Study Guide

The Vanity of Human Wishes Religion

By Samuel Johnson

Religion

Religion is another big theme in "The Vanity of Human Wishes," though the speaker only discusses religious faith explicitly in the final stanza of the poem. Christianity, according to the speaker, is our only hope. It's the only thing that can save us from the troubles of this world.

The poem's emphasis on Christianity is also an important way in which Johnson differs from his literary predecessor, Juvenal. In Juvenal's "Tenth Satire," there is no mention of Christianity. So by focusing on religion in "The Vanity of Human Wishes," Johnson is revising Juvenal's satire in an important way.

Questions About Religion

  1. Why, and how, can religious faith make us happy, according to the speaker of this poem?
  2. Why is resignation to the will of Heaven (and God) important?
  3. What are the "goods" that heaven can grant us?
  4. How can religious faith influence us to become wiser?

Chew on This

The speaker's argument is clear: if we pray to God sincerely, and maintain our religious faith, we will be granted what we wish for.

The speaker's vision of religion is so all-encompassing, it leaves no room for any worldly joy or pleasure back here on Earth.

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