21 November 2008

The future of religion

An extract from 'The Sleeper Awakes', the 1899 science fiction novel by H.G. Wells, in which Mr Graham, a citizen of Victorian England, falls into a coma that lasts 203 years and emerges from his slumber into a vastly altered London of the future. Here Wells enjoys himself with some social satire as Graham discovers there's been some changes in the world of religion since his own time:

...his attention was arrested by the facade of one of the Christian sects. They were travelling seated on one of the swift upper ways, the place leapt upon them at a bend and advanced rapidly towards them. It was covered with inscriptions from top to base, in vivid white and blue, save where a coarse and glaring kinematograph transparency presented a realistic New Testament scene[...] Graham had already become familiar with the phonotype writing and these inscriptions arrested him, being to his sense for the most part almost incredible blasphemy. Among the less offensive were 'Salvation on the First Floor and turn to the Right', 'Put your Money on your Maker', 'The Sharpest Conversion in London, Expert Operators! Look Slippy!', What Christ would say to the Sleeper - Join the Up-to-date Saints!', 'Be a Christian - without hindrance to your present Occupation', 'All the Brightest Bishops on the Bench tonight and Prices as Usual', 'Brisk Blessings for Busy Businessmen'.

- H.G. Wells, The Sleeper Awakes, 1899 (revised edition 1910)

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