City Tech, Fall 2016

Mercerism; the Post-Apocalyptic Version of Christianity…

Off the bat, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep is teeming with biblical references and allusions to Judeo-Christian theology. Going from Old Testament to New Testament, there are so many references to biblical events and representations just in the first 6 chapters of the novel. It already establishes a religion of “Mercerism” that was started by a man named Wilbur Mercer (who acts like a prophet) and alludes to the rapture of Revelations and Noah’s ark.

Living in a post-apocalyptic America, the people who remain on Earth and were not able to go to Mars are akin to people who did not ascend into heaven during the rapture as described in the Book of Revelations. John Isidore, a “special” human who is physically and mentally below average, is barred from going to Mars because he does not meet the requirements to “emigrate”:

“To himself John Isidore though acidly, And it’s gone away for me, too, without my having to emigrate. He had been a special now for over a year, and not merely in regard to the distorted genes which he carried. Worse still, he had failed to pass the minimum mental faculties test, which made him in popular parlance a chickenhead.” (19)

Though not directly referring to the rapture, John is like a man who was left behind on a doomed Earth that is now inhabited by “the void” (an emptiness of humanity). Because of his short-comings, he was not judged appropriately to go into the “after-life”, in this case Mars, which is a wonderful utopia that everyone strives to reach.

And despite being damned to an Earth that is left behind by the rapture, the people who remain on Earth (so far from accounts of Rick and John), embrace the theological practices of one Wilbur Mercer. John uses an “empathy box” in order to connect with the prophet, as described here:

“The visual image congealed; he saw at once a famous landscape, the old, brown, barren ascent, with tufts of dried-out bonelike weeds poking slantedly into a dim an sunless sky. One single figure, more or less human in form, toiled its way up the hillside: an elderly man wearing a dull, featurelss robe, covering as meager as if it had been snatched from the hostile emptiness of the sky. The man, Wilbur Mercer, plodded ahead, and, as he clutched the handles, John Isodore gradually experienced a waning of the living room in which he stood; the dilapidated furniture and walls ebbed out and he ceased to experience them at all. He found himself, instead, as always before, entering into the landscape of drab hill, drab sky. And at the same time he no longer witnessed the climb of the elderly man. His own feet now scraped, sought purchase, among the familiar loose stones; he felt the same old painful, irregular roughness beneath his feet and once again smelled the acrid haze of the sky–not Earth’s sky but that of some place alien, distant, and yet, by means of empathy box, instantly available.

He had crossed over in the usual perplexing fashion; physical merging–accompanied by mental and spiritual identification–with Wilbure Mercer had reoccurred. As it did for everyone who at this moment clutched the handles, either here on Earth or on one of the colony planets.” (21- 22)

It depicts something similar to virtual reality, as John escapes from his own reality and is in another location entirely. But beyond the literal depiction, John is “praying” or showing some sort of worship to Mercer through the empathy box. He “merges” with the religious figure not only physically, but mentally and spiritually, which is the goal that people have when praying to God/Jesus; people say they connect with God when they pray to him and feel close/a oneness with God Not only that, but Mercer is described like typical depictions of Moses (old, wearing robes), which goes further to the point that Mercer is the central religious figure of the post-apocalyptic Earth and everyone follows his teachings, as did Moses who led his people and gained the Ten Commandments.

Lastly, encompassing more on Mercer linked to religious figures, the idea of Mercerism is similar to the thought process behind Noah and his ark in the Old Testament:

“’But,’ Rick interrupted, ‘for you to have two horses and me none, that violates the whole basic theological and moral structure of Mercerism.’

‘You have your sheep; hell, you can follow the Ascent in your individual life, and when you grasp the two handles of empathy, you approach honorably. Now if you didn’t have that old sheep, there, I’d see some logic in your position. Sure, if I had two animals and you didn’t have any, I’d be helping deprive you of true fusion with Mercer.’” (11)

With the promise of Ascent, Rick and other residents of Earth gather as many animals as they can and tend to them to preserve their existence. Preservation of animals is what Noah did with his ark by gathering two of every animal in order to preserve their species and rebuild society, much like the goal of these post-apocalyptic survivors trying to rebuild society through maintenance of their livestock. Barbour also mentions “grasping the two handles of empathy” just like what John does in order to connect with Mercer; so everyone is using these empathy boxes to connect with Mercer and follow his practices.

And so on; there are many more things to look into which relate back to Christianity. Like with Rick having a sheep (“And the Lord is my Shepard”) and the implications that has with it being a fake sheep; or how the defective androids are like “fallen angels” that became corrupt and came back to Earth and hide among humanity like demons. Again, this book from the very beginning is throwing so many religious references, you just need to look hard enough to find them.

1 Comment

  1. Jill Belli

    Great response Rino! I’ve chosen this a as “featured post” 🙂

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