The BBC Radio 4 Today team greeted the 60th anniversary of Thought for the Day with the kind of weary surprise commonly reserved for popular but superstitious practices supposed by all intelligent people to have died out long ago.
One would think that those in the news business would welcome any reassurance that the world has not gone completely off its rocker, but that even if it has, something or someone will be there to catch us.
The Today view may have been influenced by the increasing popularity of Halloween. There is no sign that the preoccupation with death is dying out, and many fear that the fun and games of Halloween may lead to dabbling in occult practices. As Sir Roger Scruton has noted, the Harry Potter generation seem curiously curious about magic, which promises power for the powerless but invariably disappoints. As G K Chesterton said, when people stop believing in God they do not believe in nothing; they believe in everything.
Many wiser than the Today team have believed that God is ‘on the way out’, and many have wished that he was; but perhaps we should pray that we do not get what we wish for.
The wise of the world met in stately conclave
In an age when good sense was abundant;
After solemn discussion procedures were waived:
They decided that God was redundant.
The papers were signed with no voice of dissent –
Not a single professor to cavil;
God took His dismissal and sadly He went;
But they couldn’t get rid of the Devil.