I often think back with embarrassment to the rubbish I lapped up, as a child, in the way of Anglican hymns. I realize retrospectively that I was totally brainwashed—maybe "earwashed" is a better word—in that I found them quite pleasant to listen to, and even sing. The most appalling specimen of all, I think, was a vulgar military march entitled Onward Christian soldiers! Richard Dawkins alludes to another nonsensical hymn in The Greatest Show on Earth:
When children sing, 'He made their glowing colours / He made their tiny wings', they are uttering a childishly obvious falsehood. Whatever else God does, he certainly doesn't make glowing colours and tiny wings. If he did anything at all, it would be to supervise the embryonic development of things, for example by splicing together sequences of genes that direct a process of automated development. Wings are not made, they grow—progressively from limb buds inside an egg.
A footnote by Dawkins amuses me, suggesting that we were members of similar congregations:
I have been warned that 'All things bright and beautiful' will not necessarily strike my readers as nostalgically as it does me.
Today, I quite like the sound of this new kind of hymn, where the great Dawkins has been transformed into a disco choirboy… by a process called auto-tuning.
I was pleased to see and hear Bertrand Russell appearing at the beginning and the end of this fine composition.