Monday, 17 December 2012

Fools For Jesus

According to some, if God were allowed in US schools the mass shooting of children and teachers would not have occurred. Really? In 1938 a crazed bomber blew up 38 children in a school, long before any bans on prayer were in place. Once again we come face to face with the mental health illness more commonly referred to as religion. So confident and aloof, so quick to claim that if only we doffed our caps and bowed the knee to the divine our lives would somehow be on more solid ground. Like a parasite religious belief infects and curdles the brain, rendering it mushy and credulous, capable of justifying the obscene as well as ignoring the blatantly obvious. It saddens me how it's victims are often kindly and decent, just seeking to give meaning to lives that otherwise seem bereft of it. I understand the need for meaning and I understand our need to overcome mortality, yet I often wonder at what cost this comes? Let's just take a step back for a second. If we're allowing state sanctioned prayed for Christianity in schools, shouldn't we also offer the same privileges for Islam, for Hinduism, for Zoroastrianism, or any of the other world religions? Should we not recognise our multicultural society and just open the flood gates. No. If you want to pray then fine. Do it at home, or on the bus, or on the toilet, or frankly wherever you want. But don't demand that your religion be given special treatment, especially in an age when it's strength is in decline. I once said that I would gladly kick Christianity's fetid carcass into the nearest open grave, and on occasion I've wondered if this was too harsh. Truth is, wider society is already doing it without my help, as the latest census figures prove. At the end of the day believing in the unknowable isn't going to protect our children; this is lazy thinking and an abdication of personal responsibility. If we wish to make this world better, our lives richer, our legacy stronger, we have to do the thinking, the reasoning, and the hard graft. God cannot help you. God is imaginary. But we can help ourselves and each other, and I suggest this is a more productive use of our time.

Saturday, 15 December 2012

Just In Case You Were Wondering. . . .

Those of you who read this blog will be aware that I am a big supporter of gay rights, and a fierce critic of religious fool who seek to curtail them. I suspect this has lead some to wonder whether I am somehow in denial over my own sexuality. Aside from the fact that such a question is tedious, and nobody's business but my own, I will take take this opportunity to clarify the matter. I am heterosexual. I have enough kinks and fetishes in this arena and fear that should I expand my repertoire further then I'd be mightily short of time to do anything else. The simple truth is, most of the gay people I have spent time with have just been decent and kind and interesting, which are qualities I admire in anyone regardless of sexual preference. I like easy company and good conversation, and I've rarely lacked this in their company. I also find the whole alpha male stereotype crazily dull, and I've endured too long in the company of male meatheads who have the communication skills of a zygote and the self awareness of a dung beetle. Put simply, I like interesting people, and most of the gay men I know are more interesting than many of the straight ones. So sorry for those whom were busy deciding that I'm in the closet and allowing my repressions to seep out through my blog. It isn't so. I'm not in the closet about anything; I'm my own man and I'm not seeking the approval of others. I've been candid in every blog I've ever penned. From my views on religion, social justice, morality, to my well chronicled sexual preferences. How you perceive me in light of this is really up to you, but lets not have any of this nonsense about me concealing my true nature. What you see is really what you get.

Monday, 10 December 2012

A Culture Of Blame

Mrs Saldhana killed herself. Let’s get that out of the way. Nobody forced her to do this. Nobody issued an instruction. She made a life choice, a terrible and final and utterly over the top one. Whilst many are rightly critical of our two young Australian half wits who engineered this prank, they are not responsible for her death, and they most certainly do not have blood on their hands. I spent three years working with the Samaritans back in my mid twenties. Suicide is a complicated thing, but please understand people who choose this path rarely do so purely on the basis of one incident. There are often contributory factors, a back story, additional material causing a person to make a final decisive choice. Here’s where I’m intrigued, though. I wonder what support Mrs Saldhana got from the hospital. Was she chastised by her bosses? Did the finger of blame point her way? I don’t know, and we probably won’t pre enquiry. But I know enough about public services to suspect that a blame culture can often cause the rank and file unnecessary distress. When things go wrong we often seek to apportion blame, and sometimes I fear we do this without a great deal of thought. Enquiries rumble, people are summoned into closed door meetings, everything is pored over in the greatest detail. Mrs Saldhana was duped by a prank call. She made a mistake. She probably could have done better. But that’s all. That’s it. She was a human who made a mistake. She isn’t the first. I do hope she wasn’t made to feel as if she’d done something worse than was actually the case. I hope her line managers weren’t too eager to discipline or play the heavy. Some people are more fragile than others, and to find herself at the centre of a media frenzy must have been an imposing terror for her. Anyway, to cut to the chase, this isn’t my attempt to cast people in the role of heroes or villains. It is simply an appeal that when things go wrong, when mistakes get made, we ease up on each other and are aware that our reactions have consequences we cannot always foresee. These daft antipodeans wouldn’t have made the call had they known the outcome, and the hospital would have clearly given Mrs Saldhana the utmost support had they any inkling of her fragility. Mistakes were made, lines were crossed, and the wheels came off. Welcome to planet earth.

Monday, 12 November 2012

How I Use My Stardust

One of my favourite truths is the fact that in order for us to live, stars must die. The fact that the elements that make life possible can only be produced within the interior of dying stars is something I find profoundly moving. I mean, it's just an awesome thought isn't it? You and I; stardust. This knowledge compels me to use my time on Earth wisely, and also informs some of my philosophies for living. Talking of which, for what it's worth I try to live my life without doing so at the expense of other people. By that I don't mean I never speak out or confront; but rather I give people the space and freedom to express themselves unless what they do causes direct or indirect harm to others. I've got very liberal views for the most part, but I'm also prepared to be tough on those who want a free ride when they are more than capable of carrying themselves. Laziness is an ugly thing; especially when it's based on the assumption that others will automatically pick up the slack. I'm also, as you may have clocked, no fan of people who make claims about reality which the evidence doesn't support. Such views do not deserve respect. None shall be given. That said, I've gradually softened towards some aspects of religion. The average believer is benign and uses faith as a positive lens through which to see the world. As such no problem; crack on. I'll only get twitchy when you start trying to tell me that I have to share your beliefs, or that my gay friends cannot marry the people they love, or that Noah was real. Continuing on this whirlwind tour of my ideology, I'm no fan of abortion. Here's my take; if you want to reduce terminations then reduce conceptions. We do this by educating people, making access to healthcare straightforward, and ensuring people are aware of all options. If countries do this, like say Holland, then abortion figures plummet. I'm not for a ban because statistically that doesn't reduce the numbers; at least not according to the World Health Organisation. Oh yeah, I do dislike religious people who want to see abortion banned whilst also claiming that birth control should not be made widely available. What complete fools these people are; dig a big hole and deposit them henceforth. And so to sex. Big fan of openness and candour. Big thumbs down to the standard British nudge nudge wink wink perspective. Lets create a culture where people can express themselves creatively and safely and just plain enjoy this part of themselves. Concerning the qualities I like, it's transparency and genuineness. I've got a growing bee in my bonnet about people who lack the courage to say directly what they then bleat to friends or colleagues. We've all had the occasional rant when tempers flare, but there's a type of person who you just know is going to speak when others are out of earshot. And they are, please note, incredibly easy to spot. If you want some indicator as to how they may possibly speak about you, simply listen to what they say about others. It's as simple as that. Anyway, this vent is well, vented. Have a nice day. Don't get shot or eaten by wild animals.

