Let’s hear it for the undecided by Barbara Nadel

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My detective, Çetin İkmen, is an agnostic. He isn’t sure whether there’s a God or a higher power or not. So he can’t come out a la Richard Dawkins and say ‘no God, absolutely silly, go away’ but neither can he adhere to any sort of religion or belief system. Some people have criticised him/me for this because, they believe, that agnosticism is a weak position. I disagree entirely.

It takes guts to say ‘I don’t know’. It takes a marvellous lack of ego to admit that you might be wrong about something that is potentially so huge. When the zealots on either side of the atheist/religious divide go into passionate diatribes in favour of their various positions, all the agnostic can do is say nothing. However when these opposing forces go into over-drive and begin to attack each other (and themselves sometimes too) that is when the agnostic comes into his or her own. A lot of religious and atheistic people here in the UK actively opposed ex-Prime Minister Tony Blair’s war of ‘conscience’ in Iraq. Good for them! But the most vocal were, in my experience, the agnostics. People unconvinced of any sort of ‘Holy’ war, firm in their belief that any sort of conflict has to be an abomination to any higher power if indeed such a thing exists.

Pope Benedict is here in the UK at the moment and is apparently, disturbed by how aggressively atheistic this country is. With great respect I would disagree. I think that we are far too materialistic for our own good, but we share that trait with half the world, be it secular or religious. I think that what the Pope is seeing here in the UK is what I would regard as a healthy scepticism, an agnosticism. Fortunately for us we have finally managed to crawl out from underneath the shadow of a premier (Mr Blair) whose sense of religiously inspired destiny put the UK in the most terrible harms way. I’m not saying that Mr Blair’s faith was or is wrong, but his use of it in the political arena was a grave error and helped to cloud his judgement. To believe one has a sense of destiny can be a good thing, but to impose that belief upon a whole nation is deluded. Margaret Thatcher, a person of no obvious religious faith did the same thing and is now just as resented and derided for it as Mr Blair.

So let’s hear it for agnostics, for those who have the courage to say ‘I don’t know’, for those who nearly always end up picking up the dead bodies after the men and women of destiny have gone.

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