Redefining Religion in The Color Purple

The Color Purple may not be one of my favourite books, particularly due to the fact that it is written in black english which is a little difficult to get used to, but one letter in this somewhat non-traditional epistolary novel will always stay with me. The one where Celie and Shug have a very enlightening discussion on religion. I’ll never forget it.

Religion has always been difficult for me to wrap my head around. You can see the problem in that very sentence. You see, as far as I can tell, religion is not something one has to wrap their head around but something one just believes in. It’s not that easy for me and I don’t think it ever will be. I find that faith is perhaps the most difficult thing to have, especially in almighty entities.

“I think it pisses God off if you walk by the color purple in a field somewhere and don’t notice it.”

In the letter that I’m basing this post on, Celie appears to have disowned God and refuses to believe he has ever done anything good for her, which Shug refutes with a list of little blessings that Celie has overlooked in her life. I know how Celie feels. When the worst has happened it is easy to turn back on religion and the idea that God is watching over you. Questions about why this has happened start to override any faith you once had and it all starts crumbling from there.

But who said that religion resides in a temple, church or mosque? This is exactly what Shug points out to Celie. She says she never found God in church and that any God she ever felt was brought with her, along with many other folks. So, in a way, God lies within us not outside of us. Finding God starts with exploring our self and who we are.

The idea that God is a man with a long overflowing beard( reminds me of Dumbledore) is also questioned. Perhaps it is an archetype planted in our minds as we are born, only to grow into a full-fledged concept cemented in our perception whenever we even read the word God.

In the end, Shug confidently delivers her theory on what God is. She believes that God is not a he or a she but rather an it. And it is always making little surprises and springing them on us when we least expect.

“I believe God is everything. Praise God by liking what you like.” said Shug Avery.

Enjoy the sun, the trees and the birds that annoyingly wake you up in  the morning. Enjoy your guilty pleasures because God created everything in this world for you to admire and appreciate.

As an agnostic, there is something comforting in that realization. This part of the novel reassured me of the fact that having unconventional ideas concerning religion is perfectly alright. In fact, it seems to make more of a case for being spiritual instead of religious. The difference becomes abundantly clear while reading this passage and it’s wonderful.