What does Miss Maudie mean by "sometimes the Bible in the hand of one man is worse than a whiskey bottle in the hand of---oh, of your father"? Why do you think Scout doesn't understand Miss Maudie's analogy?

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Miss Maudie is trying to explain that Boo Radley's father's idea of religion is just as destructive of family life as alcoholism. She says that some kinds of Christians--she calls them "footwashers--" are overly concerned with sin. They equate any kind of pleasure with sin, and they also equate being a woman with being sinful. This kind of judgmental, hard, joy-killing faith destroys people's spirits, including the spirit of a child raised in that kind of environment.

Miss Maudie then states that a Bible in one person's hand is worse than a whiskey bottle in another person's hand--such as Atticus's. When Scout doesn't understand, Miss Maudie goes on to explain that even if Atticus were to get very drunk on a bottle of whiskey, he still wouldn't be as mean as some people are while sober. Some men, Miss Maudie says, are naturally hard and are made harder by religion. They are so worried about who is going to heaven and hell that they don't learn how to live in this world. When she refers to looking down the street and seeing the results, she is talking about the Radley family. As she puts it:

What I meant was, if Atticus Finch drank until he was drunk he wouldn’t be as hard as some men are at their best. There are just some kind of men who—who’re so busy worrying about the next world they’ve never learned to live in this one, and you can look down the street and see the results.

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In Chapter 5, Miss Maudie is explaining to Scout why Boo Radley never leaves his home. Maudie tells Scout that Arthur was a friendly boy whose father was a "foot-washing Baptist." She goes on to explain that Mr. Radley believed that any type of pleasure was a sin and that he followed a strict interpretation of the Bible. Miss Maudie makes the comment, "but sometimes a Bible in the hand of one man is worse than a whiskey bottle in the hand of---oh, of your father" (Lee 60). Scout is offended and comments that Atticus never drank alcohol in his life. Scout is too young to understand Maudie's analogy and takes her statement literally. Maudie was trying to compare the way Mr. Radley misuses the Bible to harm his son and other members of the community to the way alcohol destroys families. Distorting religion and misusing the Bible can be very harmful. Mr. Radley perverts scripture by taking certain passages and applying them literally. Maudie uses the example that "foot-washers" believe that women are a sin by definition to explain their twisted interpretation.

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