Friday, 9 November 2012

Jimmy Fixed It Alright

There's a media storm brewing. Dustbins are being pilfered, archives scoured, all in the wake of the debacle surrounding the tedious Mr Saville. Whilst Jim may have fixed it for underage children in ways that sicken us all, he has also prompted a frenzy of suspicion and tacit finger pointing which probably isn't going to benefit anybody. Consider the following; due to the publicity surrounding the abuse of our children the problem has lessened; it seems that it now carries such a stigma that whilst a person can still commit these crimes, they can be in no doubt as to how society will perceive them. Our children are our most precious resource and must be protected from predators in all guises. But, and its essential we take note here; it must not come at the expense of a witch hunt or a media feeding frenzy. Which is what I fear now. I am concerned that people are going to be smeared, lives unnecessarily ruined on the back of unverified rumour and suspicion. Some mud sticks more than others, and the taint of being a possible abuser is a hard one to shirk. And so to my point; our investigations must be thorough and exacting and based on the evidence. There's that word again; evidence. It's a word that should be central to all our vocabularies, over riding our personal agenda and innermost desires if need be. And now is the time where the evidence must be a beacon; we must be guided by it and compelled into action based on our findings. The abuse of children is despicable and a scourge we must eradicate, but we'll serve our values and our integrity best if we go about it properly. At the moment I share our Prime Ministers concern; there's a mood out there that wants to point the finger first and accrue the data later. This isn't good enough. Not even close. And it's a short cut to placing us in a worse position than we were before. Lets bring the guilty to justice, and punish both them and those whom protect them. Lets search every hard drive, every cupboard, every nook to bring these evil people into the open. But above all, lets do it in the right way.

Saturday, 27 October 2012


I don't think the British are very good at talking about sex. I think many find it embarrassing, awkward, taboo even. I love the subject and I'm always up for a full and frank discussion on what makes people tick. Curiously, I often hear it talked about in a kind of 3rd hand way, as if from a distance. I wonder, what is it about the British psyche that creates such a feeling of unease? I quite often join forums and have discussions on various issues related to the human journey. We really are fascinating, but there is a recurrent inability to be quite as open about sexuality as we are on other subjects. One the one hand I get this; the whole privacy thing; yet on the other I find it just plain vexing. Why have we allowed ourselves to become so shy of expressing what is a core part of our nature? What are we afraid of? I think the culprit is probably our religious heritage; the denial of self and a perception of sex as something sacred and only to be undertaken under certain conditions. News flash; God isn't watching you shag. He's just an imaginary figure that handles the crowd control part of your psyche. A bit like a babysitter making sure you're doing the right thing. Statistic; 95% of men and 74% of women masturbate. I take this to suggest that many of you find sexual feelings pleasurable. Don't worry folks, there's nobody watching you partaking of that hand shandy or tickling the magic bean. Well not unless you've posted videos on YouTube, in which case you presumably elected to do that anyway. Thing is, I just don't get the whole guilt thing, and I think you can let go of that baggage. There's nothing sordid or sinful about sex; no set of rules other than those that secular law has decreed. I think we need to be talking about it more; banging the drum that its ok to be sexual and that we're not subject to some unspoken code of silence. Perhaps you think me uncouth to venture the above? If yes then be all means avoid the subject and carry on as you were. But I suspect there's a lot of people out there prepared to adopt a more matter of fact approach. Sex isn't some divinely ordained thing; it's a biological norm and a part of our nature that we are free to enjoy as responsible consenting adults. So lose those shackles , people, unless shackles are your thing, in which case stop reading this garbage and go chain someone to a bed. Or to a chair. Or whatever. Either way just have fun.

Friday, 26 October 2012

Facing Facts

There are times when the question, "What do I want?" is entirely the wrong one. There are times when simply asking"What is the greater good?" must take primacy. This simple distinction has helped crystallise an issue which I've been wrestling with for months. I'm not about to go into detail because that would be saying too much; suffice to say that by asking the right question I hope I've reached the right conclusion. This is going to come at a cost, and change the course of my life in a major way. And if I'm being totally honest the decision reached is one I feel I have to arrive at rather than the one I would have wanted to. All of us need to remember that we do not live our lives in isolation. Our actions, good or bad, have a bearing on the lives of others. If this wasn't the case I'd have chosen a different course, believe me. I don't think I've ever found it harder to be honest with myself; don't think I've ever wanted to change the rivers course quite so much, but facts are facts, and the facts are as follows. The thing I want to do I'm not very good at. I wanted to be, tried to be, and thrown every ounce of commitment and sweat in order to be better. Trouble is, I do not think I've developed as much as I'd hoped, or need to, and as such I've often felt more of a liability than an asset. This, please note, is excruciating from a personal viewpoint. I am used to achieving what I set out to, and I cannot remember the last time I failed to do so. I think my present dilemma is possibly a case of trying to fit a round peg into a square hole, which as we all know isn't easy. And here's the crux, my faults do not just affect me. They have ramifications; potentially very wide ones. Which is why I have to listen to reality, and why I can no longer ignore the evidence. Aside from the fact that this is humbling, I'm also left lumped with that horrible "What now?" feeling. You see, the script hasn't panned out as I'd hoped. It needs a rewrite; the next chapter needs to change. I suppose that's the thing with life isn't it? We make our plans, have our aims, and then reality brings itself to bear, imposing itself like gravity, an irresistible force never allowing you to forget that the universe doesn't just revolve around us. Is this what failure feels like? Ok, let's take stock. The last few months have changed me. I've lost some of my natural empathy, and even forgotten why I wanted to do what I do in the first place. I am a person that, by and large just likes to make people's bad days better. I like to help, to reach out and engage. And that side of me has taken a pounding recently; I've found myself caring less, becoming so focused on end results that I've lost the human touch. I see it in others and its ugly as Hell in them; I don't expect it's any prettier in me. So there you have it. It occurs to me that there's a fine line between bravery and cowardice, and I hope it's the former having more influence than the latter. I try and live my life based on the evidence, and the evidence for me has been stark. I don't think I can ignore it any more.

