Magazine article The Spectator


Magazine article The Spectator


Article excerpt

Godless criminality

From Mr Charles FitzGerald

Sir: I would take issue with Mr Justin Marozzi's conclusion that the Milton Keynes murder 'probably tells us nothing at all' about 'modern society' ('Monsters of motiveless malignity', 4 March).

A couple of years or so ago my son and I were 'mugged' at the entrance to Herne Hill Station in south London at about 10 p.m. The muggers were four 'youths', of whom I was only able to glimpse one at all clearly for myself. My son had seen this gang lurking and shouted to me before I was actually pounced upon but too late to give me enough warning. They had consisted, as he had noticed, of two whites, one black, and one khaki; but the one who had gripped my neck in an arm lock before releasing me - the one I did see - was white. There could have been no racial motive; the big item of value I had on me, a gold wristwatch, was not taken; no insults were hurled at us. The gang had given us a fright and, perhaps because there were other people about in the street at that time, had just cruised on into the night.

Upon reflection, the predominant feeling derived from this brief, if unpleasant, experience (in the event I was neither hurt nor too greatly shaken as it was all over so quickly) was one not so much of the motivelessness of the four youths in question, who had probably gone on to commit a more serious offence elsewhere, as of the motivelessness of 'modern society'. This may otherwise be translated as the 'Godlessness' of modem society; for where God is absent, why should there be a need for motive?

Of course, clever men, like the atheist Ludovic Kennedy, will say that there is no need to bring God into it. The difficulty for them, however, is that there are so few as clever as they are. The vast majority of us are of only limited intelligence and miss the guidance from above - the whispered voice of conscience - to direct and inform our lives. So when bored and with nothing better to do, why not go out and commit a mugging or two; or even, dare I say it, a murder?

Charles FitzGerald

Andover, Hampshire

From Mr R.A. Massie-Blomfield

Sir: While it is easy to write from thousands of miles away and presume to offer an explanation for a murder in Milton Keynes, perhaps I may at least point out what I regard as a contributory factor. Secular education implies that it is possible - nay, desirable - to educate the young in a spiritual vacuum. Religion only breeds intolerance of other religions, as we have recently witnessed in your diary and correspondence columns (so the argument goes), and the result is a generation who are at the mercy of their own inclinations. 'I don't know why I didn't [help the drowning man]' is an appalling indictment of a society that is breeding spiritual dwarfs who have no awareness of their fallen state. As I looked at Heath's brilliant illustration of the scene of the crime, I was reminded of the words of the hymn my generation sang when we were at school where 'every prospect pleases, and only man is vile'.

The unpalatable truth is that we are all potential 'monsters of motiveless malignity', but until now that malignity has been softened by the almost unrecognised benignity of Christ. Since His gracious influence is now on the wane, the monster within us all is beginning to take over. Such chilling incidents like the one Justin Marozzi has brought to our attention can act as a timely warning.

To put it bluntly, can a godless society be surprised when some of its members behave in a godless way?

R. A. Massie-Blomfield

Nairobi, Kenya

From Mr Tony Hafliger

Sir: 'But what this grisly murder tells us about modem society, the law, youth culture and urban life is another matter,' states Justin Marozzi in his article, and concludes: 'The answer is probably that it tells us nothing at all.' If this horribly chilling sentence is all that he can muster by way of afterthought, isn't he living proof that the moral vacuum that pervades modem society, is infesting the law, has given rise to the empty shell of youth culture and originated in urban life, extends further than he might be prepared to admit? …

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