On secularism

Marilynne Robinson considers religious difference, and religious language.



Marilynne Robinson considers religious difference, and religious language.


I get very, very positive reviews from people who say they are not religious and who publish in periodicals that are not notoriously oriented in that way [laughter]. I have only found generous responses. It’s a hard thing – in this country there’s a tendency, which I appreciate, to suppress the awareness of religious difference in a great many settings, for example, my great big university here. So as a kind of manners, in effect, you don’t hear much religious conversation in the ordinary course of things – then everybody goes to synagogue or mosque or wherever.

But that doesn’t … you know, the fact that this kind of speech is not conventional doesn’t mean that people are not religious themselves, don’t have religious thoughts, you know. I think that a lot of people are quite dependent on there being some kind of reasonable public conversation that allows of this kind of thinking. I think that the great power of someone like Martin Luther King is that he was able to speak in a religious language that people recognised and felt was compelling.

It’s … people, I think, participate in a kind of surface secularism, knowing that that’s what it is, but they see secularism around them and assume that it’s profound [laughter] in other people, you know. It’s not a simple thing.