In his next chapter, Peter Hitchens writes about the Christian education he received, and the reasons it didn’t “take.” The main reason is that the Christianity, what there was of it, was on autopilot. He learned the same content his fathers had learned, including the missionary journeys of Paul, but what was taught to him about Christ and the gospel was largely through the force of inertia. Those classes were there, but they did not inform everything else. At the same time, something equally mindless, but much more potent, was going on.
“The Christian conservatism of my schools did not protect me from the rather Victorian faith in something called ‘science’ that was then very common. Perhaps this is because Christianity was not implied in every action and statement of my teachers, whereas materialistic, naturalist faith was” (p. 46).
And Peter, in retrospect, wonderfully puts his finger on the inanity of this kind of faith in materialistic science — the utter inability to keep straight the difference between description and explanation. Whenever a bright student asks why, his professors solemnly explain to him how. And, at least for a little while, everybody seems
satisfied. Christopher was taught the same faith that Peter was and, far from being a contrarian, he is still singing the same songs he learned as a choir boy. But eventually, sometimes decades later, among all the former students, the thoughtful ones realize that this makes no sense whatever.
“Because we could observe gravity in action, we somehow knew what it was . . . Why and how were silently but inextricably confused. The use of the majestic word ‘laws’ curiously turned the mind away from speculation about whose laws they might conceivably be or why they might have been made” (p. 47).
Ask why a rock falls when dropped, and all you will get is a detailed explanation of how fast it accelerates when dropped. The jargon is arcane (9.8 m/s2), and it helps if the wizard doing the explaining has a pointy hat with stars and crescent moons on it. Peter was never given the benefit of an argument that showed how this was all necessary. No, indoctrination doesn’t work that way.
“I was simply given the impression by adults that these things were the case, and that this was all settled forever” (p. 48).
But nonsense is nonsense, and nonsense will out.