The Guardian’s list of great online talks shows Catholics what we’re up against

The Guardian's office in central London (John Stillwell/PA Wire)

On Wednesday, while waiting for my mother, who lives next door to me, to have a shampoo and set, I began to read Edward Short’s Culture and Abortion, to be published by Gracewing on September 2 for £14.99. Judging from his introduction, which was as far as I got before collecting my Mama from the hairdresser, it is well worth reading and I strongly advise readers of this blog to do so.

To summarise the Introduction, Short takes issue with Matthew Arnold’s influential book Culture and Anarchy (1869) and explains why culture without God leads to moral as well as intellectual anarchy. This was not what Arnold was arguing obviously, but looking at the problems of society today Short’s statement, “You can’t conceive of culture outside man’s longing for God”, makes a lot of sense.

Later I took my mother out to lunch at a local cafe which provides good and inexpensive food in a comfortable environment – and free newspapers (the part that particularly attracts me to the place.) Naturally I picked up G2, the Guardian magazine section for August 28 and happened to check out an article by Tom Meltzer entitled “The 20 online talks that could change your life.” It seems that anyone with an internet connection now “has access to an extraordinary body of philosophy, economics, psychology and more.”

One of these talks is on “Arithmetic, Population and Energy” by a physics professor, Albert Bartlett and is on “the inevitability of overpopulation.” Hasn’t the good professor heard about the coming demographic crisis, the other way round, for Europe, Russia and Japan, among other countries?

Another talk, called “Shaking Hands with Death”, by author Terry Pratchett, who has Alzheimer’s, argues for “the right to die on one’s own terms.” This is another way of describing assisted suicide – so far opposed by the British Medical Association, thank God. Yet a third talk, by the late philosopher and mathematician, Bertrand Russell, is called “Why I am Not a Christian.” According to Meltzer this is all about “the flimsiness of the arguments for God’s existence and the stifling effects of religious doctrine on human progress.” Meltzer adds, “Long before Richard Dawkins made militant atheism fashionable, Russell had settled the argument.”

I mention these particular talks just to illustrate Edward Short’s thesis in his introduction to Culture and Abortion. The Guardian is an elitist newspaper, written for cultured and intelligent people almost all of whom subscribe to its core beliefs: that there is no God; that there are too many people in the world; and that when and how we die is our own private business. This is the cultural atmosphere in which we live in this country in our “pluralistic society”. These beliefs are toxic and profoundly anti-Christian. We have to be prepared to debate them constantly and courteously with our opponents and show them that there are reasonable, persuasive and intelligent arguments on the other side.

Bertrand Russell once wrote, “A good world needs knowledge, kindliness and courage; it does not need a regretful hankering after the past or the fettering of the free intelligence by the words uttered long ago by ignorant men.” Is he to have the last word?