Not everyone can have appreciated a break for Christmas. After a few days of singing about peace in honour of the baby Jesus, it must be a relief for Christians such as Blair and Bush to get back to planning how to obliterate the region the poor sod lived in. Which is why this paper could report yesterday that “Alarm is growing in London and Washington because the work by inspectors has failed to pick up any prohibited weapons activity.”
That has to be read several times to appreciate its true magnificence. It means the rulers of London and Washington are more desperate than anyone that Saddam has deadly weapons. They must await the results of weapons inspectors as if they’re football supporters watching their team’s score on Ceefax, muttering “Please please come up ‘warehouse full of deadly anthrax’.” If they can’t find anything they’ll try to sell Saddam a box-set of chemical weapons at half price in the sales.
GEC will set up a branch in Baghdad and place adverts on the television: “Where are you all rushing to?” â€“ “We’re all off to the massive clearout of weapons of mass destruction â€“ cluster bombs, gas, daisy cutters, but hurry, hurry, hurry.” Then they’ll hope that Saddam falls for it and queues all night for the main attraction of the nuclear warhead with 80 per cent off.
Otherwise the war will have to be launched because Saddam refused to surrender his stationery, with an address from Bush that “If he isn’t stopped, some of those paperclips could go in someone’s eye.”
Yet both Britain and America are ruled by their most overtly Christian leaders for many years. I know there are countless interpretations of the meaning of Christ, but if Bush and Blair believe they’re behaving in a Christian way, they must be under the impression that Jesus was a Roman. Every Easter they must think, “How marvellous to celebrate the time the mighty Jesus secured his position with a well-planned campaign of crucifixions, in his war against miracles.”
From the way that British and American leaders have insisted that their actions have been carried out in the name of Christianity, you wonder whether it’s a deliberate wind-up, in the same way that it was always certain to annoy people that the Middle-Eastern Jesus was portrayed in the West for centuries as a slightly tatty white bloke from Dorset. There were probably moves to completely Anglicise the Bible, so that just after Jesus turned water into wine, it was snatched off him by a huge bloke with a dog at his side yelling “Come along now, it’s nearly five past 11 now.” And the question everyone asked Jesus when he returned from the wilderness was “What was the weather like out there?”
I recently came across another explanation for this process, written by the French philosopher Montesquieu in the 18th century. He wrote that the image of God as a human proves he’s the creation of human minds. He added that if a cow believed in God, it would assume that God was a cow, and â€“ with a splendid sense of surrealism â€“ that if triangles believed in God, then God would have three sides.
It’s a shame he didn’t go into this further, and work out whether the religious triangles would have theological debates on matters such as whether hexagons had a soul. And perhaps the isosceles ones would insist that they would be the only ones on the way to heaven as they were the chosen ones.
And yet Montesquieu wasn’t an atheist, he was trying to solve the riddles that religion presents. In a similar way, the most powerful arguments against religion have nearly all been presented by the religious. The deeply Catholic Galileo sent the Vatican wild when his new telescope discovered some moons around Jupiter, because this meant there were more than seven heavenly bodies, and seven was the heavenly number. So he was told to renounce his own findings. It’s as if two huge blokes in suits with gravelly east London voices cornered him and said “Oy â€“ you didn’t see no moons tonight â€“ alright.”
Tom Paine’s Age of Reason shocked the clergy by asking the reasonable question that if God sent his only son to die, what sort of disgraceful example to set is that? But even Paine declared himself a deist and not an atheist.
For thousands of years, no group has been more outraged by rulers who embrace religion for their own ends, than those who take the ethics of religion seriously. I sometimes wish I was a believer myself, as I’d love to think that one day Blair and Bush would have to answer these questions at the great celestial court â€“ with Jesus saying, “Hmm. You seem to have interpreted ‘Let he who is without sin cast the first stone’ as ‘Never mind stones â€“ smother the bastards in depleted uranium.’ “
But personally I can’t help feeling that when Joe Strummer’s dead while Cliff Richard lives, there can be no more solid proof that there is no God.