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

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

Recruitment Genius: Unqualified NVQ Assessors - Health, Social Care & Management

£16000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This award winning independent ...

Ashdown Group: HR Assistant - Immediate Start - Central Manchester - £20K

£18000 - £20000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: HR Assistant - Immediate ...

Recruitment Genius: Senior Development Engineer

£28000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This leading manufacturer of fl...

Recruitment Genius: Field Sales Operative - Oxfordshire / Worcestershire - OTE £30k

£12000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Field Sales Operative is requ...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

i Editor's Letter: Most powerful woman in British politics

Oliver Duff Oliver Duff
All the major parties are under pressure from sceptical voters to spell out their tax and spending plans  

Yet again, the economy is the battleground on which the election will be fought

Patrick Diamond
Revealed: Why Mohammed Emwazi chose the 'safe option' of fighting for Isis, rather than following his friends to al-Shabaab in Somalia

Why Mohammed Emwazi chose Isis

His friends were betrayed and killed by al-Shabaab
'The solution can never be to impassively watch on while desperate people drown'
An open letter to David Cameron: Building fortress Europe has had deadly results

Open letter to David Cameron

Building the walls of fortress Europe has had deadly results
Tory candidates' tweets not as 'spontaneous' as they seem - you don't say!

You don't say!

Tory candidates' election tweets not as 'spontaneous' as they appear
Mubi: Netflix for people who want to stop just watching trash

So what is Mubi?

Netflix for people who want to stop just watching trash all the time
The impossible job: how to follow Kevin Spacey?

The hardest job in theatre?

How to follow Kevin Spacey
Armenian genocide: To continue to deny the truth of this mass human cruelty is close to a criminal lie

Armenian genocide and the 'good Turks'

To continue to deny the truth of this mass human cruelty is close to a criminal lie
Lou Reed: The truth about the singer's upbringing beyond the biographers' and memoirists' myths

'Lou needed care, but what he got was ECT'

The truth about the singer's upbringing beyond
Migrant boat disaster: This human tragedy has been brewing for four years and EU states can't say they were not warned

This human tragedy has been brewing for years

EU states can't say they were not warned
Women's sportswear: From tackling a marathon to a jog in the park, the right kit can help

Women's sportswear

From tackling a marathon to a jog in the park, the right kit can help
Hillary Clinton's outfits will be as important as her policies in her presidential bid

Clinton's clothes

Like it or not, her outfits will be as important as her policies
NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

The wars that come back to haunt us

David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders