The Catcher in the Rye
by J. D. Salinger
The Catcher in the Rye Holden Caulfield Quotes
Where I lived at Pencey, I lived in the Ossenburger Memorial Wing of the new dorms. […] It was named after this guy Ossenburger that went to Pencey. He made a pot of dough in the undertaking business after he got out of Pencey. […] He made a speech that lasted about ten hours. He started off with about fifty corny jokes, just to show us what a regular guy he was. Very big deal. Then he started telling us how he was never ashamed, when he was in some kind of trouble or something, to get right down his knees and pray to God. He told us we should always pray to God—talk to Him and all—wherever we were. He told us we ought to think of Jesus as our buddy and all. He said he talked to Jesus all the time. Even when he was driving his car. That killed me. I just see the big phony bastard shifting into first gear and asking Jesus to send him a few more stiffs. (3.2)
Holden obviously doesn’t think too much of religion—and he make a good point. But isn’t the problem Ossenburger, not the religion?
"Listen. What's the routine on joining a monastery?" I asked him. I was sort of toying with the idea of joining one. "Do you have to be a Catholic and all?"
"Certainly you have to be a Catholic. You bastard, did you wake me just to ask me a dumb questions"
"Aah, go back to sleep. I'm not gonna join one anyway. The kind of luck I have, I'd probably join one with all the wrong kind of monks in it. All stupid bastards. Or just bastards."
When I said that, old Ackley sat way the hell up in bed.
"Listen," he said, "I don't care what you say about me or anything, but if you start making cracks about my goddam religion, for Chrissake–"
"Relax," I said. "Nobody's making any cracks about your goddam religion." I got up off Ely's bed, and started towards the door. I didn't want to hang around in that stupid atmosphere any more. (7.50-54)
Holden is right—he isn't making cracks about the religion itself, just like he doesn't really make cracks about education itself. What he's criticizing are the people inside the institutions, the phony people who use organizations for their own purposes.
In the first place, my parents are different religions, and all the children in our family are atheists. If you want to know the truth, I can't even stand ministers. The ones they've had at every school I've gone to, they all have these Holy Joe voices when they start giving their sermons. God, I hate that. I don't see why the hell they can't talk in their natural voice. They sound so phony when they talk. (14.2)
Since he doesn't like sermons, he's an atheist. Since he doesn't like Oral Expression classes, he isn't into learning. Hm. Sounds like Holden isn’t quite seeing the forest for the trees. As they say.