Last month I returned “home” to England for a short time and found myself more of an exile than ever. It seems that every time I return to my native land I feel more distant from it, and more at peace with my decision, seven years ago, to move to the United States. On this last visit “home”, I was reminded of Chesterton’s words that when people stop believing in God, they don’t believe in nothing but in anything. Here is an account of the shocking ignorance and superstitious nonsense that confronted and affronted me during my mercifully brief stay in London.
Finding myself in a pub in London’s East End, I struck up conversation with an aging pop star who seems to have been offended by the crucifix lapel badge that I was wearing. In a bizarre inversion of one of those old Dracula films, he pulled a pentangle pendent from around his neck and waved it in front of me, as though to ward off the power of my Christian presence. He informed me that the pentangle was not a symbol of the occult or of black magic but was a pagan symbol. I did not have the patience to explain to him how true pagans, such as Homer or Aristole, would have been horrified by his bizarre and tacky new age dabblings and diabolings. In any event, he went on to explain to me that he kept three “sacred” books by his bed, each of which contained important aspects of the truth. One was the Bible, the other Zen Buddhism, and the third Mein Kampf by Adolf Hitler! Feeling that there was nothing else to be said, I sidled off into the company of a New York lawyer, now living in London, who was also prompted by the sight of my crucifix to wax lyrical about his own “religion”, which was essentially that there is no God because we are all gods, each one of us! Taking my leave from this Godless “god”, I moved on, seeking some relatively sane company with which to imbibe my Guinness in relative peace. It was not to be. An angry young man, reacting to my cucifix like one possessed, informed me with malicious intensity that the Catholic Church was corrupt. He asked me whether I had heard of the Illuminati. I told him that indeed I had. He then informed me that the Catholic Church and the Illumiinati were the same thing, and that they were part of a sinister conspiracy to enslave humanity. I tried to explain to him that the Illuminati were avowedly anti-Catholic and indeed heretical but he was not interested in any rational discussion and insisted that the present Pope was a member of the Illuminati. Leaving him to his bizarre beliefs, I shook the “post-Christian” English dust from my feet and longed for my return to the relative sanity of South Carolina. After tasting the doctrines of English “post-Christianity” I realised that even the wackiest Southern Baptist calvinist was the epitome of relative sanity!
When people stop believing in God, they don’t believe in nothing, they believe in anything. Chesterton is right – as usual. But as I left the relativist insane asylum that my country seems to have become, I was struck more by the words of Chesterton’s great friend, Hilaire Belloc. Speaking of the world beyond the Church, Belloc wrote: “Outside is the Night – and strange things in the Night.” The sun of sanity seems to have set over England, leaving a legion of strange things in the Night. I was also left musing that England does not so much need an evangelist as an exorcist! God help the land of my birth!