Author: Phillip Jensen

Saul: an unknowing prophet of doom

An article from kategoria magazine Issue 8.

It takes a great deal of courage to be a social critic. It is much easier to be cynical, witty and humorous than to come out and state bluntly what is wrong with our society. Doing so takes a certain kind of brashness, a willingness to disregard sacred taboos, and a lot of nerve. Canadian writer John Ralston Saul appears to have all of these and his growing reputation as a critic of twentieth-century life in general makes him an apt topic for a journal devoted to knowledge reviewed on a wide front. This essay, then, is a review of some of the work of John Ralston Saul. He is in many ways a frustrating writer—and a sentence-by-sentence analysis could no doubt find many inaccuracies of detail, or over-generalisation—but the detail is not what makes him interesting. Saul has a brave, far-reaching thesis about how our modern society came to be and where it went wrong. For its many strengths, and its illuminating weaknesses, it is a the­ sis worth reviewing.

Saul is a Canadian writer of growing international recognition. He has a PhD in history from Kings College (London). He has worked in business in both France and Canada and has several novels published internationally. In a sense, however, Saul the person is not important, for it might be thought that any intelligent person could have made the social critique Saul has. Nonetheless, millions of intelligent people have not, and this is part of Saul’s critique. For the intelligent people have accepted the Enlightenment dogma of rationality and thought that this was all they needed. Saul disagrees. Our society is not in trouble because of a failure to be rational, he asserts; the major problems of our society have been created by rational people making rational decisions. The problem is that rationality is not enough. Saul points out what has been tragically demonstrated by the modern world: right decisions are not the same as rational ones.

Saul sees that rationality and morality cannot be arbitrarily separated. I agree with Saul, and yet I am constantly frustrated because he has left out an essential part of the picture. Although Saul has seen so much clearly, he has not yet seen that there is an indissoluble link—not just between morality and rationality, but between theology, morality and rationality. Because of creation, many of our basic and important concepts can be put forward as self-evident—for instance, utilitarianism in ethics, empiricism in knowledge, and rationality in decision-making. Yet what Saul, and his Enlightenment predecessors, failed to realise is that none of them has a basis apart from the God who created them; and an understanding of their use and abuse only comes from an understanding of the biblical revelation’s explanation of their distortion brought about by sin.

An introduction to John Ralston Saul

This article is not a book review, but it is primarily through his books that Saul has launched his ideas. Three in particular have brought him international fame: Voltaire’s Bastards: The Dictatorship of Reason in the West (Penguin 1992); The Doubter’s Companion: A Dictionary of Aggressive Common Sense (Penguin 1995); and The Unconscious Civilization (Penguin 1997).

In his internationally best selling Voltaire’s Bastards, Saul spells out his basic contention concerning the disastrous consequences of the Age of Reason. The Doubter’s Companion is

a dictionary. Under a range of alphabetically organised topics Saul provides a counter-cultural way of viewing the world. It is humorous and challenging as it takes a contrary
view on most topics. It is a quicker, but less sustained, way into the same arguments as Voltaire’s Bastards. Saul’s recent book The Unconscious Civilization is the published version of the Massey Lectures, broadcast by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation in 1995. In this he challenges the prominence of economics in democracy. The corporate world is the real enemy of the individual and democracy. This is an extension of his argument flowing out of his public debates on the issues raised in Voltaire’s Bastards.

Plato’s greatest flaw

Saul is a questioner and doubter of the present world order. He does not come with packaged answers, or even answers at all. His role is to be the worrying questioner, the loyal opposition, asking the difficult, embarrassing, even inconvenient questions. His is the voice of the small boy who declared that the emperor was wearing no clothes.
In a radio interview with Scott London, Saul explained his approach: “I’m not in the business of suggesting solutions, by the way. I don’t belong to the Platonic tradition, I belong to the Socratic tradition”.[1] Socrates, he said, was an ‘oral’ philosopher: the questioner, obsessed by ethics, search­ing for truth without expecting to find it, and a democrat, a believer in the qualities of the citizen. Plato, on the other hand, was primarily ‘written’: he was an answerer of questions, obsessed by power, one who thought himself in possession of the truth and was contemptuous of the citizens. So Socrates was the father of humanism, Plato the father of ideology. But Plato’s greatest flaw, according to Saul, is also the secret of his ongoing political success. He managed to marry Homer’s inevitability of the Gods and Destiny, to the newly discovered mechanisms of reason (Unconscious Civilization, p. 59).

