One of the foundational principles of the Commonwealth, as derived from the Agreement of the People, is that religion is a private matter, a personal responsibility.
This means that there can be no mandated ‘official religion’ anywhere in the Commonwealth. A given religion cannot, and, by law, must not, be imposed on anyone else; there can also be no concept of ‘blasphemy’ or ‘heresy’. Although proselytisation of religion is not illegal as such, it is socially discouraged: doing so is considered intrusive and rude, bordering on bullying, and a sign of lack of personal responsibility regarding religious faith.
For the later-19th-century period in which the main stories are set, Christianity is still somewhat dominant in terms of nominal religious faith – Catholicism is still common, and likewise the Church of England (Episcopalian) and other forms of Protestantism – though the presence all of these are often more from cultural habit than anything else. However, other religions are just as likely, or even no religion as such; the influence of vinery also creates a tendency towards a more pagan view, but based on something more akin to pragmatic experience than religious faith.
Explicit religious buildings do exist, though mainly from the pre-Commonwealth period. In central London most were destroyed in the 1666 Great Fire, as in our timeline; however, the replacements designed by Christopher Wren are referred to as ‘Meeting Houses’, and are overtly intended for general use – religious and otherwise – rather than solely as churches of the ‘official religion’.
The implicit gender-equality mandated by the Agreement of the People and the pressure of egalitarian movements such as the Quakers means, that even as early as the Restoration (1660), gendering of religion is being dissuaded, especially in its more general social context. Hence, for example, the common tendency to refer to dates as ‘the Year of our Lord’ becomes, in the Commonwealth, ‘in the Year of our Lord-or-Lady’. By the late 19th-century – as can be seen in the story The Viner Journey – it is common for women in particular to use phrases such as ‘By the Lady’, where in our timeline both men and alike would only refer to ‘Our Lord’.
Last Update: August 24, 2017