Mark Steel wonders whether we should be worried about the Womens Institute
Sometimes I wish there was a heaven a proper heaven with angels on harps and a couple of officials at the gates, carrying clipboards and telling people either that they could come in or saying "Sorry, you're not on the guest list. Mind the step on your way down."
Because it would be satisfying to think of the warmongers over the centuries who would have been turned brusquely away, screaming "but I slaughtered a whole continent in your name, you ungrateful bastard."
For example, Britain is currently ruled by a leader more overtly Christian than any for many years, and America by a President who follows tradition and shoves God into every speech he can. I know there are countless interpretations of the meaning of Christ, but if Bush and Blair believe they're behaving in a Christian way, they must be under the impression that Jesus was a Roman.
Every Easter they must think "how marvellous to celebrate the time the mighty Jesus secured his position with a well-planned campaign of crucifixions, in his war against miracles."
Because from what we know of Jesus, it's unlikely he was the sort to send the firepower of the mightiest superpower the world has ever known, with the certainty of causing thousands of deaths, to overthrow a dictator he'd helped to install in the first place. But perhaps it takes a pair like Blair and Bush, who seem to accept even the most irrational clauses of their religion, to devise a set of arguments for war as irrational as those they're using. Blair justified military action by saying "the inspections can't go on forever." Which seems to miss out the point that the reason the inspectors asked for more time is they couldn't find anything. So another way for Blair to have put this would have been to say "Saddam continues to try and hold up this war by not having weapons of mass destruction, and that is something we simply cannot allow. He consistently flouts the inspectors by not having a secret cave full of chemical warheads, with Tariq Aziz laughing loudly next to a giant map with a ring drawn round Chicago while a digital clock counts down, and that is, frankly, intolerable."
Blair went on to say he wasn't prepared to play 'hide-and-seek' with Saddam, which again assumes the only possible reason why stuff hasn't been found is Saddam must be hiding it. You could apply this to anywhere and come up with a reason for war. After Iraq, Blair could send weapons inspectors into the Blue Peter Garden, and after six weeks announce that as no nuclear devices have been found, the only way to ensure peace was a full scale invasion. Then, when the presenters started running round the studio with rifles and shouting "We're ready to make you die," Blair could say "See, it's working because they're rattled."
The main evidence so far for the existence of these weapons of mass destruction has been the discovery of eleven empty warheads under a floorboard. I'm no expert on military hardware, but don't weapons lose a good deal of their potency once they're empty? And the most damning line in the dossier on Saddam's weapons is the one that suggests he "could have nuclear weapons by Christmas, if he gets the materials". But the Women's Institute could have nuclear weapons by Christmas if they got the materials.
Perhaps we should drop daisy cutters on them as well before they threaten us all with chemical fudge.
So sometimes I wish I was a believer myself, as I'd love to think one day Blair and Bush would have to answer these questions at the great celestial court with Jesus saying "Hmm. You seem to have interpreted 'Let he who is without sin cast the first stone' as 'never mind stones smother the bastards in depleted uranium'."
If there is a Biblical precedent to the reasons for war against Iraq, it lies in God's mission to destroy Sodom. Abraham pleaded with God not to destroy the city, saying "Will you sweep away the righteous with the wicked?" God agreed to carry out an inspection, promising not to use military force with the statement "If there are ten righteous, I will not do it," which seemed to act as a Security Council resolution. But then he undertook the inspection himself, and decided there weren't any righteous at all. He probably added "The search for the righteous can't go on forever," before denouncing Abraham as an appeaser. So Blair and Bush should make it clear, it's not Jesus in his hippy days but God in his vengeful period they follow.
But personally I can't help feeling that when Joe Strummer's dead while Cliff Richard lives, there can be no more solid proof that there is no God.