Sunday, 21 October 2012

TheTaliban & The Toilet Bowl

Malala Yusufzai may well prove instrumental in awakening the Muslim world to the dangers of the Taliban. Shot four times for wanting to seek an education she is currently recovering at a hospital in the United Kingdom, presumably under strict security detail. Forgive me for wondering, but why is it that young girls cannot have access to education? This seems to me a basic human right? Not so if you are a righteous Taliban male; not so when you happen to believe you are an instrument of Gods judgement on Earth. You see, Allah doesn't want to see women educated. They are simply breeding machines, of less value than males, and can be bartered and dominated as per the strictest interpretation of the Koran. Frustratingly, the vast majority of peace loving and moderate Muslims have, up until now, proven reluctant to speak out against their extremist brethren. It has taken this act of brutality against an 11 year old to awaken them from a dangerous slumber. It appears that at last we see signs of change, with widespread protest and revulsion in Pakistan where this heinous act took place. Curiously, some Imams have issued fatwas against the perpetrators of these crimes, which on the one hand is at least a clear statement, yet on the other just further evidence that Islam is a backward religion struggling to modernise in a changing world. I want these animals bought to justice, and if they die in the process I genuinely don't care. Thing is, society built on vengeance is a society destined to die at its own hand. Now democracy ain't perfect, but its a work in progress and the best way of achieving the highest good for the greatest number. We all know it's flaws, but how ever could it be worse than the kind of religious theocracy the Taliban, or even moderate Islam is offering? Happily, in the West more and more are choosing reason over religion. Young people in particular continue to ignore the siren song of false promise and historical falsehood. They don't care about religion. This is fantastic, but there's a whole wide world still caught in its poisonous vice like grip. At the extreme end of the delusion lurks the Taliban, with its warped values and creepy certainty, and we should never forget that these men act as they do in the name of their God. I have no real beef with the moderates, other than to think their views a bit odd. Many live practically secular lives anyway. But there's still a battle to be fought on the ragged edge, where the loonies plot and pray, believing that they are the perfect representation of their faith. These people we cannot give an inch. We must not indulge them, or offer them even the slightest morsel of hope that they deserve to be treated seriously. It's ok to declare something as ridiculous if it is, for want of a better term, ridiculous. Radical Islam is ridiculous. It must be regarded as such, and dealt with accordingly. No kid gloves, no pandering, not a slither of encouragement. The toilet bowl of history is its only worthy destination. And don't forget to do the full flush.

Thursday, 18 October 2012

The One That Got Away?

Her name was Ali. She was 17 and I was 18. We met in what was then the Harrow & Barleycorn pub in Aylesbury, a regular haunt for me and the guys. She was beautiful. I mean just perfect. She is the only women that ever made my heart race from sheer physical attraction. To this day I cannot imagine what she saw in a gormless fool such as I. Actually that's a lie; she said it was my eyes. It usually was, back then. Even now, 23 years on I can recall some of the physical sensation of being infatuated by another person. No women has ever cast that kind of spell on me; perhaps it's a feeling reserved for first love? I can remember the long conversations, the walks, the getting drunk together and the sexual self discovery we made in each others arms. She was a live wire, a fiery character, whereas I was laid back in the way that only I can be. Classic case of opposites attract. I recall aching when not around her, counting the days between getting together, the phone calls and the teasing. Since those days I've become wary of beauty, because experience tells me it can come at the expense of personality. Back then I had no such reservations; she was fucking gorgeous and every opportunity I wanted to jump her bones. I was a teenage guy for goodness sake, and I had the keys to the sweet shop for the first time in my life. Forgive me for indulging, but that's what lads do . I think I've mentioned that I was overweight as a young teen, but lost the flab and discovered all of a sudden that women sometimes found me attractive. That was a rush, to be sure, and to be honest I don't think I've ever really got my head around it. I am, as any women close to me knows, completely oblivious to the fact that I might be appealing; I'm just one of life's social Labradors that gets along with people. It rarely occurs to me that I could be perceived in anything other than a platonic sense. Why am I writing about this? Well, I'm just reminiscing about first love and all that jazz, and I've been listening to music which sent me tripping down memory lane. I am of course happily married to an amazing lady, but that doesn't mean I can't revisit some formative periods in my life. Like everyone, a part of me would love to experience the loss of self that comes from falling head over heels; it's only ever happened once to me, a solitary reminder that I'm capable of feeling such a thing. I'm colder than most people think. I don't find expressing emotion that easy. The words I write are the best I can manage. Oh by the way, I also know that love is a choice rather than an emotion; something you build brick by brick, and its cemented by trust and shared experience. I'm not some giddy teenager pining for a past I can never recapture; I'm a man comfortable with the choices I've made and also the consequences. And this blog is just me framing my thoughts as best I can, as authentically as I can, without falsity and minus any rose tint. You might be wondering what happened to Ali? Well, the relationship went nuclear in true teenage style. A heated argument on a car journey, her alighting the vehicle and storming away, all rounded off by her screaming "Get out of my life." I did. It was agony for a long time. And I often wonder what became of her. I hope she found happiness. I hope she found peace. I know I have.

