Monday, 13 April 2009

It's Easter! Suck it, Dawkins!

It's Easter weekend, hooray! I don't know about you, but I always found the resurrection story to be the moment where the Bible jumped the shark; it always smacked a bit of the writers trying to write themselves out of a corner. Still, until they approve my alternative suggestions for more contemporary national holidays based around similarly ludicrous fictional moments that stretch some of the goodwill you have towards a series (I'm thinking National Marge Accidentally Gets A Boob Job Day), it'll have to do I suppose. So what better way to celebrate the peak/nadir of the Bible than by writing a joyous paean to all things spiritual, so that we might reflect on the important lessons of Jesus' death and subsequent reappearance?

Well, it seems A.N. Wilson has indeed found a better way; stickin' it to the godless! Yes, Religion of hatred: Why we should no longer be cowed by the chattering classes ruling Britain who sneer at Christianity is in many ways Wilson's masterwork, up there with that time he stuck up for Thatcher. It starts off with a simple, some might say quite boring, account of a Palm Sunday procession he took part in, before he gets to the big question, a question that's simultaneously massive and yet somehow irrelevant:

But how many in Britain today actually believe the story? Most recent polls have shown that considerably less than half of us do.
I suspect the majority of the people who don't are those of us who have had trouble finding out which parts of the Bible are supposed to be actually true, and which parts are just allegories not to be taken literally, and have subsequently decided that the best course of action is probably to take all the broadly physically impossible shit with a grain or three of salt. Wilson goes on to say that, he too, once became one of those people who thought it might not be true, even going so far as writing a book about it.

Like most educated people in Britain and Northern Europe (I was born in 1950), I have grown up in a culture that is overwhelmingly secular and anti-religious. The universities, broadcasters and media generally are not merely non-religious, they are positively anti.

To my shame, I believe it was this that made me lose faith and heart in my youth. It felt so uncool to be religious. With the mentality of a child in the playground, I felt at some visceral level that being religious was unsexy, like having spots or wearing specs.

This playground attitude accounts for much of the attitude towards Christianity that you pick up, say, from the alternative comedians, and the casual light blasphemy of jokes on TV or radio.
Luckily for the Church, Wilson had stopped believing in the veracity of the Biblical account for entirely superificial reasons, which meant he could be won back into the religious fold with an equally stupid justification (more of which later). Huzzah! Wilson then goes on to complain about Polly Toynbee being artlessly secular in The Guardian, which ironically seems to carry more pro-religious writing than the Daily Mail itself (it's all here, and if you have the patience to actually read most of that you may qualify to become a saint yourself). Wilson also complains about what he suspects to be the attitude of the BBC towards religion, which as the national broadcaster nevertheless has daily religious programming required by law.

So, what of Wilson's reasons for turning back to religion? We already know that he stopped believing because he thought religion was a bit uncool (and A.N. Wilson is nothing if not cool), so why the second 180?

My own return to faith has surprised no one more than myself. Why did I return to it? Partially, perhaps it is no more than the confidence I have gained with age.

Rather than being cowed by them, I relish the notion that, by asserting a belief in the risen Christ, I am defying all the liberal clever-clogs on the block: cutting-edge novelists such as Martin Amis; foul-mouthed, self-satisfied TV presenters such as Jonathan Ross and Jo Brand; and the smug, tieless architects of so much television output.
Some might say that that's a slightly childish reason for adopting a belief system, particularly given that there's no evidence that Jo Brand (what an odd reference) gives the merest fuck what A.N. Wilson thinks about religion, or indeed anything. Still, TAKE THAT, JONATHAN ROSS! Apparently Wilson's simmering resentment towards novelists, TV presenters and comedians is so intense, that in his sheer fury the most appropriate adjective he can come up to describe them with (after 'smug') is 'tieless'. Of course, we all know where the Holy Bible stands on ties; who can forget the story of Jesus chasing the polo-neck wearers out of the temple? Jesus famously knew the importance of a tie; would anyone have taken his proclamations seriously if it wasn't for his impeccable Savile Row threads?

It's not entirely clear whether Wilson has ever actually seen Jonathan Ross, who almost always presents his chat show in a suit and tie. Nor is it clear why he castigates the female Jo Brand for not wearing one, but alas, Wilson moves in mysterious ways. You have to wonder where the depravity of it all might stop though. Today, no ties; tomorrow...? It doesn't really bear thinking about. Fuck, they might be messing around with logic next...

Ah, say the rationalists. But no one can possibly rise again after death, for that is beyond the realm of scientific possibility.

And it is true to say that no one can ever prove - nor, indeed, disprove - the existence of an after-life or God, or answer the conundrums of honest doubters (how does a loving God allow an earthquake in Italy?)

