“Let us with caution indulge the supposition that morality can be maintained without religion. Reason and experience both forbid us to expect that national morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle.”
According to George Washington, morality can only be maintained or exist when religion is there to guide it. While this may seem like a simple concept to understand, matters of religion and morality are more complex. Many religions have value systems regarding virtues and morals that are meant to guide their followers in determining between right and wrong; however, just because a person is religious does not necessarily mean they are moral and just because a person is moral does not necessarily mean they are religious. Although ideas of religion and morality are commonly confused with one another, in his novel, Light in August, William Faulkner confirms his belief that religion and morality are not synonymous. Faulkner recognizes religion as a central theme throughout the novel and uses it as a major influence while characterizing his character’s choices and actions. In his use of detailed characterization in the novel, Faulkner illustrates how religion and morality are not interchangeable based off characters that are motivated to violence because of religion, or use religion as a means to justify racist thoughts and behaviors. By comparing and contrasting some of the novel’s most religious characters and their actions, Simon McEachern, Mr. Hines, and Byron Bunch, this demonstrates how Faulkner reveals the ways in which religion and morality are not dependent each other but rather on the individual and how they choose to practice their religion.
Simon McEachern, Joe Christmas’s foster...
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In conclusion, although religion is used as a way to frame the basis for morality, Faulkner reveals how the virtues and morals based in religion can become disregarded and/or distorted as a result of an individual’s own cruel and selfish intentions. While McEachern and Doc Hines both identified as religious men, neither of them were moral. Both men manipulated their religious faith in order to fulfill their own selfish and cruel agendas. In contrast, Byron Bunch is sincerely moral. As opposed to using religion as way to justify his behavior, he uses religion as a way to guide his life and spirituality. Therefore, moral goodness is not the product of religion itself but rather the individual and how they choose to live their life.
Faulkner, William. Light in August: The Corrected Text. New York: Vintage, 1990. Print.
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