tells us that the world is in a bad way and that there is nothing we can do about it. Perhaps we can infer from this that his aim is to keep us informed of the true state of affairs, so that we have a reason to feel depressed if depressed we feel. In a nutshell the book consists in the repeated assertion that modern secularist thinking is utopian in aspiration, has inherited this aspiration from Christianity, has failed because its belief in progress is false and has in fact been violently regressive. The only thing that will replace it is more apocalyptic religion-inspired conflict, and – this with an Eeyore relish – all is therefore doom and gloom.
Actually one must suppose that there are further points than mere iteration of pessimism and negativism, which is Gray’s preferred (see Straw Dogs) and here iterated pose. The chief of them is that he is against the progressivist ambitions of the secular Enlightenment, and he hopes to annoy its proponents by giving it Christianity for a father and – that weary old canard – Nazism and Stalinism for offspring.
Secular humanism should be embarrassed of its dismissal of religion and its confidence in reason, for it has Christianity as a parent and Hitler and Stalin as offspring. That’s brilliant. It sounds like the solution to a riddle: What do Christianity, Hitler, and Stalin have in common? Answer: Secular humanism. In other words, all that’s good about it, it gets from Christianity, and all that’s non-Christian about it leads to fascism and communism.
What a wonderfully concise capturing of John Gray’s ridiculous and defamatory thesis in a nutshell.