Irregular Religions Essay

Irregular Religions Essay

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Perhaps the strongest basis for one critic’s belief that Major Barbara had “an utter want of the religious sense” comes from the morality and adopted religion of Andrew Undershaft. An armorer, Undershaft founded his creed on the belief that “honor, justice, truth, [and] mercy” are “graces and luxuries of a rich, strong, and safe life” (93). To Undershaft, social problems such as sloth and drunkenness can be traced back to poverty, for a man’s “first duty, to which every other consideration should sacrificed, is not to be poor” (15). Shaw makes this point clearly in the play’s preface, and argues his own cynical views through the mouth of Undershaft. Shaw explains through Undershaft that poverty is “the worst of all crimes” (142). The impoverished “poison [the country] morally and physically” – “they force [those not poor] to do away with [their] own liberties and to organize unnatural cruelties for fear that [the poor] should rise against [the wealthy] and drag [the wealthy] down into their abyss” (142). Life has proven to Undershaft that money is a God on Earth; money allowed him to raise his family comfortably despite the less-than-reputable source from which he obtained it (namely, war). Because his faith of money and gunpowder is unconventional in its generally strict focus on the economic aspects of life, the faith leaves little room for the traditional spiritualism and morality of religion. Undershaft admits that he would not have the income of a poor man for all his conscience (88). In Undershaft’s religion, typical morality – that is, earning money in a respectable way, believing death and destruction are abominations, and seeing God as that which rules the world – has no place. Undershaft takes advantage of “the ...


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...ara has learned from the Army, a starving man will say anything to get the bread, furthering Crosstianity rather than absolving his soul (142). While Shaw respects the Salvation Army’s intentions in trying to rid the country of poverty, he believes only a revolution can destroy it completely and that the Army’s attempt to save people individually is ultimately futile. The Army is not saving their souls; rather, it forces them to sin by lying to gain food. Barbara comes to this understanding at the end of the play, and by it she is converted again to the saving of souls, this time “through the raising of hell to heaven and of man to God” – essentially, by bringing goodness and spirituality into her father’s factory of death (152). Through her strength and spirituality Barbara finds hope and reaffirms the true, if unconventional, Christianity she practices.


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