In recent days, I've had two separate conversations with men of faith. One minister and one pastor. During these conversations, Capek's Absolute at Large came to mind. While I read this book over a year ago, it is one of those books that will forever stay with me.
The premise of the book is rather simple -- an inventor creates a machine that can run on minuscule amount of fuel and deliver an almost infinite amount of energy. The burn is complete, producing no waste - a scientist's dream. Yet, there is a byproduct. The byproduct being God. God that is locked in everything, bonded to every single particle since the day of creation. With the matter destroyed, the bond disappears and God runs free. At first, God is rather playful, making innocent miracles, but the more God is released, the more dire the consequences.
In this novel, Capek takes on everything and everyone. The social establishment, the military machine, the banking industry, the industrial revolution, the religious institutions - none are spared his wit. All except the plain, down to earth farmers who do not worry about higher purpose, maintaining their simple life regardless of what goes on outside of their existence.
There isn't an ism that is not dealt a deadly blow, and Capek deals with all of them, predicting isms that didn't even take roots during his time.
What brought this novel to my mind when talking with the men of faith were their own views, their own beliefs that only they had the truth - each one of them having the complete truth, disregarding each other's truths in the process. The same thing happened in this novel. Each man, each institution, each establishment holds a slice of truth, but once empowered by the freed God, they assume they hold the entire truth. Furthermore, much like in history, these men are willing to die for their truth.
This novel is satire at its best, and much like in his other writing, Capek does this masterfully. Yes, there are chapters that are perhaps outdated (after all, this book is 90 years old), but the premise is both timeless and universal.