Blue Angel: A Novel by Francine Prose:
Swenson thinks of Jonathan Edwards looming over the dean’s head. Why does religion make people want to put scary images on the walls? So they’ll know what they’re doing in church, what they’re putting in time to avoid. Give him the old Quaker Meeting House, nothing on the walls, nothing terribly frightening unless you were Swenson’s father, who had the scary pictures inside of him, and was encouraged by his religion to spend an hour every Sunday touring his inner chamber of horrors. One morning after Meeting, when Swenson was twelve, his father took him out for breakfast at the Malden Diner and calmly explained that he’d come to believe that everything wrong with the world was his personal fault. As he said this, Swenson’s skinny father ate three consecutive full breakfasts. It wasn’t very long after that he set himself on fire on the State House steps.