You could regard this as a literary problem as much as a spiritual one. T S Eliot wrote: “first-rate blasphemy is one of the rarest things in literature, for it requires both literary genius and profound faith”. Why The Satanic Verses qualifies only as second-rate blasphemy is that the debate enacted in Gibreel’s dreams only heads in one direction: unbelief. Rushdie’s scepticism about God is never truly in doubt; he doesn’t believe enough to make it properly, theologically risky. This explains why the novel loses its balance in the second Islam chapter, and why the tone descends from playful to cynical and finally despairing. Gibreel’s mind disintegrates and he ends up killing himself.