For no other reason that attempting to broaden my intellectual horizons, within the last week or so I’ve watched a number of political, religious and social debates on YouTube.
Among these verbal interactions the thought-provoking and erudite notions of late writers Christopher Hitchens, William F Buckley Jr and Gore Vidal. Individuals with differing ideologies, but who share the same unshakeable self-belief and certainty in the advocacies they deliver.
Hitchens, an Englishman born and bred, who resided in Washington DC for much of his adulthood. A man whose qualities included the insurmountable vocabulary of Dr Johnson, rapier-like wit of Mr Fry and jacket pressing skills of TV detective Columbo (and maybe also Mr Fry, again)
Hitch (as people who called him Hitch knew him) a fully paid up member of the Washington intelligentsia. A metaphorical club which met every Monday evening to discuss contemporary issues on Capitol Hill, in Parliament, secularism, global social discord and to swap cheesecake recipes.
As patrons didn’t want any old thick s***e among their number, membership of the club was by appointment only. Sufficient intellectual capacity judged by a prospective members ability to correctly spell ‘procrastination’ and their motor skills while playing board game Operation.
Hitchens incomparable prowess in the debating chamber meant his appearance was much sought after for political, religious and social commentary. His delivery cocksure, observations insightful; with no apparent agenda for relaying the sentiments. Well, none that were overtly apparent to this middle-aged fella whose education was acquired within 1970’s England’s comprehensive schooling system.
Mr Hitchens obviously wanting to shift a few of his books during these assured performances debating chamber in situ. However, with equitable intent, his motive was to encourage the proletariat to question the religious, political and social existential indoctrinations they’d been served, whether they’d been sought or not.
The Oxford educated writer being particularly vocal against religion of any denominations. Refusing to jeopardise his agnostic ideals and dignity by conveniently subscribing to Pascal’s Wager; a strategy to hedge his bets should he be proved wrong about God’s existence that he refused to countenance.
This wager a practical argument for belief in God formulated by 17th century French religious philosopher Blaise Pascal, posing the following argument to show that belief in the Christian religion is rational – If the Christian God doesn’t exist, the agnostic loses little by believing in him and gains correspondingly little by not believing. If the Christian God does exist, the agnostic gains eternal life by believing in him and loses an infinite good by not believing.
Hitchens rightly pointing out that if God existed as an all-seeing, all-knowing celestial being then surely he’d know that the non-believer was trying to dupe him. An act that would surely incur the Almighty’s wrath on judgement day; not to mention being a morally bankrupt deception.
If I’m being totally honest, although I hold reservations about the existence of the holy trinity, I don’t possess the certainty of opinion of the Portsmouth-born journalist. Consequently, I’m probably guilty of having a few quid on Pascal’s tip. A flutter I hope bears more fruit than the horse I was urged to back last year at York races which was so slow that five furlongs from home it got arrested for kerb-crawling.
As kid growing up I attended Cromer Avenue United Reform Church in the south Gateshead area of Low Fell. I’ve nothing but fondness for the people I met there, from Reverends Parker and Shakesby to the numerous members of the congregation who as I recall treated my family with nothing but courtesy.
That being said, in adulthood my own personal faith has diminished from the beliefs I held in the days of attending Cromer Avenue’s Sunday school. An amalgam of the detritus my family has had to deal with over the last decade, along with the widespread hypocrisy of people who don’t practise what they promise with backsides perched on pew.
To clarify, I’m not tarring all church goers with the same brush. Merely those who attend church seeking redemption for their sins but aren’t really interested in adhering to their disingenuous promises.
I subscribe to the school of thought that actions speak louder than words. Be that from the within the sacred walls of a religious establishment or outside amongst suburbs, inner-cities or green and pleasant lands.
In adulthood, I’ve met numerous individuals who hold no religious faith whatsoever, however they behave in a manner more closely tied to the teachings of the scriptures I recall from childhood than some who claim to have a religious faith.
In a nutshell, I suppose I’m of the opinion that the humane, caring and decent elements of the New Testament seems a good thing, whether you believe in god or not.