I apologise to most journalists for that slightly unfair heading but it was provoked by a similar but even sillier title to a piece by Nick Cohen in the Observer on Sunday! Cohen is one of those writers whose rants can be very appealing when you suspect that he is right but highly irritating when you are sure he is misguided.
The article in question was a personal attack on Martin Rees, the Astronomer Royal, for not sharing his animus against all religion and its followers. Rees’ award and acceptance of the Templeton prize has inflamed the breasts of those fire and brimstone atheists who can’t tell the difference between Torquemada and the Archbishop of Canterbury- a few years ago Richard Dawkin’s called Martin Rees a quisling, which does seem a bit over the top for liking to attend evensong!
Some like Dawkins and Jerry Coyne are eminent scientists, others such as Cohen and Christopher Hitchens are not but are all too eager to put their absolute trust in a field of study they barely understand and the more ambitious philosophical claims that some of the former wish to make. Hence Cohen’s headline- ‘ Science has vanquished religion , but not its evils.’ Cohen then goes on to produce his own version of Richard Dawkins combination of non sequitur and calumny, by arguing that Rees’ willingness to respect religion, and live in peaceful co-existence with it, stops him from duly confronting brutal theocracies throughout the world. Cohen describes Lord Rees’ position as a ‘cowardly evasion of intellectual duty.’
I am looking forward to the day when brave intellectuals such as Cohen start organising pickets outside their local chinese takeaways to protest against Buddhism’s role in providing spiritual justification for kamikaze attacks, and am contemplating refusing to to read any more political journalism because I don’t want to give tacit comfort to Dr Goebbels!
Frank Skinner, the comedian, is differently minded; he said this in a recent interview:
‘Meeting the Archbishop of Canterbury made a big impact. When someone has an expansive, exciting intellect, it often comes with arrogance. When you find someone humble and sweet they’re often working as a dinner lady in a primary school. To find someone with the combination of the two is remarkable.’