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Religious ambivalence: Geology and the Victorian crisis of faith

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  1. Introduction.
  2. Religion and its revered position in early Victorian society.
    1. Britons of the 1820's and 30's.
    2. Memoriam's popularity and empathy with Tennyson's feelings.
  3. The people most severely affected by the Victorian crisis of faith.
  4. Christianity and left-wing philosophies.
    1. The spread liberalism.
    2. Secularization of politics.
    3. Church and the competition with modern trends.
  5. The working class' increasing ambivalence.
    1. Urbanization and the migration of the working class.
    2. The Victorian crisis of faith and a period of anxiety.

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. [...]


[...] The crisis of faith was facilitated by the press because it caused division in the one place society used to be strong: religious belief. The Victorian crisis of faith, and the crisis of organized religion, was caused by the anxiety, confusion, and aggrandizement of key intellectual issues like evolutionism and liberalism. Many of the original reasons for church attendance and adherence were becoming obsolete. With politics and economics stabilizing, there was less of a reason to support the ?strong, unifying foundation of Christianity.' Conflict over science and liberal philosophy left many people religiously ambivalent. [...]

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