Tuesday, 16 October 2012

A Cry From The Heart

People with passive aggressive tendencies infuriate me more than any other. It really is an insidious trait and we should call it out when ever we see it. For those uninitiated, passive aggressive means to act in a way that on the surface seems calm, perhaps even gracious; yet underneath there's a seam of resentment that those around you cannot fail to notice. Give me somebody who throws a wobbly any day of the week over those who just curdle away like some out of date mayonnaise. Surround me with drama queens and people who wear hearts on sleeves rather than the kind that simmer, intent that we sense their dissatisfaction even whilst they lack the courage the vocalise it. You know what, this harks back to my love of genuineness; of people who are flawed but real, vulnerable and brave enough to live with something close to transparency. I wonder how different our world would be if we stopped playing silly games with each other and just said what we really meant? No window dressing, no abstraction; just lay it all out on the table. Better still; wouldn't it be grand if we could be assured that we wouldn't be chastised for doing so? Only this doesn't appear to be the world that we have chosen. We appear to prefer a charade, an idiotic dance around reality rather than a square jawed confrontation with it. Example; who amongst you have been critical of your place of work, only to be summoned into an office and instructed to put reality on hold to preserve the greater good? Perish the thought that any of us should deign to speak candidly about facts when the fuzzy clouds of double talk can be easily deployed. Oh, and in case you're wondering this blog isn't about work; I simply use it as a contextual example. The same ethos can be seen in many areas of society; the way we refuse to speak plainly about any number of issues. What's so dangerous about a sincere opinion? What exactly is it about truth that causes so many to shy away from it? I should probably end there. Consider this post as a cry from my heart. As one man desperate to say it as it is and live in a society where that's ok. Transparency sometimes means vulnerability. And vulnerability requires courage. For those who have ears, let them hear.

Sunday, 14 October 2012

Playground Earth

I am a geek. I tick every box. I love technology, live it, and can always justify my next hi tech purchase via some absurd sleight of hand. It's a wonder that Joy puts up with me; she's married to a child in an adults body. Phones, computers, games consoles, TV's; I'm like a kid in a sweet shop. Right at this moment I'm considering laying down a large sum of money for a phone that I don't need, which would replace one that's working perfectly well and already better than most others on the market. Idiotic, I know. But that's the thing about being a proper geek, a hard core geek; if we let practical considerations get in the way of our lust for new tech then we wouldn't be geeks would we? Drop me in Comet, or Game, or PC World and I could amuse myself for hours. I should really invest in a grubby beige coat so I look proper dodgy. Terms like hard drive, Ram, and anti aliasing spring from my mouth like some dead Aztec language. I suspect people see the strange maniacal look in my eye when watching a video review on YouTube, or when un boxing a new toy. I really am a peculiar contrast, because on the other side of the coin you can drop me in the middle of the country, miles from the nearest power source and I'm also happy as a pig in muck. I see wonder everywhere, beauty of a different kind, and just as complex and remarkable. You could sit me on a hillside and I'd stare out into the distance for an age, observing, imbibing, being. Now I reflect, I'm just a boy who finds miracles in pretty much everything. It doesn't take much to get my proverbial juices flowing, and I don't suppose I shall change unless circumstance dictates. I'm quite harmless, just to assure you. There's no maniac lurking under my bonnet. Heck, I outed that fella years ago. I'm just into life, into living, into exploring horizons both old and new. I've come a long way from the working class country boy who tried too hard and achieved too little. I've learned from mistakes and built upon the positives, and I don't think I begrudge anybody anything. So please excuse me if I'm a bit quirky; a smidgen eccentric, or occasionally just a plain loon. Besides, if you were looking for conventional you'd never have read this far in the first place. Anyways, I've an early start. Up with the lark and all that. Later dudes

Thursday, 4 October 2012

Who Loses?

The time to be yourself is now. You can defer it if you like, and try to conform to whatever societal cage you've chosen, but it'll still be there when you turn out the lights. In the quiet moments you'll reflect, and what you are compared to what you want to be will curdle inside you and leave an unsettled feeling in your gut. Come the morning such feelings may fade, but its like silt at the bottom of a stream bed; it takes only a little to mix everything up again. This year has been formative for me. I've come to terms with who I am and opened myself up in ways that once would have been beyond me. I'm a guy, and as such it's ridiculously, some might say unnecessarily hard to be vulnerable about anything, but I hadn't counted on being married to pretty much the best female in the world. My wife has been a safe haven, and I can honestly say that I have a stronger and deeper love for her now than ever. Not bad given we're now in our fifteenth year together. But I digress; what I'm saying is that whatever you are feeling, whatever makes you who you are is an important question. Perhaps the most important question. I hate the way society tries to impose invisible stereotypes; and dislike even more how easily we let it happen. Should and oughts, must and must not; invisible walls that cage and suck the vitality from us. I hate it. I reject it. And if you feel caged in the way I did then ask yourself the following; are you happy? Is what you are satisfying? Are you genuinely being the person you want to be? I expect many of you are not, and if so I can do no more than implore you to shed those shackles. If you've people who love you be honest with them; but more than that be honest with yourself. Only therein lies the problem; we're so good at hiding the truth from ourselves, or trying to sugar coat reality into something we can cope with. Yet isn't this a sorry way to live? What a charade? What a lie. And for why? Who loses? As if you didn't already know the answer to that.

Thursday, 27 September 2012

Why Islam Does Not Impress

If you are prone to acts of violence when your beliefs are challenged, I have no time for you. If you seek to silence those who hold a view contrary to your won, I have even less time for you. And lets be honest, if you're intent on suppressing those of dissenting voice that alone smacks of fear and, dare I say it, a tacit lack of confidence in that which you profess to hold dear. Now here's the thing. I don't want to silence you. I uphold your right to your beliefs so long as they are not held at the expense of others. What I will do, however; and what is essential for a functioning democracy is to be able to express oneself without fear of violence or repercussion. Regarding Islam, I do not believe its truth claims, and I happen to think some if its teachings have incurred a terrible cost to the advancement of society. I'd like for Muslims across the globe whom disbelieve to feel able to come out into the open without fearing death or torture. That to me would be progress. And I'd like zealous believers to be less lightweight when they are challenged, too. Children lash out and paddy when they don't like what they've heard, but you're men and as such you need to act like men. Real men. Stop all this violent silliness and gird your proverbial sides. Any fool can burn a flag or go on the rampage; how about instead you try touting your beliefs into the global market place of ideas and see if they withstand scrutiny? At present, the lack of respect many Westerners feel towards Islam is probably bolstered by the endless histrionics we see whenever the Prophet is offended. We don't take kindly to being told what we can and cannot think, and we already have laws that guide us regarding what we can or cannot do. These aren't perfect, and they are open to revision, but we have chosen them above theocracy. I do not believe in Islam. I am unable to respect the teachings of Islam, and that is my right as a citizen of the democratic west. Please try harder to understand this, and find a more persuasive method of seeking to advance your ideas.

