A humorous sermon explores the many ways that molecules undermine humanity’s connection with God.
The philosophical discussion begins when the narrator informs his neighbor that humans have been enslaved by the molecules that constitute them. “Man,” readers are told, “continues to live in a fool’s paradise while the atoms...wreak havoc and hellfire on our frail, gullible, and susceptible selves.” Naturally, the neighbor is incredulous. The discourse then moves into various amusing examples illustrating that molecules—like testosterone, which causes hair, sexual urges, and violence—are against humans. Molecules are also responsible for the dynamic between stationary plants and the animals that harvest them for survival. As for humans, the narrator calls them the seekers, emphasizing their insatiable search for knowledge and fresh material with which to expand their influence on Earth. Further chapters cover such subjects as the advent of machines (including weapons of war) and the battle between molecules (which are temporal) and the soul (which is eternal) as well as the devil and the divine. The disquisition closes with a two-part segment called “The War Within” that examines an individual’s need to separate the essence of humanity from the base desires of the senses, and in doing so improve the world. Vasudevan (Lying in State, 2016, etc.) hooks readers into his journey with a hilariously dour tone of which Kurt Vonnegut would approve; the evil molecules, he says, were “biding their time in a relentless quest to snuff out the remaining vestiges of human joy and dignity in me.” However, it may not be readily apparent to readers that this isn’t merely a curmudgeonly enumeration of modern life’s ills (like too many choices at a sub shop), but a religious work. In the final third, Vasudevan’s snarky tone dissolves in favor of earnest moralizing. And yet with certain important topics, like whether or not animals have souls, he proves intellectually timid, and even undercuts his message by stating, “It is not as if I know a lot about all that I have been waxing eloquent about here.” Though his aim for a better world remains just, the author’s cynicism toward modernity defines the piece.
A well-meaning, if sometimes frustrating, religious tract.