Monday, 24 September 2007

Being special

Yes, it's true - the Special One has left the building. Jose Mourinho, the manager of one of the best and certainly the most expensive football teams in Britain, has departed Chelsea Football Club. Female football watchers everywhere will weep. (But you can always console yourselves with
these pictures. For those of you who aren't in the know, the Portuguese Mourinho is famous for, in his first interview on arriving at Chelsea, referring to himself as "the Special One". And we loved him for it. The Premier League will be duller without him.

But this got me wondering about being special and thinking yourself special. As so often happens, I was struck by something else I'd seen on the internet this week that seemed to fit together with this story to make a new idea - in this case, Sherri Shepherd - not talking about flat earths this time thank goodness but instead thanking viewers and God for getting her the job on
The View. This struck me as a classic piece of preposterous god-thanking, especially as thousands, apparently, of her fans wrote to the network to try to get her the job.

More to the point, though, is the ridiculous notion that one woman could think that she was special enough to get God's intervention just to get her a job an daytime TV. I don't want to pick on Sherri in particular - I'm sure she's very nice - but it was a timely example of what must be one of the chief attractions of Christianity. You get to be special. You have a direct line to God and can ask him for anything that you fancy - from better hair to the life of a child. This gives individual Christians a highly inflated sense of their own worth yet, at the same time, it robs them of their self-determination. Everything, good or bad, happens by God's will. If something nice happens, you are one of the chosen; if something bad happens, you just didn't pray hard enough. Many Christians appear to truly believe that they deserve the good things in life because they are special - becasue "they're worth it."

Atheists, on the other hand, are modest. You have to be. You've seen the future and you know there is none! You know that the human race is not special, except insofar as what evolution has given us - big brains and opposable thumbs - and you know that there is nothing special about you as an individual, any more than any other human alive or dead. Ian McEwan expresses it well here

and in the same piece, Richard Dawkins sums it up beautifully when he says that we who are going to die are the lucky ones because most 'people' are never born - all those gene combinations, all those unused sperm and eggs. He ends by saying
We are privileged to be alive and we should make the most of our time on this world.
- couldn't have put it better myself

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