This article brings Cormac McCarthy's novels into discussion with Dewey's thinking, particularly with an eye to the distinction, made famous from A Common Faith, between religion and “the religious.” In this work Dewey argues for emancipating what is genuinely religious from all that is adventitious to it—above all, anything wedded to ideas of the supernatural—so that “the religious aspect of experience will be free to develop freely on its own account.” He concludes by highlighting the need to make explicit and militant “the common faith of mankind”—which lies in the recognition that “the things in civilization we most prize are not of ourselves” but “exist by grace of the doings and sufferings of the continuous human community in which we are a link.” While McCarthy's novels share Dewey's broadly anti-supernatural and anti-ecclesiastical commitments, there are some areas of divergence between the two that allow us to reflect critically on the distinction between religion and “the religious.” Most significantly, whereas Dewey aims to discern the intrinsic quality of the religious apart from what is adventitious to it, McCarthy focuses on the historical givenness of religious practices so as then to imagine their repurposing and radical transformation.

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