Last week, I addressed the theme of religion in Daniel Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe, and now that I have finished the book, I would like to expand on the topic. My previous response was written on the story prior to Crusoe’s discovery of the “Print of a Man’s naked Foot,” and I had admired him for altering his fate by improving his attitude and changing his values (130, 60). Unfortunately, a few pages later all his success was completely undone, and he fell back into the routine of self-pity and bitterness that was intensified by the self-admittedly, wholly unnecessary “Dread and Terror of falling into the Hands of Savages and Canibals” (171, 138).
From this point, I began to look at Crusoe from a cynical perspective because his religious values are extremely inconsistent. For example, he admits, “my Fear [of the cannibals] banish’d all my religious Hope,” and after he measures his foot next to the print, he seriously considers going on a destruction frenzy and later reflects, “I had not that Relief in this Trouble from the Resignation I used to practice” (132, 135). That is, he found no comfort in religion because he stopped practicing it. However, after his status of Master is rebuilt by Friday whose signs Crusoe interpret as all those of “Subjection, Servitude, and Submission imaginable,” he suddenly takes on the mindset of a missionary who has “Powers enlighten’d by the great . . . Spirit of God” (174, 177). Consequently, Crusoe reasons that these newfound powers somehow give him the right to “save the Life, and . . . the Soul of a poor Savage” and to call Friday’s god Benamuckee “a cheat” (186, 183).
On the other hand, Crusoe personally gains from Friday’s conversion because “in laying Things open to him, I really inform’d and instructed my self in many Things, that either I did not know, or had not fully consider’d before” (185). In other words, by teaching Friday about Christianity, Crusoe deepens and strengthens his own faith, which I believe is the critical turning point where he fully accepts Protestantism. Unlike his forced and overly dramatic prayers when he was alone, when Crusoe begins to verbally mention God to his companions it occurs naturally, which indicates a truer devotion. For example, when he tells the Captain, “‘that the consequence, whether Death or Life, would be sure to be a Deliverance,’” meaning God would be looking over them, offering them salvation whether they lived or died (219).
The last and the best example of his devotion occurred when he reluctantly decided not to go back to Brazil because of Religion. Specifically, Brazil was a Catholic country so he had two choices: “to embrace the Roman Catholick Religion, without any Reserve . . . [or] to be a Sacrifice to my Principles, be a Martyr for Religion, and die in the Inquisition” (255). Although Crusoe chose neither, which could be interpreted as cowardice and disloyalty, we need to remember that he is only human who not only wanted to live happily in bodily form, but was also convinced that “Papist . . . might not be the best Religion to die with” (241, 30). That is, if Crusoe died Catholic, he might not be granted the ultimate deliverance to heaven that he had been waiting for since he re-found the Bible in his Castle decades earlier (83).