Easter does not answer such questions by clever-clever logic. Nor is it irrational. On the contrary, it meets our reason and our hearts together, for it addresses the whole person.
At this point I'd like to offer Wilson my services as an editor to clean this bit up a tad. I propose adding a little coda to the first sentence of the last paragraph so it reads "Easter does not answer such questions by clever-clever logic, or, indeed, at all". I feel that by adding the last bit you can prevent the readers from becoming confused when you then fail to offer any kind of explanation for why God lets innocent people die in an Italian earthquake, instead dribbling on about 'addressing the whole person' like some kind of tedious two-bit holistic therapist.

In the past, I have questioned its veracity and suggested that it should not be taken literally. But the more I read the Easter story, the better it seems to fit and apply to the human condition. That, too, is why I now believe in it.
I'm not sure whether that is merely largely meaningless, or if Wilson does in fact live in an area with a particularly high resurrection rate. Indeed, it took me a while to navigate through that section. At first it looked like he'd decided to believe that something physically impossible did in fact genuinely happen simply because some element of the telling of the story struck an emotional chord with him, which seemed to be missing a link somewhere. But then I realised that my problem was that I was attempting to use 'clever-clever logic', when in fact logic is something to be sneered at while bemoaning that people sneer at your own beliefs. By jettisoning the restrictions of 'logic', you can gleefully stomp around the lush fields of logical fallacy with impunity. Argument from authority? Hit me with that shit, Wilson!

And in contrast to those ephemeral pundits of today, I have as my companions in belief such Christians as Dostoevsky, T. S. Eliot, Samuel Johnson and all the saints, known and unknown, throughout the ages
Yeah, we got Dostoevsky, what have you atheists got? JO BRAND? Pah! Suckers!

As a matter of fact, I am sure [...] that materialist atheism is not merely an arid creed, but totally irrational.
Oh, this'll be good. Irrational how?

Materialist atheism says we are just a collection of chemicals. It has no answer whatsoever to the question of how we should be capable of love or heroism or poetry if we are simply animated pieces of meat.
Let's assume for a moment that that's true, and look at the gauntlet that's just been thrown down. This is Wilson's moment to convince the unwashed heathen masses with the deep religious explanation for how we meatbags can write poetry or fall in love. The next sentence may very well change your life, so make sure you're not leaning back too far in your chair right now, lest its awesome revelatory power send you toppling backwards:

The Resurrection, which proclaims that matter and spirit are mysteriously conjoined, is the ultimate key to who we are.
So there you have it. It's because of 'spirit', which is 'mysteriously conjoined' to matter in some way. And to think I was worried that this might somehow still be less rational than materialist atheism! Boy, is my face red right now.

To sum up, then; under a materialist worldview, some questions about the human condition and consciousness remain as yet unexplained, but with religion, instead of keeping a worryingly open mind about possible explanations, we can just rest safe in the knowledge that it's all just some kind of 'mysterious' thing. And thus is was that A.N. Wilson so thoughtfully redefined rationality; a vague and utterly unsubstantiated explanation for an ill-defined question is probably better than none at all! I can't recall now why I ever found religious explanations unsatisfying.

So there you have it, atheists, secularists and liberals; if this doesn't make you finally put a fucking tie on, I don't know what will.


  1. I put A N Wilson in the same category as the irretrievably silly Paul Johnson and Charles (Lord Snooty) Moore. He has not converted to Roman Catholicism but perhaps that will follow in due course. Meantime who actually takes a blind bit of notice of them except their small metropolitan coterie of romantic dickheads?

  2. You would hope that St. Paul's experience on the road to Damascus was something a little deeper than a sudden disdain for godless "clever" people on telly. Also, it is indisputable historical fact that only one of the four apostles actually wore a tie.

  3. Virgin birth, sinless life, crucifixion, resurrection, ascension into heaven? Jesus... No Krishna actually. It never ceases to amaze me that the very tenets to which the devout appear to cling to as validation for their beliefs happen to be the ones 'borrowed' from Hinduism.

    Personally I can see a poor downtrodden cleric trying to impress his boss, editor of 'The Daily Scribe' and tarting the story up a bit. After all it won't matter much, today's story will be wrapping tomorrows loaves and fishes, won't it?

  4. "I'm not sure whether that is merely largely meaningless, or if Wilson does in fact live in an area with a particularly high resurrection rate."
    Genius - that's the only thing that has made me laugh all bloody Easter. Cheers.

  5. Because of course AN Wilson isn't part of the chattering classes...
    The real point that needs to be made here is that all this stuff you hear in the right-wing press about the "liberal elite" who supposedly rule Britain is just a smokescreen to obscure who really rules Britain: The capitalist class whose interests the Daily Mail represents. Keep the people confused and you keep them under control.

  6. Logic and rational thinking is like soooo totally last century. A 21st century guy is all about the poorly reasoned batshittery of blind faith. And anyway, you know atheists aren't allowed to wear ties lest they use them to strangle up some religious pseuds what with our lack of any moral grounding and that.

    Ace post.