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Reading Discussion Guides

Godless by Pete Hautman

About the Book

A simple gag makes faith the centerpiece of Jason Bock’s summer: What if the town water tower is God? Jason shares his quirky observation with his friend Shin, and soon finds himself the head of a new religious sect of “Chutengodians” worshiping the metal edifice they now call the “Ten-legged One.” As the hot summer days pass, some Chutengodians begin to take the existential mind game more seriously than Jason himself. During a ceremonial midnight climb to the top of the water tower, the consequences of their passion turn from merely theoretical to near-deadly. Suddenly, Jason realizes that the “religion” he created has taken on a life-altering momentum of its own — one that he, perhaps, cannot control.

Discussion Questions

  • In the opening chapter of Godless, Jason Bock describes himself in terms of his appearance, his intellect, and his friendships. Based on his description, do you think you would be a friend to Jason? Do you consider Jason’s view of himself positive, negative, or otherwise?
  • In chapter fourteen, Jason observes that leading a “growing religion” requires “too much politics. In other words, you have to lie a lot.” What role does lying play in the evolution of Jason’s religion? Do you think leadership-religious or otherwise-requires lying? Why do you think Jason makes this comment?
  • In chapter seventeen, the members of Jason’s new religion gather to climb the water tower. What happens to Shin when he attempts the climb? What happens when the remaining members enter the water in chapter eighteen? With what frightening event does the gathering conclude?
  • Why does Jason follow Shin to the water tower in chapter twenty-seven? What frightening and certain-to-be-punished action does Jason choose to take? How does Shin get out of the tank?
  • In the final pages of the novel, Jason expresses his envy for anyone with any kind of faith. Are there words other than “envy” that could be used to describe the sentiment Jason feels? What does it mean to have a religion but no faith? Can you have faith without a religion?

Extension Activities

  • Write your own definition of friendship, then find a dictionary definition for the term. Chart the names, along with brief descriptions, of the main characters in Godless. Circle the name of the character you believe is the strongest influence on Jason. Underline the names of characters Jason would consider friends, then number the friends from the best to the least or worst. How does the chart relate to your understanding of friendship?
  • Divide the class into small groups to investigate the origin of various religions. Have each group create an informative, illustrated poster that includes a paragraph describing the origins of the religion, a timeline of key events, the names of important individuals, a list of major tenets of the faith, and information on the contemporary practice of this religion. Compare Chutengodianism with the other belief systems.
  • Throughout the story, Jason shares his thoughts about the other Chutengodians. How do you think these characters feel about their leader? In the character of Shin, Henry, Magda, or Dan, write a journal entry describing your feelings about Jason at one or more points in the story.


Pete Huatman
Age Level:
Middle Grade