When Raymond Lodge perished when fighting in France in 1915, his father, Sir Oliver Lodge, set out on a controversial quest to discover the truth about life after death. A renowned physicist and member of the Fabian society, he took a scientific approach to his journey into spirituality and published his work under a cloud of criticism. What he discovered changed his own views on the paranormal, but at a cost to his reputation. War-torn Britain was a smelting pot of agnostics and atheists. The heights of Victorian religious fervour had fallen into secular disbelief or disinterest. The war not only changed everyone’s lives, but it also changed their outlooks. Believers became atheists and atheists became believers. At the centre of it were people like Sir Oliver Lodge trying to rationalise not only religion, but warfare. Alongside him were famous celebrities such as Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, yet at the other extreme were well-known figures who mocked everything Lodge was doing. The effects of the First World War on British spirituality were both dramatic and conflicting. Through Sir Oliver Lodge’s harrowing story, we can glimpse a snapshot of a country in emotional turmoil, trying to find meaning in madness and to understand how God could have forgotten them. While organised religion lost popularity, movements such as spiritualism and the art of medium-ship would gain ground, turning the country into the strange concoction of mixed religious beliefs we are familiar with today.
The First World War not only shaped our modern spirituality, it shaped our atheism.
Sophie Jackson has worked as a freelance journalist since 2003 specialising in social history. For two years, she was the editor of The History Magazine and has written numerous articles and books, her last three being on the Second World War. Jackson’s first book for Fonthill Media was Death by Chocolate: The Serial Poisoning of Victorian Brighton.
Dimensions: 238 x 172 mm
Illustrations: 41 b/w photographs