know that anyone feels there's a fully satisfactory answer, even tho there are approaches that let you sleep at night.
Brian Remington These are Jesuits, so, they're like Catholics who care more about doing good in the world than religious ritual. And that applies particularly to the Jesuits that figure most prominently. There's a lot to talk about after reading this book. It would be great for a book club.
Olivia I think this book does an amazing job at handling a range of religious beliefs and associations (agnosticism, atheism, Judaism and Catholicism) and as an agnostic Jew myself, I found that while the primary focus is on the Catholic faith, the Jewish faith / culture was fairly and beautifully handled. The bigger issue is that this book does have a possible trigger warning for rape and can be very unsettling in that regard but I believe it respectfully and kindly navigates the murky waters of conflicting views of faith and religion quite well.
Sandy This book might be upsetting to some, but I don't think religion would be the reason.
Deborah Sexton I do not think so. It does not promote a specific religion. The main character is a Jesuit priest so you learn a lot about the teachings and beliefs of Catholicism but it's not proselyting in any way. However, there are some things that happen that are upsetting. I would rate some of the things that happen to the main character R if it were shown in a movie.
Hythlodaeus I don't think so. I am a very very traditional protestant and the catholic emphasis was almost non-existent and also it was clear the author wanted to almost keep the book "spiritual" rather than Christian. It addresses the thinking person's problem of Christianity, in a very compelling and intelligent way, such as CS Lewis' "The Problem of Pain" (non-fiction) or "Till We Have Faces" (a novel).

It asks the simple question, "How could the God of Christianity be true if there is so much pain in the world?" And it answers it in a way that satisfies anyone, regardless of your religious beliefs.

The entire point of the book is about finding and keeping your faith, what the nature of the pursuit is like and when, if ever, you should abandon it. It's a beautiful book, and I'm not easily moved by most fiction these days.

A friend gave me the book so I wasn't expecting much (I'm picky) but I loved it and now want to read more about the author to know why she wrote it and probably read her other books.
Kruunch Religion is a central theme or rather, a plot imperative but the author does a good job of not making this a book about proselytizing which would have turned me off immediately. Religion is a plot point here, rather than the book being a delivery method for a religious message (if that was your concern).
Monical I suggest Ursua Le Guin's "Word for World is Forest" which has some similar themes but without the religous aspect.
Angie Seffker I think there was a lot of "exploration" of God.
Diana While the main characters are Jesuits, I didn't think it was overly slanted to the Catholic faith. It raised some very interesting questions about alien contacts, and other personal elements relating to the main character. Is was one of the best books I read at that time of it's release. I must say I was somewhat disappointed with the sequel, but that did not distract from how well the first book was written.
Paps Humanist and humane. But for a book club and discussion it wouldn't recommend it. Just enjoy it for what it is.
Lois Matelan While religion is important to several of the characters in the book, and the protagonist is a Jesuit priest, the book does not proselytize, and I do not believe a non-Catholic would be put off by the depiction of the characters and their beliefs.
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by Mary Doria Russell (Goodreads Author)
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