Theo Hobson

Andrew Motion is a typical Devout Sceptic

Andrew Motion is a typical Devout Sceptic
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Andrew Motion has confirmed his image as the ultimate middlebrow, wet liberal. He is passionately keen that students should read the Bible, so that they can progress on to the true faith of Eng-Lit. 'I am not for a moment suggesting that everybody be made to go to church during their childhood' he told the Guardian, but he wishes everyone would have a taste of the ritual, the beautiful mystery, like he did. Yuk.

'If people want to get down on their knees and believe it line by line, good luck to them. I often wish I could, but as it happens I can't. But it doesn't destroy my pleasure in reading the Bible or my sense of its importance, at all.' Double yuk. As it happens I am too brave and honest to accept the old myths, with their illiberal God, he is saying. But it's good training for deep souls like me, to kick against. I once wrote an article in the Spectator about people like him: Devout Sceptics, who claim to yearn for a bit of faith. I have contempt for them.

Listen Andy, if Christianity has fallen out of the public mind, it is the fault of people like you, who fail to engage with it in a serious way, but find it charmingly interesting background to your favourite books. Either engage with theology, or shut up about it.

Jonathan Swift wrote a satire about Andrew Motion. In 'A Letter Advice to a Young Poet' (1721) he warns an ambitious young poet not to take religion too seriously; he should 'think it better to be a great Wit than a good Christian.' For earnest faith is 'a wonderful check to Wit and Humour, and such as a true Poet cannot possibly give in to with a saving of his Poetical License.' He should know his scriptures, as they're a good source of material, but 'Far be it from me to desire you to believe them, or lay any great stress upon their Authority.'

I have more respect for Richard Dawkins than the sort of person who wants to salvage religion for cultural and aesthetic ends.