Major Barbra: Undershaft's Religion

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Undershaft's Religion

"The greatest of our evils and the worst of our crimes is poverty", a concept echoed in the character of Undershaft, which reflects part of George Bernard Shaw's idea of life. At a younger age,Undershaft had to choose between wealth and poverty and so it was a choice, as Shaw calls it in the preface, between "energetic enterprise and cowardly infamy". This is how we are introduced to Undershaft's religion.

Undershaft corrects his daughter, Barbra, when she calls him a secularist and declares that he belongs to a mystic religion. Unlike, the very Christian Barbra, he worships money and gunpowder, because they are the means by which poverty is defeated. He believes that man should not be redeemed from moral sin but from poverty, for it is the greatest of all evils, "and that our first duty--a duty to which every other consideration should be sacrificed--is not to be poor." (G.B.S). When Undershaft made the choice of taking over the institution that promotes war and destruction, he believed that he had passed the final test of sincerity. Undershaft also criticizes the Salvation Army, which Barbra belongs to, by saying that it is an organization that has abandoned its duty. The way Undershaft sees it, the organization is only concerned about collecting money and sheltering the poor under the roof of material needs and not the roof of faith. Undershaft strictly believes in the sacredness of gunpowder (power) and money because he believes that they are the way to virtue. He sees that it is only through material security does one have the ability to maintain the Christian virtues.

Through his play Shaw argues that the church should eliminate poverty as if it were a crime and not praise it as a virtue. He presents the church as an institution financed by the rich who pay their conscience money to be "redeemed". As Undershaft explains it "(these) religious organizations exist by selling themselves to the...
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