Richard Ingrams's Week: Don’t bring God into it – we have enough worries

Share
Related Topics

“Now stop worrying” is the message of the crusading atheists who have paid to have the rather half-hearted slogan “There’s probably no God” plastered all over a lot of our buses.

As if people didn’t have enough to worry about, what with the credit crunch and the collapse of the world banking system, it’s likely that not all that many of us are kept awake at night worrying about whether or not God exists.

But such is not the case with the crusading atheists such as Richard Dawkins or philosophy professor A C Grayling who wrote on the subject in yesterday’s Independent. Hailing the launch of a student atheist federation, Grayling looks forward to the day when we can all of us “with free and open minds” get shot of all the old superstitions that have caused so much trouble hitherto.

Such intellectual fervency suggests to me that the only people likely to stay awake worrying about God are these hard-line atheists. Philosophers such as Grayling in particular are subject to an anti-God obsession that can come to dominate their thinking.

One such was the late Professor A J Ayer, once a revered figure in the philosophical world, but now I imagine, largely forgotten.

Ayer spent his life trying to show that any statement that could not be empirically verified was meaningless. It was all an attempt on his part to abolish God, with whose non-existence he was, like Grayling, obsessed.

I once sat next to Ayer at a dinner party in New York and he opened the conversation by remarking, “What could be more absurd than the Eucharist?”

Taken in by Basil Fawlty’s brother

A successful conman should look the part. He should give an immediate impression of sincerity, reliability and a selfless desire to help his fellow man to become as rich as he is.

That is surely why the American Bernard Madoff was such a success in persuading sensible people to give him their money. He looked not only shrewd but kindly and considerate. Cynic though I am, I might easily have entrusted all my savings to his care, especially if my friends were urging me to follow their example.

My theory of conmanship, however, is challenged by the success in the same field of Sir Allen Stanford. Because here is a man who looks like a first-rate clown. The sight of Stanford with his little toothbrush moustache, popping eyes and manic grin would be enough, you might think, to ring alarm bells with all but the very foolish and naive. So how do we explain his amazing success in the fraud business?

A knighthood still carries some weight, particularly in America. But a knighthood is not enough. More likely it is that Stanford, knowing that physically he could not compete in the image stakes with the likes of Mr Madoff, decided to make a virtue of his defects and deliberately set out to make himself look even more like an idiot – or, as someone remarked this week, the elder brother of Basil Fawlty.

The reaction of the punters would then be: this man may look like an idiot but he must be very clever and successful or he wouldn’t go round with that silly moustache and asinine smile. Mind you, if you’re dealing with the likes of the English Cricket Board it wouldn’t matter too much what you looked like.

High train fares are just the beginning of our travel woes

We British commuters are now paying rail fares twice as high as those in most major European countries. An unsurprising fact, especially since this year the train companies jacked up the fares above the inflation rate with the usual promises that the extra money would be helping them to provide an even better service than before.

The extra money has done nothing to stop the latest advance in rail travel which involves shutting down extensive stretches of the network over the weekend to carry out engineering works. I was painfully made aware of this last weekend when, hoping to return to London from Norfolk, I discovered, with, as usual, the help of a lady in India, that there would be no trains at all on my line on Sunday. A bus was connecting with another line, and the journey would take six hours.

Unnoticed among the talk of train fares is the rocketing price of parking at stations. Car parks have generally been hived off to private companies who, as far as one can tell, are free to charge what they like. APCOA, the mammoth operation which controls my own station car park, has recently jacked up the all-day rate from £3 to £3.30 – an increase of 10 per cent.

The train companies can at least claim that more money coming in will mean a better service, but APCOA can hardly do this when all it provides is a muddy plot of land and a machine to put money in. The only possible justification for a 10 per cent rise is to increase the company’s profits.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Helpdesk Analyst

£25000 per annum: Ashdown Group: An established media firm based in Surrey is ...

Ashdown Group: Java Developer - Hertfordshire - £47,000 + bonus + benefits

£40000 - £470000 per annum + bonus: Ashdown Group: Java Developer / J2EE Devel...

Ashdown Group: Head of Finance - Financial Director - London - £70,000

£70000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Head of Finance - Financial Controller - Fina...

Recruitment Genius: Business Development Executive - Nationwide - OTE £65,000

£30000 - £65000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This small technology business ...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Ice skating in George Square, Glasgow  

How many Christmas cards have you sent this year?

Simon Kelner
 

Al-Sweady Inquiry: An exercise in greed that blights the lives of brave soldiers

Richard Kemp
Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas
La Famille Bélier is being touted as this year's Amelie - so why are many in the deaf community outraged by it?

Deaf community outraged by La Famille Bélier

The new film tells the story of a deaf-mute farming family and is being touted as this year's Amelie
10 best high-end laptops

10 best high-end laptops

From lightweight and zippy devices to gaming beasts, we test the latest in top-spec portable computers
Michael Carberry: ‘After such a tough time, I’m not sure I will stay in the game’

Michael Carberry: ‘After such a tough time, I’m not sure I will stay in the game’

The batsman has grown disillusioned after England’s Ashes debacle and allegations linking him to the Pietersen affair
Susie Wolff: A driving force in battle for equality behind the wheel

Susie Wolff: A driving force in battle for equality behind the wheel

The Williams driver has had plenty of doubters, but hopes she will be judged by her ability in the cockpit
Adam Gemili interview: 'No abs Adam' plans to muscle in on Usain Bolt's turf

'No abs Adam' plans to muscle in on Usain Bolt's turf

After a year touched by tragedy, Adam Gemili wants to become the sixth Briton to run a sub-10sec 100m
Calls for a military mental health 'quality mark'

Homeless Veterans campaign

Expert calls for military mental health 'quality mark'
Racton Man: Analysis shows famous skeleton was a 6ft Bronze Age superman

Meet Racton Man

Analysis shows famous skeleton was a 6ft Bronze Age superman
Garden Bridge: St Paul’s adds to £175m project’s troubled waters

Garden Bridge

St Paul’s adds to £175m project’s troubled waters
Stuff your own Christmas mouse ornament: An evening class in taxidermy with a festive feel

Stuff your own Christmas mouse ornament

An evening class in taxidermy with a festive feel
Joint Enterprise: The legal doctrine which critics say has caused hundreds of miscarriages of justice

Joint Enterprise

The legal doctrine which critics say has caused hundreds of miscarriages of justice
Freud and Eros: Love, Lust and Longing at the Freud Museum: Objects of Desire

Freud and Eros

Love, Lust and Longing at the Freud Museum