I went to church the other day. It was an Ascension Day service at St.-Martin-in-the-Fields (A Church Of England church) in London. The service was being broadcast by the BBC and so there had been a big effort to arrange a large choir. The music was pleasantly dulling and people sang away to the hymns loudly and clearly for the BBC microphones. We were also told not to use photographic equipment by the priest because “it is inaapropriate and disrepectful to the presence of God”.
I didn’t sing along to the hymns. I felt bad when I stood tight-lipped and watched people throw down their self-esteem in front of ‘God’. I felt very strange indeed. The best bit was the sermon because I could sit down and listen to English and some form of argument, rather than just the drone of ritual…
… And then I was shocked by what he had to say. He referred to Christ’s alleged Ascension and not a physical ascension, but an Ascension of Christ’s spirit. He said that Christ didn’t go up into the clouds, but crossed dimensions into the realm of God, ‘God’ being a being whose form we may or may not recognise. This realm he claimed was beyond space and time. He also referred to the hand that God had in the whole creation of the Universe, from the Big Bang and the evolution of humans along with the spiritual mind that he alleged they have. This was all punctuated by other references to science, including referring to Yuri Gagarin’s trip in Sputnik demonstrating what the Church had known all along – God is a cross-dimensional being, he doesn’t live at 50,000 feet, but somewhere that we can’t see, can never see, just as we knew we could never fly above 50,000 feet 100 years ago.
It was this that surprised, shocked and pleased me all at the same time. His references to science were a blatant attempt to self-legitimate his religion and also give a rational angle to Christianity, whilst attempting to subsume the impartial scientific ideals of truth, rationality, etc. once again under the aegis of ‘God’. If this is church policy, then it is going to cause a lot of pain to the church. The ideology of Christianity is already decomposing. Witness the Vatican’s acceptance of Darwinian theory as pehaps not-quite-as-satanic as was once thought. The moment you allow a chink in the armour of belief, you are bound to lose that belief. Let’s assume that the story of Creation is now accepted by all Vatican functionaries as just an allegorical tale. Where do you draw the line? Didn’t God make man in his own image, or is he really a formless cross-dimensional being? Where does it say that in the Bible? The moment the carriers of ‘God’s Truth’ admit that there is an area that can be tested by outside means, they theoretically lose control over everything else because they beg the question as to what else can be tested. It showed up early on with the Heliocentric theory of Gallileo, who was persecuted for using observation and deduction to conclude that the Earth orbited the Sun. We can view this as either a desire by the church at the time to stifle contradictory evidence, or more ominously, as an early manifestation of observation conflicting with revelation. If the priesthood must remain the sole bearers of ‘Divine Truth’, then the ground for rival ideas must be laid waste.
On the one hand, the Vatican’s approach up to now has been totally understandable, just as it was understandable that Stalin gripped power with all that blood on his hands. The imperative to keep total agreement mirrored the ‘Democratic Centralism’ of Stalin. Excommunication (or the excesses of the Spanish Inquisition) mirrored party expulsions, mass arrests and purges.
“Big Daddy” is a ‘tract’ by Jack Chick for evangelists to use to spread their message. Read through this and marvel as I did at the Jewish cariacature of the ‘evil’ professor, the blond Christian boy, the parody of evolutionary theory, the absolute abuse of the word ‘Science’ (Jack – it never claims to explain EVERYTHING) and the interesting feature of many of his references – they’re all books he publishes! This is truly an intellectual rape of the first order.
Similarly, I left that church both annoyed at the way science was being raped before a rapt audience and also thrilled at what this meant for the progress of science. It shows that the tide really is turning – blind revelation asks observation for clues. I sincerely hope that anti-science and pseudo-science (Horoscopes, spoon-bending etc.) impact little on the credibility of science. There are rough times ahead as we switch from and immature, uninformed, knee-jerk way of viewing the world to a more mature, sober, reasoned and complicated way.
In any case, Yuri Gagarin never did travel in Sputnik, nor could he have. Not even Houdini could have fitted himself into a football-sized steel ball. Trying to hijack science has its pitfalls – for one thing, you have to know what you are talking about.
(Migrated from old site. Written May 1998)