Herman Melville inference on religion and especially Christianity goes beyond its time. In its respective views on religion, the narrative treats all religious traditions as just traditions. The author tries to assign an equal respect for the broad diversity of religions and their respective believes and traditions. However, the novel mocks some religious extremism and depicts them as foolishness. In this narrative, Christianity is not spared either and it’s treated in a not-so-gently manner. The novel infers that the tribal pagans and Christians of New England are to an extent comparable. However, the novel goes to another extent to represent paganism as more ethical than Christianity and frequently comparing some pagan practices as more rational, while treating Christianity to heavy satire in its religious commentary. Although the author of the novel puts across such a complex and egalitarian attitude toward religion and religious practices, the novel borrows heavily from the bible in terms of allegorical roles of characters, Biblical symbolism and names.
The prevailing religious sentiments expressed throughout the novel by the author portray religiosity as a mere mischievous fun. Melville wrote the narrative at a very religious period in traditional American and it was during this historic period that he wanted to test the strength and conviction of the believers in his audience. It is clear that Melville was not a religious fanatic and his statement shows that he was questioning religious beliefs which had taken roots in the mainstream society. To some extent, Herman Melville wants his audience to question their believes and convictions. His writings are unmistakably trying to challenge the religious reader rethink religion as their own and not an extension from the generally acceptable views of society and ideals posed by mainstream society.
In the narration, Melville relentlessly ridicules the presumed supremacy of the Christianity over the paganism. He associates Christianity with some extent of evil and he makes some statements to this effect. Some of his choice pronouncements in his narrative depict pagans as more rational than Christians. In a statement, Melville describes Christian kindness as a “hollow courtesy" (chapters 13). In another statement, he declares that he “better sleep with a sober cannibal than a drunken Christian" (chapters 10). Melville goes ahead to state that he will try a pagan friend. In Chapter 13, he says that "We cannibals must help these Christians." Through Ishmael, the author gives a highly structured-even though incongruous rationalization for participating in Queequeeg's "idolatrous" dutiful ritual as an act of Christian benevolence [chapter 10].
In Moby Dick, Melville associates Christianity not with faith, charity, and hope, but with ethnocentrism, militaristic nationalism, predatory capitalism, and slavery. In the narration, Melville construes an incurable aversion to South Pacific Christianity and he associates them with a contagion of colonialists which helped oppress the natives. He blames Christians from Europe for an influx of diseases that swept through Tahiti, killing the locals and reducing the population from 200,000 to 9,000. Christians also turned the native remnants of Marquesas Islands into civilized into beasts of burdens and evangelized draught horses. In his own words, Melville says that Christians invaded these regions and exploited the natives broking them into the traces and harnessing them into vehicles taking instructions from their Christian lords “like dumb brutes." On one island, Melville writes that he witnessed Christian sailors feverishly satisfying their lust on the native Polynesian maidens. On another scene, the narrator saw christened French gunners testing their cannons on natives who had assembled to hail them. The vessel was donned with a Christian flag but to the contrary, the sailors went ahead and massacred the poor defenseless and innocent villagers living by the seaside. Years later, Melville was still dumfounded by this inhumane act and openly questioned the Christian honor.
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