How we cite our quotes:
"You fondly imagined it was enough to visit God on Sundays, and thus could make free of your weekdays. You believed some brief formalities, some bendings of the knee, would recompense Him well enough for your criminal indifference. But God is not mocked. […] Now you are learning your lesson." (2.3.15)
Paneloux accuses the congregation with peculiar terminology; he declares they have neglected their duty to God. This makes for an interesting comparison to Tarrou and Rieux’s belief that each man has an inherent duty to other men.
"It gives us a glimpse of that radiant eternal light which glows, a small still flame, in the dark core of human suffering. And this light, too, illuminates the shadowed paths that lead toward deliverance. It reveals the will of God in action, unfailingly transforming evil into good. […] This, my friends, is the vast consolation I would hold out to you." (2.3.17)
This sounds like abstraction at its best. Rieux would offer action and practicalities, where Paneloux offers words and grand ideas. The Plague argues that this sort of passive reaction is useless.
To Tarrou, who had shown surprise at the secluded life he led, he gave the following explanation, more or less. According to religion, the first half of a man’s life is an upgrade; the second goes downhill. On the descending days he had no claim, they may be snatched from him at any moment; thus he can do nothing with them and the best thing, precisely, is to do nothing with them. He obviously had no compunction about contradicting himself, for a few minutes later told Tarrou that God did not exist, since otherwise there would be no need for priests. (2.6.21)
The old man’s use of religion is just as irrational as Paneloux’s claim that the plague is God’ s will – he uses religious beliefs to defend his lifestyle, but then says there is no God. However, this does raise the interesting point that religion and belief in God are two very distinct matters.