Edmund Burke wrote, "There is nothing so fatal to religion as indifference." If religion were the driving force in pre- and early Victorian society, indifference and confusion would have been the contenders of its power. Religion, a societal stabilizer, political voice, and moral authority in the early 1800's, became by the 1890's a quiet whisper of spirituality. An influx of intellectual, scientific, and societal ideas as well as the changing face of politics and economics caused this change in the position of Chrisitanity. The Victorian people, bombarded by changes that challenged their preconceived religious beliefs, underwent a crisis of faith. Many became spiritually confused, and subsequently, religiously indifferent. It was not a loss of faith, but a period of controversy, uncertainty, and anxiety, which helped decrease church attendance in subsequent generations.
[...] The church, by linking itself to the upper class, managed to alienate a good portion of the working class early on, even before the Victorian era. When the Victorian era did arrive, industrial capitalism had progressed to the point where the distribution of wealth was increasingly noticeable. This escalating class conscience made people very aware of themselves and their communities. Church going, therefore, became even more of an abnormality for the working class man. Not only was there the old mindset that leagued the priests with the bourgeoisie, there was also the issue of money and respectability. [...]
[...] press became the organ which for the first time turned a mass of citizens into political animals” [Chadwick, 38]. As political creatures instead of spiritual ones, men began to define themselves by political views instead of religious ones. This secularization of the mind helped complicate the crisis, since men were turning to other sources than the pulpit to hear about morality and justice. Without the press, it is doubtful the Victorian crisis of faith would have been so severe or widespread. [...]
[...] After the Act of Toleration was passed in the 17th century, the working class left religious society in droves [Gilbert]; Protestant and Anglican sects were particularly vulnerable to drop off in attendance. Although the Methodists succeeded in converting several during the evangelistic revivals of the 1700's, this religious zeal had cooled by the Victorian period. Generally uneducated, science, liberalism, or historical criticism had little effect on the working class' religious feelings; if the working class church attendance decreased, the reason was social, not intellectual. [...]
[...] The philosophy with the farthest-reaching influence over religion was, however, liberalism, which helped make Britain an increasingly secularized country. Rooted in John Stuart Mill's tradition of individual freedom [Chadwick], liberalism eventually came to mean freedom of the government from religious control (among other things). Religion lost its position as the basis upon which civil government rests,” making politics, and the middle class (who were, thanks to newspapers, becoming increasingly political) more secular. Liberalism's secularization of society contributed to the crisis of faith by making men and women less reliant on the church. [...]
[...] Outside of popular culture, the indications that there was a crisis of faith are evident in church numbers and statistics over several generations. The modern Briton still believes in God, roughly 71% of British society does, yet only a fraction of these people go to church [Davies]. This downward trend was first noticed in the 1910's, as church attendance dropped from around 13-15% per capita to 11%[Brown, 43]. Owen Chadwick summarized this simply, by saying “Victorian father's went to church, the Edwardian son stayed at home” [Chadwick, 6]. [...]
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