Public knowledge

Modelling himself on Socrates, Saul wishes to restore public debate to the people as a believer in participatory democracy. He believes in people, in individual citizens. He would call himself a humanist. He opposes the elitist specialisation of power, and especially knowledge, which uses words and language defensively to protect position, rather than to communicate freely with all. As a graduate of McGill and London universities he could well be accused of being part of the corporate specialisation of knowledge that he criticises. He defended himself in a recent radio interview by claiming that his very studies were conducted in an iconoclastic manner:

I did my PhD out of Kings College London, but I did it on de Gaulle and the reorganisation of France, so I spent the whole time in Paris, and I didn’t go near the university that I was supposedly a part of, except once a month for maybe two days. I would go back, have terrible arguments, and then leave town again. Certainly, by the time I had finished it, they weren’t at all happy with my PhD—I had one of the most violent oral exams in modern history. It was two and a half hours of screaming basically [laughs]. But the fact is, I stood up for what I believed in and they didn’t have the guts to do anything about it.[2] 

Saul is not by any means against knowledge; knowledge is his concern. “I’m in the business of spreading knowledge.” His point is, this is public knowledge, and he is spreading it for public debate. He is taking ideas out of the realm of the specialist destroyers of language, to put them back into the realm of the citizen’s understanding and participation in debate.

Voltaire’s illegitimate children

Saul is not easily classifiable as right wing or left-wing. He rejects most of the categories by which people are able to quickly analyse and dismiss ideas. The very activity of such classifications is contrary to his whole position. He seems to be anti-rational, as he writes against such things as the ‘Dictatorship of Reason in the West’, but that would be a false conclusion to draw about him. His objection is not to reason, of which he uses a lot, but of its isolation from other human qualities. There are a least six qualities he cites as equally important: “common sense, creativity, ethics, intuition, memory, and reason.” Reason may function well as one of them, but reason (or any of them) taken in isolation fails badly. This is his accusation against Voltaire’s offspring.

Voltaire is one of Saul’s heroes (although he hates the category of hero). Voltaire through the spread of knowledge— by asking the hard questions, by his refusal to be overpowered by the structures of his own day—attacked the vested interests and power structures of the aristocracy and church. He relished in the importance of reason as a tool for conducting the affairs of humanity. Yet Voltaire was not arguing for reason in isolation. He was not ignoring ethics or common sense. It was his children, his illegitimate children, who so elevated reason as to make it finally unreasonable.

The thesis

Saul states his basic thesis in Voltaire’s Bastards. Reason, to the Enlightenment figures such as Voltaire, promised to liberate them from the arbitrary power of the monarchy and the church. Yet detached from any ethical humanism, rea­son has in this century become a new religion of state-sanctioned violence and dictatorial power. This religion is certainly no better—and in its efficiency considerably worse—than the things that the Enlightenment was revolting against. Reason alone has led to violence and oppression in politics, and to top-heavy bureaucracy in management. Without ethics, it has not only become unethical, it has become unworkable as well.

Saul says we are now in the dotage of the Age of Reason. It was a great and liberating age, one that we had to pass through.

Since the 1620’s, if not the 1530’s, we seem to have merely been fiddling with details or rather, shifting from side to side to disguise the fact that we have taken in that long period but one clear step—away, that is, from the divine revelation and absolute power of church and state.

A theology of pure power

That very real struggle against superstition and arbitrary power was won with the use of reason and of scepticism (Voltaire, p.15).

However, the original assumption that reason “was a moral force” (Voltaire, p. 16), has slowly been destroyed, even if we could not at first bring ourselves to abandon this easy conviction. The wars of the twentieth century were not the irrational acts of madmen, but the rational acts of immoral or amoral men.

The Age of Reason has turned out to be the Age of Structure; a time when, in the absence of purpose, the drive for power as a value in itself has become the principal indicator of social approval (Voltaire p. 16).

For a good half century now it has been easy… to say of our society that Christianity is dead and the psychiatrist is the new priest. But that is true only if you take the gossip columnist’s view of civilisation… In reality, we are today in the midst of a theology of pure power—power born of structure, not of dynasty or arms. The new holy trinity is organiza­tion, technology and information. The new priest is the technocrat—the man who understands the orga­nization, makes use of the technology and controls the access to information, which is a compendium of ‘facts’ (Voltaire, p. 22).

