Meursault: Man or Monster? Religion in “the Stranger”

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According to the absurdist, religion is constructed by man in an attempt to create meaning to a senseless existence. Acceptance of religion, of the possibility of an afterlife, would mean that man effectively escapes death. An important theme of Albert Camus’ “The Stranger” is the apparent naivete and hypocrisy of religious beliefs. This theme is developed through the conflict between Meursault and the society that ultimately condemns him. In the end, Meursault, by refusing the “waste any last minutes on God” not only challenges religion but, different views about the meaning of existence. The conflict is established at the end of Part 1, when Meursault kills and Arab. He does not do it intentionally, but rather because of the intensity of the moment and the blinding sunlight reflecting off of the Arab’s blade. The fact that Meursault kills an Arab is actually of little importance in this novel though. The jury and the general population despise him because of his differing views, not because of the murder. Even Meursault’s lawyer predicts that the punishment will be minimal. Throughout the entire trial, the prosecution stresses Meursualt’s lifestyle and his indifference to everything. They bring up his mother’s funeral and say that he showed no signs of emotion. To make things worse, he went to a Fernandel comedy and had sex with Marie the very next day. The prosecutor once states, “…all I see is a monster.” In one of the interrogation scenes in the novel we find religious belief presented not as evil and corrupt, but as a product of ignorance that gives rise to intolerance. In the scene Meursault is asked if he believes in God and responds “no”. The response infuriates the Magistrate, his interrogator, whose belief in God amounts to unquestioned certainty upon which the meaning of his very existence absolutely depended: “He sat down indignantly. He said it was impossible; all men believed in God, even those who turn their backs on him. That was his belief,...
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