Monday, 11 April 2011

Deep Inside

There are only three things in the world that I hate, and one of them is this article from the New Statesman.

I've written about my love/hate relationship with the New Statesman before. When I open my copy, there are a few things I hope not to see. An article by A A Gill, for instance. Zac Goldsmith's face. Russell Brand talking about Transcendental Meditation. Last week's issue included all three of those things. What are the chances?

Having said that, Zac Goldsmith's piece on democracy was actually very good (if slightly undermined by the fact that he was a non-dom until about a year ago.) and A A Gill's piece didn't infuriate me. Probably because I didn't read it, I'm not an idiot. But while these two failed to make me annoyed enough to write a blog, Russell Brand succeeded.

I've read some of his articles in the New Statesman before, and I've been pleasantly surprised. Generally when I read stuff he's written, my opinion of him improves infinitely, as I'm not confronted by his voice and hair, so I can disassociate the text from the writer, and pretend it's written by someone else. But not this time; this time I could hear the words on the page being shouted in his voice, and there was no escape.

Russell Brand denounces Richard Dawkins' targeting of 'mental' creationists (which is actually not Dawkins' fault, and probably more to do with the platforms on to which he's invited by TV companies for the sake of entertainment) and explains that it's not just mental people who are religious; look at Gandhi, St Francis of Assisi, the Dalai Lama, Andrew Sachs. (I may have added one he didn't say.) They're all religious too, and it is them 'to which we should turn when questioning the existence of a power beyond man.' But why? Because they did good things? I never understand that argument, that religious do-gooders are somehow proof of the existence of God. A lot of atheists have done 'good' things too, Thomas Paine, Bob Geldof, Dexter. And a lot of religious people have done 'bad' things (over 99% of US prisoners are religious). But that's all utterly irrelevant. Everyone in the world could be religious and it wouldn't make them right.

He also tackles the argument that religion causes war, claiming that we would still fight without religion. Obviously that's true, but we would fight less. And fighting less seems appealing. 'My last serious argument was about a croissant,' writes Brand, which is amusing enough. But his argument here is that even if there was no religion, we'd fight over things like croissants. The problem with that argument is that fights over religion are a lot more bloody and devastating than fights over croissants. Unless you really like croissants. Maybe if you're... French, I guess? So if I had a choice between horrendous wars over religion and trivial arguments over croissants, I'd obviously go for the latter. Russell Brand's shot himself in the foot a bit there. Sort of like here. He's just so scandalous.

Then he says, 'through Transcendental Meditation,' and that's when I start to hear his voice. Vividly. That's when I should have stopped reading. That's when I should have skipped to the great article by Alain de Botton, or just closed the magazine, or thrown myself out of the window. But like a cunt, I carried on reading. 'Through Transcendental Meditation, twice daily I feel the bliss of the divine.' Katy Perry, presumably.

He continues, 'through the mental repetition of a mantra, eventually my chattering monkey mind recedes.' Now he seems to be confusing spiritualism with mental illness. He goes on, 'gently banishing concerns of the past and drawing the inner eye away from speculation and want.' And lets face it, it must be hard to cast aside your 'want' when you're worth three million pounds and living here:

What a spiritual, immaterial man he is.

Brand doesn't need me to tell him that his enlightenment is not proof of God. Because he then points towards some kind of design argument; there was nothing, now there's something, it looks designed. This is a line of argument that I cannot stand. It starts by following a logical enough style of reasoning (things can't just randomly appear, that makes no sense!) and then leaps to the conclusion that God done it. I thought we were following some basic standard of logic? Apparently I was wrong. It seems that while it's just silly to think that a universe can emerge from nothing, it's perfectly justifiable to then point to a magic being. Either follow some sort of scientific reasoning or don't. If God's just going to be used to plug gaps in science, then, to quote the genius biologist-comedian-rapper Baba Brinkman, 'I say banish God into the gaps.' (And I implore you to listen to that Baba Brinkman song. It's 'the best of the best of the best of the best...')

Finally, Russell Brand asks: 'Could a witless miasma of molecules and dust ever have created anything as ingenious and incredible as Richard Dawkins?' Yes! It fucking did! Well, it wasn't 'a witless miasma', it was natural selection. Earlier Brand claimed: 'I have Dawkins to thank for my own understanding of the fantastic discovery that is evolution.' I hate to break it to you Russell Brand, but that thing you have of evolution is not an understanding. People who dismiss evolution tend to say things like 'look how complex we are as a species, how can that be chance?' It isn't chance, it's a rigorous process of selection! To put it into terms you'll understand, it's more Project Runway than Britain's Got Talent.

But still, that Gene Simmons joke was good.

I'll leave you with the Incubus song that this blog is named after, enjoy!

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