Dickens' religious views

Criticisms of the church

Dickens' novels are literary constructs, and the opinions of his characters are not necessarily those of the author. Nonetheless, the degree of sympathy or irony in his representations of religious characters may provide oblique indications of his own position:

  • he believed that, historically, religious conflict had led to cruelty, bloodshed and intolerance
  • he thought that religion unnecessarily suppressed people's enjoyment of life, and he was a great supporter of the movement to allow places of entertainment to open on Sundays – which at the time was most people's only work-free day.

More on Dickens' religious views in his fiction?

Dickens' approach to faith

Two aspects of Christianity were fundamental to Dickens' beliefs and the outlook of which he seems to approve in his novels:

  • a focus on the life and love of Christ; he wrote a Life of Christ for his children, which is a re-telling of the Gospel of Matthew
  • a conviction that the New Testament (rather than the Old Testament) held all that was necessary for Christianity, in its presentation of God's love and forgiveness

from the New Testament were drawn also the virtues of forbearance, integrity, generosity, loyalty, gentleness, compassion, forgiveness, valour, justice and humility which provided the template of a ‘Christian Gentleman', as embodied by Joe Gargery in Great Expectations.

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