"...the young man who rings the bell at the brothel is unconsciously looking for God.”
'[This quote] comes from a small and positively delightful 1945 novel, The World, the Flesh and Father Smith written by a lesser-known, mid-twentieth century Scottish writer, Bruce Marshall. His style reminds one of Flannery O'Connor in her hilariously biting sarcasm, coloring for her reader serious spiritual truths in the lives of her larger-than-life idiotic characters.
'Our quote appears in a conversation between the book's protagonist, the dutiful Father Smith, while walking home one day, encounters a beautiful, seductive young woman standing on her front stoop. Miss Dana Agdala is provocatively accented by her “frock blowing all around her lovely legs.” She introduces herself to Father Smith as the author of the scintillating and best-selling Naked and Unashamed, “but perhaps you haven't read me.”
'She asks the priest, “Tell me, do you get much response to the old, old story these days?” She, a modernist had long rejected “[a]ll that poppycock about baptism, and purity and the Virgin Birth…” because, of course, “it's against all modern science and obstetrics.”
'She explains to our cleric that she'd, “been dying for years to meet a Catholic priest, but somehow there never seems to be any at any of the parties I go to.” She had “oodles and oodles to ask you about that I don't know if I'll ever have time.”
'He invited her to walk along to his next appointment and ask away. Among many questions, built upon her judgment of the silliness of his faith, she asked about his own sexuality and how he manages to, as she put it, “live without us?”
'Easily and confidently, Fr. Smith answers that, in his view, “women's bodies are rarely perfect; they soon grow old and sag, and always the contemplation of them even at their best is a poor and boring substitute for walking with God in His House as a friend . . .”
'Miss Agdala judges that Fr. Smith's answer proves what she had always maintained about Christians, “that religion is only a substitute for sex.”
'Fr. Smith counters roundly, “I still prefer to believe that sex is a substitute for religion and that the young man who rings the bell at the brothel is unconsciously looking for God.”'