The Market Revolution, Industrialization, and New Technologies

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How did the Industrial Revolution impact religion?

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Often the interests of businessmen, particularly factory managers, dovetailed with those of religious leaders. This was especially true on the issue of temperance, which was championed in England and the United States by religious leaders and businessmen. The so-called "Protestant work ethic," which valorized hard work, "clean living," and austerity in spending habit, was a driving ethos behind the Industrial Revolution.

If religion, specifically Protestant Christianity, could be used to justify the profit motive that drove the Industrial Revolution, it could also be used to make a moral case for ameliorating its effects. The so-called "Social Gospel" movement in the United States is a prime example of this. Its main proponent, a minister named Walter Rauschenbusch, argued that restraining unfettered capitalism and restructuring society in a more equitable way was a Christian imperative. Many Christian socialists made similar arguments in Europe by pointing out that there was little in Christianity to support the ruthless competitive ethos unleashed by the Industrial Revolution. The technological advances, especially in communication, of the Industrial Revolution also enabled the advent of mass preaching—first associated in the United States with such evangelists as Billy Sunday. 

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The Industrial Revolution, occurring first in Britain in the early eighteenth century, saw a huge movement away from the countryside to the growing towns and cities. With this process there was a natural break down in the 'community' of the village that surrounded the village church and saw the local priest as a close member of the community. Naturally the larger industrial societies began to see a detachment of society away from 'God' and prayer, however there was a huge growth in church movements such as the Methodists amongst the working classes. Leading members of society wished to promote 'thrift, hard work and sobriety;' turning the working classes away from drink and loose living. The teetotal thought behing Methodism was something employers siezed on and the Industrial Revolution saw a huge growth in the Methodist Church. Also groups such as the Salvation Army grew through the new Cities, and church groups promoted working class hobbies such as the Brass Band movement. Victorian England still largely saw the Church at the heart of life inspite of the new cities.

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