Tuesday, July 19, 2005


In Praise Of Sam Leith

I was reading the paper the other day, and it occurred to me that Sam Leith is the best writer at the Telegraph. Despite his fresh-faced, yet still somehow disturbing picture, which makes him look like a rather over-earnest door-to-door soap salesman, he almost always comes up with the goods. This, in particular, is excellent. How can you beat it? I spent most of last week drafting a film review of 'The Descent', which I absolutely loved, and Leith has come up with a far more interesting passage using about 5% of the words. Not only that, but he name-checks Stephen King's excellent book 'Danse Macabre' too.

Can you name one other writer at the Telly, except for film reviewers, who could actually enjoy a gory horror? More to the point, could you name one anywhere on Fleet Street?

He then goes on with a sensible attitude to the old Wayne/Colleen business. Amazing.

Yet there I was, thinking this was unbeatable, when I read another that beat it. With all the continual, boring, boring, boring, oh so boring droning on about religion, and particularly Islam after 7/7, who should write the following, which is not just exactly how I feel about religion, but also expressed infinitely better:

'For my money, the oldest and most pernicious form of kipple is spiritual kipple - and it was very much in evidence in the aftermath of the bombings. We got the old "Islam is a religion of peace" routine - and, in most of its manifestations, I guess it is. It's not the "peace" bit that's the important operator, though; it's the "religion" bit. There's nothing wrong with Islam that isn't, for my money, wrong with any system that gives God (as it chooses to understand him) a leading role in moral decision making.

The benevolent manifestations of religious conviction (church fĂȘtes, charitable giving, love for one's fellow man and so on) and its malevolent manifestations (putting bombs on buses, burning the evil spirits out of eight-year-old girls with cigarette ends and so on) are a world apart in practice, but identical in principle.

The fact that moderate Islam and Anglican Christianity both look a lot like liberal humanism is, we can all agree, a mighty relief. But in both cases, the moral code is predicated on an appeal to something other than the human. That's what makes them religions.

And that's what - with the final court of moral appeal not here, not subject to negotiation - makes them no more answerable to their fellow man for the bad than for the good. We're constantly asked to "respect" people's faiths. "Tolerate" is as far as I'd go. Nonkipple needs to push back.'

Let's just repeat that for emphasis: '"tolerate" is as far as I'd go.' How come this man is a columnist, and not replacing any of the dunderheads who run this country? He definitely needs at least a website of his own.

I'm all out of snark today, so witty captions in the comments please!

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