The Age of Reason has now become a tyranny from which we need release. Where it went wrong was where it was strongest: reason. Reason released from its context of moral­ity, humanity, memory and common sense became the structural monster that has created so many of our twentieth-century woes. Saul describes the new dictatorship that reason has created. The seminaries to train the priesthood are the secular universities offering their Master of Business Administration degrees. The father of this abuse of education and learning was the efficiency expert F. W. Taylor (1856-1915) who was the pioneer of scientific management, and the founding school was Harvard.

Rational tyranny

From this concentration on rational management and 39 control, the economists, social engineers and ruling elites spread—not only into the Western democracies but with
equal proficiency and efficiency into Nazi Germany, Fascist Italy and Communist Russia and China. This was not only the methodology of Mussolini and Hitler, but also Stalin and Mao. It is not just a problem for heads of state, but for the way our whole society is run. The people in power have become the technologists—the people who can do things. That is rational. The trouble is, the technologist only knows what he can do and how to go about doing it; he has no criteria to tell him whether it is a good thing to do. In fact, in his categories, ‘good’ is the same as ‘rational’. The technologist will hire himself out to whomever will pay. Now, ruled by reason, morality is a foreign and unhelpful concept to him. “One reason that he is unable to recognize the necessary relationship between power and morality is that moral traditions are the product of civilization and he has little knowledge of his own civilization” (Voltaire, p. 110).

Saul chronicles for us the devastating consequences of separating reason from its moorings in society, civilization and morality. He illustrates the ultimately futile and counter-productive attempts to make policies on the basis of technology, without knowing where we are going or what we are trying to achieve. He gives a detailed account of the arms race, which is such a rational response for our world economy, but at the same time so completely counterproductive to humanity, and even our own military interests.

Yet reason, when instituted into our society as the sole arbiter of life and meaning, cannot see its way out of its own tyranny. Those who come to power by scepticism, cannot be sceptical of their own use of power without reducing everything to a world-weary cynicism. A perfect example of this is Sir Humphrey Appleby of the Yes, Minister TV show. The reason for government is, in the end, the maintenance of the public service.

The problem of specialization

This ‘corporatism’ is also reflected in knowledge structures. Who has the right to ‘know’ things? Not the average person, any more. Instead of the open, reasoned, commonsense, moral intercourse of individual citizens, we have devised the division of labour into fiefdoms of exclusive knowledge and power. These specialised disciplines are unable to communicate with the public because of their specialist jargon, developed to protect their expertise and secrets. They are also unable to communicate with each other, for each has learnt to defend its own territory. The distortion of language is one of the sad reflections of a reason-controlled ‘corporatism’.

The result of this exclusivity is that polymaths and grand organising theorists are now excluded from any position in debate within our society. Each discipline rejects the outside ‘amateur’ as a threat. The amateur, by definition almost, does not know what he is talking about, especially when he does not use the right forms of language or chooses to speak in terms that the citizenry may be able to understand.

John Ralston Saul is just such an outsider. He writes of Economics and Art, of Politics and Religion, of Literature and Technology, of Administration and Philosophy. Throughout it he is an historian. Putting it simply, and not in his words, his case is that the separation of reason from its cultural roots in morality, has not only lead to immorality being made more logical, reasonable and efficient, but has also undermined reason and its discourse in society at large.

What is the value of Saul’s work?

(a) It is multidisciplinary

The over-specialisation of knowledge has been a concern expressed, especially around universities, for many years. Multidisciplinary and interdisciplinary studies have been attempted many times. John Ralston Saul is only one example of many who ‘paint the large picture’. Within the university where I work there has been a long tradition of requiring undergraduates to undertake some courses outside their primary degree. The ‘general studies’ programmes have tried to introduce the scientific mind to the humanities and the humanities to the scientists and technologists.

Yet John Ralston Saul has raised more fundamental questions than can be answered by undertaking a simple introductory course on creative writing, or computer technology. It is the whole question of whether there is a University at all any more. Should our institutions rather be 41 called Multiversities (Voltaire, p. 476)? The very name of ‘University’ suggests there is still a unified framework that
unites all the separate disciplines and minds—yet this is simply no longer true. There is now no common canon of knowledge that can be said unifies our understanding and should be passed on to the next generation as knowledge.[3] 

Consequently there is great difficulty in being taken seriously if one raises the larger questions of life and its meaning. Every specialist finds fault as you travel near their speciality. There is too much information for any real polymath to master. So without some unifying theory, philosophy or culture, we are left to flounder. We gather more information in every discipline, but no longer know why we are gaining it or what we should do with it. The atom bomb is a classic example of the problem of specialised knowledge, without any moral or cultural constraints. That our modern technicians and scientists can do something, is no reason that they should. Yet woe betide anyone who raises doubt on the value of new discoveries or endless research. Where in our society can we raise the question of “should” or harder still “should not”?

