Magazine article The Spectator


Magazine article The Spectator


Article excerpt

Evil's no problem for us

From Mr Clive James

Sir: With reference to Theo Hobson's piece (`Piety trick', 6 October), it pleases me that someone called Theo should be a theologian. At school I had a friend called Phil who collected stamps, but when he became known as Phil the Philatelist he gave up. Theo the Theologian is made of sterner stuff. His spiritual qualifications, however, don't make him a mind-reader.

I might have `seemed to assume' that I was `an authority on matters of faith', but I don't assume it. Nor do I have any `rictus pride', whatever that is, about my insight into the Problem of Evil: a locution I have never used, with or without capital letters. There is no problem. The problem is for believers. Terrible things happen, but God does not come to intervene, and we nonbelievers conclude that this is because God does not exist. Non-believers are perfectly capable, while concluding that, of also concluding that a state, though it can't be democratic unless it is secular, stands to lose a lot if religion is not important in private life.

I'm sorry if I gave the impression of being glib on this complicated subject. It would have helped if Theo the Theologian had not been so quick to decide that it takes a professional to think about these things. We all think about them: it is the price of having lived at all.

Clive James London SEl

From Dr Henry Hardy

Sir: I welcome Theo Hobson's challenge to Devout Sceptics (DSs) to put up or shut up. But he should not get away with his complaint that DSs don't `state [their] own religious position', since he doesn't state his. Possibly, being a theologian, he is a believer, but not necessarily: we should be told.

There are two ways for DSs to `put up': to become more devout or to become more sceptical. The latter is the only option for those who cannot believe: to lay claim to the fruits and insights of a faith to which one does not subscribe is like claiming benefits from a government to which one does not pay taxes.

Henry Hardy Oxford

Laughter as therapy

From Jayne Osborn

Sir: I applaud Ross Clark (`Militant mourning', 6 October). We cannot afford to lose our sense of humour during times of distress. My mother has senile dementia and the family is amused at some of the things she says, not because mental illness or decrepitude is funny, but because we can deal with what is a tragic situation more easily by seeing the funny side of it. I was not alive during either of the world wars, but I'm well aware of the number of humorous poems and songs about trenches, rats, lice, bombs, death, etc. none of which are actually cause for amusement. So why was that stuff written? To save people sinking into troughs of despair from which they might never have emerged.

Jayne Osborn Wellingborough, Northamptonshire

Odious comparison

From Mr William Grey

Sir: Mark Steyn's rant (People who hate people', 6 October) against the abstract nouns used by peace-loving lefties was selfaggrandising, dull and better put by George Orwell 55 years ago in Politics and the English Language.

Steyn's conclusion, that to use the language of pacifists is to insult the memory of the `real, living men and women and children with families and street addresses' who died on 11 September, seems to me stupid and dangerous, at a time when the lives of thousands of equally innocent Afghans hang in the balance.

The only logical conclusion to be drawn from his piece is that Steyn, like President Bush, considers the lives of foreign refugees without street addresses to be infinitely less concrete and real than those of Americans.

William Grey London W10

The EU, the US and us

From Mr David Watkins

Sir: Your leading article (6 October) points out the huge contradiction between the PM's enthusiastic pro-Americanism and his enthusiasm for the EU. The EU is naturally anti-American. …

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