Religious Differences in My Antonia
During the nineteenth century many Bohemian immigrants left their homelands in search of a sustainable life, and to be able to survive with their families. The Catholics and the Protestants/ Lutherans showed many differences between the two religions, and this caused many issues in many communities. At this time in the nineteenth century the Protestants/ Lutherans made up the majority of the citizens in the United States, which proved to cause religious differences with the Catholics because of their different ways of practicing their religion. Between the two religions many disagreements have come from certain topics in their religions. For the Catholics they believed suicide was sinful to god. They believe that your soul would suffer in purgatory, and to help that soul you must pray through icons. However for the Protestants/ Lutherans believed suicide was not as sinful as the Catholics. The Protestants/ Lutherans do not believe in Purgatory, and they believe you can pray directly to god. Throughout the novel My Antonia, by Willa Cather the Protestant/ Lutheran Burden family was not able to accept the Catholic Shimerda family’s beliefs in suicide, purgatory, and iconography.
The idea of committing suicide was a controversial topic because many of the citizens in their area were protestant, and few were Catholic such as the Shimerda family. Daniel Doyle, Jesse Rushing, and Rodney Stark in their article “Religion and Suicide”, write about the Catholic faith believes that taking your own life or committing suicide was considered to be a “mortal sin” (p. 121). The Catholics believed that if anyone was to consider taking their own life that individual would be deciding that life was meaningless, and not worth the effort to continue living. Many Catholics believed that individual would be “living in eternal damnation” to account for their sins (Doyle, Rushing, and Stark, p. 121). The Catholic Church thought suicide was horrible sin, and did not allow anyone that committed suicide to be buried near the church. The authors state, “burial in holy ground were withheld from suicides” (Doyle, Rushing, and Stark, p.121).
In the novel My Antonia the Catholic citizens all believe that when Mr. Shimerda choose to take his own life it a sin. Anton Jelinek admits his belief “that their father has done a great sin by committing suicide” (Cather, XV, p. 85). This shows how Jelinek implies that suicide in the Catholic religion is a serious sin against God. In My Antonia the Shirmerda family learned that they would not be able to bury Mr. Shirmerda in the Catholic grave. Cather writes, “We were sure that a man who killed himself could not be buried in a Catholic grave” (Cather, XV, p.88).
The Protestant/ Lutheran faith did not believe that suicide was as serious as the Catholic faith thought suicide was. In the article “Religion and Suicide” Daniel Doyle, Jesse Rushing, and Rodney Stark write that, “The Protestants/Lutherans also held suicide to be sinful” (Doyle, Rushing, and Stark, p.121). In the Protestant/ Lutheran religion they had a relaxed view on anyone committing suicide. Many Protestants/ Lutherans believed, “they lacked the concept of mortal sin” (Doyle, Rushing, and Stark, p.121). By lacking the concept that suicide was a mortal sin, the Protestants/ Lutherans tolerant view on suicide.
Many Protestants/ Lutherans with in the novel My Antonia such as the Burden family demonstrate their views on suicide. In chapter XV grandfather Burden tells Anton Jelinek “we believe that Mr. Shimerda’s soul will come to its Creator” (Cather, p.85). Grandfather Burden means that suicide is sad, but his soul will be at rest now with God. The Burden family is very accepting with religion because their family never demeans the Shimerda’s for their father’s suicide.
Many Catholics believe if someone committed suicide that person’s soul will suffer in purgatory. In the novel, A Reading of the...
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