AC Grayling – the tree of knowledge


Nick Clegg and not-God: well, you will expect me to say I am delighted that a leading politician does not have a corner of his mind given over to belief in fairies and allied irrationalities, a bit of a relief when he or she is a possible leader of an entire country. And, indeed, so I am. Down the road in the direction of religious people running countries, if you have binoculars to see them, are Torquemada‘s “Catholic monarchs” and the Taliban. But it is a major irritation that politicians have taken to talking about the matter at all, and that journalists are asking them about it.

Until recently, if a politician believed the fancies dreamed up by goatherds in tents 2,000-3,000 years ago, they kept it to themselves: a matter of good manners and good taste – and good sense, too. Not for us the ghastly godspittle nonsense and often hypocrisy (remember Howard Dean? “my favourite bit of the New Testament is the Book of Job” [sic] – and not a squeak from anyone: he had a favourite Bible book! that was enough!) of our Transatlantic cousins.

Keep religion out of politics, even if you can’t keep it out of politicians; and in this latter event at least, keep it out of their mouths and public doings. It happens that, regarding this, we have a job of work to do in this country, with an established church and 26 bishops in the House of Lords influencing legislation that affects all of us, and our tax money being used to brainwash children as young as, or younger than, four years in “faith schools” (what a hideous oxymoron), etc, but one step is to ensure that the status quo of the last 100 years, in which politicians mainly kept their invisible-friend-thing out of their public pronouncements and duties, was by far to the good.

As to Mr Clegg: apparently, he clarifies that he is “towards the agnostic end of the spectrum” or some such. If he does not believe in the Norse or Olympian or any other supposed divine beings, let him say so frankly and clearly, and not equivocate. Agnosticism is a rubbish position: the prior probability that there are fairies at the bottom of the garden is not 50%; it is 0% – and so for all supernaturalistic beliefs.

And it is absolutely risible that the director of Theos, the religious “faith tank”, should say of Mr Clegg, “If he is saying that he is agnostic, obviously that is probably not quite so serious politically as saying you are an atheist.” Amazing. For I think it is considerably more serious to say, “I believe in God and he told me to go to war in Iraq”, which is what a soon-to-be-Catholic recent prime minister of somewhere practically said (as, even more practically, did his born-again big friend across the water). How happy can anyone be about that?

And finally re “agnostic”: note how the actual and covert godsquadders leap with little moués of piping joy on this word; it is the crack, the fissure, through which they think they can squeeze themselves and their invisible-friend-thing into a corner of the room, to wait their chance, damp eyes scanning and damp paws raised, alert for a straw to clutch. Watch it happen elsewhere on this website, and down below.


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