Column: A clash of perspectives
Harold Fredrick in “The Damnation of Theron Ware” addresses a prominent 19th century issue still prevalent today. This would be the transformation of an individual who has been isolated within an ideology once met by new perspectives.
Theron Ware is a Methodist pastor. Theron had only been educated by the church and his social groups have been restricted.
Once he and his wife were assigned a new church to pastor, the deacons of the new church discouraged Theron from using “dictionary words” so that the congregation would not convert to any other religions.
Theron then meets an Irish Catholic priest, a scientist, and a woman ascribed to Greek philosophy. After conversing with the three, Theron is deeply affected and questions his beliefs because he had never heard of the theories they presented.
Fredrick highlights an extremely common experience in his work for those raised in an isolated religious environment, regardless of which religion. This motif is present in literature and philosophies such as Transcendentalism, which is centered around the ideology of breaking away from adherence to strict religious traditions.
The religious experience is defined as “specific experience such as wonder at the infinity of the cosmos, the sense of awe and mystery in the presence of the sacred or holy, feeling of dependence on a divine power or an unseen order, the sense of guilt and anxiety accompanying belief in a divine judgment, or the feeling of peace that follows faith in divine forgiveness. Some thinkers also point to a religious aspect to the purpose of life and the destiny of the individual.”
I personally have encountered many individuals who have difficulty comprehending opposing theories to their religion, because they have no sense of identity outside of their doctrinal belief system.
This causes deep internal conflict when that individual is exposed to multiple philosophies or a liberal arts education. The internal battle Theron experienced brought light to the value of free thinking and the value of a liberal education.
If an individual is never presented with more than one belief system, they are often unaware of their ability to choose.
When the opportunity to decide is presented, if it is presented, it often brings about severe anxiety and identity crises. Religion in itself is not harmful, and many find peace within their beliefs.
Isolation however, is harmful no matter the ideology. For this reason, I advocate the exposure to new ideas involved in a liberal arts education.