Brian Cox on the Bible

Brian Cox is a 77-year-old British actor whom I’ve never heard of, though I have seen some of the movies that Wikipedia tells me he’s appeared in. Cox has had character roles in scores of films since the early 1970s.

For some reason, Cox thought it was necessary to tell an interviewer recently that the Bible is “one of the worst books ever”, and that “only stupid people believe it.”

Okay, I’ll bite.

I hate to turn this into yet another “Okay, Boomer,” moment. But Brian Cox is apparently living in 1966. In its April 8, 1966 issue, Time magazine famously asked the question, “Is God Dead?”

Cox would have been twenty at the time. I was a little more than two years from the day of my birth.

My point here being: it is no longer edgy for a self-assessed Western intellectual to declare his disdain for Christianity. In fact, a declaration of atheism has become rather trite, or at the very least, ho-hum. On the contrary, it is edgy for one of our Western cultural elites to declare that she is a Christian believer.

Western Europe’s march toward secularism and atheism did not begin in the benighted 1960s, although the 1960s accelerated it. Western Europe’s slide toward nonbelief began in the nihilism that followed the devastation of the First World War.

The American author Ernest Hemingway (1899 – 1961) was a European by interest and temperament. Hemingway always felt most at home in Europe, and it was in Europe that he got his start as a writer.

Read Ernest Hemingway’s post-World War I European novel, The Sun Also Rises. It is a story of soulless, uninspired people making their way through a bleak, amoral universe.

The Sun Also Rises, 1926 first edition

Hemingway was an atheist—or at least an agnostic. In his 1940 novel For Whom the Bell Tolls, he coined the phrase, “All thinking men are atheists.”

Hemingway died by his own hand at the age of 62. He killed himself with a shotgun.

Western Europe, too, is committing a sort of slow suicide. Having forsaken both faith and tradition, this is a culture that can no longer be troubled to reproduce itself. Practically every European country is aging, shrinking, withering, a shadow of its former (and mostly Christian) self.

The only positive population growth in Europe nowadays comes from Muslim immigration. Europe’s Muslim immigrants haven’t gotten the memo on atheism yet. More on this in a moment.

As Europeans have grown increasingly secular over the past one hundred years, Islam has become the fastest-growing religion in Europe. Europe’s old cathedrals draw the tourists. But it is the mosques that draw the transplanted faithful.

If Brian Cox wanted to say something edgy about faith and atheism, then, he took the coward’s way out. Why pick on a religion that is dying out in Europe, anyway? Why not target the one that some of Europe’s residents still actually believe in?

But Brian Cox, being a coward (or possibly just an out-of-touch codger) did not say that the Quran is a bad book that only imbeciles follow. He picked an easy target, a religion whose remaining followers will only shake their heads at him, rather than murder him for blasphemy.

On second thought, maybe Brian Cox just wanted to say something dismissive about religion—something that would have been edgy in 1966—while making sure that he celebrates as many remaining birthdays as possible. An atheist, after all, has nothing to be hopeful about in the hereafter.

-ET

H.P. Lovecraft and first-person narration

A small addendum to my earlier post on HP Lovecraft.

I have noticed that H.P. Lovecraft has a strong preference for first-person narration.

First-person narration is neither intrinsically good nor bad. I’ve used it myself in a handful of novels, including The Eavesdropper, Termination Man, Revolutionary Ghosts, and 12 Hours of Halloween.

I suspect, however, that Lovecraft’s excessive reliance on first-person narration traces to his generally weak sense of character and characterization. As I previously noted, every Lovecraft character is essentially the same person: a solitary male engaged in arcane pursuits, often with the assistance of an uncle who is a professor at Miskatonic University.

But all writers, I should note—me included—have their quirks and habitual crutches. This is not a condemnation of Lovecraft, but merely a literary observation.