JOHANNES GUTENBERG first developed the moveable type printing press over 500 years ago. The revolutionary development in printing made it possible for relatively cheap copies of a text to be mass produced far faster and more accurately than previously and paved the way for every book, newspaper, pamphlet, flyer and bill post you’ve ever seen.
As such Gutenberg has a lot to answer for.
Oh, he may have played a pivotal role in the dissemination of ideas and the wresting of jealously guarded power and information from the church but it’s also down to him that we have multiple volumes of Katie Price’s “autobiography” and the vile xenophobic outbursts of her namesake and intellectual equal Katie Hopkins.
It’s also old Johannes’s fault that after every demonstration you’ve ever attended you have to spend 10 minutes divesting yourself of whole festoons of soggy flyers and bombastically bullet-pointed papier mache.
But why am I going on about this now, you may well ask? Well, it just so happens that an intriguing leaflet found its way into your scribe’s grubby paw recently — an occurrence which I can’t help but feel may not have been the intended outcome. But then again maybe it was.
They do say that the Lord moves in mysterious ways, although even the mythical creator might think twice about some of the claims in this particular piece of desultory dogma.
The pamphlet in question, which had been liberally strewn around the shelves of a local bookshop, is tantalisingly entitled: “Things we know but have been taught NOT to believe.”
No, it isn’t the transcript of Sean Spicer’s latest press conference, although it could easily be so.
Rather it is an attempt to debunk thousands of years of scientific study, research and facts as mere hokum fed to the gullible.
Not like the famously evidencebased and forensically examined word of God.
And it’s got a cartoon of two creationist snowmen on the front cover. If that doesn’t indicate a rigorous examination of the facts, I don’t know what does.
The pamphlet kicks off in somewhat jocular style by stating: “We are sometimes taught that people who hold certain religious beliefs only do so because they have been taught that way from childhood.”
But no! At least no more than anyone else, we are informed.
“We fail to recognise that we are equally indoctrinated by the society in which we live. This society demands we believe some pretty absurd things,” it continues.
It is difficult to argue with the point that a lot of people believe in pretty ludicrous things. Such as the belief that we live in a democracy, that the Queen is entitled by right of birth to milk us dry or — and this is really far-fetched — some people actually believe Theresa May is a human being.
Perhaps, though not quite as mad as believing — oh, I don’t know — that the world was made in six days by a big bloke with a beard, that Eve came from Adam’s rib, that Mary became “with child” due to a dove flying into her ear or that the Bible is the literal word of God.
But as usual I am being dense because the leaflet then goes on to explain that these are all known facts.
Take this for example: “WE KNOW that there is a creator God who made us, the universe and all the wonderful things in it. Despite being relentlessly told that it is ‘scientific’ to believe that these things came about by an accident, by random chance, we know deep down that it is nonsensical to think that these things could come about without God.”
Oh good, because I was rather worried this wouldn’t be open-minded in its approach.
It then goes on to list a number of other absolutely cast-iron facts, including that there is right and wrong, truth (in some places more than others) and that we have an eternal soul.
You had me up until number three.
Then in an example of double-speak and crass arrogance which would leave the Trump White House in awe, the author turns their attention to the Jews and their role as the Almighty’s chosen people. Something of an unusual move in a Christian polemic.
“We KNOW that the Jews are God’s special people. History shows that they are different. They are a miracle,” it states.
Ah, yes, the Miracle Jews, I think they had a top 10 hit in the ’60s.
But then comes the bit I was waiting for: “At the moment they generally reject their Messiah Jesus Christ, but God loves them and the Bible tells us that one day they will receive him with tears, which will usher in a new era of world peace.”
So, the miraculous, special people are just a bit misguided and foolish really but as good Christians you will forgive them because your holy book which is much better than theirs says so.
Now on the arrogance sliding scale that’s somewhere between Tony Blair and Kim Jong Un.
But it gets better. Under a section entitled “too good to be true?” — to which the answer surely must be “yes and no” — it ends on this note: “God’s word, the Bible, has been telling this to everyone for 2,000 years. At least it has stood the test of time!”
Hmm, you know what else has stood the test of time? Fossils.
“Maybe you know more than you thought you did?” it rambles on before concluding on a vaguely threatening note: “This is God speaking to you through your conscience. Please don’t ignore it, to your own destruction!!”
So, part plea for your soul with menaces, part PPI sales pitch. “Have you been mis-sold religion recently..?”
I can’t help feeling that perhaps this was not what Jesus had in mind.
That is the problem with publishing ideas, however. Once they’re out there you no longer have any control over how they are interpreted.