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UY, Albert Christian P.

Ms. Kristine Marie Reynaldo


ENG 11 WFX2
May 30, 2015
Hell is the Absence of God
In "Hell is the Absence of God", Chiang sets a world where miracles and
angelic visitations are commonplace and the existence of God, soul and hell are
provable. It tells the story of how the characters dealt with these challenges and
how they cope with it. By having these scenarios, we will look into how religion
affected the lives of the main characters in the story and how it became crucial in
their fate. We will also talk about the significance and the role of religion in our
present society.
The story began with the introduction of Neil Fisk, a man with a physical
deformity in a leg since birth. Neil doesn't much care about God. His beloved wife
Sarah died as part of collateral damage during one of the angelic visitations and her
soul went to Heaven. That is the motivation for Neil to now care about Heaven - to
be ultimately united with her.
Much of the story is about his meeting with various people such as Janice
Reilly and trying to find a reason to love God. He hasn't really found a rational
reason till end. Eventually, he decides to chase the heavenly light in the wake of an
angel's visitation. He will die in the venture but he saw the light before dying. In
spite of seeing it, he will be denied admission to Heaven and end up in Hell so he's
forever separated from his wife.
Neil Fisk was born with a congenital abnormality that caused his left thigh to
be several inches shorter than his right. Most people he met assumed God was
responsible for this but Neil's mother hadn't witnessed any visitations while carrying
him. This lines suggest that Neil's mother is not blaming God for the abnormality He
caused to his son instead blame is rested on her absent husband even though she
never expressed her thoughts aloud. Neil sometimes wondered that he is punished

by God but he avoided blaming Him because his mother believed that it was not
caused by Him.
Neil's personality in the story never made him in loving God and never led
him to pray for strength and for relief. However, the turning point of his attitude
toward Him came during an angelic visitation that killed eight people including his
wife, Sarah. This event forced him to reexamine his relationship with God.
Learning that Sarah has ascended into heaven, Neil started his quest in
becoming devoted to God. This event suggests that Neil had just started loving God
because he wants to ascend to heaven in order for him to be reunited with his wife.
It shows that Neil's character in the story does not truly love God because his
devotion would mean something very important to him. He thinks that being
devoted to Him would bear something in return which is to see his wife again.
In the end, despite having his character changed to being devoted in Him and
he continued loving Him, he was eventually sent to Hell and was permanently
separated with his wife. In this turn of events, it shows that Neil realized that
unconditional love asks nothing, not even it be returned. He deserved to being sent
in Hell because he didn't truly love God before that event with his wife occurred.
This could tell that in Chiang's world, there are no unbelievers, however, there are
people who are not religious.
Another character in the story is Janice Reilly who has no legs even before his
mother gave birth to her. The Reillys were certain that their daughter's condition
was not a punishment, as a result, Janice grew up thinking of her legless condition
as a gift. Her parents also encouraged her that God has given her a special task and
Janice knew, despite her condition, that she must not disappoint God. Janice's
character tells us that it is totally the opposite of Neil's and it shows that she truly
loves God.
To further prove her devotion, she didn't hesitate to show others that her
condition did not indicate weakness but rather strength. Her character shows that,
despite her incapabilities, she is truly accepted by the people around her as a result
of not thinking of her condition as a burden and not blaming anyone for it. The way
she interact with other people and being kind to them also suggest that she is

indeed a devout person and she truly believes in God. Despite her disability, she is
treated well by other people because of her charismatic personality.
Then there came a time when she woke up to the biggest surprise of his life the sight of her two new legs and are fully functional. She totally deserved that
blessing because she somehow accomplished the task given to her by God. This
task is speaking to other people with disabilities and promoting her message that
what they have received is a gift from God. Janice became an example and an
inspiration to other handicapped individuals for changing their views toward their
lives. With this, she felt a sense of fulfillment for the things she shared to others
that somehow Neil had not experienced.
The restoration of her legs also serves as a bigger challenge for spreading her
message to others and if other disabled people might still get encouragement from
her. It was indeed a blessing and a test and it could help readers evaluate the true
character portrayed by Janice in the story. It would further prove that Janice is
trusting God in the way that she performs her task and by doing things she believes
are right.
Through the characters, Chiang explores grief and disability, both of which
are of course key elements in the eternal question of why a loving God allows bad
things to happen in the world. Again, Chiang is not trying to answer this question
himself, but he is exploring how people do answer it, in a world where "God doesn't
exist" is not an option. He is also by his own account, if to a very small extent,
exploring the role of God.
In the real world today, having a religion is much more important compared
to the world depicted in "Hell is the Absence of God". Religion affects our everyday
course of our lives because most of the people in the world are influenced by it. It
can have great importance for a variety of reasons. First, religion gives us mental
peace and emotional support. Since life is uncertain, our faith in God encourages us
to face our life and problems despite of all the insecurities and danger that lies
ahead. It greatly influences us in our battle for survival. Religion also promotes
major social virtues such as honesty, non-violence, service, love, discipline and the
like. A follower of a religion internalizes these virtues and becomes a disciplined
citizen of a society.

Religion promotes welfare by teaching people to serve others. It gives us the


message that the service to humanity is service to God. With the influence of
religious belief different religious organizations engage themselves in various
welfare activities like spreading of education and opening many charitable
institutions like hospitals to be able to help the poor.
Our religion also affects our decisions in life. It leads us the way in making the
right decisions and we could say that it is important because it would guide us in
choosing the right path. It really serves as a big influence in our life since our
decisions would be very crucial in the future.
One last reason that we need religion is that it gives us something to believe
in. People need to believe that there is a reason for what they are doing and that
there is a reason for life. Religion provides this for them. This is what gives people
the desire to go out and work every day and to try to make the world a better place.
They do it because they believe there is a meaning behind it all. This is largely down
to religion.
Religion indeed portrays a big role in our world and in the world Chiang
depicted in his story as well. It influences us on how we see certain things just like
the angelic visitations in Chiang's world and the problems and challenges we
encounter in the real world. The way we react on those things and think about their
purpose is based on our faith and devotion to God. If we practice good moral values
and remain faithful to God, we would be able to pass through all these tests.