Whether we agree or disagree with Saul, it is very important that we have literature which respects the larger issues of life and will not be bullied by specialists into silence.

(b) It asks the hard questions

It is also valuable to see humanists facing the hard questions that they have been ducking for so long. In 1963 Penguin Books published two volumes Objections to Christian Belief, and Objections to Humanism. Each book was to be written by the believers, not the adversaries—but it was hardly even. Christianity has no shortage of variant believers who with honesty and candour can point out its weaknesses. Yet in those days of high humanist orthodoxy, the objections to Humanism were not to be expressed. However today, as we come to the close of this century, the modernist world is challenged by post-modernity, and the confidence in reason alone of a previous generation of humanists is evaporating. Reason alone does not provide morality. It was the lie that men such as Bertrand Russell believed, lived and propagated.[4] It does not provide a culture or a civilization.

John Ralston Saul places a real challenge before the humanist assumptions of superiority. We still hear the slowly receding echoes of Voltaire and his followers, who have told us endlessly that religion causes war, while witnessing the most violent war-filled century—wars that come out of the atheistic philosophies of Nietzsche and Marx. They have seen the creation of an international arms race coming out of rationalistic economics. They have seen the wholesale devaluing of human life, springing out of their amoral rejection of personal ethics.

Now at last, on some level, there is some openness to the possibility that there may have been some mistake. Like the Pope apologising for the Inquisition, it seems a little too late. Nonetheless, it is there in Saul’s book. He is not saying anything more than Christians have been saying for some time; but it is now being said by a non-Christian. Saul is willing to see that all is not well with the world. The media may not be reporting many wars to us; but that has more to do with the agenda of the media than with any reality.

There are any number of disastrous failures of our culture in the modern Western world that we are not willing to face up to. We live under the myth of democratic government, but it is the legal specialists, the judges, who are now the legislators rather than the elected representatives. We as people are less free than we have ever been. The great desire of Jefferson for life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness has been reduced to the pursuit of pleasures. ‘Happiness’ has been redefined since Jefferson’s day to something that he would oppose, namely the self-centred pursuit of personal hedonism.

(c) The failure of rationality detached from morality: a case-study
It is this willingness to face the failure of reason to provide morality, which makes Saul’s hypotheses so attractive. Gone is the pretence that utilitarianism—the view that what works best, is best—could come up with an ethic worth living. Utilitarianism is just a structural approach to problems. At best it gives us a temporary trial of what may turn out for the good, until more evidence persuades us otherwise. Yet the trial never defines the good in a measurable fashion, and the detrimental consequences of the trial are never part of the equation.

Coincidentally, another recently published book provides a perfect case-study of Saul’s thesis: Anne Coombs’ Sex and Anarchy: the Life and Death of the Sydney Push.[5] This book tells the story of the avant-garde movement known as ‘the Sydney Push’, which scandalised ‘polite’ Sydney society earlier this century, with its Bloomsbury-like disregard of traditional values. The great Socratic father of this movement, Professor John Anderson, was even, like Socrates, accused of corrupting the morals of the youth of the city. This, of course, was regarded as laughable and ridiculous by those with corrupt morals, and it gave a martyr status to the great ‘philosophic’ tradition. However the rationalistic atheism of the Andersonian system unleashed a whirlwind of anarchy and sexual abuse, that is breathtaking in its hypocrisy and horror. The systematic exploitation of young women, for the insatiable satisfaction of men, was appalling—and finally came to be seen as such by the women concerned. There was a great promise of freedom and equality, but it was just the old bondage and slavery in a new rationalistic and intellectually self-justifying clothing. In the 1970s when, under the influence of feminism, some ‘women’s only’ meetings started in the home of Jane Gardiner, Anne Coombs reports:

There was a stirring of resentment among many Push women. Adding a peculiar potent flavour to this resentment for many of them was the recognition that not only had they not been treated equally but they had also been sexually hoodwinked. Free sex had not always been great sex and they’d spent years blaming themselves. It was a bitter herb (p. 270).

Gardiner says, “Those meetings were the death knell of the Push. The women were no longer so impressed by the men and were prepared to go off and do things their own way”.

Whether it is intentional or not, the whole of Anne Coombs’s book is a biting indictment on the heartless, ruthless decadence of rationalism separated from a context of morality. It is an illustration in microcosm of the argument of John Ralston Saul.

