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Religion Essay

1973 words - 8 pages

While the degree of religious fervor has flourished and waned in various civilizations, religion itself has never ceased to be a point of interest. At times, it has enjoyed effusive praise while at other times it has met cold reception. Religion as explored in Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert and The Stranger by Albert Camus is openly criticized. Under the harsh, bald statements of realism, religion loses its ethereal wonder and under the hostile stare of absurdism, religion renounces its meaning. Flaubert’s protagonist, Emma, and his other characters more often than not possess only a superficial understanding of faith, essentially precluding any of religion’s positive impact. Meanwhile, Camus derides religion as a futile endeavor in an indifferent world and casts an unfriendly light on the religious magistrate, who is juxtaposed with the protagonist, Meursault. Thus, Camus depicts the futile proselytizing of an absurdist man, who disregards religion, while Flaubert illustrates the failure of religion to save a woman consumed by romanticism. In both cases, religion is criticized for falling short of delivering its purported salvation.
Morality, the pride of religious followers, is much heralded as a virtue, yet Camus and Flaubert depict a different reality where religion fails to prevent immorality, much less promote morality. Camus calls into question the definition of “morality”: on what basis are other people deemed to be moral or immoral? on whose consensus is that morality then heralded? From the prosecutor’s point of view, the fact that Meursault “hadn’t wanted to see Maman, that [he] hadn’t cried once” during her funeral is sufficient evidence to condemn him (Camus 89). As the title of the book The Stranger suggests, Meursault is the excluded man, condemned for his blunt honesty. Essentially his inability to lie leads to his punishment for “immorality”, judged to be his lack of remorse or as viewed by the public at large, the “abyss threatening to swallow up society” (Camus 101). However, the court’s own morality is called into question. Camus emphasizes this as the judge says to Meursault, “That’s all for today, Monsieur Antichrist” (Camus 71). As the appointed arbitrator of the court, the judge’s use of glib language represents more than a cordial mocking of Meursault’s attitude. By having the judicial leader utter those words, Camus challenges the proclaimed “morality” of religious establishments and the court system.
Flaubert, on the other hand, leaves the dubious definition of morality to criticize the equally negative characteristic of failing to save Emma from her moral disintegration. Her first temptation, Leon, drives her to be “so virtuous and inaccessible to him that he lost all hope” (Flaubert 89). But this visage of virtuosity proved to be unsustainable in Rodolphe’s manipulative aggression. When Rodolphe disposes of her and Emma’s path runs across Leon’s, she attempts to restrain herself from the growing debauchery...

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