Wendell Berry on religion

I subscribe to someone who posts a daily Wendell Berry quote over Twitter (@dailywendell), though I wonder if he would’ve approved of it. Besides these quotes, and the many quotes from other authors (I even posted a poem of his in the early days of this blog), but I had never read anything he’s written in it’s entirety (though, um, I guess I read a poem). So when @dailywendell tweeted that Amazon was offering the Kindle version of The Art of the Commonplace for free, I jumped at the download. (Update: Sorry, it’s not free any more.)

And the essays don’t disappoint (though I’m only two in).

So here’s another quote, on religion, that was too long for Twitter, coming from Berry’s book. And yes, this was all part of one paragraph.

I am uneasy with the term [religious], for such religion as has been openly practiced in this part of the world has promoted and fed upon a destructive schism between body and soul, Heaven and earth. It has encouraged people to believe that the world is of no importance, and that their only obligation in it is to submit to certain churchly formulas in order to get to Heaven. And so the people who might have been expected to care most selflessly for the world have had their minds turned elsewhere — to a pursuit of “salvation” that was really only another form of gluttony and self-love, the desire to perpetuate their lives beyond the life of the world. The Heaven-bent have abused the earth thoughtlessly, by inattention, and their negligence has permitted and encouraged others to abuse it deliberately. Once the creator was removed from the creation, divinity became only a remote abstraction, a social weapon in the hands of the religious institutions. This split in public values produced or was accompanied by, as it was bound to be, an equally artificial and ugly division in people’s lives, so that a man, while pursuing Heaven with the sublime appetite he thought of as a soul, could turn his heart against his neighbors and his hands against the world.

View All

One Comment

  1. chris thrasher wheatley July 20, 2011 at 10:20 pm

    James! This book is awesome :) I’m about 2/3 of the way through it, and it’s rocking me. I’m surprised he is as underground as he is.


Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.