No, that’s not the setup to some long, complicated joke that you’re going to tune out halfway through, it’s Heretics Anonymous. And you’re going to want to read about them.
What if God Was One of Us?
Ahh, religion. It can bring people together or tear them apart. It can be a huge focus in your life. Or it can be this thing you had as a kid that slowly devolves as you get older. Or it could mean nothing to you. But no matter your religion or lack thereof, you need to read Heretics Anonymous.
It explores the joys of being an atheist in a Catholic school, trying to find where you fit in, and what happens when you surround yourself with people who are different than you and actually listen to their beliefs. At its core, this book teaches tolerance, but thankfully it’s wrapped up in a sarcastic, snarky package. Praise whoever you worship that this book is out now.
Michael is an atheist. So as he walks through the doors at St. Clare’s—a strict Catholic school—sporting a plaid tie, things can’t get much worse. His dad has just made the family move again, and Michael needs a friend. When a girl challenges their teacher in class, Michael thinks he might have found one, and a fellow nonbeliever at that. Only this girl, Lucy, is not just Catholic . . . she wants to be a priest.
But Lucy introduces Michael to other St. Clare’s outcasts, and he officially joins Heretics Anonymous, where he can be an atheist, Lucy can be an outspoken feminist, Avi can be Jewish and gay, Max can wear whatever he wants, and Eden can practice paganism. After an incident in theology class, Michael encourages the Heretics to go from secret society to rebels intent on exposing the school’s hypocrisies. When Michael takes one mission too far—putting the other Heretics at risk—he must decide whether to fight for his own freedom, or rely on faith, whatever that means, in God, his friends, or himself.
This book reminded me a lot of the cult classic (sort of) Saved! starring Jenna Malone and a bible-throwing Mandy Moore. They’re both stories about kids questioning what society and religion throw at them.
I enjoyed being in Michael’s head and watching him grow as he learned from his fellow Heretics. While they have their troubles, I loved reading about a group of revolutionaries who just want to make their world, however small it is, a better place for everyone to be. It’s pretty inspiring. And there’s something to be said for a book that can tackle such a divisive topic as religion, and still come out smelling like roses.
As someone who grew up Catholic but has maybe gotten a little (ok, a lot) lax about going to church, there was a lot I could relate to in this book. I laughed at loud at Michael’s commentary on mass and his questioning of almost everything Catholicism preaches. Because…he’s pretty dead on. Objectively speaking.
This book had me laughing out loud. There are so many nuggets of wisdom and thoughts I’ve always had but definitely didn’t think in such a funny way. Here are a few of my favorite Michael quotes to peak your interest:
This is the calmest cannibalization ritual I’ve ever seen.
On the yearly safe sex presentation:
Before Father Peter’s even finished with the introduction, Purity Paul bursts through the center of the curtains, carrying a mic in his hand and wearing a smile that could only be caused by Jesus or LSD.
On banned books and the Bible:
I don’t understand how the St. Clare’s library can ban so many books for being ‘inappropriate’ when they have a whole row of Bibles. Harry Potter might have been a wizard, but I’m sure he never hacked a woman to pieces.
When did our youth get to be so wise? Seriously, the kids in these books are so advanced. I never would’ve started an underground rebel group when I was in high school. Then again, the thing I was most passionate about was Chicken Nugget Thursdays and that was never under any threat. But in all sincerely, I hope kids like this exist. The news has proven they do, but I think we have a pretty bright future if we have kids willing to stand up for their beliefs using the power of truth and acceptance rather than rhetoric and bullying. I say let them read Heretics Anonymous to start getting ideas.