Me: I’ve got a blog Other Person: Ooh! What do you blog about? Me: Err, y’know, I’unno: stuff I’m interested in. Language, politics, atheism and religion, healthy living, films, err, sport… Other Person: Err, okay?
Other Person’s eyes glaze over and they look bored and disappointed
I’ve had the above exchange loads of times.* Apparently blogs need one overriding, dominant theme. Yet I’ve always thought of this blog as being like a (admittedly crappy) newspaper or magazine: of course plenty of different topics will be dealt with.
But apparently I’ve misunderstood how blogs are supposed to work. Therefore, I’m guessing this blog needs to focus on one topic. It can bring other random stuff in it, but it’s got to be 90% one thing. After all, my YouTube channel — which I kind of view this blog as the written version thereof — is probably 75% atheism/religion, 25% everything else, and my subscriber base bears that out.
The problem: I’m interested in too many things. I don’t want to limit this blog’s content!
So maybe I need to keep this blog as my kind of “core” or “hub” blog, but spin off various other blogs which solely focus on my topics of choice.
But this approach has a problem, too.
I simply do not have enough time to post, say, four blog entries a week, one for each of my prospective blogs (e.g. the Health and Lifestyle Blog, the Religion & Philosophy blog, the Languages Blog, the Film Review Blog). I’m barely finding time to do one blog entry a week. But that’s the sad and frustrating thing:
I have so much waffle to say and not enough time to say it. Gah!
So one of my New Year’s Resolutions for 2017 has to be to massively increase my time spent blogging. It would help if I could get some residual income from my articles! That would give justification (to my wife!) for me to devote such extravagant amounts of time to the endeavour.
Let’s see if I can crack on with this in the new year.
*I was going to say “cottrels of times”, but apparently “cottrels” is a dialectal word that nobody’s ever heard of. Who woulda thought that an insular and undiscovered dialects existed in West London, eh!
I am an atheist. That doesn’t mean I hate God or am angry with him for not making me wealthy or genitally blessed; I simply don’t think he exists. I wasn’t abused as a child, I’m not in deep pain or distress, I don’t see a shrink, and I’m not a Devil-worshipper. I simply think that the facts do not show that God or gods are real. Furthermore, I think the facts show that, on the balance of probabilities, the Christian story (and the Muslim, Jewish, Sikh, Hindu, and so on) is not true. I see the lot as myth.
Yet Christmas is the most important day of the year for atheists.
Let’s not forget at this time of the year, that Christmas always has had Christian and non-Christian elements. I tend to use the word “Yule” for this non-Christian festival that takes place around the Winter solstice. Yule, the olden Germanic, pre-Christian winter time of feasting. Holly, snow, pine trees, yule logs, feasting: this is just as much as a part of the season of “Christmas” as mangers, three kings, Bethlehem, and Jesus.
Yule is the festival of friends, family, feasting, boozing.
And yes, Yule is the time for thinking of others, gentleness, giving, and reflection.
But for me, there is no incarnation of God who was born this day.
Let us all respect each other at this time: Christians and, err, Yuleians.
So Merry Christmas and a Happy Yule 2016 to you all!
I wrote this in around 2004-2005. Walking around parkland, I rounded a corner near the Thames, and all-of-a-sudden I saw this field of bluebells. A transcendent feeling overtook me wholly. I was a firmly committed atheist by that point, had been for years. None-the-less, the pantheistic language of this poem I felt appropriately captured the way I felt in that sublime moment when I felt like I was gifted this field of bluebells.
I thank the lord my God I’m blessed
To see nature resplendent dressed,
All clad in richest purple hue,
The grass become a sea of blue;
And look what gently flutters by,
A wing that flashes golden eye,
As I amidst the long grass be,
Whilst golden sun shines down on me.
The heavens harken up above
To birds whose breasts resound with love,
A cool breeze makes the bluebells nod
To witness majesty of God.
The best thing I’ve heard anyone say for weeks? Natalie Haynes in last night’s Evening Standard:
…why is it that those who proclaim the greatest religious fervour are so threatened by gods no longer worshipped.
As “Islamic State” continue their sacrilegious and totalitarian destruction of civilisation, culture, and history with the demolition of the ancient temple of Bel in Palmyra, I too am taking time out from my anguish and highly effectual hand-wringing to wonder: why are ISIS so scared of dead gods?
God Almighty, the Alpha and Omega, the Omniscient, the Omnipotent Creator, the Exceedingly Beneficent, the Gentle, the Boundless, He Who Is Able To Do Anything, the Supremely Exalted, the Lord of Majesty and Generosity, the Owner of All Sovereignty, &c.
Those titles (and many more) are His, and nobody can doubt their accuracy (for it is written).
So here’s a question for the religious amongst us, given God’s undoubted perfection:
Why is God the Magnificent and Super Duper Excellent (etc.) so obsessed with… hair?
Sikhs can’t cut their hair. To protect it, they wrap it in a turban. And they grow their beards their whole life. If you’re a woman and really want to show how holy you are, you too can wear a turban!
