The Hypocrisy of Religion In Novel ‘Candide’

June 22, 2022 by Essay Writer

The Church is supposed to be holy, but the opposite is suggested through several religious characters that are self-righteous and greedy. While the Bulgars and Abars are busy celebrating the ending of their war, Candide escapes from the Bulgars and flees to Holland. There, Candide comes across a Protestant minister who is giving a speech about contributing to charity and begs for some food. The minister takes notice of Candide and asks him if he believes the Pope is Antichrist. Candide, only knowing Pangloss’ philosophy of “ all is for the best” does not know what the minister is asking and so, does not agree nor disagree. Upon hearing Candide’s response, the audience shows their disapproval by saying “ Be off with you, you villain, you wretch!”, and the minister’s wife empties a chamber pot on Candide’s head (27). Situational irony is seen here because we expect the minister to help the needy, but instead, he refuses to give food to Candide, going against the idea of charity that he is preaching for. After Candid’s encounter with the minister, he meets James, an Anabaptist. Unlike the horrible treatment Candide receives from the minister, James “ brought him home and washed him, gave him some bread… and even offered to apprentice him to his business” (27). James’ act of kindness towards Candide contrasts with the minister’s treatment, emphasizing how far away the minister is from being “good”. Instead of being scared and divine figures that they vow to be, religious figures show to be the opposite through their actions.

The hypocrisy of religion is further exposed through the abusive use of power by members of religious institutions. When Cunegonde is telling her story about how she survives the Bulgar attack, she mentions meeting the Grand Inquisitor at Mass and how he bargains with Don Issachar, a Jew who owns Cunégonde, for her. Don Issachar does not show any interest in accepting the Inquisitor’s proposal until “ the inquisitor threatened him with an auto-da-fé” which “forced the Jew’s hand, but he made a bargain by which this house and I should belong to both of them in common” (42). Absurdity occurs here as it is ridiculous that the Great Inquisitor, a man who once swore to never have any sexual relationships, uses the power attained by his status in the Church, to threaten a religious punishment for the mere purpose of taking possession of Cunegonde. This misuse of power appears again after the earthquake of Lisbon. The people of the Church decided that an auto-da-fé is necessary to prevent another earthquake from happening, so they “ seized a Basque, convicted of marrying his godmother, and two Portuguese Jews who had refused to eat bacon with their chicken; and … Pangloss and his pupil Candide were arrested as well, one for speaking and the other for listening” (36). Although the people that are selected for the auto-da-fé have nothing to do with the earthquake, they are all forced into sacrificial punishment just because they don’t hold the same beliefs and values as the Church. After the ritual, another earthquake takes place. Here, situational irony shows up again. The whole point of the auto-da-fe was to prevent future earthquakes from taking place, but another earthquake immediately takes place after the ritual.

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