Pessimism has been Christianity’s great strength, and the reason for its survival. The concept of this world as a wilderness, and of human life as short and brutish, fits the circumstances of most people most of the time. The contrary proposition that earthly life can be satisfying within its own dimensions and on its own terms, leads to such mental strain and confusion as to be scarcely tenable, other than briefly and artificially. The kingdom of heaven in heaven may be a dubious proposition, but through the centuries it has appealed both to sophisticates like St Augustine and Pascal, and to all the simple-hearted who, legitimately disappointed with their lives here on earth, pin their hopes in a future beatitude beyond the grave. To proclaim a kingdom of heaven on earth, on the other hand, is both deceptive and intrinsically absurd. The maintenance of such a notion requires mental gymnastics so extreme and so strenuous that they usually produce dementia.
Malcolm Muggeridge (from his piece Backward, Christian soldiers!)
[I shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise that Malcolm Muggeridge was a great admirer of Samuel Johnson. In Johnson’s case circumstances and temperament conspired to make much of his life a torment. The same was true of Muggeridge, though on a lesser scale. Nevertheless, some of Muggeridge’s points ought to ring true even to the person who looks at life through rose-coloured glasses.]
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