Muslim men also must display a beard. But shaving off the ‘tache is fine. Conversely, Muslim women need to cover their head hair, and any beard they grow is irrelevant to the glorification of God. Male hair = good, female hair = bad??
Christians have to cover their hair in church — but only the women!
Jewish men grow beards, like Muslims, and Jewish women must cover their hair in Synogogue, like Christians. But Hasidic Jewish women shave their hair off and put on a wig. Jewish men must grow curly, long sideburns. They also need to cover their hair! …But only the crown (I think this is more to cover the bald spot).
Rastafarians must mat their hair into dreadlocks. The holiest type is where all of the hair has matted into one long lock.
The Dalai Lama is the spiritual leader of the world’s Tibetan Buddhists. As you know from listening to Richard Gere or watching The Golden Child (or reading a book, I don’t know), when a Dalai Lama dies he is re-incarnated. At that point, top Buddhists rampage around the maternity wards of the world and perform scientific experiments (I imagine) to determine which sprog is the bona fide authentic reborn Dalai Lama. Unfortunately, the present Dalai Lama is not playing along.
Basically, the current Dalai Lama is in a huff with China for a bunch of stuff including China’s refusal to recognise the man he appointed as his Vice-Lama (technically known as the “Panchen Lama”). In retaliation, the Dalai Lama keeps threatening to not be reborn. Read that again, please: the Dalai Lama is threatening to circumvent the laws of the Cosmos and not be reborn.
How does that work? And before any Richard Gere fan sheeple Buddhist gives me a wiseacre explanation, let me just say: that was a rhetorical question! This whole thing is absurd. The Dalai Lama is getting dangerously close to pulling back the curtain and showing us the true nature of the Wizard. Religion is so self-evidently made up nonsense, whether it’s the Catholic Church deciding that there isn’t a place called “Limbo” after all or the Dalai Lama threatening to never be reborn again, that I am constantly amazed that some people still believe in it. And by “some people”, I mean around 84% of the world’s population(!)
Honestly, you could not write this stuff: atheist China demands the Dalai Lama is reborn; Dalai Lama threatens to circumvent the cosmically ordained law; the faithful become ever more faithful as religion becomes ever more absurd; the rest of us suffer the fallout of religiously inspired madness. Oh well, at least it keeps satirists in business.
In 2012, United States troops in Afghanistan carelessly disposed of old Korans by burning them. This action sparked retaliatory riots in which over twenty people died and hundreds were injured. The troops’ deeds drew widespread international condemnation and prompted President Obama to issue a grovelling apology to his Afghan counterpart Hamid Karzai. [Ref 1-3]
As a self-professed book-lover, you can imagine what the thought of burning any book does to me. The mummified remains of my old books, too battered to even be accepted by Oxfam, are held together with sellotape bandaging. But destroying a holy book! I’m an atheist, and even I’m not okay with that.
But if burning a copy of a holy book, of which there are millions of other copies, is a sacrilegious and profane act — and I think as a general rule that it is –, then what do we call the destruction of ancient statues and cities, of which only one copy exists and which can never be reproduced? “Profane” and “Sacrilege” don’t seem to be strong enough words.
I am of course talking about the ignoramuses of Islamic State who have now destroyed the ancient city of Nimrud. [Ref 4] This city was a world treasure, now it’s trash. But now IS have announced that they will soon destroy Hatra — the 2300 year old city, featured in the film The Exorcist, heralded as “one of the most impressive of Iraq’s archaeological sites”. [Ref 5] It’s so impressive, in fact, that Saddam Hussein zestily began restoration work. [Ref 6] Saddam Hussein: genocidal dictator, and connoisseur of fine art, apparently. The irony of this situation, IS taking filling the vacuum left by Saddam Hussein who we toppled, can be lost on no one.
If the names Nimrud and Hatra don’t quite stir you up, imagine instead The Great Pyramids of Giza being bulldozed. That is the exact kind of sacrilege and profaneness we are talking about here. This is an affront to the very dignity of mankind. In the words of UNESCO, “With this latest act of barbarism against Hatra, (the IS group) shows the contempt in which it holds the history and heritage of Arab people”. And I would add, “and of all people”.
Islamic State’s cultural barbarity surely now far exceeds that of the Taliban and their infamous 2001 destruction of the 1500 year old, 180 and 121 foot high Buddhas of Bamiyan.
Islamic State are causing untold suffering, not just through the brutal treatment, torture and killing of innocents, not just through the vile regime they are presiding over, and through the instability and damage they are doing to world order and the untold increase in misery and suffering that they bring. But more than that, they are busily destroying mankind’s heritage, wiping out man’s history. This is the very definition of profane, the very definition of sacrilege.
Any tinpot group of idiots can kill or torture a few hostages, but it takes a special brand of evil and demented idiocy to commit such acts of sacrilege. UNESCO Director General Irina Bokova has accurately condemned the destruction, saying, “The deliberate destruction of cultural heritage constitutes a war crime.” [Ref 7] There can be no doubt of this: it is every bit a war crime as their savage executions. Islamic State surely is the most flagrant case of false advertising ever; the very name suggests piety and holiness, yet IS show themselves to be the most profane and sacrilegious group in recent history.
