Friday, March 05, 2010

If I'm ever this publicly wrong, I hope I can be as publicly graceful about admitting it

A.N. Wilson has been one of my least favourite individuals for a very long time. A man with nothing whatsoever useful or informed to say, he has epitomised all that is wrong with luvvie-journalism amongst the Hampstead set, in particular with his habit of popping up as an ever reliable prissy, over-enunciated talking head to do down any kind of religion that doesn't match his aesthetically perfect high church atheism. He has been religion's Brian Sewell, another example of the kind of man Gilbert & Sullivan might have had in mind:
"Of course you will pooh-pooh whatever's fresh and new
and declare it's crude and mean,
For Art stopped short in the cultivated court
of the Empress Josephine."
There's a new translation of the Bible? A new prayer book? Get A.N. Wilson in to be rude about it! I would find myself yelling at the radio as the Today programme played: "you're an atheist! What's it to you that people who actually want Christianity to mean something have written a liturgy that people born this century can understand? You want to dress up in silly robes and spout 17th century English? Be my guest! There's no law to stop you! Have a party at your house! Invite a friend! Invite both of them! But belt up about the rest of us."

Except that ... apparently he's not an atheist any more and I find his account of his reconversion, or deunconversion, really quite moving.

Probably because I happen to agree with a lot of it. Consider lines like:
"... the existence of language is one of the many phenomena - of which love and music are the two strongest - which suggest that human beings are very much more than collections of meat. They convince me that we are spiritual beings, and that the religion of the incarnation, asserting that God made humanity in His image, and continually restores humanity in His image, is simply true. As a working blueprint for life, as a template against which to measure experience, it fits."
Well, quite! What more can I say? (Later edit: the bit that I especially agree with is in bold. The evolution of language and music may or may not have a bearing.)

On other matters I suspect we never will see eye to eye this side of the hereafter, and I'm pretty certain neither of us would ever enjoy having the other to dinner. But this is a very good start.


  1. I wasn't going to comment (no religion or politics, no religion or politics...!), but I went and read AN Wilson's account of his de-lapsing and found it to be a muddled and ill-thought-through load of old baldricks, personally. Your mileage etc.

    It sounds as though his initial lapsing was pretty woolly-headed too, but nonetheless. "Have they simply not thought about it rationally?"!!! JHC, has *he*?! On either occasion? I'd hazard not. His memoirs won't be appearing on my wishlist, that's for sure.

  2. Hey, I didn't say it was logically coherent! In that regard he may be just as consistent with prior behaviour. But he recognises the incorrectness of a previous stance and isn't afraid to say so.

    Missed you guys at Microcon!

  3. Well, sure, it's nice that he's prepared to announce publicly that he's changed his mind. But the incoherence bothered me, and it outright annoyed me that in the course of his language example, he suggested that people who believe that language can be explained in evolutionary terms - people who have not only "thought about it rationally" but in many cases do so professionally - could only believe it if they *hadn't*, and that his must be the "rational" approach. I wanted to reach into the computer screen and shake AN Wilson vigorously, and demand to know what the hell he thought he was drooling on about.

    I mean, to come out with that when his whole article suggests that he basically fell out of Christianity and then fell back into it without a moment's genuine thought either way - that really, honestly infuriates me. I've been spared his entire career hitherto, but I feel I'm making up for lost time, and how.

    I'm going to design a special mezzanine circle of Hell for columnists and pundits that make a living from talking cack, that's what I'm going to do. AN Wilson can go in there along with Tanya Gold and most of the Daily Mail's editorial team.

    How was Microcon? Sorry we couldn't make it, but the cost of public transport these days, tsk. Any anecdotes?


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