What is the role of religion in The Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde?
The Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde is a play that satirizes many forms of Victorian conventions. Religion is no exception. For the upper class characters of the book, religion functions as a social convention, rather like serving tea.
The main religious elements of the play involve The Reverend Frederick Chasuble, D.D., a clergyman in the Church of England, who is called upon to christen the two young men who desire to be named Earnest. He is a stereotypical caricature of the English divine: celibate, of indeterminate age, obsessed with obscure scholarly questions about the Primitive Church, and unworldly in the sense that he is utterly impractical. He is almost obsessively concerned with the outward details of religious ceremony. He displays little of what might be considered genuine faith, and is quite flexible in his willingness to baptize and marry people with little regard for the spiritual suitability of the participants.
In his focus on the outward forms of religion, Reverend Chasuble functions as the spiritual equivalent of Lady Bracknell's obsession with the outward conventions of society. In the play, then, religion becomes reduced to social convention.