Monday, August 20, 2007

We need religion?

Practicing Roman Catholic Adam Appleby (whose wife and their three young children, of David Lodge's third novel, The British Museum Is Falling Down, I introduced on August 11), receives some advice from a couple of his friends, who are concerned at Adam's distress over his wife's possible fourth pregnancy:
"You know," said Camel to Adam, "I think you ought to apostatize. You can't go on like this."
      "What d'you mean?"
      "Well, leave the Church—temporarily I mean. You can go back to it later."
      "Death-bed repentance, you mean?"
      "Well, more of a menopause repentance. It's not such a risk is it? You and Barbara have a good expectation of living past forty or so."
      "It' no good talking to him like that, Camel," said Pond. "There's always the bus."
      "Yes, there's always the bus," Adam agreed.
      "Bus? What bus?" asked Camel in bewilderment.
      "The bus that runs you down. The death that comes unexpectedly," explained Pond. "Catholics are brought up to expect sudden extinction round every corner and to keep their souls highly polished at all times."
      "How do you know all this?" Adam demanded.
      "Sally went to a convent," Pond explained. "No," he went on, "it's no use talking like that to Adam. We've got to convince him intellectually that Catholicism is false."
      "I wouldn't want to do that," said Camel. "I believe in religion. I don't have any myself, but I believe in other people having religion."
      "And children," Adam interpolated.
      "Quite so," Camel agreed. "I don't have any affection for children myself, but I recognise the need for them to keep the human show on the road."
      "Selfish bastard," said Adam.
      "But if you must have religion," said Pond, "why not Hinduism? Then you can have sex as well."
      "I thought you were against things foreign," said Camel.
      "Well, I think we could have a kind of Anglicanised Hinduism...get rid of the holy cows and so on."
      "No, it won't do," said Camel. "I want Christianity kept up, because otherwise half our literary heritage will disappear. We need people like Appleby to tell us what The Cloud of Unknowing is all about." [pp. 64-65]

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