George Bernard Shaw: Man of the Century

By Archibald Henderson | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 45
The Artist-Philosopher at Work
BERNARD SHAW WAS NOT A CHRISTIAN, SINCE IT IS NOT POSSIBLE UNDER CAPITALism to put Christianity into practice. Nor did he believe that Jesus was a supernatural person. Jesus was a Syrian prophet who preached a remarkable gospel which has never been politically practiced. The doctrine of the Atonement, which identifies Christianity with "Crosstianity," was abhorrent to Shaw; nor could he swallow the Oriental prophecies of the Second Coming with their fantastic imagery. Unable to accept the claim to Godhead so suddenly advanced by Jesus, he thought of him as an overwrought evangelist who "went mad as Swift and Ruskin and Nietzsche went mad." After a searching examination and comparison of the Gospels, Shaw drew up the following generalizations as to the teachings of Jesus:
1. 1. The kingdom of heaven is within you. You are the son of God; and God is the son of man. God is a spirit--to be worshipped in spirit and in truth, and not an elderly gentleman to be bribed and begged from. We are members one of another; so that you cannot injure or help your neighbor without injuring or helping yourself. God is your Father: you are here to do God's work; and you and your father are one.
2. 2. Get rid of property by throwing it into the common stock. Dissociate your work entirely from money payments. If you let a child starve you are letting God starve. Get rid of all anxiety about tomorrow's dinner and clothes, because you cannot serve two masters: God and Mammon.
3. 3. Get rid of judges and punishment and revenge. Love your neighbor as yourself, he being a part of yourself. And love your enemies: they are your neighbors.
4. 4. Get rid of your family entanglements. Every mother you meet is as much your mother as the woman who bore you. Every man you meet is as much your brother as the man she bore after you. Don't waste your time at family funerals grieving for your relations: attend to life, not to death: there are as good fish in the sea as ever came out of it, and better. In the kingdom of heaven, which, as aforesaid, is within you, there is no marriage nor giving in marriage, because you cannot devote your life to two divinities: God and the person you are married to.1
____________________
1
Preface on "The Prospects of Christianity," to Androcles and the Lion ( London, 1912), p. lix. Consult also G. Bernard Shaw, "Jesus," in Stories of Jesus the Christ ( Pearson's 25¢ Library, New York, 1919).

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