The thesis of this book is that we are all suffering, cruel animals and humans are bent on destroying their environment with technology. Pretty gloomy stuff but very well written. To be honest, I am not qualified to critique the book but I did read it.
Gray presses home his argument with shocking examples of humans behaving badly. He really despises humanism’s hope that things are getting better, and sees secular humanism as an empty philosophy worse than Christianity, because it does not face up to the facts as he sees them. They, ‘…have given up an irrational belief in God for an irrational faith in mankind.’ (Gray, 2003, p.38) Morality does not exist, there is no self and he ventures that what distinguishes us from animals is we, ‘…have learnt to cling more abjectly to life.’ (Gray, 2003, p.131)
Strangely I found his shocking examples rather tame compared to the cruelty and depravity in the bible. Even his thesis is biblical, though he wouldn’t acknowledge it. He reads like the Preacher in Ecclesiastes (Ecclesiastes 3:16-22 ). Indeed Gray writes in the tradition of Wisdom Literature.
Gray’s assessment is unashamedly Godless. He espouses Buddhist awareness and reflection as the answer to human rapacity. Death is the release, and we are burdened by our awareness of time in waiting for it. He concludes,
‘ Other animals do not need a purpose in life. A contradiction to itself, the human animal cannot do without one. Can we not think of the aim of life as being simply to see?’ (Gray, 2003, p.199)
I must admit I found this book made me laugh, as it was so earnest and self reflectively serious. The illustrations made me want to cry, but the bible had hardened me to the depravity of mankind and the destiny of creation. Gray’s whole argument makes sense; it has to, I offer, or faith would have no meaning. I wouldn’t put my trust in them though as someone clever will rip his ideas to shreds one day.
In the bible, God does not prove himself; argue for his own existence, he reveals himself. The sun, the moon and the whole realm of nature are as much bleak as they are inspirational. Nature is as cruel and chaotic as it is rational. God speaks into this.
Yes the bible supports the idea that we are all animals, but take Gray’s advice, look within. There you will find an inner land to explore; there God will reveal himself. Yes, to live is to suffer, but to see, to seek, is to find God and his Image in you.
I have deliberately not given detailed quotes to support my biblical insertions because I want you to read the scriptures and find out if I am right. I’m not sure what merit there is in reading this book, except that it lays bare secular humanists and updates you with examples of the depravity of man.
Gray, J. 2003 Straw Dogs. London: Granta Books 2003.