Sir Richard Arcos writes: This week, in breach of my normal policy of visiting different churches, I shocked the deacons at my own church by actually turning up to both Sunday services. Someone commented that I didn't normally do this, while my wife hid after the service, afraid that I was planning to do something. I at last had to explain to my wife that it was not some diabolical scheme, but that I was going to be attending the so-called free-thinkers' meeting at a nearby country house which is, sad to say, now a hotel. My wife then told me I was a snob, and I told her that was no bad thing in this day and age. After sending a card to my youngest grandchild congratulating her on failing her first essay due to a too-active social life (my other university age grandaughter, Sian is at Aberystwyth and I have heard she's a litle busy right now), I headed off to this gathering.
We met in one of the smaller dining rooms in what was actually a rather tasteful adaptation of the old place. Still, I can remember when Sir James was there, and I have to say, there would have been none of this silly stuff in his day...
But where was I? Oh yes, the atheist bun-fight. The chairman, a chap with a wispy beard who looked like he used to discuss Communism when that was still fashionable in some circles, welcomed everyone and said that theywould open with the reading of a poem. Some hastly woman got up and read a screed against religion that didn't even rhyme. My daughter tells me this is called free verse. Can't say I'm surprised, as no-one would even swap a couple of marbles for that sort of thing. Someone then got up and recited an atheist version of the creed, which went thus:
I believe in man, the sustainer of earth, and in his inherent goodness/ I believe in Woman, the nutrurer and beaer of life/ Who for our sake ond our propagation did submit to...
Well, that was it. I got up and declared bluntly that if they expected anyone to take such drivel seriously, would they allow me to state that I reserved my right not to believe in man. After which the following exchange took place:
Atheist: What do you mean, you don't believe in man?
Sir Richard: If you chaps can say you can't believe in a loving God who would allow war, then I certainly reserve the right to say that I don't believe in your utopian drivel about the inherent goodness of a mankind who have spent large chunks of their history working out new and interesting ways of killing and enslaving their fellow man.
Atheist: But that was in the name of religion, most wars...
Sir Richard: Most wars have been caused by the very human desire to lay one's grubby mitts on something that belongs to somebody else.
Atheist: In an ideal society there'd be no private property.
Sir Richard: Which is just a fancy way of saying that if you were in charge you'd want to lay your grubby mitts on just about everything. I don't suppose you've heard of the tenth commandment, have you? You see, God's very clear that there are a great many things that one is not allowed to do. Your belief is that God should intervene in the here and now to prevent all these ghastly things. But have you ever asked yourself whether God's standard is your standard? I for one am rather glad God allows us to go wrong without wiping us out the first time we transgress. Perhaps because I know a little more of the evil that lies in the hearts of men than you.
Atheist: How dare you bring your theistic beliefs to our free-thinkers' group! Get out of the room!
So I departed, making sure to book the room for a baboon-fanciers' convention on the date of their next meeting.