Thomas Hardy's views on God and Religion
Thomas Hardy was born into a religious family and brought up with very Christian values and morals. As he matured and was exposed to the new ideas of the time, he became conflicted in his views about God and religion. He was criticized for writings that many of his peers considered to be obscene, immoral and blasphemous. Throughout his adult life, Hardy considered himself to be an agnostic. His poems show that he was much more complicated than that. His writings show a Christian who was tormented by the fact that he was no longer able to believe in the church doctrine. He had a conflicted soul that was searching for some meaning. This is evident in his poetry, especially Hap and Channel Firing. In these two poems, Hardy reacts to a world with a god that is either indifferent to human suffering or nonexistent and replaced by random chance.
In Hap, one of Hardy's first poems, the author longs for any kind of god. Even a "vengeful god" (1) who finds amusement in human suffering would be preferable to the randomness that the poet sees. If Hardy could "know that thy sorrow is (God's) ecstasy" (3) then at least he would see some purpose in his misery. If only the poets "love's loss was (God's) hate's profiting" (4) then Hardy would be "steeled by the sense of ire unmerited."(6) In other words, even if God was cruel and uncaring, Hardy would be at least "half-eased" (7). He would be comforted by God's anger or wrath even if it was undeserved.
However by the third stanza Hardy shows that there is no god. It is not a "powerfuller than I" (7) which controls life. It is random chance that there is suffering. It is "Crass Casualty obstruct(ing) the sun and rain," (11) It is "dicing Time" (12) for which he cries. Hardy wishes for a god who is mean spirited and vengeful. Then at least life would not be so random and man would have some kind of notion of what to expect. Instead the Fates are responsible for our sorrow, not because they take pleasure in doing so, but because they are "partly blind" and do so for no reason. In the last two lines Hardy writes that "These purblind Doomsters had as readily strown / Blisses about my pilgrimage as pain."(13-14) For Hardy, the sorrow and pain are that much worse because they could have just as easily been joy and bliss. Instead of finding some kind of purpose or reason, Hardy sees only a universe ruled by the laws of nature. It has been said that Hardy was influenced by Darwin and perhaps this poem records Hardy's troubled response to Evolutionary Theory. The scientific advances of the time were a direct contradiction to the Christian God with whom Hardy was raised. This was probably very frightening and confusing. In Hap Hardy longs for the time of his youth, a more innocent time with the universe controlled by a benevolent higher power.
In contrast, Channel Firing shows not blind fate but a cruel and uncaring god who is running...