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Art And Religion
by [?]

But any man chained to a hopeless task, whose daily work does not express himself, who is dogged by a boss, whenever he gets a moment of respite turns to drink or religion.

Men with an eye on Saturday night, who plot to supplant some one else, who can locate an employer any hour of the day, who use their wit to evade labor, who think only of their summer vacation when they will no longer be compelled to work, are apt to be sticklers for Sabbath-keeping and church-going.

Gentlemen in business who give eleven for a dozen, and count thirty-four inches a yard, who are quick to foreclose a mortgage, and who say “business is business,” generally are vestrymen, deacons and church trustees. Look about you! Predaceous real estate dealers who set nets for all the unwary, lawyers who lie in wait for their prey, merchant princes who grind their clerks under the wheel, and oil magnates whose history was never written, nor could be written, often make peace with God, and find a gratification for their sense of sublimity by building churches, founding colleges, giving libraries, and holding firmly to a formalized religion. Look about you!

To recapitulate: if your life-work is doubtful, questionable or distasteful, you will hold the balance true by going outside your vocation for the gratification that is your due, but which your daily work denies, and you find it in religion, I do not say this is always so, but it is very often. Great sinners are apt to be very religious; and conversely, the best men who have ever lived have been at war with established religions. And further, the best men are never found in churches.

Men deeply immersed in their work, whose lives are consecrated to doing things, who are simple, honest and sincere, desire no formal religion, need no priest nor pastor, and seek no gratification outside their daily lives. All they ask is to be let alone–they wish only the privilege to work.

When Samuel Johnson, on his death bed, made Joshua Reynolds promise he would do no more work on Sunday, he of course had no conception of the truth that Reynolds reached through work the same condition of mind that he, Johnson, had reached by going to church. Johnson despised work and Reynolds loved it; Johnson considered one day in the week holy; to Reynolds all days were sacred–sacred to work; that is, to the expression of his best. Why should you cease to express your holiest and highest on Sunday? Ah, I know why you don’t work on Sunday! It is because you think that work is degrading, and because your sale and barter is founded on fraud, and your goods are shoddy. Your week-day dealings lie like a pall upon your conscience, and you need a day in which to throw off the weariness of that slavery under which you live. You are not free yourself, and you insist that others shall not be free.

You have ceased to make work gladsome, and you toil and make others toil with you, and you all well nigh faint from weariness and disgust. You are slave and slave-owner, for to own slaves is to be one.

But the artist is free and he works in joy, and to him all things are good and all days are holy. The great inventors, thinkers, poets, musicians and artists have all been men of deep religious natures; but their religion has never been a formalized, restricted, ossified religion. They did not worship at set times and places. Their religion has been a natural and spontaneous blossoming of the intellect and emotions–they have worked in love, not only one day in the week, but all days, and to them the groves have always and ever been God’s first temples.

Let us work to make men free! Am I bad because I want to give you freedom, and have you work in gladness instead of fear?

Do not hesitate to work on Sunday, just as you would think good thoughts if the spirit prompts you. For work is, at the last, only the expression of your thought, and there can be no better religion than good work.