Gay and Lesbian Humanist

Spring 2000

Alistair Cooke: The Biography, by Nick Clarke

reviewed by Arthur Astrop

It is just possible to imagine that Alistair Cooke has some enemies, but much more difficult to imagine who they might be, and on what grounds they base their enmity. The massive output of this unique reporter on world events, both by the spoken and written word, is surely unrivalled in modern times and his ability to maintain an objective view of even man’s most appalling inhumanities to man is the hallmark of the reporter par excellence.

The first official biography of Cooke has recently been published and it is only at the very end that the author manages to coax him into revealing his personal beliefs in general and his views on religion in particular. It will be no surprise to learn that they are essentially humanistic in nature.

Cooke confesses that he is an agnostic, a position based on the fact that he faces the same problem which confronts all sceptics, namely “the bewildering range of religious codes, each equally sure of its exclusive right to the absolute truth, and their habitual need to defend that right by force of arms”. He quotes Aristotle “Unlike the young, the old have lived long: they have often deceived, they have made many mistakes of their own ... they have seen the pain caused by positive men, and so they are positive about nothing. And when they err, they err in all things by extreme moderation.”.

He goes on to explain that long ago he abandoned the search for a logical reason to believe in a First Cause, and continues: “Since I have not a twinge of mysticism in my being I have never felt the shock, nor heard the voices, so in a scarcely-known universe of thirty thousand million stars in which we are six billion midgets on one planet, I cannot believe that a personal presiding God, devoting himself/herself/itself to our affairs, much less to the affairs of particular sects, can be anything more than a consoling thought.”

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Created : Sunday, 2000-05-07 / Last updated : Wednesday, 2007-12-12
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