Murdoch's artistic and natural beauty critique, called The Sovereignty of Good and Other
Concepts, quotes Plato’s belief that "beauty is the only spiritual thing we love by instinct."
Therefore, beauty is the only spiritual connection Atheist Philip Larkin seeks in a church.
Larkin's poem Church Going, begins as a confessional since he mentions how he often stops at
random churches, perhaps because he is searching for a place of worship that is beautiful, both
naturally and artistically. In other words, in the nature of the church he is looking for a warm
group of people, rather than an uptight group. As for artistic beauty, Larkin is searching for
truthful religious scriptures and an aesthetically pleasing environment, not in the sense of
luxurious windows and golden decorations, but rather an inviting sense. Larkin begins Church
Going by confessing his unfamiliarity with church and religious practices, and then creates a
scenario of a faithless world where churches are no longer used, which is possible taking into
consideration the political issues that occurred around this poem’s publication (1955). Larkin
creates a scenario of a religion-free world as a way to sub-consciously rationalize his worries and
uncertainty about his own afterlife, and also to create "good art" while sitting in this church full
of "bad art.”
Larkin’s search for spirituality begins to deteriorate when he realizes that there is no
natural beauty in this particular church. His discomfort is evident in the first stanza of the poem
as he describes the church’s nature as being uptight with "a tense, musty, unignorable silence,"
and typical, with th...
... middle of paper ...
...and solely focuses on beauty for a connection. Finally, Larkin’s
epiphany lies in his ability to produce a beautiful scripture while pondering in this imprudent
church. His ability to tell the "ugly truth" and give his honest, yet controversial opinions on
religion, makes Larkin a good artist according to Murdoch's The Sovereignty of Good and Other
Larkin, Philip. "Church Going." The Norton Introduction to Poetry. Ed. Paul Hunter, Alison
Booth, and Kelly J. Mays. New York: W.W. Norton and Company,2007.
Murdoch, Iris. "from The Sovereignty of Good and Other Concepts." Online Posting. 1 Mar.
2010. 21 April 2010.
Walker, Jim. "Hitler's Religious Beliefs and Fanaticism." Professional Website. 7 July 2001.
20 April 2010. < http://www.nobeliefs.com/Hitler1.htm>.
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