What is Harper Lee's view or opininon on religion?  I just dont get it.  Is she saying hypocrisy is bad or is it something else?  I'm so confused. 

1 Answer | Add Yours

amarang9's profile pic

amarang9 | College Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

Posted on

Concerning religion, the first thing to note is that Scout says that going to church is Maycomb's principal recreation. So, everyone goes to church (the Radleys worship in their own home). So, if everyone goes to church, you would assume everyone behaves ethically in general. 

Atticus equates loyalty to the church/God with ethical behavior in all circles of his life. In Chapter 11, he says, “This case, Tom Robinson's case, goes to the essence of a man's conscience—Scout, I couldn't go to church and worship God if I didn't try to help this man.” It is in this scene that Lee clearly establishes Atticus as the paradigm for ethical behavior in relation to his religious beliefs AND how he practices those beliefs in social situations. Lee also initiates a comparison here between Atticus and the racist element that is still practiced by many of Maycomb's townspeople. Thus, Atticus is consistent; he practices what he preaches. And those who have proclaimed Tom guilty even before the trial do not practice what they preach. The hypocrites are those who worship in church but judge Tom by the color of his skin, rather than by his actions and words.

In Chapter 12, Scout and Jem go to Calpurnia's church. Although Reverend Sykes and others welcome them, they are met with resistance and here they get a sense of what it means to be an outsider; a minority. They also learn that religion itself can be, and is, divided by race and class. 

There is also the scene in Chapter 24 where the lady's missionary circle speaks of helping the Mrunas. Yet, hypocrisy is once again revealed via racist sentiments; one example being Mrs. Merriweather's praise of Christian work juxtaposed to her condescension towards her maid, Sophy.

These are some examples where certain characters claim to uphold Christian values but only practice them among their own race. 

Sources:

We’ve answered 318,989 questions. We can answer yours, too.

Ask a question