Magazine article New Statesman (1996)

Keeping the Faith: One of Socialism's Few Good Points Is That It Is in Favour of Drink, Writes Roger Scruton

Magazine article New Statesman (1996)

Keeping the Faith: One of Socialism's Few Good Points Is That It Is in Favour of Drink, Writes Roger Scruton

Article excerpt

Socialists have on the whole been dismissive of religion as belonging to the soon-to-be-superseded childhood of mankind. But a moment's reflection suggests that socialism is not a rejection of religion but a species of it. How, after all, do you account for that absurd but immovable belief in human equality, if not as an article of faith around which the community of the future is supposed to form itself, and deviations from which are condemned and persecuted as heresies? There is no doubt in my mind that the question before the postmodern world is not whether religion, but which?

The question is of particular urgency for us winos. Some religions set their sights against our way of life with a frightening vehemence. When Ayatollah Khomeini came to power the cellars of Iranian embassies all over the world were emptied into neighbouring rivers, and the last ever bottles of given-away Lafite '45 were enjoyed by the sea bass and salmon that had begun to repopulate the Thames.

Of course, in the great days of Islamic civilisation, wine was an important part of the culture. But the great days of Islamic civilisation are over and we now have to deal with the grim, puritanical remainder of a religion that failed and which is intent on exporting its failure to the rest of us.

Judaism and Christianity have both done rather better by the bottle, the first recognising in wine the true symbol of the settled way of life and the second, in a moment of sublime inspiration, adopting and absorbing the vestiges of Greek religion, transforming the gifts of bread and wine--of Ceres and Dionysus--into the body and blood of the sacrificed Lamb. …

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