“A Clean, Well-Lighted Place” by Ernest Hemingway is a powerful story that I have read recently. The story’s setting is two waiters and an old man, staying late in a “clean, well-lighted” café. One of the most impressive parts of the story is the modified Lord’s Player, presented by the old waiter, in which all the essential words are substituted with “nada,” meaning nothing. This is unpleasant to most people, in particular, the catholic.
This modified prayer indicates that religion is just nothing, and it does not offer people hope, comfort, or meaning in life. Moreover, it can with equal validity be seen instead as humanity’s never-ending yearning to find spiritual peace. Yet, I also think it reflects ideally how people are losing faith in religion – and I begin to see the dark side of humanity. The “nothing” probably refers to their beliefs – with no intrinsic values anymore. In the view of the old waiter, ironically, the “clean, well-lighted café” makes his life more meaningful, rather than having faith in religion.
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I think the old waiter is also complaining that people are using religion as a tool – people seem to use prayers to claim that they are believers, but they turn out to be fake after all. The dark side comes when people are instrumental about the region, i.e. asking God for peace without having absolute faith in God. This is a pity as I think religion should be like an unconditional willingness to follow God. I also have similar interpretations with the poem “Church Going” by Philip Larkin. The poem describes the speaker going to a church and looking at the things around. However, the tone is rather dismissive: “Another church”.
My thought is that the speaker is conveying “people go to the church for practical reasons (maybe with a bad intention, too).” The speaker questions the natural values of churches. The lines “And that much never can be obsolete” and “And gravitating with it to this ground” are very inspiring – reflecting the fact that people are pulled to religion for some reasons, such as visiting the church during a specific time of the year. So in a way, it is fair to say that not everyone with religion has genuine faith. They are just people wishing to be blessed without paying anything.