We’ve been talking about certainty…haven’t we? Oh yes, I remember, it was in the comments on Comments (Notes and) last week, the ones that got tragically swept away in the server mishap. But then in some sense B and W is always talking about things like certainty; about skepticism and doubt, relativism and foundations, truth and truth claims, accuracy and error, and how to know the difference. So I always pay extra attention when people talk about certainty. Mind you, that’s been true for years, since long before B and W was even a half-formed idea in its founder’s mind.
A rather frightening Tory politician by the name of Ann Widdecombe was on Start the Week the other day talking about the need for de-secularization and re-imposition of religion. She was very emphatic about the value of certainty and how little of it most modern people have and what a lot of it she has herself, thanks to her religiosity. Another of the guests, the always brilliant Marina Warner, asked the obvious question: what do we do about all those other certainties? Ariel Sharon’s, George Bush’s? Widdecombe simply brushed the question off, but she certainly (yes, certainly) didn’t answer it. But what do we do about them? Not to mention of course Osama bin Laden’s certainties, and the Taliban’s, and the mullahs’ in Iran, and the Pope’s. The darling Pope (or the Vatican) has chimed in on the certainty front too, telling us that ‘There are absolutely no grounds for considering homosexual unions to be in any way similar or even remotely analogous to God’s plan for marriage and family…Marriage is holy, while homosexual acts go against the natural moral law.’ In the real world, you see, where we can only rely on evidence and our interpretation of it, rational people tend to be a little bit cautious in their pronouncements on matters like natural moral law. But people who rely on revelation and authority and tradition and a holy book have no hesitation whatever in telling the entire world what to do. Interesting, isn’t it. But as I say, frightening.