Will Self: 'The soggy wafer of meekness is backed up by air strikes'

From the Richard Price Memorial Lecture, given by the author and journalist, at Newington Green Unitarian Church, in London
Click to follow
The Independent Online

What do we need religious satire for here in Britain, given that the Established Church is so adept at ridiculing itself? Popular religious satire - such as it is - is as feeble as its opponent. The adipose Vicar of Dibley pooting "It's not God's chocolate orange - it's mine!". Or Private Eye's "St Albion's Parish News" - a piece of febrile whimsy masquerading as satire, which, by reducing the homicidal follies of the Blair regime to the infighting of a valetudinarian vestry, merely comforts both moieties.

The problem with the contemporary situation is that the enemy is a specious and lacklustre ultramontanism which thrives on the apathetic agnosticism of the people. "We don't know much about religion," the people mutter, "but we know what we don't mind."

Bamboozled by the cultural relativism implied by a multi-faith society, confused by the moral relativism implicit in changing social mores, the people put their trust in what? The Archbishop of Canterbury? A poor excuse for Dumbledore, who totters about St Paul's with his wand, bringing lukewarm comfort to those torn apart by high explosive? Or possibly the Queen, a Defender of the Faith whose back-of-the-biscuit-tin homilies are scripted by public relations executives?

Us satirists and dissenters mistake the supine posture of our enemies for weakness. On the contrary, there's a steely strength in the victimhood of the current establishment. The bishops hang on to their House of Lords sinecures, the Queen hangs on to her baubles, and the ever-so-'umble Tony Blair hangs on to what power he has with a fanatical grip.

The faithless bourgeoisie lig better education for their children from faith schools and sanctify their brief unions in the aesthetically-pleasing surroundings of beautiful old buildings which are cheap to hire. Deluded squaddies are still sent into action choking on this doctrinal pap, the soggy wafer of meekness backed up by air strikes.

A pox on it all I say. The Established Church in this country will need satire until it is, quite rightly, disestablished.