The Last Testament Paperback – 30 Jun 2012
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About the Author
Don Cupitt is a Fellow of Emmanuel College, Cambridge.
Top customer reviews
What do we make of such a story? For Cupitt the meaning is clear - such facts clearly indicate there is no God, there is no purpose or meaning to the universe. Our lives mean nothing to the universe - it is summed up in "The Black Corridor" written by Michael Moorcock and performed by Hawkwind:
Space is not large and it is not small
It does not live and it does not die
It does not offer truth and neither does it lie
Space is a remorseless, senseless, impersonal fact
Yet starting from this point, Cupitt believes we can practise a remarkably uplifting secular religion. He describes our situation as the "age of the Spirit", the longed for "Kingdom of God" on earth, longed for and anticipated by the Christian church, and what Jesus really meant when he said "the Kingdom of God is here".
What symbolises our life on earth are images like that of the sun, fire, and the fountain - perpetually outpouring, coming to expression, flowering and passing away - everything passes away forever - there is nothing firm and enduring.
"I want images of a outpouring silent process that pours out and passes away all the time. It has no metaphysical Ground. It is perpetually self-renewing. And it isn't 'going anywhere': it's going everywhere - scattering and dying away".
Later he says:
"I'd be happy to burn, burn out and pass away. That's all there is for any of us, and I want to learn to say Amen to it... I can at last give up all anxiety about the future, and say a simple Yes to my life, now. This is all there is and this is it... Love life, and die. Pass on, pass away.".
Although he never quite says we are living in the best of all possible worlds, Cupitt sounds pretty upbeat about our life today:
"Technology and especially modern medicine, have put it within our grasp to give almost everyone a full span or reasonably good and culturally rich life".
Enjoying the goodness of the here and now is contrasted with how Christians always spoilt things by setting their hope in the future. He disparagingly cites Hebrews 13:14 "our true and permanent allegiance is not to the present political order, because we look to and live by a polity that is yet to come".
So everything is great? Well, strangely no, because we also get passages like this:
"Economically and environmentally the human future now looks very dark. It offers no bright prospect either to the individual or to the species as a whole. We probably don't have any long-term future. Suddenly we feel very close to the end of our world."
So we fight against the evil powers that are destroying our planet and try to create a future for our children and grandchildren?
Well, no - but perhaps the world isn't going to end as later he writes:
"I have written elsewhere of the comfort there is in the sight of one's grandchildren, as if I have thought that in them a little bit of me will survive. But more recently I have been noticing myself looking with admiration at every small child to be seen in the street. I'm on the way out, but it doesn't matter. While this one and that will be cared for and happy the human race has a future, and my non-existence will not matter a damn".
Confusing - nothing here about imminent destruction.
Soon we are back to everything being fine:
"Everybody can in principle enjoy a full span of life, a decent sufficiency, and civil peace... we now take it for granted that we can and should enjoy life".
"Puritans and Evangelicals often darkly suspect that ordinary people are enjoying life too much: I'm dissatisfied for the opposite reason. I say that we are not yet enjoying life nearly enough".
Cupitt says we are now all adopting a new religion of "life" that seeks joy and pleasure, and adds "I don't need to write any apologetics for this new universal human religion, because it is now quietly slipping into place all over the world."
That sounds nice, but later we get another admission from this "other" Cupitt who seems to keep popping up and writing a different book:
"We are alone. Nobody cares; and when we become extinct - which we now fear may actually happen within a couple of centuries or less - the Universe won't even notice our absence".
Jesus - really? I thought it was all going so well. Shouldn't we be - erm - trying to stop this happening? Apparently not:
"In our world a very great number of people consider themselves to be members of badly treated minorities. Such people seem to devote much of their time to brooding over ancient wrongs, and nourishing grudges, grievances and dreams of bloody revenge. To do this poisons the soul, and to such people I say: `Leave your ethnic group, your victimized minority! Leave them! The true conquest of evil and nihilism is simply the practice of magnanimity. Try to be as consistently affirmative as possible, and try to avoid any complaining".
While your jaw is still on the floor, he adds "this may seem a very simple-minded and thin injunction, but you must remember that I am a non-realist".
There seems to be some really fundamental problem here. If there is something seriously wrong with the world and the powers that run it, that seems to be steering us and the planet towards destruction then don't we need to be hoping for a better future, working to fight oppression, greed, destruction and injustice? Is it really all about drifting along in as chilled out an attitude as possible and letting everything flow and wash away?
Cupitt seems on the one hand to think the present is pretty much perfect, and will often criticise the past for being, well, a thing of the past. Yet in making the present the yardstick of good sense and moral excellence, he has no distance to judge what is wrong with the present. When he says we need to not "waste" our lives venerating celebrities or hoping for a better future you want to say "why not? What's going to happen to you if you do?" He seems to want to still preach a sermon and chill out and kick back.
There does seem to be a new "secular religion" - or perhaps "universal movement" is a better phrase beginning to grow like a wave about to hit the beach. But it isn't Cupitt's quasi-hippy everything's cool message of indifference and going with the flow.
It is a rage against injustice; an anger at those in power who keep millions of good and decent people away from the chance to live a life free from fear and anxiety and having a fair chance to improve their lives. It is the anger of "Occupy", of "Anonymous", of those out fighting on the streets in Brazil, Egypt, Turkey and Ukraine. An anger that the planet is being killed and a future denied to our children and grandchildren.
The religion of this group is very far from avoiding any complaining. It is much more in line with Hebrews 13:14 "our true and permanent allegiance is not to the present political order, because we look to and live by a polity that is yet to come".
Although he offers pointers, I am not sure that he entirely convinced me about this.
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