Religiously Selfish

Many people rely heavily upon religion daily. They use it as a source of reasoning, as an explanation for hardships or struggles they may be facing. However, many people only seem to rely upon religion when they feel they need outside support. Hemingway addresses the idea of religion many times in his novel “A Farewell to Arms.” However, Hemingway’s examples contrast with each other, demonstrating his belief that the majority of people seem to use religion only when timely for them.

Religion can be used to explain events that one cannot find a way to rationalize or understand. Often, when one feels that he or she is being faced with great burdens, and cannot seem to find a way to understand why those burdens are being placed upon themselves’, one may turn to religion. When Fred’s companion Passini loses his legs to a trench-mortar, Hemingway describes his reaction: “He big his arm and moaned, Oh mama mia, mama Mia,’ then, Dio te salve, Maria. Dio te salve, Maria. Oh Jesus shoot me Christ shoot me'” (55). Though Passini may be moaning these things subconsciously, he has turned to higher-powers for help when he is in great pain. It is much easier to explain unfair treatment by saying it is God’s intentions, or the intentions of some other higher-being, than to decide that one is merely unlucky or has done something to bring those burdens into place.

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When people do not feel they need the support of religion, and of a higher-power, they often dismiss it as nonsense and as foolish. They do not feel the need to devote themselves to something that they realize may be fictional. Hemingway demonstrates this through the actions of the soldiers when Frederick is dining with them: “The Pope wants the Austrians to win the war,’ the major said. He loves Franz Joseph. That’s where the money comes from. I am an atheist All thinking men are atheists,'” (7 and 8). The major is poking fun at the priest, insulting both the priest and the pope and saying that there is no God. Later on in the story, Rinaldi has his own go at the priest, saying “To hell with you, priest… To hell with you To hell with the whole damn business,'” (173). Rinaldi claims he is joking with the priest, and it appears as though he is at first. However, his ranting becomes serious and malicious. Both the major and Rinaldi find it easy to insult the priest and religion when they do not feel they need it, and are sitting, protected, in a house a distance behind the front line. At this point in time, it is not convenient for them to devote their time to a fictional’ religion, when they could be devoting their time to physical pleasures. However, if on the front lines or faced with pain or death, the major and Rinaldi may take different stances, asking God to spare them.

Hemingway does not seem to have any disdain towards those who use religion to their convenience. He is, though, pointing out the hypocrisy of the behavior of people who ignore religion when they do not need its support. Hemingway shows that it is selfish and immoral to look to higher-power(s) only when convenient to oneself, as demonstrated through the words of Passini, Rinaldi, and the major. I believe that Hemingway is implying that a person who wishes to develop a religious faith should use their faith not only to their advantage, but to the advantage of others as well; religious persons should pray for the support of others who are facing hardship, as well, not only for themselves.