During and after the Second World War, there was a concerted thinking about religion in Britain. Not only were leading international thinkers of the day theologiansRonald Niebuhr, Paul Tillich, Jacques Maritainbut leading writers contributed to discussions about religion. Graham Greene, Muriel Spark, and Barbara Pym incorporated miracles, evil, and church-going into their novels, while Louis MacNeice, T. S. Eliot, and C. S. Lewis gave radio broadcasts about the role of Christianity in contemporary society. Certainly the war revived interest in aspects of Christian life. Salvation and redemption were on many people's minds. The Ministry of Information used images of bombed churches to stoke patriotic fervour, and King George VI led a series of Days of National Prayer that coincided with crucial events in the Allied campaign.
After the war and throughout the 1950s, approximately 1.4 million Britons converted to Roman Catholicism as a way of expressing their spiritual ambitions and solidarity with humanity on a world-wide scale. Religion provided one way for writers to answer the question, 'what is man?' It also afforded ways to think about social obligation and ethical engagement. Moreover, the mid-century turn to religion offered ways to articulate statehood, not from the perspective of nationhood and politics, but from the perspective of moral action and social improvement. Instead of being a retreat into seclusion and solitude, the mid-century turn to religion is a call to responsibility.
About the Author
Allan Hepburn, Professor of English, McGill University
Allan Hepburn, author of Intrigue: Espionage and Culture and Enchanted Objects: Visual Art in Contemporary Fiction, is James McGill Professor of Twentieth-Century Literature at McGill University. He has edited four volumes of works by Elizabeth Bowen as well as a collection of essays about inheritance entitled Troubled Legacies, and another collection dealing with citizenship and human rights entitled Around 1945. He has published essays on collecting, belatedness, poverty, catastrophe, children, opera, and other topics. With Adam Piette and Lyndsey Stonebridge, he co-edits the Oxford Mid-Century Studies series.
Table of Contents
2. Bombed Churches
3. Saints and Miracles: The End of the Affair
4. Muriel Spark and Evil
5. Rebuilding the Church: Barbara Pym's Parochialism