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The Role Of Religion In Victorian Britain

1528 words - 6 pages

What role did religion play in Victorian society?As established by Henry VIII in 1550 to distance himself from the Catholic Church and the Pope (and make it possible for him to divorce his first wife, Catherine of Aragon), the official religion of England at the beginning of the Victorian period, circa 1850, was that of the Anglican Church, known as the Church of England. Nonetheless, there were other religions that were quite important in the country, mainly Catholicism and Methodism, which was greatly known thanks to John Wesley and grew under Victorian times. There was also a movement of anti-Church, notably with the Age of Reason of Tom Paine, in 1794, and the apparition of spiritualism. The initiators of such movements where referred to as dissenters, and there were many dissented groups at the time.The Victorian period, up until the death of Queen Victoria in 1901, was therefore a time of religious confusion, but also, as we will see, of great charity, as well as of birth of new beliefs. What role did religion play in the lives of citizens of this period and their society?The Victorian era was marked by the immense influence of the Church of England in religion, of course, but also in politics- being linked to the government meant it had its hand in certain social decisions, such as the oppression of dissenters. This naturally caused friction amongst people of other faith, especially the Catholics who had previously been stripped of many of their civil rights, which were only returned to them in 1827 by Parliament. They had a long wait until 1840 to see the tax-supported status of the Anglican Church be removed, making them equal once again.Not only did the friction between Anglicans and Catholics grow before and while the era, but the tyranny of the Church of England also gave reason to former believer to dissent and form new groups such as Presbyterianism (who did not agree with the order of government within the church by bishops), Baptism (Baptists professed that baptism should only be practised on people old enough to understand religion and truly believe, not on infants) and Tractarianism, also known as the Oxford Movement, around 1830, which was a form of Anglicanism that fought for the reinstatement of old Christian traditions that had been dropped from the Anglican argued for the reinstatement of lost Christian traditions of faith and their inclusion into Anglican practises. However, in 1850, Pope Pius IX reinstated Roman Catholicism in England.The crisis in the Church of England did not, however, merely concern the dissenters, but also the Anglicans themselves. Indeed, the Religious Census of 1851 proved that the number of believers to attend church was very low - fifty per cent of the population did not attend a church service on the day the census was made. Not only that, fifty per cent of those who attended were Nonconformists, which hints once more at the trouble of the church at the time.Research found that church attendance...

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