I liked Alex Wright’s call for ‘a more nuanced debate about religion’ in the Guardian on Saturday. Not because I agreed with him, but because I feel he’s offered a licence to say outright that religion is, in his words, a ‘ludicrous fantasy’.
Religion’s fantasy is built on the claim to know all, or at least to know the most important stuff, and the fear of challenge that inevitably goes with that. It’s hard to disagree with those who go much further and note that ‘religion’ is an anagram of ‘Gerin oil’ (via the excellent Cruella-blog). Further irritation comes from the increasing pretension to rationality that Alex’s nonsense illustrates.
Alex publishes books that appear learned and promises much in his Guardian piece: ‘Voices have been raised which maintain that, at bottom, religious belief is an excuse for fantasy: at best harmless fantasy, but at worst the manifesto for a tendentious, totalitarian dream world.’
Wow! Sounds like Alex has the measure of we atheists. But sadly he has no answer. Religion isn’t responsible for all evil, he whines, some horrific crimes have been committed against humanity for non-religious reasons. Okay. Say, for sake of argument, we accept that. And we can accept that people have done some good deeds in the name of Christianity or Taoism or Buddhism or Islam or Paganism or whatever; they can’t all be correct.
Alex takes us nowhere because the ‘ludicrous fantasy’ of which he is accused is nothing to do with religion’s alleged crimes, but that central claim to know God.