For my Oxford course, one of our option activities was to look at the different ways religion is mentioned in the novel. My response is below, and I’ll post more as I can!
I would have to return to the Sotherton Chapel, and Mary Crawford’s speech against organized religion:
“At any rate is safer to leave people to their own devices on such subjects. Every body likes to go their own way – to chuse their own time and manner of devotion. The obligation of attendance, the formality, the restraint, the length of time – altogether it is a formidable thing and what nobody likes…” (81-82)
Naturally, given the fact that Mary Crawford, in all her forwardness, is the one to speak against religion is, in my estimation, more a criticism of her character than the religion of the time. However, her point of view does give some insight into how more, well, shall we say, liberal members of society viewed their religious obligations.
Edmund, of course, has a response for her: “Do you think the minds which are suffered, which are indulged in wanderings in a chapel, would be more collected in a closet?” (82)
Edmund’s controlled, careful response, which even for his mild temperament “required a little recollection” makes a well-argued case against people choosing their own forms of devotion and for people engaging in religious experiences within the community of the church.