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A Miscellany 448

by: John Tyrrell

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Occasionally in my reading, I come across a passage which illuminates some of my feelings about religion and disbelief. In recent days, I've encountered two such tidbits.

First from On Beulah Height, one of the Dalziel and Pascoe detective novels by Reginald Hill, we have a young woman remembering events from when she was seven:

Fridays at school was the vicar's morning when Rev Disjohn would come and tell us about the Bible and things. One Friday he read us the story about Noah's Flood and told us that, bad as it seemed for the folks at the time, it all turned out for the best. 'Even for them as got drowned?' cried out Joss Puddle whose dad were the landlord at the Holly Bush. Miss Lavery told him not to be cheeky, but Rev Disjohn said it was a good question and we had to remember that God sent the Flood to punish people for being bad. What he wanted to say was that God had a reason for everything...

When you're seven you don't know that vicars can talk crap. When you get to be fourteen, you know, but.

That last sentence, I think, sums up how many of us find our way to unbelief.

The other passage, is from a collection of short stories by Brian Aldiss, Supertoys Last all Summer Long and other stories of future time. The short story, Headless is about various reactions to a performance artist's plan to publicly decapitate himself - with proceeds to go to help orphans. The Archbishop of Canterbury found it worthy of a sermon.

The Archbishop delivered a fine sermon on the subject reminding the congregation that Jesus had given his life that we might live, and that 'we' included the common people of England as well as the Tory party. Now here was another young man, Borgo Flammarian, prepared to give up his life for the suffering children of Central Asia -- if that was indeed where Turkmenistan was situated.

It was true, the Archbishop continued, that Christ had not permitted Himself to be crucified before the television cameras, but that was merely an unfortunate accident of timing. The few witnesses of the Crucifixion whose words had come down to us were notoriously unreliable. Indeed, it was possible (as much must be readily admitted) that the whole thing was a cock-and-bull story. Had Christ postponed the event by a millennium or two, photography would have provided a reliable testament to His self-sacrifice, and then perhaps everyone in Britain would believe in him, instead of just a lousy nine percent.

This fictional Archbishop seems to understand why we don't believe... we do indeed think "the whole thing was a cock-and-bull story"

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