Ominide 1864 punti

During the mid-Victorian age, Britain’s transformations in terms of family, work and religion are worth mentioning due to their peculiarity. Religion, in particular, is a topic which not only relates to the cultural background of the time, but also to the social reality and mentality of British people. The term of Christianity was in fact identified with society itself: being a Christian, which is somewhere bearing the same meaning nowadays, meant to be a respectable and regular member of society, because civic and moral values were identified with Christian values. This view of life and Christianity caused by the secular legacy of this religion was related to two different aspects; the first one was the social aspect: religious faith was considered the means of balancing and harmonizing society, because having faith was a way to gain salvation. The English philosopher Hippolyte Adolphe Taine referred to Church as “an institution of moral hygiene”, pointing out how the respect towards Christianity had become an absolute duty. At this point it’s not difficult to understand why the typical Christian values were applied not only to every kind of public institutions, but also to public life, business, education, common ethics and personal fate. Religion was a way of life, a way of being and an accurate “Weltanschauung” (a German philosophical concept which expresses a certain “vision of the world”). Christian religion was so deeply perceived, that the enormous discrepancies between the Anglican Church and the Dissenters, nonconformists who went against the interference of political power into spirituality, merely disappeared, leading the two faiths into a sort of “conformism”, due to a religious fondness which was shared by the whole population. The second aspect of this religious feeling was individual: the inner Christianity of society was best represented by Evangelicalism. Born in XVIII century , Evangelicalism had its religious peak during the period between 1780 and 1830, but it later spread its influence to the whole country, until it became an important element of the common mentality. This doctrine placed the Soul between Nature, which was connected with eternal damnation, and divine Grace, which represented the joy of Heaven. God’s infinite mercy was considered a source of forgiveness and consolation. Because of this last statement and because of the fact that anybody could reach Salvation (unlike the Baptist – Calvinist belief in a limited group of God’s elects) the members of Victorian society willingly accepted Evangelicalism, as a form of protection and consolation from the sufferings of a hard social, economic and cultural life. What was negative about Evangelicalism was the fact that it flowed into a strict puritanism, based on the obsessive guilt and fear of God which spread among the people. Starting from the stoic principles of willpower and self-discipline, puritanism preached the absolute repulsion of pleasure, in order to establish a moral code and an extreme strictness. This kind of Victorian Christianity came to the point where a series of dogmatic prescriptions which had to be followed without any doubt were issued, such as the so called “Bibliolatry”, which is the devoted reading of the Bible, the “family prayer”, and the observation of the “Sabbath” (The day of God), which implied the shutting of entertainment sites, except for pubs, which remained open because of the workers’ riots, and the opening of the Sunday Schools . The concept of duty as a “response to the call of conscience”, was later extended beyond the religious area, joining the whole population in an equal ideal of freedom and moral responsibility. In this way, also sexuality was involved in this way of thinking, not only leading chastity to be considered as the essential virtue, but also to an excessive prudery and, most important of all, to a violent condemnation of the so called “low passions”, especially towards women.

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