What is defective in Saul’s case

Given all this agreement with the writings of John Ralston Saul, it may be surprising to hear that basically I consider his whole argument flawed. First, however, some minor points of criticism.

(a) His use of specialists

There is not much to be gained by complaining about minor inaccuracies—of which, admittedly, there are quite a few—for Saul’s writing is not of the character which can be fairly criticised by minor errors. There is especially not much point criticising this literature from within specialist knowledge, for the whole nature of specialist knowledge is being questioned and challenged.

However, there is some inconsistency in the specialists Saul uses to help him write his books. He does not deny the usefulness of expert knowledge in its place, and at the back of Voltaire’s Bastards he lists the names of experts who have advised him on various areas. In the small area of life I occupy, however, I noticed that his sample of ‘religious experts’ was very biased, and that this bias is reflected in his books.

It is probably because of this that Saul’s concern for memory, which is so admirable in an historian, and so important for a community, is not matched by the significance he gives to the Reformation. Saul recounts how superstition and arbitrary power were the enemies with which Voltaire contended; but fails to mention the Roman Catholic nature of the Paris that massacred Protestants two hundred years before Voltaire’s triumphal entry. That the enlightened Age of Reason had great affect upon the considerations of freedom in Western thought is not to be denied; but the Reformation can hardly be so blithely ignored without some explanation. It appears that Saul has not understood the protest of Protestantism and still views Christianity and Roman Catholicism as synonymous. Repeatedly he refers to the eating and drinking of Christ’s flesh and blood, as if this Roman Catholic understanding had never been challenged by anyone.

Furthermore, Saul does not seem to have freed himself from the Age of Reason when considering religion. In his view, Christianity, like all religion, is a matter of fear, magic and ritual. It is humanity searching in order to find our way to immortality. It is superstitious myth, to help humanity discover its way out of fear. Such an uneducated prejudice is unbecoming to a writer who wishes to deal with the large issues of life.

(b) He does not understand biblical Christianity

With such a view on religion, it is not surprising that Saul does not understand biblical Christianity. The Bible is spoken of only in terms of myths and superstition. The only part of the Bible he tries to assess is the book of Revelation (which he consistently misnames ‘Revelations’). Saul’s evaluation of the book of Revelation cannot be ignored, for he claims that it played an important part of transforming the true teaching of Jesus into something that made it possible that “governments and administrators of formal religion were able to gain control over Christ’s language” (Voltaire, p. 542). He describes the book of Revelation as:

pages of raving. These include the entire pagan, superstitious, dark tradition which dominated the Western barbarian imagination until the arrival of Christianity.” (Voltaire, p. 542).


Pagan cults were often difficult for those in power to deform or manipulate because they combined strict public ritual with a narrow set of ironclad rules. Paul and his Epistles are often blamed for Christianity’s strange tangents. But his contributions were merely politics and policy. John’s Revelations altered the nature of the Christian ethic. It blew the Christian message so wide open that any extreme action, good or evil, could be justified—self-sacrifice, martyrdom, purity, devotion and concern for others had no greater purchase in Christ’s official Testament than did racism, violence or absolutism of any sort. Whoever wrote John’s text was consciously or unconsciously in the service of organized authority (Voltaire, p. 543).

This view, not just of Revelation, but also Paul and the rest of the New Testament—especially the teachings of Jesus— is frankly incredible. It can only lead me to conclude that either Saul has read a different Bible from the one normally published, or he has not read it at all!

Maybe my criticisms could be viewed as the carping of yet another specialist corporatism man, threatened by the truth taught by an amateur. I would maintain, however, that the Bible is not a specialist book—it is given by God to be the people’s book. Biblical Christianity is not an arcane speciality; it is openly accessible to public understanding. The Bible is the ‘alternative grand scheme’ of everything, which would solve problems Saul describes. Here is the publicly available theory of life, the universe and meaning, that resolves the tensions which are created by Enlightenment rationality. However the kind of nonsense Saul writes about the Bible comes out of the ivory towers of specialist corporatist study that he is so quick to criticise in other disciplines.

(c) Saul does not return to where we went wrong

John Ralston Saul sees that the problem of Voltaire’s followers is reason in isolation. Reason needs to stay in touch with morality. However Saul, in line with his Socratic stance of creative doubt without answers, never explains how to keep reason in touch with morality, or where morality comes from or what it is. In fact, apart from a few references to logic, reason is not explained either. Here biblical Christianity would have helped him. For Christianity is not a magical, ritual, fear-driven pursuit of immortality; Christianity provides (amongst other things) a reasonable morality which deals with the reality of human existence.

