In the age of Dawkins, you don’t tend to expect good religion, or even bad religion from the Brits, and you particularly don’t expect anything that hints at faith from a man who, as he himself points out, helped create an infamous and frequently bawdy parody of Jesus’ life and ministry. But Monty Python alum John Cleese actually has some pretty profound meditations to share –they are apparently from a sermon he was asked to deliver during his time as a visiting professor at Cornell University, as collected in his new book, Professor at Large, and as excerpted in the November issue of Harper’s Magazine (a note on this last –if there’s a better magazine than Harper’s out there, I’ve never encountered it).
Here’s an excerpt of the excerpt:
Let me tell you about a cat, a truly wonderful one called Wensley. He and I have a special relationship based on affection and a strange kind of respect. But I have to tell you that smart though Wensley is, I am, forgive the boasting, a lot more intelligent. I could say that my cat doesn’t really understand me. For, if you asked Wensley what the purpose of life was, he’d probably say it was something to do with mice.
Here’s my point. I bet that the gap in intelligence between God and me is rather bigger than the gap between me and Wensley. So, I find it hard to see the point of my trying to describe in words what God is like or what his or her purposes are because I might be foolish enough to believe that God might think just a little bit like me. But, just as I can stroke Wensley and maybe make him feel loved and secure, I can conceive of the possibility that I might have an experience, a very slight kind of contact, a sort of divine pat, which might affect me at some deep level. People are changed not by exhortations to do things but by experiences.