H.G. Wells (1866–1946), author of a number classic science fiction works, most notably The Invisible Man (1897), The Time Machine (1895), The First Man on the Moon (1901), and The War of the Worlds (1898), was not what one would describe as a religious man. He reports in his autobiography that he lost his religious faith when he was about 12 years old. He was an outspoken advocate of Darwinism, socialism, eugenics, and an advocate of “free love.” But Wells cannot help writing against the background of a moral universe. “‘The War of the Worlds’ is best interpreted as an aggressive statement of what C.S. Lewis called ‘Wellsianity’—the promotion of materialistic science as true faith. The moral of the story may be found in the novel’s first sentence, which describes the sobering reality of ‘intelligences greater than man’s and yet as mortal as our own.’ Humans aren’t noble creatures of God, but animal feed for hungry Martians. If we are to go on living, it isn’t for any purpose greater than ‘the sake of the breed’ (as one character says in a late chapter).”[1] Even so, Wells could not escape the need for a God—the Christian God—to make sense of the world. The following are from the novel:

  • “In another moment I had scrambled up the earthen rampart and stood upon its crest, and the interior of the redoubt was below me. A mighty space it was, with gigantic machines here and there within it, huge mounds of material and strange shelter places. And scattered about it, some in their overturned war-machines, some in the now rigid handling-machines, and a dozen of them stark and silent and laid in a row, were the Martians—dead!—slain by the putrefactive and disease bacteria against which their systems were unprepared; slain as the red weed was being slain; slain, after all man’s devices had failed, by the humblest things that God, in his wisdom, has put upon this earth.”

  • “The torment was over. Even that day the healing would begin. The survivors of the people scattered over the country—leaderless, lawless, foodless, like sheep without a shepherd—the thousands who had fled by sea, would begin to return; the pulse of life, growing stronger and stronger, would beat again in the empty streets and pour across the vacant squares. Whatever destruction was done, the hand of the destroyer was stayed. All the gaunt wrecks, the blackened skeletons of houses that stared so dismally at the sunlit grass of the hill, would presently be echoing with the hammers of the restorers and ringing with the tapping of their trowels. At the thought I extended my hands towards the sky and began thanking God.”

His biographers concluded that Wells’ youthful religious beliefs taught to him by his mother and his early religious schooling still influenced him; he “always sought to reconcile the scientific concepts he had acquired at South Kensington with the doctrines of evangelical belief.”[2] Could there be a hint of this in The War of the Worlds? Wells died a pessimist. The end of The Time Machine is a fitting epitaph of a Darwinian worldview gone awfully wrong in the gas ovens of Auschwitz: “the remote and awful twilight” of a dying earth.

Trivia Question: Who plays the grandfather in Spielberg’s War of the World?[3]


[1] John J. Miller, “War of the Worldviews” (June 21, 2005): www.opinionjournal.com/la/?id=110006849
[2] N. Mackenzie and J. Mackenzie, H.G. Wells: A Biography (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1973), 42. [3] Gene Berry, who appears on screen for about a second at the end of the movie in the Spielberg production, played Dr. Clayton Forrester in the first screen adaptation of The War of the Worlds (1953)