Kevin Myers: Alternative to religion is a secular dementia that makes a god-like figure out of Wayne Rooney
Published 29/10/2010 | 05:00
I'm not sure anyone has ever managed to shoehorn David Attenborough and Wayne Rooney into the one column: so there's always a first time.
I can claim a certain precedence with regards to the former: for we both attended Wyggeston Grammar School in Leicester, though not quite at the same time. On the other hand, there's no evidence that Rooney went to school at all. What those two men do have in common is that they are both stars in the great cosmos of celebrity.
Attenborough's new BBC television series on evolution begins this weekend. Not merely is he the greatest man on television, he is also the greatest gentleman in that medium. I'm not sure the same could be said about Rooney without running the risk of some terminological inexactitude. Yet paradoxically, the godless world that evolutionists such as Attenborough posit not merely produces and makes celebrities of people like Rooney, but better still, it will produce sons of Rooney who one day really will make their father seem like a gentleman.
Now what follows is quite hypocritical. For, on the one hand, I simply don't believe in God, because I am intellectually unable to; but on the other, I prefer a society which generally respects and reveres a god, and the organised system of pieties and rules that a god-based religion generates. The alternative seems to be a secular-dementia that makes godlike figures of such as Rooney. I would have once said that there was little worse than the vulgar basilica at Knock, and the debased and semi-hysterical cult surrounding it -- but surely, it doesn't compare in sheer bloody awfulness with the frenzied adoration generated by soccer or television celebrity-worship.
The credulousness that has caused people to turn to a god is so universal that it must be in our DNA. In other words, it is an evolved characteristic, which has proved beneficial to those who have possessed it. Groups of primitive man who didn't believe in a god simply perished. Clearly, possessing this belief -- presumably because it helped to create a moral order -- conferred a decisive survival-advantage which non-believing groups fatally lacked.
So, mankind will always need its gods: that's in our genes. And no one ever suggested that gods were always good: look at the Aztecs, feeding their children to their ferocious deity: the Ashanti much the same. And in our post-religious culture, we have seen, in all their splendour, the celebrities whom people worship in the absence of a creator-god in their firmament: Madonna, or Lindsay Lohan, or Piers Morgan, or Simon Cowell -- or even Wayne Rooney.
And they're the good ones, before we come to the great secular gods of the 20th century: Hitler, Stalin, Mao, Kim Il Sung, Pol Pot. They all triumphed in political cultures of obligatory godlessness. Remember -- there have, in fact, been few societies which made godlessness mandatory: and without exception, they soon degenerated into orgies of murder. And maybe that's what happened to the early hominids: those who didn't have a god, in other words, those who didn't fear consequence, rapidly disappeared in a welter of homicidal bloodshed.
Moreover, belief in God is not the product of mere intellectual backwardness. Virtually all great artists have believed in God. Mankind's greatest creations -- the Pieta, Hamlet, Leonardo's Madonna -- were the works of geniuses who worshipped God. No music speaks to the soul quite so much as the great requiems of Mozart, Verdi and Faure, who saw beyond death to a heavenly vault.
I don't actually know whether Attenborough believes in God: but the theory of evolutionism, of which he is an ardent supporter, has in recent times taken an increasingly political and atheistic note, especially under the guidance of its St Paul, Richard Dawkins. Evolutionism has thus acquired many of the characteristics of theistic faith: where some things cannot be explained by unassisted evolution -- the creation of the protein molecule, or the emergence of complex, multi-cellular creatures from single cells -- they are declared to be facts for which we do not yet have an evolutionary explanation, but we will have soon (and I do mean "will" rather than "shall"). So evolutionism works by placing a suitable theory to cover most of the known facts, and then stretching the theory when they don't, using faith-based assertions that one day the evolutionary theory will of itself completely explain what it cannot at the moment.
But the theory of unassisted evolution only works retrospectively: no sane scientist could ever have looked at the methane cauldon of early Earth and argued that they could, entirely by accident, mutate into the hummingbird, the basking shark, the honeybee -- and Wayne Rooney.
Equally, evolutionism destroys any theory of a kindly god: for this god has clearly littered his acts of creation with the broken corpses of unsuccessfully-designed humans who died of hunger because they were too slow, or were eaten by their neighbours because they were too weak. Yet all is paradox: for the truth is that gentle secular-evolutionists such as David Attenborough can only thrive in an official culture that reveres a god.