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Themes

For Eliot, one of the single greatest causes of Western civilization becoming "The Waste Land" is the fact that religion doesn't really have the influence it once did. In the old days, people didn't have to worry so much about questions like "Why am I here?" or "What's the meaning of life," because religion already had answers for these questions. In the modern world though, Eliot has seen a decline in the power of religion, and one of the side effects of this decline is that more and more people are feeling like they're in a funk or suffering from a full-blown spiritual crisis.

Questions About Religion

  1. Do you think "The Waste Land" supports one major religion more than any other, or is it basically supporting religion in general (i.e., "take your pick, as long as you're a believer")?
  2. Do you agree that religion provides a sort of mental and emotional structure that makes it easier to live daily life? Why or why not?
  3. Do you buy the idea that religion helps us communicate because it gives us a common point of reference when we're making sense of experience? It this true of other stories, too, like when you and a friend both refer to the same TV show or movie to explain a situation? Is communication enhanced this way?
  4. Should people be able to pick and choose little bits from different religions and throw them together, or would Eliot have been convincing if he'd just picked one religion and stuck with it?

Chew on This

Try on an opinion or two, start a debate, or play the devil’s advocate.

"The Waste Land" suggests that most of the world's problems would go away if we all found religion.

Deep down, Eliot doesn't really believe in any God or higher power; he just likes the comfort that he gets from religious stories.

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