Sunday, 23 September 2012


I have woken up to myself. It has taken years, and I am no longer in denial as to the central tenets of my character. I owe nobody an explanation for what I am, nor justification. What others perceive about me is up to them; I won't doff my cap to your standards or promise to play by your rules. I've not interest in lamenting a past that I cannot change, nor grieving over what has been lost. I have no bitterness towards those who've wronged me, and can truthfully observe that such a list would be ridiculously short anyway. If I succeed, I shall enjoy the feeling; If I fail; I shall do so in the knowledge that it will never be for lack of effort. I have many talents I'm familiar with, and I expect one or two I'm yet to discover. Conversely, there are things I'd like to improve upon but suspect I never shall. I'm an eclectic mix, a messy canvas, and the paint isn't dry all over. It's a work in constant flux, in need of revision and reflection. That's just fine with me.

Wednesday, 19 September 2012

Kinky? Say's Who, And By What Authority?

You can say what you like about 50 Shades Of Grey, but you have to admit that its bought kink into the mainstream. About time methinks; why shouldn't consenting adults express themselves in creative and satisfying ways? I bet the majority of couples have experimented with bondage and role play, and it's high time we stood back from social stereotypes and just relaxed into ourselves. I personally find women with a naturally dominant sexuality and psychology incredibly attractive; I like confidence in a person and I find someone who knows what they want intoxicating. Once again, I'm contemptuous of the traditional image some may form at this point; I'm very much a man's man. It's just important to me to have an adoration for the person I spend my life with, and I enjoy treating my wife like a lady and putting her on a pedestal. As you all know, I don't do social convention, I've no interest in remaining on the dull side of some imaginary social line, fearful I have to be a certain way or act in accordance with certain expectations. I much prefer the wild woods of the unconventional, the place where people can just be who they are and not feel compelled to play by unspoken rules. I'm not just taking about gender stereotypes now, I'm thinking about all aspects of life. I bet every person who reads this feels trapped by the expectations of others in some small way. I'm convinced some of you are afraid that if people knew you, really knew you they'd think you weird or warped or whatever term you want to apply. Here's a plan; don't worry about it. Have sufficient confidence in who you are and walk your own road. So ladies, if you're sexually into 50 Shades and want a man who can speak into that part of your psyche what is stopping you? And guys, if you'd prefer a dominatrix over Julie Andrews any day of the week then crack on, fella. We have to be ourselves. We're the best and only people for the task. Can we please move on from these prisons of self denial and false guilt. Ignore the unseen line. Cross it. You'd be amazed what lies beyond.

To Give Without Gain

I've just been really moved by the following quote; "You can easily judge the character of a man by how he treats those who can do nothing for him" Don't read on just yet. Read the quote again, and appreciate the personal challenge that such a statement poses. In light of this I can only reflect on my own selfishness, and it causes me a real unease. I can understand why the historical Jesus compels many, for his was a life devoted to the ultimate expression of this. Ok, I know that history tells us the Gospels probably only contain a bit of historical truth, but there remains something to admire in any individual who can look beyond them-self and willingly give with a relentless persistence. I can't do it. At least not for long. I seem to have a certain amount of empathy which when expired permits of no further activism. Sure, I try to show kindness and be available for people, but how often do I actually pro-actively do it? And do I actively seek out opportunities to give of my time? It occurs to me that females are traditionally much better at this than men, which I suppose has some evolutionary origin. Women appear better at looking outward, of being sensitive to those around them. This is a quality I greatly admire. In fact, I dislike people who appear unable to look beyond themselves, the kind that never ask another how they are, or be just a bit sensitive to the dynamic of the environment around them. Now whilst I'm mindful of my own selfish core I do retain a genuine interest in the lives of others. When I ask how someone is I'm generally prepared to invest my time should the answer not come back as the default "Fine" Sometimes people aren't fine. Sometimes somebody to listen to them could mean the world, the difference between a bad day and a slightly better one. I want to be the kind of person who makes people's bad days better. I want to be outward looking and attuned to things beyond my own ego. I'm not always successful, and boy I'm a work in progress. But hey, we've all got to start somewhere.

Saturday, 8 September 2012

I Think I'm Done Here.

I've spent a lot of time blogging about religion. I've aired pretty much every grievance, considered all the arguments, and emerged with my views fairly well formed. Not, I hasten to add, so carved in stone that I'm immune to new evidence; it's just I don't have much else to say on the subject. I feel I've taken things as far as I can go, having spent long hours wrestling with the issue. I expect I've alienated a fair few, and entertained others. Point is, I'm all out of interest in the subject. I feel as though I've truly moved on. I'm purged of the delusion, I'm no longer a recovering Christian but fully recovered. The spell, or curse, is broken, and the silliness of my former worldview is as clear to me as it could possibly be. I leave behind many who've not shaken the bug, and I wish them well. If a dose of the Gospel gets them through the day then whatever. It's up to them how they see the world. For me, it's truth first, and wishful thinking nowhere. I can't do it. I won't. It seems wasteful and just a bit loony to me. Besides, the more I learn, the more interesting the world becomes. Lots to think about, lots to engage with; my fascination with religion was taking up precious hours of my life. So I'm done with talking about it. Bored with talking about it, actually. There's no God shaped hole in my heart, just a rich vein of enthusiasm for the journey that I'm on. I might, from time to time comment on particular religious inanity, and I certainly won't be extending faith one iota of respect. But those will be exceptions rather than the rule. Life fascinates me. People. Sex. The human condition. And when I have something I want to say this is probably where I'll still say it. It'll just be a bit less frequent. And I'm going to have to be in just the right mood. So apologies to those expecting me to be always ready to pick away at the low hanging fruit of religion; the target has become too soft and rancid and icky. My country is post Christian, and the States is finally cottoning on, too. The world has woken up and is wiping the sleepy dust of muddled logic from its eyes, leaving a diminishing percentage believing that organised religion has anything to bring to the big questions of the 21st century. The ship has sailed, the flight has left, the train has left the platform. The world is moving on, and as such so am I. Sayonara.

