Modern vs. past, urban vs. rural, intellectual vs. spiritual, words vs. deeds, and above all, secular vs. religious. There came a point where I saw this struggle as an epic prizefight between Tarwater and Rayber, and wondered who would be left standing.
Years ago, I experienced the battle of belief vs. non-belief within myself, and belief lost. So, naturally, I was on Rayber's side. And not knowing anything about O'Connor or her work, I had assumed she was as well. Obviously, I was letting my own experience and way of seeing cloud my judgment.
Even though the ending left me feeling somewhat betrayed, still the work stands on its own as a great work of literature. I could go on and on about all of the symbolism, but won't. Suffice it to say that I find it a bit ironic that all of the acts of violence (arson, murder, rape) were vehicles on the side of religion, to carry it to victory. So I'm left feeling a bit justified that intellect took the higher ground; for whatever that is worth.