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Objections to Christian Belief – H. A. Williams

August 28, 2015

OTCBThis book was a clear protest against complacency in the Church. Objections were raised but it was bought and read, not only in Cambridge, and the original lectures attracted audiences of 1,500 or so.


We have been brought under old Nobodaddy’s spell, and towards him we insinuate, flatter, bow and bend the knee. (If you want to know what I mean read Cranmer’s two general confessions in the Book of Common Prayer.) But hope is offered to us.

We shall be saved if we do what we are told. This may be giving up a sin or practising a virtue. It may be the perform­ance of religious exercises. It may be singing “Just as I am without one plea” , and “I am all unrighteousness” . Nobodaddy’s fury subsides. We have shown the white flag and capitulated to him. Peace is declared. But the peace is bought with a price. And the price is my destruction. For what I am and what I do is no longer the activity of a free agent. I am the slave of my own guilt-feelings, reduced to a puppet manipulated by this horrific puppeteer.

Let me now give you an actual example of what I have been describing. I know a man — he was a person of some academic intelligence — who was loyally practising his reli­gion as a devout and rather High Church Anglican. One night he had a nightmare which proved to be a turning point in his life. In his dream he was sitting in a theatre watching a play. He turned round and looked behind him. At the back of the theatre there was a monster in human form who was savagely hypnotizing the actors on the stage, reducing them to puppets. The spectacle of this harsh inhuman puppeteer exercising his hypnotic powers so that the people on the stage were completely under his spell and the slaves of his will — this spectacle was so terrifying that the man awoke trembling and in a cold sweat.

After several months he gradually realized that the monster of the nightmare was the god he was really worshipping in spite of his having got a First in the Theological Tripos. And to this god he had painfully to die.

He had to accept the terrible truth that the practice of his religion had been a desperate attempt to keep his eyes averted from the monster of the nightmare. He had thought I that, with many failures, it is true, but according to his powers, he was responding to God’s love. His dream showed him that he was a devil’s slave — his devotion and his goodness being a compulsive response to a deeply embedded feeling of guilt, and this in spite of his regular use of sacramental confession. It broke him up temporarily. But later he was certain that, although he was much less religious in the usual sense, he had been brought to the straight gate and narrow way. For life and behaviour based on feelings of guilt exclude charity. To be bullied, com­pelled, by subtle inner unidentifiable fear to apparent wor­ship and goodness is to destroy the self. And without a self one cannot give. There can be no charity, no love for God or man.

The dreamer whose history (with his permission) I have recounted was seen, about two years after his night­mare, drunk among the bars and brothels of Tangier. He was learning that for him evil was not what the priests had told him it was, but rather that evil was the disguised slavery to his own hidden corruption which had led him to go to Mass every day and to confession every month. And he told me that words of Jesus rang in his ears like bells of victory — the words which Jesus addressed to the church­men of his day — “Verily I say unto you, That the publicans and the harlots go into the Kingdom of God before you.”

Now I am not suggesting that it is a good or morally desirable thing to spend one’s time drunk among the bars and brothels of any city. What I am suggesting with all the emphasis at my command is that there are worse, much worse, evils than that. Worse because unperceived

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