Tuesday, 4 September 2012

By The Light Of A Silvery Moon

A pale full moon illuminates great swathes of night cloud, spectral and voluminous. One mighty behemoth is shaped like a giant starfish, it's ethereal tendrils stretching out across a silent immensity. Beyond flicker tiny ice white stars, the engine rooms of creation, so distant yet so powerful. Some gaze up into such skies and see inky darkness, cold and indifferent; yet I see life, I glimpse the unseen atoms that bind us all, the brethren that for us coalesced into things that live, that evolve, that imagine and ask questions of themselves. Indeed ask yourself, how great are we? How improbable, how majestic? So many drift through life with no sense of their inner grandeur or any wonder of what is around them. How impoverished is that? Not to understand what we are, or have at least some grasp of how we came to be?
I am stood in my tiny residential garden, the universe an immense dome above me, it's magnitude beyond the grasp of my tiny mind. Yet somewhere out in the dark splendour, some vast eons ago the processes that would lead to my becoming took shape. Only now are we beginning to grasp our true origins, the truth about how we emerged from, quite literally, nothing. From the quantum conundrum that even now our most advance theoretical physicists are trying to fathom, something happened that set the whole show in motion. No voice in the dark booming "Let there be light"; no place for tawdry fairy tales in the real scheme of things. Yet the truth, when we finally lock it down, will surely yield us facts so spectacular that we will marvel all the more.
Our planet is one of billions; our galaxy one of billions. Whilst rare, it grows increasingly likely that we are not alone amidst the void. Somewhere out there perhaps wander fellow lonely travellers, denizens in this universe. I wonder; are they conscious as we are? Do they yearn, wonder, caress, nurture?
Somewhere in the world tonight a young couple are kissing under the same moon as the one I stare at now, starting another journey in a life consisting of many journeys all leading to many destinations. Their story will be unique, as is your own. But please I implore you, when you look up into the night sky, and it affords you a glimpse of its essence, don't be so quick to look away. Stay outside for a while; put on a coat to keep you warm. Look upwards, look beyond, and seek to connect yourself with the greatest story of all. Those stars, those planets, the grass beneath your feet. All the same material, just formed in a different way.
Don't break this great connection too quickly. The world will still be waiting when you return.

Sunday, 2 September 2012

On Being New

I'm in a very interesting professional position right now. I'm very new in a role that takes a short time to understand, but a very long time to get proficient at. I have days when I think I'm moving forward, and days when I wonder if I'll ever get the gist. I am surrounded by more experienced people, many who have been in the job for decades, and right now they are quicker, slicker, and worthy of a lot of respect. The overwhelming majority have been brilliant in those moments when I've struggled, when the airwaves go crazy and everything happens at once. I hope that one day i am able to be as helpful to newcomers as many have been to me, because boy does it make a difference. I guess that working with a newbie is a bit of challenge if you've been at the same coal face for years, and I expect there's a lot of repressed frustration when the person beside you is slower and kind of chugging along, not quite as smooth and creamy as themselves. Hats off to those who've been patient with me, or who've given me some sound and non judgemental advice at the right time. I'm grateful beyond all measure. It must be very hard remembering what it's like to be new at something when you've not been new for years. I can remember a little of what that feels like when I tutored newcomers in the old job. I always adopted a gently gently approach, doing everything possible to get the trainee to take the psychological heat off themselves, because in all honesty this is the heart of the battle. Most, if not all people find it stressful learning something new, and the expectations we heap on ourselves often outweigh those expected by others. I've found the biggest battles during the last few months have been inside my head; frustration when I get it wrong; confidence drain when I wonder what colleagues must think of my clumsy efforts; and unrealistic expectations I heap upon myself. Truth is, I expect it's going to take a year before I'm even close to feeling at ease in this role, and that feels like a long way ahead right now. I've been out of training for less than a month, see.
Is there a point to this blog? I suppose I'm reminding myself that I have to be a realist, and perhaps if it helps others in their attitudes and approach to newcomers then it won't hurt. Learning something new is often gruelling, with a lot of internal an external factors at play. I think we need to be kind to ourselves, and hope that others show kindness, too.

Thursday, 30 August 2012

Some Thoughts On Disability

Disclaimer - This post is NOT a comment on the Paralympics. I want to make this clear at the get go. These thoughts, whilst inspired by events now underway, should be viewed as part of a wider social dialogue.

Long before the Paralympics athletes took up their sport of choice they were winners. They had overcome adversity, and often stigma, and who knows what else. I say this as someone who isn't the slightest bit interested in the Paralympic games, but I confess that it has got me thinking about how I, and perhaps we, think of disability. 
Here's an unfortunate truth. Not all disabled people are nice human beings. Some, like able bodied folk, can be abject examples of humanity. I do not say this to court controversy, but to state simply that people in all positions have the capacity to underwhelm us. Good for them, I say. I'm glad we're on the same  wavelength. Yet what am I getting at here? Well I sometimes wonder if we over state the differences between able bodied and disabled persons, and when we do this we risk falling victim to a tacit kind of segregation mentality.
I'd much rather we all just came in under the same flag; namely human beings with skills and foibles and quirks and all the rest. I wonder whether in our effort to acknowledge the difference we do disabled people a great disservice? There is us, and there is them. There is, if you like, a very clear difference. Well yes, but also no. It is clearly a brute fact that disabled persons do have additional obstacles to overcome, and the majority do so quite spectacularly. But, and this is what I'm driving at here, they are still just another aspect of humanity, part of the greater milieu of the great human condition. As such, I think we need to take care not to adopt attitudes, however well meaning, that somehow overplay the differences. Inside some broken bodies are great minds, and powering some broken minds are some great bodies.
What I'm trying to say is that the differences, however visually obvious, aren't quite as distinct as we may think.

