Despite his many admirable qualities, and speaking as one who also grew up in South Shields and attended the town’s Grammar School (which became Harton Comprehensive whilst I was there), I have long found John Gray to be highly dispiriting (‘Forget your delusions and be happy’). While Keynes famously asserted that in the long run we are all dead, Gray basically thinks that a good many of us may as well be dead in the short run. Accordingly, I have come to the conclusion that he is, in fact, a cheer leader for the modern counter-Enlightenment; which matters deeply at the present juncture.
As someone from an Islamic background, I have long argued that Islam is in urgent need of not just a reformation, but of a fully blown Enlightenment; the benefits of which will accrue not only to the 1.6 billion Muslims but to the world at large. Those arguing the same in the Islamic world are like gold dust but if they stick their necks out they might have them literally chopped off. Yet even in the relative serenity of the ivory towers in this country, I have been threatened for challenging Islamic doctrines and – just like John Gray and Richard Dawkins – for ‘coming out’ as an atheist. So in the battle that is presently raging in the world between reason and unreason, between freedoms writ large and religious fanaticism, between the forces of enlightenment and the forces of endarkenment, Professor Gray – emphatically unlike Dawkins – is most decidedly on the wrong side.
Green College, 1994