Thursday, September 23, 2010

P.D. James on University Religion

In A Taste for Death, the novelist P.D. James placed the following words on the lips of a secular woman trying to make sense of religion. To do so, the character reaches back to her college years:
Annecroft Comprehensive certainly had a religion all right, fashionable and, in a school with twenty different nationalities, expedient. It was anti-racism. You soon learned you could get a way with any amount of insubordination, indolence or stupidity if you were sound on this essential doctrine. It struck her that it was like any other religion: it meant what you wanted it to mean; it was easy to learn, a few platitudes, myths and slogans; it was intolerant, it gave you the excuse for occasional selective aggression, and you could make a moral virtue out of despising the people you disliked. Best of all, it cost nothing... If you had to have a school ethos to give the illusion of togetherness, then for her money anti-racism was as good as any. And whatever she might think about its more absurd manifestations, it wasn't likely to lead you to see visions in a dusty church.
Hat tip for that quote to Denise, the family fiction reader (at least until I finish this dissertation).