Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Orthodox Unbelief

It amused me to note that Inspector Lewis—in the first episode of a new season on Public TV this past Sunday—is made to be a kind of “of course” atheist. That’s “Robbie” Lewis for us aficionados, played by Kevin Whatley. His sergeant, DS James Hathaway (an ex-seminarian) is more restrained; he only asserts that talking to the dead is ridiculous; he is played by Laurence Fox.

This amused me because the character of Lewis is, of course, nothing of the kind. He is a man from a working class background, a widower who loved his wife, and a very experienced soldier of the wars of crime. And there are no atheists in foxholes. Furthermore, Lewis actually says, in an episode titled “And the Moonbeams Kiss the Sea,” written by Alan Pater, “There is a God.” To be sure, the statement expresses gratitude for a much-hoped-for outcome; but atheists don’t couple such outcomes, gratefully, to God. In that same episode Sergeant Hathaway expresses his own agnostic view—agnostic, mind you, which isn’t quite atheism. The current episode, “Down Among the Fearful,” was written by Simon Block: Simon, read Alan!

Now there are, of course, such things as established religions, especially in Britain. Isn’t it from the British we have that very nice word, antidisestablishmentarianism? That word is the longest “non-coined” English word. In Britain, of course, Anglicanism is the formal established religion, but there is the New Established Religion. It is upheld by the BBC. And in its iconic products, of which Mystery is one, and Inspector Lewis on of the jewels of that crown, we must by no means permit admired role models to assert the presence of any higher power in the universe than Orthodox Unbelief.

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