Life of Pi
How we cite our quotes:
But I don't insist. I don't mean to defend zoos. Close them all down if you want (and let us hope that what wildlife remains can survive in what is left of the natural world). I know zoos are no longer in people's good graces. Religion faces the same problem. Certain illusions about freedom plague them both. (1.4.14)
Do zoos incarcerate animals in confined spaces and make them miserable? Pi doesn't think so: "Certain illusions about freedom" tempt us to this conclusion. In actuality, an animal's life in the wild is more circumscribed than "a knight on a chessboard" (1.4.8). Predator-prey relationships restrict the animal's movement. A zoo enclosure is actually more like a hearth for an animal: a place of comfort and rest. Likewise, most people think of religion as a restrictive cage. Actually, Pi says, it's home and hearth for the believer.
[Pi:] "Religion will save us," I said. Since when I could remember, religions had always been close to my heart.
"Religion?" Mr. Kumar grinned broadly. "I don't believe in religion. Religion is darkness."
Darkness? I was puzzled. I thought, Darkness is the last thing that religion is. Religion is light. Was he testing me? Was he saying, "Religion is darkness," the way he sometimes said in class things like "Mammals lay eggs," to see if someone would correct him? ("Only platypuses, sir.") (1.7.9-11)
For the first time, Pi learns his biology teacher, Mr. Kumar, is an atheist. Certainly Mr. Kumar confuses Pi. Mr. Kumar extols the virtues of science (see Themes: Science 1.7.12 and 1.7.16) and, on some level, convinces Pi. For Pi, however, the light of science doesn't cancel out the light of religion. Both coexist and simply shed more light on his world.
I'll be honest about it. It is not atheists who get stuck in my craw, but agnostics. Doubt is useful for a while. We must all pass through the garden of Gethsemane. If Christ played with doubt, so must we. If Christ spent an anguished night in prayer, if He burst out from the Cross, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" then surely we are also permitted to doubt. But we must move on. To choose doubt as a philosophy of life is akin to choosing immobility as a means of transportation. (1.7.21)
Pi's education includes both science and religion; he comes to love both these disciplines. But agnosticism – the suspension of belief (e.g., "I don't have enough evidence to believe in God so I won't commit one way or the other.") – drives the boy bonkers. For Pi, belief is one of the most beautiful actions of human life. To live otherwise is to live statically. One can either choose a rich, dynamic life or a static, uncommitted life.