According to the absurdist, religion is constructed by man in an attempt to create meaning to a senseless existence. Acceptance of religion, of the possibility of an afterlife, would mean that man effectively escapes death. This is a destructive belief, as only the realization and acceptance of impending death allows man to live to his fullest. The Stranger would condemn this, and at one point, the novel’s hero directly accuses a chaplain of "living like a dead man." Refuting the "no atheists on fox holes" claim, this character challenges the social construct of religion even before his own death, refusing to "waste any last minutes on God."
Questions About Religion
- The chaplain’s actions are understandable – as a holy man, it is his job to convert; but why is the magistrate so intent on proselytizing Meursault?
- What does the magistrate mean when he calls Meursault an "antichrist"? Does this have more to do with the fact that Meursault is unfeeling, or the fact that he is an atheist?
- For what purposes do the French Algerians (besides Meursault) use religion? Why does Meursault reject it?
- Why does Meursault flip out and choke the chaplain while in jail? How does this run-in with the chaplain spur his later epiphany regarding life and death?
Chew on This
In the world depicted by Meursault, religion is the single most harmful social construct.
Meursault doesn’t see religion as inherently harmful, but does reject its use by men like the chaplain and the magistrate.