Sunday, April 8, 2012

Religion and We

In Zamyatin's We, the reader is constantly bombarded with references to the old world and the future. Both times, though very different, seem to have a need for religion in common. Giving people a way to ground moral values and give reason to life, religion has been an important part of people's lives throughout history. However, religion in We seems both to criticize organized religious practices and realize their necessity.

We uses the One State as organized religion for all people. This way, people have a common goal and background to increase uniformity among beings. The Benefactor serves as a god-like being, all-knowing and all-powerful. The benefactor is referred to as He, a term usually used for only God. D-503 even says that the Benefactor's face was "somewhere in the clouds, up above" (186). Many of the ceremonies take on a religious feeling. I made a connection to the story of Adam and Eve through parts of the novel. Love, or D-503's feelings toward I-330, can be seen as Adam tasting the forbidden fruit in the Garden of Eden. Also, the fact that the surgery of taking rid of the imagination is done, shows a criticism of religion. I think Zamyatin is arguing that religion takes away much individuality because it makes people constantly conform to certain beliefs.

What role do you believe religion plays in the novel? Does Zamyatin portray religion in only a bad light?


  1. While I can see your point about removing individuality, I think there's actually support for the momentous, "religious" of life that appear absent in We. In particular, on pg. 44, he writes, "Yes, there was something of the ancient religions, something as purifying as thunderstorms and gales... are you familier with moments like these? If not, I am sorry for you."

    While the organized aspect of religion appears to be criticized, the emotional states that can come from it appear somewhat glorified to me. Yes? what do you think?

    Also, I'm curious why you think the ridding of imagination is a critique of religion. Blind devotion, yes, but religion?

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  2. I agree with Gabe in that I feel Zamyatin was more critiquing the imposition of structure onto individuals than critiquing religion itself. Though early in the novel D-503 consistently praises the One State's reinvented forms of poetry, art, and ideology and demeans those of the Ancients--that is, Us-- D-503 has not at this point undergone his spiritual and emotional awakening that is the focus of We. As such, it seems to me that his early critiques of Ancient religion are less his own/Zamyatins than they are those of the One State. Though I think Zamyatin is critical of totalizing ideologies of all stripes, I don't think he necessarily believes Christianity has to be one such faith.

  3. I had thought also that there was much criticism of organized religion in We. Trying to picture the world in We now, all I can imagine is a collective hum of a place, not any individuals. D-503's dissolving words and need for an imagination made me disagree with the One State but similar to what Lara wrote, much of the book also put the idea of collective equality into a new light.

  4. I agree with Gabe's point about separating the organized part from the emotional. The organized aspect is definitely criticized (what with all the uniformity and such), but the emotional state of religion is so repressed in We that I can't help but feel like Zamyatin was making some statement in support of spirituality (at the very least) in some way shape of form, however a person would want it in their lives. While we can look at vices (as someone else posted about) as signs of individuality and freedom, I think we can look at spirituality through the same lens.

  5. I agree that some of the emotional states were glorified in this novel. Interesting points, I had forgotten that quote. I think that perhaps not all religion is blind devotion, but Zamyatin may be asking for a reform of the religion in the 19th century, which was based more on blind devotion to the church than to each person having an individual faith. I think Zamyatin may believe that faith and religion should be more personal and less controlled by others.