If you had said to me a year ago I would be reading a book about religion, cults and megachurches, I would have laughed in your face. I am not particularly a religious person, although I do believe in something else out there, I am just not sure what. But, I was gifted this by Fitzcarraldo books, and after reading another of their authors Adriana Shibli, I was raring to try this out and it was made all the more enjoyable as I read this as part of a buddy read with my lovely friend, Alex.
The first thing which struck me when reading this blurb, and it may seem minor, but it was that the writer lived in Winchester and describes about the church group he attended there. I used to work in Winchester and lived in Southampton, another location he mentions many times, so it was nice little area I could relate to. But this book was much more than a few locations.
It is difficult to define this book as it is so many things, it is a diary at times, a book of social and religious observation and part autobiography. You could class this book under all of these, but one thing I will say is that it was a fascinating read and really made me think a lot about certain topics surrounding religion.
Immanuel is Matthew’s observations and research on religious groups, communities and communes and an insight into the potential reasons why someone would join these, the feelings and emotions which would arise and how these groups came to be.
One of the main religious groups he focuses on is one which was created by a preacher called TB Joshua. It is Pentecostal Christianity and became a big institution, starting in Nigeria and reaching out across the world.
There is so much you could say about this book, but I don’t want it to turn into a religious essay, however there are some really interesting points raised from this novel. It discusses what makes a group, a cult which is what happenedin Nigeria. He also discusses that these groups/cults appeal especially to those who are looking for somewhere to belong, a community and those who may be lost or looking for answers. They often take advantage of those at their weakest, whether that is illness, loneliness or similar. But when it comes to many of these groups, especially in the case of TB Joshua, many sinister acts go on behind closed doors, which the members will often ignore or simply tolerate or worse, accept in the name of God. It is shocking to read about some of the acts committed in the name of religion and just how much people will suffer and put up with for their saviour. This book is a true depiction of the devastating effects indoctrination can cause.
I found this novel a real eye opener to the other side of religions, and how similar they can become to that of a corporate business. However, I did find the last bit of this book was lacking coherency and the author assumed the reader had a certain level of knowledge when it came to the different types of Christianity, which I unfortunately didn’t.
However, overall, it was an insightful read which I enjoyed much more than I thought I would. It has opened my eyes to the darker, almost more sinister side of religion and how domineering these larger groups/cults can become.
⭐️⭐️⭐️💫 – a non-fiction observational read, great for fans of discovering stories of indoctrination or if you are curious about what leads people to join these mega churches.