Here comes the New, There goes the Old by Michelle Parron-Saletri

The hands on the clock never stop ticking. If you wait for just a moment, today will become yesterday; then today will bring something contemporary that yesterday had not yet imagined. In the novel American Gods, Neil Gaiman writes about the ongoing war between “old gods” and “new gods”. The old gods fight with their ancient weapons, while the new gods ride around in their limos and humvees.This novel places our cultural war of ideology into physical form, creating a clear interpretation on how Gaiman views the shifts within the United States’ cultural perspective on religion over time.”Some things may change, said Wednesday, abruptly. People, however … people stay the same. Some gifts last forever, others are swallowed soon enough by time and by the world” (Gaiman, p. 297). After every millennium, there is an entirely different set of people in the world. Although those individual faces change, humanity will always have the tendency to idealize something that they have deemed the most essential. The “old gods” come from the time when religion reigned as the crucial necessity that everyone needed in their lives, while the “new gods” are the present day obsessions such as: television, computers, the internet, perfectly set up towns, and the stock market. It is the inevitable truth that as time passes, the world will be transformed by those within it; allowing a constant evolution of spirituality and intellectuality.
Over the last century, the most advanced technology has been introduced to the public eye and it has been a hit! It can be argued the most influential invention yet has been the internet. The web is reachable by almost anyone and has been changing how people perceive the world around them. The interweb has mainly taken its toll on humankind’s perspective on religion. Unlike in the past, the evidence for evolution can be spread widely and without fear. Due to the recent discoveries, a “cross-continental community is developing around the rejection of traditional religion” (The Futurist, 2010). From 1990 to 2008, the percentage of people who identify themselves as not part of a religious group nearly doubled from eight percent to fifteen percent. On the other hand, the percentage of those who claimed to be part of a religious organization decreased from eighty-six percent to seventy-six percent.(The Futurist, 2010) “The twenty-first century, more than any other, will be governed by science” (The Futurist, 2010).
Do not be mistaken, being part of a religious organization is still incredibly popular and if we are being honest, it very well might always be. It was even said by Dalai Lama, “Today, in the first decade of the twenty-first century, science and spirituality have the potential to be closer than ever, and to embark upon a collaborative endeavor that has far-reaching potential to help humanity meet the challenges before us” (The Futurist, 2010). In Neil Gaiman’s novel, American Gods, most of the old gods are still lingering on even though their prime has long passed. “Even for my kind, pain still hurts. If you move and act in the material world, then the material world acts on you. Pain hurts, just as greed intoxicates and lust burns. We may not die easy and we sure as hell don’t die well, but we can die. If we’re still loved and remembered, something else a whole lot like us comes along and takes our place and the whole damn thing starts all over again. And if we’re forgotten, we’re done” (Gaiman, p. 487). In this phrase, Mr. Wednesday is being brutally honest on the nature of the world. Thanks to those who still believe, the old gods are able to continue living in the material world. But as time passes, the material world weighs down on the Gods within it. They watch themselves slowly fade away as they are deemed no longer a necessity of life. It is nearly impossible for an idea to die, but it sure can evolve into an entirely new existence.
People will believe what they choose to believe, whether it be true or not. This is most likely due to the fact that it is becoming more and more difficult to distinguish the difference between truth and what we personally value. A person’s day to day values act as a guide to that individual’s life. What people choose to believe, what they strive for, and what they wish to preserve is all based on personal values. Common personal values have naturally evolved with the times. “Gods die. And when they truly die they are unmourned and unremembered. Ideas are more difficult to kill than people, but they can be killed, in the end” (Gaiman, p. 78). “Gods” die because they are no longer remembered, and they are no longer remembered because they are not needed. At a time when the most basic human needs were the foremost concern for survival, communities would turn to their gods for help. “Physiological needs are thought to be the most important; they should be met first. Air, water, and food are metabolic requirements for survival” (Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, 2017). These physiological needs can not be attained by the power of will. Today our society has the knowledge to understand how agriculture functions and have the resources to deal with misfortunes such as droughts, rather than turning to pray for a god’s help. This is the simplest example to showcase how modern advancements have evolved from what we need and have ventured into the realm of what we want. “While the process of value development in communities has always been a complicated affair, it is even more complicated now at the beginning of the twenty-first century. This is due in large measure to a variety of aspects of globalization, to the increased levels of commerce, communication, and movement of populations that we experience because of the tremendous advances that we have made in communication and transportation technology” (Schrader, 2009). Common human values have evolved over the course of history causing a shift in how religion plays a role in an individual’s life. Prayers no longer revolve around “this is what I need” rather, they ask for “this is what I want.” This mindset is the culture Americans have created for themselves. A mindset that orbits around ingenuity and knowledge versus faith and content.
“Spiritual expression, and the religious organizational context in which it occurs, is embedded in a social structure” (Bauwens, 2007). The society in which we live can’t help but play a large role in our spiritual beliefs. Gaiman purposely used the “old gods” and the “new gods” as a representation on how American culture specifically has evolved from being mainly spiritual to becoming more intellectually based. Value has been placed upon knowledge and material gain causing the true message of traditional religions to slowly fade into the background of our lives, or disappear completely. “This is the only country in the world, said Wednesday, into the stillness, that worries about what it is. The rest of them know what they are. No one ever needs to go searching for the heart of Norway. Or looks for the soul of Mozambique. They know what they are.” (Gaiman, 137). Gaiman often seems to speak his mind through the words of Mr Wednesday. America was founded by a group of men who based their values out of their belief in God. America is now a country that bases its values off of each individual person’s desires . There is no longer, if there ever truly was, a solid core belief that American people stand on. There is only a continuous drive to evolve and obtain the next level of knowledge/wealth.
Work Cited:
“Spirituality: ghost in the machine.” The Futurist, Mar.-Apr. 2010, p. 36. Academic OneFile, Accessed 13 Apr. 2017.
Schrader, David E. “Globalization and human values: promises and challenges.” Journal of
Philosophy: A Cross Disciplinary Inquiry, vol. 4, no. 10, 2009, p. 22+. Academic OneFile, Accessed 13 Apr. 2017.
Bauwens, Michel. “The next Buddha will be a collective: spiritual expression in the peer-to-peer
era.” ReVision, vol. 29, no. 4, 2007, p. 34+. Academic OneFile, Accessed 13 Apr. 2017.
“Maslow’s hierarchy of needs.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 06 Apr. 2017. Web. 12 Apr.
Gaiman, Neil. American gods. New York, NY: William Morrow, an imprint of HarperCollins
Publishers, 2017. Print.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *