This week things were very busy at the cheesemonger’s market stall. I stood for some time behind two seasoned gentlemen who to my surprise were talking about the omnipotence or impotence of God. The weather was bleak, windless, a pale, weak sun. One of the men I knew vaguely – a GP. The other was unfamiliar, but I could see he was cultivated and wealthy. The GP said: ‘When in doubt, I choose God.’ The other one replied:
that was possible until 1945. It then emerged that millions of people had been annihilated. God had permitted this, the Almighty had not intervened. In 1945 it became clear that ever since his coming into being he had been a fairytale. Since then, I regard belief as a crime.
I was surprised that this was a topic of conversation in the thronging row of people at a market stall. I saw that a couple of lone old ladies were shuffling uneasily, and were considering following the urge of their feet – no cheese this week, then. Later though I saw small groups of cheese-buyers eagerly attacking each other and I gradually realised that religious strife had always existed amongst believers: the Hook and Cod Wars of medieval Holland, Catholics and Protestants, Shiites and Sunnis. But this time outsiders were also involved, unbelievers – and that is really something quite different.