What is Holden's attitude toward religion in The Catcher in the Rye?

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mlsldy3's profile pic

mlsldy3 | Elementary School Teacher | (Level 2) Educator

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Holden lives constantly in the past. He seems to think that things were easier in the past, and he just can't face the present or the future. In chapter 14, Holden is depressed again. He is thinking of his younger brother, Allie, who had died of leukemia years ago. He admits to talking to Allie now and idolizes his lost brother. He says he sees himself as an atheist, but admits to liking Jesus. He says he doesn't like the other people in the bible, but he likes Jesus. He talks about how the world is not pure anymore, and this goes to show that he has form of knowledge of bible teaching.

Throughout the entire novel, we see Holden spiral out of reality. He struggles to stay focused on the present. He flunks out of school. He just kind of wonders through life aimlessly. He lives constantly in the past. He can't face the future. He doesn't have the ability to face he responsibilities. Holden questions everything. He questions people and their actions. He doesn't trust anyone. He questions religion. He admits to liking Jesus, but also claims to be an atheist. Nothing in Holden's life is making any sense to him. I think he is angry at God for the death of Allie. It seems his life just kind of stopped when his brother died. 

It is clear that Holden is struggling with some kind of mental disorder. He just wanders throughout life at the moment. He knows deep down, that something is wrong with him, but he is unwilling to get any help. The sadness that Holden faces, is a true disorder, and only with the help of other people can he truly embrace his future with hope.

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tinicraw's profile pic

tinicraw | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

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After Holden's prostitute leaves him in chapter 14, he is alone in his hotel room getting ready for bed. He suddenly gets the urge to pray and says the following:

"I felt like praying or something, when I was in bed, but I couldn't do it. I can't always pray when I feel like it. In the first place, I'm sort of an atheist. I like Jesus and all, but I don't care too much for most of the other stuff in the Bible" (99).

One can infer that Holden has had some religious influence in his life if he feels like praying; but, it must not have been habitual growing up because he doesn't say that religion is a big part of his family's life. In fact, his parents are different religions and he claims all of their children are atheists.

It's funny, though, where Holden's thoughts take him after feeling the urge to pray. He thinks about the "Disciples" and how much they annoy him. He likes Jesus, but he thinks that the twelve apostles let him down during his lifetime. He says, "they were about as much use to Him as a hole in the head" (99). He does like a lunatic who lived in some tombs and was cutting himself, which is interesting. Holden likes the lunatic more than the apostles.

Then Holden discusses a religious boy he knew at the Whooton School named Arthur Childs. Arthur tells Holden that he should like the "Disciples" because Jesus chose them to represent him after he left. Next, their conversation turns to talking about Judas betraying Jesus. Arthur says Judas is surely going to Hell, but Holden says that Jesus would forgive him. Arthur tells him that his problem is that he doesn't go to church, which he concedes is true. Therefore, Holden seems to be spiritual in a sense because he believes Jesus would forgive Judas. However, he doesn't go to church, he doesn't like ministers, and he feels he is atheist--and yet, he feels the urge to pray.

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allyson's profile pic

allyson | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Assistant Educator

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Holden talks about his views toward religion in Chapter 14. He says that he feels like praying, but cannot because he can never pray when he feels like it. He also claims that he is "sort of an atheist," but as he continues, it does not seem that he really is an atheist. He has knowledge of the Bible, believes in Jesus, and even admires him, despite what Holden views as flawed disciples. Holden even seems to identify with Jesus, as someone who would "puke" if he saw the phoniness of people, like those wearing costumes and singing at Radio City.

bear70's profile pic

bear70 | College Teacher | eNotes Newbie

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Perhaps he felt guilty of having religion. Probably if  he were to have a religion, he has to follow it and if he doesn't, he felt that he would be condemned and regard as a sinner. So might as well he be an atheist.

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