Religion is something that is mentioned to a great extent in the novel Moby Dick by Herman Melville. Father Mapple delivers the story of Jonah and the Whale, in which he speaks about a man named Jonah who tries very hard to get away from God which has a horrible aftereffect. Every time he tries to further himself from God, the consequences worsen. Once Jonah finally decides to accept what he did wrong, God forgives him and gets him out of harm’s way unscathed. What does the story of Jonah have to do with Ishmael’s telling of the Story?
The answer to that is religion is something that is very important to Ishmael, So before he went on his voyage he stopped by a “Whale man’s Chapel “and heard Father Mapple’s preaching. When Ishmael eventually told of his own story it was very similar to the one in Jonah’s story. The book did not just speak about Christianity though; it spoke about many different religions and even had Ishmael accept people of different religions and beliefs than his own. “I was a good Christian; born and bred in the bosom of the infallible Presbyterian Church. How then could I unite with this wild idolater in worshipping his piece of wood?
But what is worship? thought I. Do you suppose now, Ishmael, that the magnanimous God of heaven and earth – pagans and all included – can possibly be jealous of an insignificant bit of black wood? Impossible! But what is worship? – To do the will of God – that is worship. And what is the will of God? – To do to my fellow man what I would have my fellow man to do to me – that is the will of God. Now, Queequeg is my fellow man. And what do I wish that this Queequeg would do to me? Why, unite with me in my particular Presbyterian form of worship. Consequently, I must then unite with him in his; ergo, I must turn idolater.
So I kindled the shavings; helped prop up the innocent little idol; offered him burnt biscuit with Queequeg; salamed before him twice or thrice; kissed his nose; and that done, we undressed and went to bed, at peace with our own consciences and the entire world. ” This quote shows how Ishmael saw himself as someone who was a very religious man who was always an exceptional Christian. Since Ishmael was a good Christian it confused him on why he was united with a man who worshipped something that seemed so moronic to him. That forced him to raise a question on why God someone so powerful and noble would be jealous of a piece of wood.
Ishmael then proposes the idea that God would want him to worship the same God as the other man because God’s will is to do to your fellow man what you would want them to do to you so since Ishmael would want Queequeg to give his religion a chance he decides to give Queequeg’s religion a chance and decides to kindle the shavings of the idol and take care of it. This quote shows hypocrisy. The comes from how Ishmael follows a religion in which he is not supposed to worship any other Gods or idols but he still tries to find a loophole because of his friendship with Queequeg.
Religion played a main part in the friendship of Queequeg and Ishmael. I cherish the greatest respect towards everybody’s religious obligations, never mind how comical, and could not find it in my heart to undervalue even a congregation of ants worshipping a toad-stool; or those other creatures in certain parts of our earth, who with a degree of footmanism quite unprecedented in other planets, bow down before the torso of a deceased landed proprietor merely on account of the inordinate possessions yet owned and rented in his name. This shows how Ishmael feels about the different religions that are not of his own.
He sees the other religions as a joke and his own as the only real religion, and the people who believe them as ants who follow the religion. The ants and toadstool may allude to how ants follow each other when one finds food but instead of food they were following each other to get to a toadstool which is a “spore-bearing fruiting body of a fungus, typically in the form of a rounded cap on a stalk, especially one that is believed to be inedible or poisonous” this shows that the ants following a poisonous fruit is like the people following a God that is bogus and that the idea of another God is a poison to their minds.
Even though Ishmael has all these opinions on these religions he still has the utmost respect for other people’s religious obligations. This shows that even though you might have a different religion from someone else you could still be friends with that person and respect what they have to do due to their beliefs. That mindset is one reason why even though Queequeg’s religion might seem pointless and fake to Ishmael he is able to respect it and be friends with Queequeg.
I say, we good Presbyterian Christians should be charitable in these things, and not fancy ourselves so vastly superior to other mortals, pagans and what not, because of their half-crazy conceits on these subjects. There was Queequeg, now, certainly entertaining the most absurd notions about Yojo and his Ramadan; – but what of that? Queequeg thought he knew what he was about, I suppose; he seemed to be content; and there let him rest. All our arguing with him would not avail; let him be, I say: and Heaven have mercy on us all – Presbyterians and Pagans alike – for we are all somehow dreadfully cracked about the head, and sadly need mending.
This quote further show why trying to change someone’s religion is not such a good idea. He knows that Queequeg’s religion was crazy to him and made very little to no sense but he knew that Queequeg was happy with himself and that it would be be pointless to try to change Queequegs judgments. He just hoped that God will be willing to show compassion towards everyone on earth because all men and women on earth alike are messed up and need help.
Ahab seized a loaded musket from the rack (forming part of most South-Sea-men’s cabin furniture), and pointing it towards Starbuck, exclaimed: “There is one God that is Lord over the earth, and one Captain that is lord over the Pequod. – On deck! ” Although throughout the story religion does not show lots of bad sides it starts to show it more and more later on. This is one example of when religion can get bad. This is a prime example of someone disobeying god and is just like when Jonah disobeyed god in the beginning of the novel.