A Primary Theme:
"To Survive, You Must Believe" (Bossert, 37).
One major theme in the novel American Gods is faith. The first time we experience this idea is during one of Shadow's dreams when he is speaking to a man with a buffalo head under the Earth. He speaks to Shadow telepathically. The buffalo headed man tells Shadow to "Believe." "Believe In what?" Shadow asks. "Everything." The Buffalo man tells him (217). "To Survive, You must Believe" is a critical essay written about American Gods and philosophy by Ray Bossert. In the essay he explains, "The buffalo man does not offer this advice to stimulate Shadow's curiosity...The buffalo man tells Shadow to believe because his survival depends on it" (43).
Throughout this novel, again and again, we hear the phrase "this land is no place for Gods"(217). America is no place for Gods because, as Gaiman has portrayed by the use of the new Gods to represent contemporary values, Americans no longer believe. In the beginning of the novel, the narrator reveals, "Shadow was not superstitious. He did not believe in anything he could not see" (6). This is a perfect example of how Americans do not believe in myths. Even Shadow himself did not believe until he met them.