I hope to write a ‘Seven Keys to Casual Vacancy‘ post sooner than later and a big part of the postmodern chapter will have to be a discussion of the religious content in this novel. Everyone is nominally Christian — they go to funerals, celebrate Christmas, etc. — but none are devotional Christians of any spiritual substance, no one reads scripture or self reflects outside of a secular humanist, post-Christian mind-set, and there is no solace in community, which word means only government and never anything ecclesiastic or truly communal.
The only sort of religious people in the books are the ethnic Indians who are nominally Sikhs. The husband is uncomfortable with the picture of the guru on the wall though Minda likes it. The children prefer to be pretend Christians than explain to their friends how they are neither Sikh nor Muslim per their sect’s founding vision. The wife and mother, at story’s end rejects the husband’s suggestion that they make retreat to the Golden Temple. He, the godlike character above all the strife of the book, understands the importance and necessity of religious observance, at least in times of crisis.
But as one character observes in her nightmare situation, “this is how people go religious,” with “religious” used as a synonym for “bonkers” and “addle-brained.” I’m guessing based on my limited experience (all through UK friends) and reading on the subject that this is not Rowling’s prescriptive view but her realist description of spirituality in the UK today and what sort of people it creates.
I’d love to read your thoughts on the nominal faith of the characters and their egregious hypocrisy as well. Is this a gratuitous slap at the faithful or a valid description of the barrenness of the spiritual landscape Rowling grew up and lives in? as believer or non-believer, what were your thoughts about the church and faiths depicted in Casual Vacancy?