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Religious Lives

Religious Lives

(p.10) Chapter One Religious Lives
Huxley's Church and Maxwell's Demon
Matthew Stanley
University of Chicago Press

This introductory chapter describes Maxwell’s and Huxley’s backgrounds, particularly the formation of their views on and experience with religion. It shows the variety of “religion” present in the Victorian period: it is necessary to distinguish personal religiosity, institutional religion, and Anglican theology. Huxley argued strongly for a distinction between religion and theology, and aimed his rhetorical weapons against the latter with great precision (though this was not always appreciated by his readers). Maxwell’s religious background blended Episcopalian, Presbyterian, and evangelical thought, which shows the spectrum of belief and practice in Victorian Britain. His training and career, heavily influenced by the natural theology tradition, demonstrates how theistic science functioned in a deeply religiously environment while still promoting science. Further, the established Church of England played a powerful role in education and employment in the sciences, and Maxwell and Huxley show how careers in science were significantly shaped by an individual’s relationship to the many forms of Christianity in play.

Keywords:   James Clerk Maxwell, Thomas Henry Huxley, Anglicanism, Evangelicalism, Agnosticism, natural theology, scientific naturalism, X-Club

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