The question is, what do we do about it? The destruction of these sites is not merely a mild aggravation, the demolition of a bunch of decayed old stuff, interesting only to a motley bunch of university lecturers. These Islamic State acts of cultural vandalism are nothing short of a savage attack on mankind’s dignity, an attempt to make real Orwell’s nightmare scenario: total enslavement of mankind’s future by destruction of mankind’s past.
Hard decisions need to be made. The region must be re-stabilised. Therefore, Kurdish independence or deposing Assad in Syria are both off the menu for the foreseeable future. And surely a strong Iraqi state must form the centrepiece of any solution. But how to achieve that? I was 100% against the War in Iraq. Yet that mistake of a war cannot now be undone. Therefore, I’m dragged to an upsetting conclusion: it may be time to face facts and realise that only sending the troops back into Iraq will restore 0rder. We’ve been left militarily, ideologically, and emotionally exhausted by the Iraq War, yes. The last intervention in Iraq caused the mess we’re in now, undoubtedly. But we either intervene militarily right now, or we wait until Iraq falls into chaos and we are forced to send the troops in then — not to depose an enfeebled leader, Saddam Hussein, but a vigorous and fanatical IS regime. Better to cut this cancer of Islamic State out now before it metastasises.
It was only a matter of time before the contrarian intellectualist backlash against Charlie Hebdo began. The body of Charlie Hebdo‘s murdered editor Stéphane Charbonnier is barely even cold, and incredibly not even buried yet(!), but none-the-less one of the original founders of the magazine, Henri Roussel, felt compelled to criticise Chabonnier’s decision to post the now infamous cartoons.
What made him feel the need to drag the team into overdoing it? He shouldn’t have done it, but Charb did it again a year later, in September 2012 … I believe that we [were] fools who took an unnecessary risk. That’s it. We think we are invulnerable. For years, decades even, it was a provocation, and then one day the provocation turns against us … I know it’s not done … [but] I really hold it against you [Charbonnier]. [link]
This is, of course, bollocks. Nobody deserves to be shot dead for printing or saying anything. Roussel, could you have not waited a respectful period before spouting this nonsense (e.g. after the funeral, perchance)?
Luckily, organised religion is always nearby to save the day when mankind is in need of sanity. The Pope said this:
If my good friend Dr Gasparri says a curse word against my mother, he can expect a punch. It’s normal. It’s normal. You cannot provoke. You cannot insult the faith of others. You cannot make fun of the faith of others … There is a limit. Every religion has its dignity … in freedom of expression there are limits. [link]
That’s right, folks: the Pope used the same justification that rapists and wife-beaters employ the world over. Well, look at how high her dress is: she was just ASKING for it! The stupid bitch MADE me do it!
Organised religion, you fail. Again. Why is organised religion never there when we need it, but always there AFTERWARDS to do the handwringing and soul-searching?
Yeah, we WERE complicit in the Holocaust, both directly through our support of the Nazi regime and indirectly through our constant stirring up of anti-Jewish feeling which exists EVEN IN OUR FOUNDATIONAL TEXT (!) [see the Gospel of John], but, ya know, we feel we’ve really grown from this experience.
Some half-senile old crank cartoonist can criticise whoever he wants. He’s wrong, of course. But the spiritual and political leader of around a quarter of the world’s population, a man who wields both spiritual and temporal power as a head of state, a man who rannks among the most influential on the face of the earth — he should know better.
The thing is, organised religion is like all good scams. The pope and all his kind can say or do whatever they want and the mud just won’t stick. He kisses a deformed man once, and apparently he’s flawless.
You did not say that the Charlie Hebdo staff deserved to die, I grant you that. But by saying that nobody has the right to criticise religion, you (1) declare your ignorant pre-enlightenment mindset which has not quite grasped the basics of what makes a free and prosperous society possible, and (2) you offer extenuating circumstances to those terrorist, murdering scumbags — you do, in fact, offer the same justification as the rapist and the wife-beater. You are therefore both spiritually and intellectually incapable of being a leader to billions — although, ironically, perfectly suited to being head of the Roman Catholic church — and you gravely let down mankind with your unhelpful and hindersome words.
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In the United States, a ‘Jesus’ mark has appeared on a tree to a grieving son. Brian Quirk says the resemblance of Christ popped up on a silver maple on the sixth anniversary of his father’s death. Read the full story here.
Now, I don’t wish to mock a grieving child who lost their father. I lost my father, too. But this is clearly a case of wishful thinking; why would the almighty maker of the universe, the being who set up the very laws of nature, the alpha and the omega, why would He manifest Himself in a slice of toast, some spilt coffee, or as in this case, a tree? Funny thing is, when I first saw this ‘Jesus’ mark, the first thing that sprung to mind wasn’t ‘Jesus’; I was genuinely stunned by how closely it resembles the FIFA World Cup trophy! It’s got its arms and legs in the right position, and it holds aloft a sphere. Clearly a sign that the USA is going to win the world cup…?
Brian Quirk’s neighbour Nancy said, “Even speaking about it I get chills … It’s so evident what it is, it’s amazing”. Yes, it is amazing; USA, football world champs? Whodathunk?