Ernest Hemingway

The Religion and Political Views of Ernest Hemingway



Hemingway was raised a Congregationalist, converted to Catholicism for his second wife, but seems to have been an atheist at heart.

Political Views

Hemingway's politics span the spectrum from libertarian to communist.


Ernest Hemingway was born and raised in Oak Park, Illinois, just outside of Chicago. He committed suicide in Sun Valley, Idaho with a shotgun in 1961.

Hemingway's upbringing was in a strict Congregationalist home[1] where he and his family regularly attended the First Congregationalist Church.[2]

Later in life, Hemingway converted to Catholicism for the sake of his second wife, Pauline.[3]

However, it is likely that this was purely pomp and circumstance and Hemingway was never religious. One Hemingway biographer, Paul Johnson, wrote:

[Hemingway] did not only not believe in God but regarded organized religion as a menace to human happiness… [he] seems to have been devoid of the religious spirit… [and] ceased to practice religion at the earliest possible moment.[4]

Though Hemingway never came out and expressed his personal religious views, the previous quote is supported by a line in perhaps his most famous book, A Moveable Feast, where Hemingway wrote:

All thinking men are atheists.[5]

And Ernest Hemingway was most certainly a "thinking man."

Interestingly, even though Hemingway was officially a Catholic when he died, he was disqualified for a Catholic funeral service as a result of his three divorces.[6] It seems that he probably wouldn't have minded.

Politics of inconsistency or complexity?

Hemingway's political views are complex and, at times, seem contradictory. He was an intelligent man and it is possible that his thinking merely evolved over time. Hemingway understood the dynamics of nationalized economics and prosperity, saying:

The first panacea for a mismanaged nation is inflation of the currency; the second is war. Both bring a temporary prosperity; both bring a permanent ruin. But both are the refuge of political and economic opportunists.[7]

Drawing conjectures from that quote, one might assume that Hemingway objected to any government interference within an economy–lassaiz faire capitalism, or something taken from the pages of Adam Smith's The Wealth of Nations. 

But in contrast, Hemingway often supported the epitome of a government/economic synthesis–communism. It was recently revealed that Hemingway was on the books as a KGB agent (the soviet equivalent of the CIA) who, according to KGB files "repeatedly expressed his desire and willingness to help us." Although, the files also state that Hemingway was "never verified in practical work."[8]

Apparently, communist spy didn't work out for Hemingway, but he was surely a leftist and kept company with socialists, anarchists, and was a big supporter of Franklin Delano Roosevelt's New Deal programs.[9]

If Hemingway were alive today, he would probably be considered a leftist radical. Cramming such a gifted and open mind into mainstream categorization is probably a waste of time–but doing it anyway, Hemingway would probably be considered a liberal Democrat.

What do you think of this?

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