In the novel, the Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini, a strained relationship between father and son spans nearly a lifetime from Afghanistan to America. From the beginning, their interactions are sown with seeds of guilt, regret, inadequacy, and hopes for redemption that carries to the end of this reinvigorating and life-affirming story. Baba and Amir's attitudes toward religion plays a major role in how they deal with their moral dilemmas and ultimately how they overcome them. As Amir struggles to gain his father's love, he comes to find that they are more similar than he though both in their betrayals, and actions for salvation.
Baba, Amir's father, is the constant star of berating religion and all its failings. Very early in the novel he unloads his perspective that nothing of any value can be learned from idiot Mullahs:
Piss on the beards of all those self-righteous monkeys. They do nothing but thumb their prayer beads and recite a book written in a tongue they don't even understand. God help us all if Afghanistan ever falls into their hands (17).
Furthermore, in a rare and candid moment between Amir and his father, Baba speaks to Amir 'man-to-man' simplifying sin for him:
Every other sin is a variation of theft…when you kill a man, you steal a life…when you
tell a lie, you steal someone's right to truth…when you cheat, you steal the right to fairness (18).
Throughout the novel, Baba is unwavering in his distaste for religion, and if any change toward it exists, it is only that he becomes more heightened in his animosity for it. During Eid-e-Qorban when the symbolic killing of the lamb takes place and Ali is reciting prayers, Baba mocks the story and becomes noticeably annoyed (76). However, Baba uses the practical importance of the custom (the dividing of the meat into thirds for family, friends, and the poor) to perform his own good will, as he would give all the meat of the lamb to the poor since the rich were 'fat enough' and the charitable giving of the animal showed man his true higher purpose.
During Baba and Amir's elopement from Afghanistan they were forced to wait in the dank basement of a house in Jalalabad for a truck engine to be fixed to continue their journey. This was literally the 'darkest hour' for others and they all turned to God for strength. The refugees said to Baba, "God will save us all. Why don't you pray?" To which Baba brusquely replied, "What'll save us is eight-cylinders and a good carburetor (120)."
Baba remained untouched by religion throughout his entire life in moments of either great chaos or joy. In a dark touch of humor, religion still attempts to make a presence on Baba's life during his funeral, and Hosseini uses poignant irony to illustrate Baba's indifference toward it. During the lowering of Baba into the grave the Mullah and another man openly argue in front of the mourners over what proper ayat should be read (175). This was an issue Baba would have cared less about, especially during a time when people are mourning, which emphasizes his view that religion did not care for human decency, but more about propriety and appearing to be pious.
Contrarily, Amir staggers between belief and non-belief about God throughout the novel. As a boy Amir recognizes how difficult religion is to overcome, i.e., he is a Sunni mulsim and Hassan is a Shi'a. He knows that nothing will change that, and that simultaneously nothing will change the fact that he and Hassan spent the first 12 years of their lives together learning about the world and sharing its discoveries (25). Amir is somewhere stuck in the middle of what religion claims, and what his conscious tells him concerning his morality.
Amir does call on religion though when his desire for what he covets gets the best of him. During the kite tournament Amir acknowledges to himself that while he has not made up his mind up about God, since he is longing for his father's approval to finally be released from the pain of being unnoticed, his purpose for winning is of high value. Thus, if Baba was wrong and there was a God, God would guide the winds for him to win the tournament and finally be seen, heard, and loved (65).
When Baba went to the doctor in America and was found with a 'suspicious' spot on his lung, Amir pulled out his old prayer rug and recited half-remembered verses to pray for kindness from God toward his father. At this time Amir was jealous of the Mullah's unflagging faith since he had a favor to call in from God (154).
Concurrently, Amir saw the other side of religion being used for the justification of violence and visibly became disgusted when he saw the stoning at Ghazi Stadium (270). He also knew and recognized the significance of the jokes toward Mullahs -- they represented the backwardness of Afghanistan and how people dealt with it in a humorous way - a quintessentially Afghani attribute (266).
At the very end Amir reconciles his misgivings about God that he learned from his father after Sohrab attempts suicide. However, it is ultimately only during times of great anguish that Amir calls on God to fulfill a wish in order to combat his lifelong dread that his sins have caught up with him.
I see that Baba was wrong, there is a God, there always had been. I see Him here, in the eyes of the people in this corridor of desperation. This is the real house of God, this is where those who have lost God will find Him, not the white masjid with its bright diamond lights and towering minarets. There is a god, there has to be…(346).
Amir places his faith in the hands of God not with the Mullahs in the mosques, but in the hospitals with the common people who care for their loved ones immensely. Amir would be a sacrifice for Sohrab if he could, and this fact has changed him.
Baba and Amir shared many characteristics, although at the beginning of Amir's life it was hard to discern. The symbolic tale of Rostam and Sohrab parallels Amir's thoughts about he and his father's relationship:
If thou art indeed my father, then hast thou stained thy sword in the life-blood of thy son.
And thou didst it of thine obstinacy. For I sought to turn thee unto love, and I implored of thee thy name, for I thought to behold in thee the tokens recounted of my mother…(29).
Sohrab hoped to ultimately turn his father to him through love. Amir attempted to do this in a myriad of ways for his feelings of inadequacy.
When the wind blew off Baba's caracul hat at the opening of the orphanage, Amir relished the opportunity to hold it so all would know he was his son (15). There were times when Amir wished for one-on-one time with Baba, so he would lie and say that Hassan was sick and could not join them to have him to himself (13). He even tried to like soccer or at least enjoy watching it on TV, but ultimately he failed his father in that way too. Amir's greatest sense of inborn guilt came with the belief that he killed his mother, and for not defending Hassan during his abuse. The latter had a significant sting since he heard his failings from Baba before it occurred, "There is something missing in that boy…a boy who won't stand up for himself becomes a man who can't stand up for anything (22)."
This past plagues Amir throughout the entire novel as he simultaneously tries to bury his past in America, and uses his past to explain his short-comings from transgressions. He was blindsided at times by his guilt and completely overlooked his blessings: firstly, Baba truly did love him and care for him his entire life, he was able to have a promising career as a writer, and he married an incredible woman that loved him. The guilt consumed him at times and made him seek out his own punishment. He wished to be free of his guilt much like a kite swaying in the crisp blue sky, much like how Soraya must have felt once she told him her secrets about running away with an Afghani man at 18 years of age (165).
At first Amir looks to be punished in order to relieve himself of his guilt for not helping Hassan. Sometime after the attack, Amir begins throwing pomegranates at Hassan to provoke a beating. Amir also wants to be punished for not being a good son and for killing his mother, but ultimately his sacrifice, Hassan, will not strike him (92). Since Amir cannot release himself from his guilt by punishment, he resolves to at least be free from the suffering of…