Posted by Tania Kindersley.
It is quite hard not to grow cross when you have spent all week being told by men in frocks how immoral you are. Of course one can see that the fellows have a point. I am so damn immoral that I spent all yesterday afternoon making stew for my old mother. I ruthlessly delivered it to her today, for her lunch. No wonder the religious gentlemen think Britons have no health in them. I am selfishly having my sister and my niece's dogs to stay, and am cruelly giving them extra love, in case they should be missing their humans. On Sunday night, in an act of pure fecklessness, I shall go and collect the niece from the airport. In the moral relativism in which I am told I am mired, I send money each month to Africa, and the Red Cross, and Great Ormond Street hospital, and the Burma Campaign.
I have all the flaws that flesh is heir to. There are days when I am grumpy. I have no capacity to keep my office organised. I have moments of shocking laziness. I quite often refuse to do things (the compound will tell you that I am a famous chucker). But I make an attempt to be a reasonably decent human being, not because I think this will get me to heaven, but because I think that it's what humans should do. In a way, it is an act of selfishness, because I want to be able to look at myself in the glass each morning. If I had one creed it would be the line from EM Forster: kindness, kindness and yet more kindness. I like the slightly surprising cry from cross old Philip Larkin, who said all that is left of us is love. I am inordinately fond of the Hippocratic oath, which instructs: first, do no harm. But the Pope tells me that because I do not believe in a deity which turns wine to blood and a wafer to human flesh, I have no morality.
I do not wish to upset my Catholic friends. There are people I love and admire who have gods of all stripes, as well as none of the above. I think everyone must believe what they wish. But to say that one belief system has cornered the market on morality is just empirically incorrect. I am as guilty as the next woman of a sweeping generalisation, but in the end each person must be judged on their actions, not their creed. The good or bad comes down to individuals, not prescribed (or proscribed) groups. Belief or non-belief is not the marker for morals.
Richard Dawkins once said a very interesting thing. He said that all believers are also atheists, because there are Gods that they think do not exist. So, Christians do not believe in Allah; Hindus do not believe in Yawheh; Jews do not believe that Jesus was divine. Pretty much no one now believes in Thor and Odin, although when I was a child I remember thinking them very splendid sort of gods, with all that hammer action. There are ancient religions which are now dead as twenty-seven dodos. Zeus no longer commands worship, although there was a time when Pausanias could write: 'That Zeus is king in heaven is a saying common to all men'. No one has much time for Ra the Sun God. There are no more followers of Nin-Kasi, the Mesopotamian goddess of beer, even though she sounds a most delightful deity, or the lesser Siduri, the divine tavern keeper. As HL Mencken once wrote, who now worships Huitzilopochtli? Actually, I can understand why no one does. Quite apart from the fact that his name is impossible to pronounce, he was a savage god, requiring daily sacrifice. The chosen victim was held down while a priest used an obsidian knife to cut out his beating heart. Huitzilopochtli's sister goddess Teteoinnan, the earth mother, required even more gory worship. At each harvest, a young girl was chosen to be flayed; her skin was then carried to the temple and worn by the officiating priest.
The point is that there is a reason it is called faith rather than fact. Many different people believe in many different gods, now and throughout human history. There is no way of telling who is right. So it seems frankly peculiar that any one faith would make a claim to all human virtue. I absolutely see that the Pope would want to stand up for his church. I just feel a little disconcerted when he tells me that because I do not share his God, I have a 'truncated view of man and of society'. I'm truncating off now, to commit more acts of gross indecency. I have to make my mother some tomato sauce for her freezer, because that's what immoralists do, on a Friday afternoon.
Meanwhile, here is the pack, in full fig:
Ready for their close-up:
My old ladies:
And my dear old sedum, just coming into flower, pretty enough to soothe the most jaded soul:
I look at that and for some reason, I think of Hamlet. There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy. That will do as my quote of the day.