Most Britons don’t do God very well. Although the overwhelming majority of them described themselves as Christians in the last census 10 years ago, fewer than 6% of Christians actually turn up for service on Sundays.
But things were looking good for Man Upstairs last Saturday afternoon in this land of atheists, as close to 800 people queued outside Kensington Town Hall in west-central London to hear the words of God.
For nearly two hours young men and women turned the massive public auditorium into their own temple of democracy, stomping, clapping and whistling in adoration of the man they had come to hear, WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange.
Man I say, but if Kensington Town Hall had been sheened in pale gold with a rainbow running across it, I wouldn’t have been surprised. In defending the motion that whistleblowers such as himself are good for democracies and can even save lives, Assange cited the example of the Cablegate revelations about India, which he said had spawned the anti-corruption movement that we are now witnessing outside Jantar Mantar.
“There is now a tremendous anti-corruption movement that has been building up in the country — something that hasn’t happened since the time of Gandhi,” Assange said in conclusion of his arguments. During the debate, organised by the left-wing New Statesman magazine and the Fronline Club for journalists, one of Assange’s opponents alluded to his God-like stature. The European woman sitting next to me swooned.
Assange had to leave just before the end of the debate, apparently due to curfew imposed by his bail conditions (this was his first public speaking engagement since being arrested on charges of sexual harassment).
But he was persuaded to return for a moment, and as he stood on the stage — a slim man in a black suit smiling and waving to his fans, I believe I saw the light. Or maybe it was the giant projection screen behind him announcing the names of the organisers. I couldn’t tell.