The novel is deeply influenced by Goethe 's Faust ,  and its themes of cowardice, trust, intellectual curiosity, and redemption are prominent. It can be read on many different levels, as hilarious slapstick , deep philosophical allegory, and biting socio-political satire critical of not just the Soviet system but also the superficiality and vanity of modern life in general.  Jazz is presented with an ambivalent fascination and revulsion. But the novel is full of modern elements, such as the model asylum, radio, street and shopping lights, cars, lorries, trams, and air travel. There is little evident nostalgia for any "good old days" – the only figure who mentions Tsarist Russia is Satan. The book is a Bildungsroman , with Ivan Nikolayevich as its focus. It also has strong elements of what in the later 20th century was called magic realism .
Besides the MAAF members below, keep in mind atheists in foxholes whose stories have been in feature stories and documentaries: Pat Tillman, Afghanistan war Army Ranger and football player , Hans Kasten, WWII POW leader , Phil Paulson, Vietnam Veteran and activist , Kurt Vonnegut, WWII POW and author , Ted Williams, WWII Veteran and baseball player , Ernest Hemingway, WWI Vet and author , Sherwin Wine, Founder of Humanistic Judaism , Major Sidney Excell, who arrested Heinrich Himmler , Bob Kerrey, former Governor and Senator, Navy Seal, and Medal of Honor recipient .