From time to time Saul recognises that with the enthronement of reason came the assassination of God. In one radio interview he said, “I guess what I’m really attacking is the isolation of reason. In other words, the obsession we have in the West with this idea that reason is the great quality. We’ve replaced God the Father with reason.” While he sees this clearly, he misunderstands the Bible and the implications of replacing God the Father with reason. In the same interview he said:

Let me take us back to the question, ‘How is knowledge perceived in the West?’ The original founding Judeo-Christian myth has two innocents being convinced to eat the apple of knowledge by the devil. So from the very beginning of society the definition of knowledge by those who have power (the people who wrote those books) was that innocence is good, knowledge is evil and comes from the devil, and only the devil would spread knowledge. It’s not simply the eating of the apple, the getting of knowledge, it’s the spreading of knowledge—letting the secret of knowledge out. It sounds like the 20th century, doesn’t it? It sounds like specialist elites holding on to their knowledge.[6] 

The secularist nightmare

It is not just that Saul gets the biblical details wrong by omitting the nature of the knowledge. In doing this, he actually misses the point of the whole Genesis account. But the problem is worse, for this is, in fact, the Bible’s alternative explanation to the failure of isolated reason, that would enhance his whole thesis.

The tree in the Genesis account is the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. It is one of the devil’s lies that he is the dispenser of knowledge, while God is the authoritarian censor. God is truth, just as the devil is the liar. The devil’s temptation was exactly that to which the Age of Reason fell, namely to know good and evil independently of God. God was not, and never has been in the Bible, opposed to reason or knowledge. He is always opposed to the arrogance of humans, who believe that they can acquire such knowledge independently of him, so that they will be able to rule their own affairs without him.

That was the humanist/secularist dream—the dream that Saul has so tellingly portrayed as a nightmare. It is, in fact, just the kind of nightmare that the Bible predicts. Our morality cannot be divorced from our reasoning, neither in its foundation nor in its results. Moreover, neither reason nor morality can be divorced from our maker. With relationship with God we have a basis for both reason and morality—a basis that can keep all in unity and harmony, such that we can truly have a University.

Answering the big questions

It is time for rationalists to recognise that their answers have not worked. Saul, for all his faults, is doing the world a great service in pointing this out so loudly. When an entire culture is going disastrously the wrong way, it takes a very loud voice to turn it back. Saul is shouting at the top of his voice, and we can hope that rationalists might actually listen to reason and see that the Enlightenment experi­ment has turned out horribly. However, given the momentum that Enlightenment rationalism has gained— and the social chaos it has created—one voice will hardly be enough. Maybe more humanists will see the flaws in their own doctrine, and join this kind of protest. How much more should Christians—who, after all, have had the information to see it all along—protest? Christianity has taken a public beating in the last two hundred years, and many 49 Christians have sadly lost their nerve, or capitulated to the
very Enlightenment reasoning which is now collapsing around their ears. The Bible has always warned of the con­sequences of trying to work rationally without the light of

God; now those consequences are so obvious, it is time for Christians to have boldness in pointing them out.

The Bible is a very profound book, if only we would lis­ten to it. This brings us to the final challenge: it is time for atheists to deal with biblical Christianity, not the foolish nonsense created by unbiblical scholars. If someone can be as insightful as Saul in analysing society, surely he can take the time to deal with the real issues of Christianity, not imagined ones. It is neither rational, nor moral, to do otherwise.

John Ralston Saul is a man with half the truth, which is doing a whole lot better than most. We could do with more of his kind of courageous critique, stating the big questions instead of being bogged down in minutiae. It is only then that we can start to get our priorities around the right way, where expertise serves the people instead of obscuring knowledge. To do that properly, however, we need to know what the priorities are; and reason alone cannot tell us that. There are big answers available; let us not stop with the questions.

[1] This interview was adapted from the Insight & Outlook radio series, hosted by Scott London. Copyright 1996 by Scott London.

[2] Ibid.

[3] For instance, James W. Sire, The Universe Next Door, IVP, London, 1988, argues that each person living next door occupies a different ‘world view’ or intellectual universe.

[4] See Phillip Jensen, ‘Peace I did not find’, kategoria, 1997, number 7, pp. 65-72.

[5] Viking, Sydney, 1996.

[6] Interview with Scott London, op. cit.

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