Study Guide

Hiroshima Religion

By John Hersey

Religion

Since Hiroshima is a piece of journalism, it totally shies away from making any grand or generalized statements about religion and its meaning/purpose in light of events like an atomic bombing.

But… Hersey does draw attention to the role religion/religious figures played in the six subjects' response to the crisis—and after all, it's hard not to notice that three of the six subjects ended up being members of the clergy. The bombing definitely seemed to bring the subjects of religion/God to the forefront of people's minds, and for some—for example, Miss Sasaki—it helped sort out the meaning of life.

Questions About Religion

  1. There are a lot of religious people in the book-in fact, three of the six end up in the clergy. Why is there such an emphasis on religion/religious figures in an overall journalistic account? What effect does their presence have on your understanding of events/ people?
  2. Hersey notes that Miss Sasaki was originally skeptical about the existence of a God that could let things like the Hiroshima bombing happen. Does the book exhibit the same kind of skepticism at all, or have any kind of "slant" regarding the validity/utility of religion?
  3. Is there a downside to religious sentiment for these subjects?
  4. Is religion a force for good for the subjects? Or is it neutral? How do we know?

Chew on This

Religion is portrayed as very powerful, contributing meaningfully to Miss Sasaki's recovery and ultimate success.

Religion is portrayed as ineffectual and easily perverted—for example, according to Hersey, Mr. Tanimoto's efforts to raise money for his church/peace turned into a money grab for the pet causes of his American partners.

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