Blair over the corn flakes

The Times tells us that at today’s ‘prayer breakfast’ in Washington Tony Blair said how d’you do to Obama and ‘spoke passionately of his own religious faith.’ Well I suppose people who go to something called a ‘prayer breakfast’ have to be prepared for that kind of thing, but really, can you think of anything more emetic first thing in the morning? Lolling about among the Froot Loops and pop tarts listening to Tony Blair speak passionately about his religious ‘faith’? Because I can’t. My idea of the right thing to do first thing in the morning is to drink coffee while scowling quietly and staring into space. I suppose one could get up early and get one’s coffee drinking and quiet scowling out of the way first – but even then, my idea of the right thing to do at that hour is to drink more coffee while reading in peace, it is decidedly not to go somewhere and see a lot of people and listen to a sentimental and credulous ex-prime minister talk nauseating eyewash about his ‘faith.’ Especially not if he does it with passion, godalmighty fetch me the sick bag.

Mr Blair…delivered an impassioned address to an audience of political and religious leaders, telling them of his “first spiritual awakening” when his father almost died when he was still a child…”‘I’m afraid my father doesn’t believe in God,’ I said. ‘That doesn’t matter,’ my teacher replied ‘God believes in him. He loves him without demanding or needing love in return.’ That is what inspires: the unconditional nature of God’s love. A promise perpetually kept. A covenant never broken. And in surrendering to God, we become instruments of that love.”

Oh, please. Of course ‘God’s love’ is ‘unconditional’; that’s because ‘God’ is imaginary so it is whatever anyone says it is because there is nothing to stop it being that because there is no real god to check such claims against. Blair’s teacher could just as well have replied ‘God believes in him and God hates him without demanding or needing hate in return.’ Or he could have said ‘God is a lobster and pickle sandwich.’ People say things about ‘God’; that doesn’t mean they’re true, and it’s a pretty ridiculous reason to get inspired – or at least it’s a ridiculous reason to stay inspired, and it’s a triply ridiculous reason to tell a bunch of adult politicians on the far side of the Atlantic about it, 45 years later. I can see how it would be very moving at the time, to a boy of 10, even if he didn’t believe it, because it was a compassionate and kind thing for his teacher to say. But then he should talk about his teacher, not about God. And at his age with his knowledge of the world he really shouldn’t talk crap about the unconditional nature of God’s love and a promise perpetually kept and a covenant never broken, because if God loves us all in that way then God has a funny way of showing it. Just ask some people in eastern Congo, or Zimbabwe, or Burma, or Darfur, or Gaza.

But even though he did not want to confuse “the realms of political and religious authority”, he now thought that faith, not secularism, held the key to inter-communal understanding. “Restoring religious faith to its rightful place as a guide to our world and its future is of the essence,” he said.

Back off, cowboy.

That’s so impertinent. So presumptuous. So backward. ‘Religious faith’ has no rightful place as a guide to our world because faith is the wrong way to think about the world. If you use ‘religious faith’ as a guide to our world then you set yourself up to get the world wrong, and how is that helpful? How is it of the essence? Why is it not rather of the essence to look at the world and see it as it really is, and then try hard to figure out how best to act in such a world?

Blair of course is the wrong fella to ask.

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