Robinson Crusoe Religion Essay

1639 words - 7 pages

Robinson Crusoe: An Evolution of Political ReligionMany people have pointed out that Robinson Crusoe's experiences on the island seem to be a reflection of the growth of civilization and society. Considering the prominent role that religion plays in the novel, it would be worthwhile to examine the progression of religious and political thought in Crusoe's "society." Through the experiences of one man, we can observe the progression of religion from the private realm to the public realm, the conflicts inherent in such a progression, and the resolution to these conflicts. This evolution of religious and political thought affirms two ideas: 1) in the personal realm, it affirms religious individualism--the idea that one can and should find his God independently from any human authority or intermediary (i.e. priests); and 2) in the public realm, the novel affirms that religious toleration, especially on the part of those in power, is the appropriate way to resolve those conflicts that are inherent in the transition of religion from the private to the public. Crusoe discovers (primarily through trial and error and constant introspection) both of these ideas and eventually succeeds in implementing both of them. He "finds God" without the guidance of anyone, and he ultimately becomes a tolerant ruler of the island with respect to religion. Surprisingly, Crusoe never lives up to his personal definition of a "good Christian." But perhaps this is just a touch or realism by Defoe, since Crusoe is otherwise so successful at recognizing religious individualism and instituting religious toleration on the island, both of which are very important to Defoe.The first step in the religious progression of Crusoe is his personal discovery of God. Through his example, he shows that no human intermediary is needed in order to find God; finding God should and must be an independent act. He tells us that he was moved to repent without the help of any teacher or instructor, with only the Bible to help him (160). Curiously enough, it was his very rebellion against his father and the "Middle Station" that put him in a position to find God on his own, something that may not have happened if he had obeyed and merely accepted the "hand-me-down" religion and lifestyle of his father. But it was his relationship with Friday that would later confirm his suspicion of priesthood. In his attempt to Christianize Friday, Crusoe realizes that it is impossible for him to teach Friday certain aspects of faith: "...yet nothing but divine Revelation can form the Knowledge of Jesus Christ...nothing but a Revelation from Heaven, can form [knowledge of Christ] in the Soul..." (158). Crusoe learns that he, like a priest, cannot substitute for divine revelation. This is a recurring theme for Crusoe, and he explicitly attacks the institution of priesthood in the Catholic church (and presumably the Anglican church as well). He attacks the institution of priesthood on the grounds that it serves to...

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