Monday, 27 August 2012

Before My Final Bow

I think an awful lot about living, but not as much about dying. Yet we're all proceeding towards our own horizon, that vanishing point where perhaps our greatest questions will be answered.
That's not by any means a concession, by the way. I'm not convinced that we journey beyond death, yet I'll grant that many think otherwise. For me, when my thoughts do turn toward the last horizon it isn't long before a whole things-to-do list piles up before me ahead of this absolute rendezvous.
There's so much I want to see. The giant redwoods, the Angel falls, the snow capped Rockies amidst the glare of a cloud free sky. Will I ever get to do these things? Will life conspire in some nefarious way to deny me?
Actually, it will probably be something as banal as financial limitations that prevent these dreams from transitioning to reality. Life's mundane requirements have this unpleasant habit of standing just where you'd prefer them not to. Still, I won't readily forget that my life is already a rich tapestry of chaos, and I don't want for material comfort or family love. Yet all the same, let's be honest here; we'd all rather have a little more?
I expect I shall continue to grapple with life's big questions, just as I'll fight my own internal struggles to balance my selfish expectations with the reality of life around me. One things for sure; I won't settle into some mundane semi existence whilst I have the strength to contest such a dire outcome. Nor will I submit myself to fakery when it comes to my personal interactions with others. I'll let relationships form naturally, declining to work either too hard or too little at them. Both extremes present a nasty little trap which actually erodes the respect that people will have for you anyhow, and I'd rather be disliked for authentic reasons than appreciated for false one's. It's also impossible to have any relationships of meaning without incurring some sacrificial cost, regardless of how rich they are. My children, whom I love, take a lot of time to raise, and I'm not at liberty to cheat on my wife for reasons of moral consistency, however tempting this cherry often seems to many men in long term relationships. I do hope the last comment hasn't caused too many jaws to drop; I'm just honest enough to confess that my mind sometimes goes where my body cannot decently follow. Call that immoral if you want; I'll stick with transparent.
So life continues, the days pass, a mix of freedom and responsibility, a balance of weighing the needs of others with my inner desire to have my cake and everyone else's, too. And always, in the distance there's the knowledge that one day the party ends, that life won't go on and that I will be but a memory lost amidst eternity. Perhaps as I age I will extend such a terminus a bit more thinking time, but today I'll afford it no more than I passing nod. I know you're out there; I know you're approaching like a weather front gathering strength somewhere out in the Atlantic. Don't expect me to welcome you, or offer you a warm welcome. I've a lot of things I'd like to do first.

Friday, 24 August 2012

A World Through Better Eyes

I've just read a fantastic article by one of my favourite feminist bloggers, Greta Christina. In it she argues how confrontation can open doors. I generally agree with this sentiment, and as long as you're the kind of person who doesn't crave popularity I see how it can work. Because make no mistake, the moment you start to rattle cages you find out a whole lot about the occupants. Some people have dug themselves in, and no matter what you say or how you say it nothing's going to change their mind. Then there's the group that take offence at even being confronted in the first place, the kind of person who just doesn't want the apple cart upset. Sadly, there's also a group that literally cannot cope with thinking outside their proverbial box; I'm talking tears and histrionics and the kind of drama best practiced at the Globe theatre. Happily, there does exist a merry old crowd that thrive on hearing alternative viewpoints, and these are the kind of company I really relish. It doesn't matter that I disagree with them or them with me; it's the romp of having a good old discussion that expands the mind and fends off those dangerous biases that keeps people mentally locked up. 
I've always puzzled over why alternative ways of thinking are so bothersome for many people? I guess we just spend so much time aggregating ideas and patterns of thought that they become too entrenched, too heavily invested, too impervious to revision. 
Anyway, what about you? Yes, I mean you. You reading this, right now. How open are you to changing your mind, re-imagining old ideas, changing the way you think and perceive? You might think you're all just dandy, in which case try the following thought experiment. Go straight to your most entrenched perspective, that idea that you've carried with you since you first began forming a position about the world. How open are you to change? How tightly are you holding on to those cherished ideals? Can you ever envision yourself thinking another way? If not, I hope a little alarm bell has just gone off in your head. You've quietly confessed that you're not quite as open minded as you might want others to believe. Not quite as open as perhaps YOU might have wanted to believe. If this is the case then you've taken a small but very important step. You've acknowledged, whether you cared to or not just where the double standard sits. If it's any consolation we're all accomplished at self deceit, and you're not the first and won't be the last to come unstuck. In fact in a way take heart. You've taken a good step, an honest step towards seeing the world through better eyes.

Wednesday, 22 August 2012

The Great Awakening

So why is organised faith in decline in the developed world? Why, in particular, are young people ignoring mainstream religion in such vast numbers?
I can think of a couple of reasons. The Internet is certainly not doing religion any favours. Where once it was hard to check facts and claims it now couldn't be simpler. We know, by way of example, that the Gospel authors are anonymous, and that we don't know when the Gospels were penned, or where. We also know we have no eyewitness accounts of the life of Jesus, and no original manuscripts to refer to. Just as we know that the manuscripts we do have changed over time to align with various socio political agendas. And those claims I've just made you can check; and if you've an ounce of personal investment in the matter then check you should.
Point is, it's never been easier to identify when people are pulling the wool, or being disingenuous, or creative with the truth. Combine this with a tech savvy younger generation and it's clear the wheels of organised religion will come off.
Which is precisely what's happening. Yet even I'm surprised at the speed. When I became an apostate several years ago it was at the beginning of what has become known as the enlightenment 2.0. I'm proud to be able to say that I was there at its birth and actively involved in its proliferation. I spent a lot of time on religious websites in dialogue with persons of faith, and it never ceased to startle me what they DIDN'T know about the faith they lived by. It was like boarding a raft and setting sail into a vast ocean of denial and cognitive dissonance, and to this day I get the distinct impression that many believers simply cannot cope with the possibility that what they have built their lives upon amounts to dust and ashes. In many ways this is very sad. There is so much wonder in this universe, and so many unanswered questions there remains room for awe and hope and transcendence. Our universe is vast and old and strange things happen all the time; it's just got nothing to do with mainstream religion.
A second reason for religions steep decline amongst our brave youth has much to do with the rejection of homophobic and patriarchal ideals. We know in the depths of our being that love transcends gender stereotypes, and that women are more than breeding machines and are of equal status. Its an exodus that I hope to see continue; and religion will respond in one of two ways. If its smart it will do what it often does when overwhelmed with new information; it will quietly capitulate and re-imagine itself in order to appeal to a wider audience. There's also the possibility that a deranged core will regress to ultra orthodox values and cast themselves wider from 21st century norms. In truth we'll see a mix of the two, with the former likely out punching the latter. Yet despite any efforts to reinvent itself, Christianity still has to step up and own up to the fact that many of its claims are simply either outright false, or too weakly supported by evidence to claim as absolutely true. I'd love to see a commitment to honest truth seeking amongst my Christian friends rather than further battening down of hatches that have long since given up the ghost. Christianity, to survive as a viable proposition, needs to start being honest about many of its fundamental claims. Which means that it has to start being honest with itself. Given its track record I'm not convinced that truth seeking is a key driver amongst many believers. I hope that this changes. I hope they can make the transition to not just nice people, but people of moral courage, able to face new information with fortitude and courage, rather than simply failing to engage.

