Study Guide

Blood Meridian Religion

By Cormac McCarthy


"The façade of the building bore an array of saints in their niches and they had been shot up by American troops trying their rifles, the figures shorn of ears and noses and darkly mottled with leadmarks oxidized upon the stone" (2.155).

How's this for symbolic? We come across and old church where the statues of saints have been used for target practice by American soldiers. It looks like people in this world believe in only one thing, and that's their own satisfaction. And the right to bear arms.

"He prayed: Almighty God, if it ain't too far out of the way of things in your eternal plan do you reckon we could have a little rain down here" (4.20).

It's pretty funny that half the characters in this book kill people and say they don't believe in God. But when they wish for something small like a drop of rain, they come crawling back. Then again, it's always hard to tell whether these men are being sarcastic.

"Blood, he said. This country is give much blood. This Mexico. This is a thirsty country. The blood of a thousand Christs. Nothing" (8.34).

An old Mexican man in a bar explains to the kid and his buddies that there's been a lot of blood shed in Mexico (and he's right). But when he compares the blood to the blood of "a thousand Christs" and then calls it "nothing," we realize he's saying something deeply philosophical. He's basically saying that the Christian world celebrates one guy who died on a cross. But in Mexico, there have been a thousand people just like Christ who've died, but it means nothing because there's so much death all around.

"[God] speaks in stones and trees, the bones of things" (9.50).

You might think at first glance that the judge is an atheist. But at one point, he agrees that God exists and the He always tells the truth through stones and bones. It ain't optimistic, but it ain't atheist either. Then again, the judge might just be messing with people—we wouldn't be surprised if he turned out to be Satan. Like, literally Satan.

"Within the doorless cuartel the man who'd been shot sang church hymns and cursed God alternately" (9.65).

People in the world of Blood Meridian often don't know what they think of God. Some people just spend half the time cursing God and the other half singing hymns in God's honor. That's when they're not busy killing each other, of course.

"The gifts of the Almighty are weighed and parceled out in a scale peculiar to himself. It's no fair accountin and I don't doubt but what he'd be the first to admit it and you put the query to him boldface" (10.19).

It's tough to say what God's big plan is, especially when you consider how many people in the world have to suffer, oftentimes for no apparent reason at all. Some people are convinced, though, that no matter what the big plan is, it's not a fair one.

"Many of the people had been running toward the church where they knelt clutching the altar and from this refuge they were dragged howling one by one and one by one they were slain and scalped in the chancel floor" (13.44).

Lots of people turn to religion in their times of suffering, or in this case, when they're being attacked. But unfortunately, no one comes to save them in this case. They all die and we're left wondering what kind of God would allow this sort of suffering to take place. But hey, whoever said God had to be a nice guy?

"The good book does indeed count war an evil, said Irving. Yet there's many a bloody tale of war inside it" (17.22).

It's fair to say that religion can sometimes be pretty contradictory. Irving, for example, is quick to point out that even though the Bible is against violence, there's a ton of violence inside it. Could we say the same thing of Blood Meridian?

"Weigh your counsel, Priest, he said. We are all here together. Yonder sun is like the eye of God and we will cook impartially upon this great siliceous griddle I do assure you" (20.69).

The judge isn't a big fan of the ex priest Tobin because Tobin seems to be the only one who can see the evil that's lurking beneath all the judge's charm. The jury's still out on whether the judge is actually Satan, though.

"I'm no priest and I've no counsel, said Tobin" (20.70).

Tobin had no interest in playing the role of priest for the judge or the rest of Glanton's gang. He just wants to be a mercenary like everyone else, since he thinks there's no place for mercy or compassion in the harsh world of the Southwestern United States.

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