Shepard only portrays religion in a negative light in the play, but the kind of religiosity the characters illustrate is more about hypocrisy and self-righteousness than genuine belief. This kind of shallow religion is then presented as an entirely inadequate coping strategy for dealing with the grief and shame that befalls the family. During the last day of his life, Dodge slowly begins to give up on suppressing the guilt he feels for his sinful past, but Halie, who will live on, clings tightly to the idea of religion, even if her behavior does not demonstrate its values. From the outset, Halie concerns herself with what is and isn’t “Christian” behavior (as a method of judging others), but at the same time she subtly references her own incestuous and adulterous behavior, and she obviously states her hatred of Catholics and the contempt she feels for her husband.
When we finally come face to face with Father Dewis, Halie’s religious mentor and the play’s embodiment of religion, we find an ineffectual and sinful man. He drinks and carries on an affair with Halie in front of her dying husband. After Dodge admits to the murder of the baby, Dewis joins Halie upstairs in her bedroom, but quickly returns downstairs and says that he “can’t help her.” In addition to demonstrating religion’s seductive power over the vulnerable, this moment encapsulates Shepard’s take on religion. When we pervert and manipulate the institution of religion for our own purposes, it may be useful for justifying our actions and soothing our consciences, but it is wholly inadequate to help in dealing with trauma.
Religion Quotes in Buried Child
“You should take a pill for that! I don’t see why you just don’t take a pill! Be done with it once and for all. Put a stop to it. It’s not Christian but it works. It’s not necessarily Christian, that is. We don’t know. There’s some things the ministers can’t even answer. I, personally, can’t see anything wrong with it. Pain is pain. Pure and simple. Suffering is a different matter. That’s entirely different. A pill seems as good an answer as any.”
He was blind with love. Blind. I knew. Everyone knew. The wedding was more like a funeral. You remember? All those Italians. All that horrible black, greasy hair. The rancid smell of cheap cologne. I think even the priest was wearing a pistol. When he gave her the ring I knew he was a dead man. I knew it. As soon as he gave her the ring. But then it was the honeymoon that killed him. The honeymoon. I knew he'd never come back from the honeymoon.
Well, prayerfully, God only hears what he wants to. That’s just between you and me of course. In our heart of hearts we know we’re every bit as wicked as the Catholics.
We can’t not believe in something. We can’t stop believing. We just end up dying if we stop. Just end up dead.
Good hard rain. Takes everything straight down deep to the roots. The rest takes care of itself. You can’t force a thing to grow. You can’t interfere with it. It’s all hidden. It’s all unseen. You just gotta wait til it pops up out of the ground. Tiny little shoot. Tiny little white shoot. All hairy and fragile. Strong though. Strong enough to break the earth even. It’s a miracle, Dodge. I’ve never seen a crop like this in my whole life. Maybe it’s the sun. Maybe that’s it. Maybe it’s the sun.