When Britain Still Believed in God

The Victorian era was an age of faith – which is why it was also a golden period of progress, argues Tim Stanley.

Most Britons presume that religious tolerance, even religious indifference, is in their DNA. It is commonly held that since the Reformation Britain has avoided Christian fanaticism – that the Anglican compromise between Catholicism and Protestantism kept the country out of European religious wars and protected private conscience. Over time the Anglican communion became a social club rather than a Christian church, while religion and politics divorced amicably. To contemporary Britons American evangelicalism looks eccentric and the rise of fundamentalist Islam in the UK seems strange and un-British. David Cameron wants to inoculate the country against radicalism with a shot of traditional British religious tolerance enforced by education and law. He calls this ‘muscular liberalism’.

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