Wednesday 28 April 2010
I grew up in the Church of England and while I no longer attend, apart from family days and holidays, and even then only to please my parents, I still retain a considerable affection for the institution, for the part that it has played in the history of this nation. If I did not feel affection, a lingering sense of respect, I could look upon the pronouncements of Rowan Williams, the muddle-headed Archbishop of Canterbury, with equanimity; but I cannot; he retains the power to madden me with some of his more outrageous statements.
So, yes, I value the Church of England just as I value Christianity, as I value spirituality in general. Even so I can respect atheism, those who have no place in their personal life for God our any form of spiritual insight; those whose horizons are purely (I was tempted to write bleakly) material. What I loath is the atheist proselytisers, those who would discard one set of absolutes only to promote another, bringing to the debate the worst forms of intellectual intolerance. God is dead; Richard Dawkins is alive. The new faith is totalitarian secularism, worse in ever way than the old faith of ritual and transcendence.
I understand in his latest Papal Bull Dawkins has said that the real abuse by Roman Catholic priests may not be the ‘groping of child bodies’ but the ‘subversion of child minds.’ Saint Richard would have it otherwise; he would chase Christianity to the margins of superstition and darkness in the creation of the kind of an earthly paradise, outlined by John Lennon in Imagine, a song with a message I cannot listen to without a compete sense of loathing. There is no earthly paradise. More particularly, as we should know from the history of the past hundred years, the attempt to create one always ends in hell.
The recent attacks on the Catholic Church, the disgraceful insult that the apparatchiks in the Foreign Office offered to the Pope, and through him to all Catholics, shows that the faith, Christianity in general, needs a defender. It could ask for no better one than Peter Hitchens, one of my favourite polemicists, who has recently published The Rage Against God, an exploration of his own journey from Marxism and atheism to belief.
In this he brings to bear his lucidity and acidy wit against the aggressive secularism taking hold of a society that has no longer and clear idea of itself. One only has to look at the progress of Mad Hattie Harperson’s equality legislation, which effectively tried to dictate what people thought of homosexuality. We are dealing her with new forms of state corruption, of the subversion of freedom of conscience and freedom of speech; of the subversion of moral choice itself. Though qualified in England, similar legislation in Scotland saw a fine of £1000 being levied against a Baptist preacher for saying that homosexuality was contrary to the teachings of the Bible.
Hitchens compares what is happening in our morally debased society with what happened to organised religion in Soviet Russia when faced with the aggressive atheism promoted by the state. The parallels not too extreme, at least I do not believe so. There has been a long process of secularisation at work, but it has taken more pervasive forms in our recent history, with the likes of Harperson and Dawkins occupying the high ground, sitting on judgement on all below. Who would ever have believed that Christianity would have been on defensive in the land of Augustine? It’s time to fight back; time for a spiritual renaissance. The alternative is grim beyond measure; the alternative is barrenness; the alternative is Dawkins.
Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.
Surely some revelation is at hand;
Surely the Second Coming is at hand.
The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out
When a vast image out of Spritus Mundi
Troubles my sight: somewhere in the sands of the desert
A shape with lion body and the head of a man,
A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,
Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it
Reel shadows of the indignant desert birds.
The darkness drops again; but now I know
That twenty centuries of stony sleep
were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?