The importance of loss of faith in conventional religion as a feature of Peter Shaffer's major works

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Ahmad, Humaira
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University of the Free State
Man's need for worship has been an undeniable fact in the history of mankind; the subject of the awareness of and necessity for faith has always been of fundamental concern to man. Man always aspires to reach a knowable God because God's existence implies a universal order. For Shaffer, consciousness of God has always been a most primitive but most basic human need. Shaffer realises that human beings have an inherent need to create worship, as life is incomprehensible without God. Through the dominating theme of the quest for worship, Shaffer has ended up finding that conventional religion's restrictive nature obstructs and thwarts the full development of self. His continued insistence on themes and symbols related to spiritual awareness of human beings reflects his continued quest to understand the nature of God. This thesis provides a balanced discussion about loss of faith in conventional religion as a dominant theme in all of Shaffer's work. It is a revision of the commonly held critical view that his work is anti-religious. But we find that for Shaffer, belief, spiritual experience, and human need for worship are undeniable facts. Life without a sense of the divine is meaningless. Research shows that though Shaffer's work presents an unwavering retaliation against a web of hypocrisy in the name of institutionalised religion, his intent has never been to demean religion. Instead, his work endorses the idea that life may be possible without an institutionalised form of religion, but it is not possible without belief in something - that it is important for human beings to have some kind of faith in a deity and some sort of worship to give them a sense of meaning in their lives. The need to hold onto faith, even when conventional faith has failed us, is seen as the most persistent struggle for human being. We see him openly criticising the institutionalised power of the perpetual and demeaning oligarchy of religious institutions which takes away passion from the lives of the individuals. A thorough study of his work shows that society determines every thing by the generic value term normal. Another key word for every concept or institution was and still is "approved'. By "approved', he means the overlay of artificialities imposed upon human nature in the name of civilization by human beings themselves. Shaffer believes that a mind or a reason that is aware of its own brokenness might prove a better guide than one committed to normal and approved healthy-mindedness. What we find in Shaffer is this determination: his search for the truth beyond these terms about belief and the kind of faith such truth brings. Drama, for Shaffer is a kind of religious expression of the human state, as he believes that religion is what makes us into who we are. Whether he looks into the ability to believe, granting of godly gifts, ability to experience passion, Shaffer is talking about one thing, namely that life is not possible without belief in something or someone.
Drama, Shaffer, Peter, Religion, Faith, Belief, Institution, Approved, Normal, Conventional religion, Worship, need for, Passion, Identity, Incompleteness, human, Wholeness, quest for, Thesis (D.Phil. (English and Classical Languages))--University of the Free State, 2005