Miles Kington: Why Pullman and Dawkins are no match for the Deities

All the best religions were great stories. Now there is a storytelling atheist at the door, using great stories to hit back and bully for him
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The Independent Online

We paid a visit to the United Deities yesterday to see how that august gathering of all the gods viewed the teddy bear scandal in the Sudan, and they were about to turn their divine discussion to the threat of atheism, so I think we will stick with it for another day ...

1. The Chairgod said the next item concerned the anti-Catholic, but best-selling, children's author Philip Pullman.

2. The Catholic God said he was sorry but Philip Pullman was not a name known to him.

3. The Chairgod sighed and said it was expected that if gods came to these meetings, they should at least have the grace to catch up with the news on the Omniscience Channel, and download the headlines.

4. Download? replied the Catholic God.

5. Make use of the godcast, said the Chairgod.

6. You have lost me, said the Catholic God.

7. The Chairgod reminded those present of the Divine Intelligence tutorial sessions, absolutely free every morning, and urged them to take advantage.

8. Zeus said he could vouch for these sessions. He had gone to one last week, and met a most attractive flame-haired Celtic goddess, who had seemed not unattracted to himself. He would be going back again for more computer training.

9. The Jewish God said he knew all about Mr Pullman and his books. He thought he was good value and much preferable as an atheist to Richard Dawkins.

10. The Chairgod wondered how one atheist could be preferred to another. Were they not all much of a muchness?

11. The Jewish God said that was like saying all gods were much of a muchness. Pullman and Dawkins had different styles. Dawkins was a scientist and therefore liked to demolish his opponents coldly and logically, taking down the fabric of religion as he proceeded. As that was not how religion was constructed, it was a ludicrous approach, and not too difficult to counter.

12. But Pullman was a master storyteller, who explored religion through stories which captivated his young audience, leaving them unaware that they had succumbed to anti-religious arguments. All the best religions were great stories. Now they had a storytelling atheist at the door, using great stories to hit back for once, and bully for him.

13. It reminded him, said the Jewish God, of the story of the rabbi who hears a knock on his door late one night, and when he goes to open it, finds three travellers, who tell him that one of them is the true god, and the other two are false, and if he can tell the difference ...

14. Perhaps some other time, said the Chairgod, and did anyone have anything to add to atheism before they moved on?

15. The Anglican God said he had had a speed read of Mr Pullman's books that morning, and the most offensive passage had seemed to be where the main god figure had started becoming senile, and began losing control of his faculties.

16. Jupiter said he could think of plenty of Roman gods who qualified for that description. The recumbent figure of Bacchus at sunrise was not a pretty sight.

17. The Anglican God said Mr Pullman was not thinking of a C-grade drunken Roman god. He was trying to depict an all-powerful god who was falling to bits.

18. The Jewish God said it was the great weakness of all atheists that they preferred to deal with all-powerful gods. Atheists, like rebellious children, wanted to kick supreme power in the teeth, which was why they all, in the long run, ended up getting angry and asking how an all-powerful, all-merciful god could permit something or other.

19. He thought most atheists could be cured by a visit to the United Deities. Just take a look around the present company (he invited). A fine array of gods, to be sure. But all-powerful? Oy, weh. All-merciful? He should say not. Laughter.

20. A flame-haired Celtic goddess interrupted at this point to say hi there, Zeus! And what was he doing after the meeting?

More of this some other time.