van Gogh's letters - unabridged and annotated
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 7 letters relate to attitude - clergy...Excerpt length: shorter longer  
Letter from Vincent van Gogh to Theo van Gogh
(23 November 1881)
... certainly would not use in a sermon. There really are no more unbelieving and hard-hearted and worldly people than clergymen and especially clergymen's wives (a rule with exceptions). But even clergymen sometimes have a human heart under three layers of steel armour. But I am in terrible suspense and am quite ready to go to Amsterdam, except that the journey is very expensive and I must not waste my powder; the trip to Amsterdam is my reserve if my letter has no effect. Do you know that Uncle Stricker is really a very clever man, in fact, an artist? His books are very good and give proof of deep feeling. This summer I read a little book he had just published on the “minor prophets” and a few of the other less known books in the Bible. So I certainly hope that after some time has passed, there will be more sympathy between us than there has been hitherto. The letter I received from him a few months ago was not unsympathetic or written in anger, but...
Letter from Vincent van Gogh to Theo van Gogh
(29 December 1881)
... this summer between Kee and me. I do not remember ever having been in such a rage in my life. I frankly said that I thought their whole system of religion horrible, and just because I had gone too deeply into those questions during a miserable period in my life, I did not want to think of them any more, and must keep clear of them as of something fatal. Was I too angry, too violent? Maybe - but even so, it is settled now, once and for all. I went back to Mauve and said, “Listen, Mauve, I cannot stay in Etten any longer, and I must go and live somewhere else, preferably here.” Well, Mauve said, “Then stay.” And so I have rented a studio here, that is, a room and an alcove which can be arranged for the purpose, cheap enough, on the outskirts of the town, in Schenkweg, ten minutes from Mauve. Father said if I wanted money, he would lend it to me if necessary, but this is impossible now, I must be quite independent of Father....
Letter from Theo van Gogh/Vincent van Gogh to Theo van Gogh
(5-8 January 1882)
... and Father took it amiss. In case Father refers to my saying that, ever since I have acquired so much dessous les cartes, I haven't given two pins for the morality and the religious system of the clergy and their academic ideas, then I absolutely refuse to take that back, for I truly mean it. It is just that when I am in a calm mood, I don't talk about it, although it is a different matter when they try to force me to go to church, for instance, or to attach importance to doing so, for then I naturally tell them that it is completely out of the question. (10) [sic] Does father's life count for nothing? I have already said that when I hear someone say, “You will be the death of me,” while in the meantime that man is reading his paper and half a minute later is talking about goodness knows what advertisement or other, I consider that phrase fairly irrelevant and superfluous and take no notice of it. As soon as that kind of phrase is repeated to...
Letter from Vincent van Gogh to Theo van Gogh
(1-2 June 1882)
... understanding of art, but that will never happen. Clergymen often introduce “things of beauty” into a sermon, but it's dismal stuff and dreadfully stodgy. Now I am glad that you have given me your frank opinion of Sien, namely that she tricked me and that I allowed myself be taken in, and I can understand why you should think that, because such things do happen. However, I remember once when a girl did try something like that, I shut the door in her face so hard that I rather doubt I am likely to be taken in by such sharp practices.
Letter from Vincent van Gogh to Theo van Gogh
(3 June 1883)
... pretentious and downright ungodly. In point of fact, clergymen are among the most unbelieving people in society and dry materialists. Perhaps not right in the pulpit, but in private matters. From a moral point of view one might be allowed to object to a marriage if real want of bread in its literal sense were to be expected; but as I see it, such an objection utterly loses its moral justification as soon as there is no question of actual want of bread. And it would be ridiculous to predict want of bread in your case. Suppose somebody like old Mr. Goupil should raise monetary objections - from his point of view as a rich merchant, one could not expect anything else.

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