Religion reached new levels during the Victorian era. Having gone from the earlier Puritan days of Oliver Cromwell, some Victorians were now dabbling into a more secular lifestyle while appearing to remain strictly religious to other people. There were even some novels written with sexually-influenced undertones. Protestantism had expanded to now include several denominations, and some people remained true to the Catholic church. This era has been criticized by some scholars and historians due to the attempted concealing by some Victorian people of the social and religious changes.
The idea of people as individuals was strongly developing. While women still did not have the right to vote, females were gradually attaining individualism as well as their male counterparts. Naturalists, whom we refer to today as anthropologists, were stirring society after Charles Darwin’s release of his famed book On The Origin of Species (1859). I have an original copy of this book that I found in an old book store a few years ago.
Many Victorians remained superstitious and still believed that a life lived in sin would terminate in eternal damnation. Although many were becoming less superstitious, it was often difficult to draw the line between superstition and religion. Many describe the people of this era as having been prudish and stodgy. Death was a subject of much concern, in regards to one’s eternal destination. There were extremes in society ranging from the ultra-religious Puritan-like person to the new-age more secular person.
During both Industrial Revolutions, the new inventions and discoveries encouraged that idea of individualism. More people were working in factories and the assembly line concept was now in production. Sadly, children were often hired or forced into jobs of labor, such as chimney sweeping and factory work. With no child labor laws, employers could easily misuse children and women. Men were also sometimes mistreated, and many people worked long hard hours for small wages. Of course, there were no minimum wage or employees rights laws. The age-old profession of prostitution was still in society as well.
Victorian religion is not easily defined or explained. By reading the memoirs and journals of those who lived during those times we can look into what life was like during the Victorian eras in England and America. Often religion and superstition overlapped, and the political/socioeconomic statuses of both countries were major factors. Much like today, these factors were of great influence and combine to help us in gaining a better understanding of the times.
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