Gideon and religious feeling

Religious doubt

Gideon admits that, until he met the Devil at the Black Jaws gorge he had never truly believed in the existence of God. Up to that point he has been agnostic.

His religious scepticism has its roots in his childhood. Despite being a son of the Manse and being surrounded by religion in his life, God did not reveal himself to Gideon. This is despite the fact that he:

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wanted to know him, to love and be loved by him

However, Gideon lacked the capacity to embrace him.

Over the years he begins to stop worrying about whether or not God approved or disapproved of his actions, and eventually he stops believing in him altogether when he is 12.

The key moment comes when Gideon argues with Buzz in the school playground. Despite agreeing with Buzz that Maybe there isna a God, Gideon receives no punishment:

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And I was still standing. Buzz hadn't knocked me down because of the bell and God hadn't knocked me down because he wasn't there

Gideon comes to the conclusion that God’s existence is not plausible and that religious belief is irrational and childish as it is not based on evidence. These agnostic beliefs do not leave him even during the 18 years he works as a Church of Scotland Minister.

Doubts about doubt

There are periods in Gideon’s life when he seems unable to completely give up on God - he does not have the courage to reject him and is never truly able to escape the notion of a divine plan.

For instance, when he first begins to have spasms in his arm he considers that it might be God sending him a message about his deceitful behaviour. He also ponders whether God might be punishing him for his indifference to him by causing the death of Jenny and preventing him from being in a relationship with Elsie.

Gideon’s supernatural encounter with the Devil is the evidence that convinces him that God does, indeed, exist and that he had been wrong to doubt it. He comes to believe that there is a world beyond ours and that when we die something good awaits us. Death is not the end.

Rebirth

Gideon describes his experience at the Black Jaws as being his fatal accident and resurrection. It is clear that this incident utterly transformed him in the months that followed.

Perhaps the most important transformation in Gideon is his new conviction about the existence of supernatural beings such as God and the Devil and belief that something awaits us after we die.

He changes from being naturally guarded and deceitful to feeling a duty to be honest and tell others everything, hence his announcement at Catherine Craigie’s funeral.

It is ironic that Gideon's decision to tell the truth and describe his new sense of belief turns him into an outcast in the community. However, he does not care if he is stoned or denounced for telling the truth: telling others about his experience makes him feel liberated and full of hope.

Disappearance and death

Gideon seems to grow tired and weary of this world. He decides that it is time for him to move on to something better and to see my Devil again.

His priorities change completely - he has no interest in returning to his duties as a minister, or defending himself against accusations of blasphemy and misconduct. He shuts himself away from the world in order to organise his thoughts in his manuscript and leave it for posterity. He spends his final weeks and days in Monimaskit eagerly waiting to be reunited with his friend so that that they can leave this world and spend eternity together.

Gideon does, at times, wonder about his own sanity but he does not think that he is less insane than anyone else. He is not willing to accept that he is mentally ill, although he understands why others might.

He never doubts that he met with the Devil. Indeed, one of the main purposes of him writing the manuscript is in order to convince others that he is telling the truth about what took place.