How did religion deal with growing secularity in the nineteenth century?

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Christianity had a problem in the nineteenth century as new scientific discoveries, especially in paleontology and biology, undermined the Bible as a factual account of the history of the world. In earlier eras, when the Bible had far more authority, people were willing to give it some leeway. Science was often used to verify when the Bible was speaking poetically and when it was factual.

However, by the nineteenth century, science was poised to topple the entire authority of the Bible as a factual account of history. As scientists made more and more discoveries, it became increasingly clear that the earth was far older than the Bible said, that humankind had been around far longer than the Biblical account suggested, and that humans evolved rather than being created by God from dust.

Several reactions emerged. One was fundamentalist Bible literalism, a school of thought that said if science contradicted the Bible, science must be wrong. If the Bible says, for example, the earth is 6,000 years old, then carbon dating is wrong. This way of thinking, which is still with us, became more rigid in its literalism than any former theology.

Another nineteenth century development was to put more and more emphasis on the emotive weight of Christianity. This group decided to de-emphasize facticity and promote Christianity as important because it led people to feel and act in ways that were loving, forgiving, and caring. Its chief value lay in the positive emotions it aroused. This romantic view of Christianity in many ways mirrored the Romantic movement in the arts. The privileging of feeling and intuition developed into modern liberal Protestantism.

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