Tuesday, 21 August 2012

Foreskin Folly

In some quarters, it is argued that male circumcision can reduce urinary tract infections and HIV transmission between adults. Whilst unproven, it could be argued that once a male reaches sexual maturity they should be given a choice as to whether they want to submit to the procedure. I have no problem with this whatsoever. Currently however, this invasive medical act is carried out on babies, some as young as eight days old, and almost always for reasons of religious observance. Surprise surprise; I have an enormous issue with this.
Parents; listen carefully to the following. You do not own your children. You are, at best lawful custodians until they reach adulthood. During this time you are of course required to make decisions on their part, but might I suggest that hacking a way at a child's foreskin isn't exactly a priority.
If you consider you have a God given right to subject your offspring to this in order to placate, please, or ingratiate the particular Deity you invoke, might i suggest you've overstepped your remit.  Parents, you are of course free to believe whatever nonsense you please, but I really must insist that your lack of sound judgement does not directly influence your children. As parents we have a massive responsibility to teach our kids an array of life skills, amongst which is the ability to disseminate good claims from bad claims. Any child of religious parents is already at a severe disadvantage here; they are bound to be raised in a religious culture and tradition simply for reasons of proximity to believing mothers and fathers. They are, in simple terms, going to hear a lot of unverified and unverifiable nonsense which is claimed as truth. This is bad enough. If, added to the tripe you want to flood your child's mind with, you also have designs on altering the structure of their body, then as far as I'm concerned you've strayed into the murky waters of physical abuse. I recognise that you may hold your beliefs intensely, and I expect the religion virus was transmitted to you from your equally credulous, albeit well meaning parents. This makes you a victim, too, for which I have some sympathy. But there's enough information out there now for you to know that you are talking tosh and living a fantasy. In short, your children do not need to be mentally infected in the way that you were. But I digress; the root of this blog is about physical abuse, and the abuse of children too young to have any say in what they are subjected to. If you love your kids, which I genuinely believe you do, and if you respect their rights as individuals, of which I'm not so sure, then please do not subject them to physical procedures which have no medical support simply because of your religious beliefs.
It is wrong. It could only ever be wrong. And there is no compelling argument otherwise.

Saturday, 11 August 2012

Shifting The Burden

I've just listened to a five minute interview with Peter Hitchens, Christopher Hitchens younger brother. He is by all accounts a formidable intellect and he has his legendary brothers voice. He defines himself as a Christian, and when pressed as to why he declared that nothing made sense without God.
Now this strikes me as odd. First off, and the most obvious objection I have is simply to wonder why the Universe needs to make sense? Does it owe us sense? It occurs to me that the Universe doesn't owe us this any more than it owes us happiness or wealth or good health. Peters comments seem something akin to grasping at straws. And frankly, what specifically makes greater sense when you posit a divine intellect lurking behind the curtain like some cosmic Wizard of Oz? Does suffering make any more sense? Do the great tribulations of this and other epochs take on a lesser meaning unless we see it as part of a divine plan?
Some plan. I mean, this planet is really something of a mess, a real children's bedroom. And the mess is mostly of our own making. I see neither the necessity nor value in projecting our hopes onto a being so vastly improbable that it is rendered near impossible. In fact I see very real dangers in doing so. Like any problem, to project it is not really to take ownership. How many people do you know cannot face up to their own mistakes, their own poor decision making? How many times have you heard them bemoan the rough hand they've been dealt. Well maybe so, but you're no further down the road when you fail to deal with your problems. When you blame the rest of the world you've failed to engage in your part of the malaise. It's a bit cowardly, a bit weak, an unimpressive response to everyday reality.
In many ways, God is the ultimate burden shift. You just refer the problem on, or pass them up, as I used to hear in church circles. Like the proverbial damsel in distress we expect the Almighty to come to the rescue upon his trusty steed, issuing bail out after bail out. And the trouble with bailouts, as the euro zone crisis demonstrates, is that when you're constantly being bailed out you're often only pushing the problem further down the line.
You might call that a solution. I call it an abdication. How could it be anything else?

Friday, 10 August 2012

Behind The Veil

I'm near certain that most of us spend our lives not being completely honest with each other. I know I'm guilty of this. I expect part of our self control is for good reason, wanting to save others from hurt or anguish. So we hold back, we reign it in, we make excuses and say to ourselves that deep down we are happy, and that we've got it all, or least more than most. I suspect we're all liars in this respect, and if we could flick a switch to change some aspects of our lives then we'd do it. I wonder, for example, how many people really love their partners as much as their partners think they do? I wonder how many men are being dishonest about their sex lives? I wonder how many of us, deep down, are truthful about what we'd like from our relationships, on every level.
I bet the percentage is low. Perhaps this is just the the best way for the world to be, bumping along with a moderate, surface level sobriety, whilst all the time beneath the surface  a darker mass curdles.
How many times today did you NOT tell someone to fuck off when you really wanted to? Was anybody reading this tempted to slap some moron across the face? How many of you wanted to open those verbal floodgates and really give someone what for?
What's he going on about, I hear you say? What's prompted this tirade?
Actually, it's just me shagging around with ideas, because I don't think that what we see is always what we get when it comes to our day to day lives. I'd be surprised if any of you don't fall prey to the above. But doesn't it sometimes all just seem like so much dishonesty to you? I mean the self control? The false deference? These endless calculations we make about what to say, how to say it? So much latent fear, so much falsehood. If I'm missing the mark here then do say so, because I'm just doing what I always do. Just throwing out wild ideas like hand grenades, encouraging you to draw back the veil and consider what lies beneath. I hate that I act out this dance just like everybody else, and I hate that I will probably repeat the pattern tomorrow. I mean it's probably a good job isn't it? If we all said exactly what we were thinking all of the time the world would be a very different place.
Better? Worse? Perhaps both.

Saturday, 4 August 2012

Sleeping With The Enemy?

Today I've enjoyed the company of hundreds of Christians as we celebrated the wedding of my brother-in-law. As a body of people there is rarely warmer or more charming company. Now you might think it strange that I, as a passionate critic of religious ideas should venture this? Sounds a bit of a mixed message, doesn't it? Well no, and for the following reasons. The very best of British Christianity emerges from those who at least try to live lives that reflect the nobler teachings of Christ. Compassion, concern for the vulnerable and the disenfranchised; hospitality to all comers, and of course forgiveness. I admire these qualities despite having grave doubts about the historicity of the Biblical record itself. I recognise that I've often shown disdain for some of Christianity's more damaging teachings, but I've always attempted to at least acknowledge the genuineness and sincerity of honest to goodness believers.
I am, after all married to a Christian. Many if not all of my closest friends are Christians. This has taken resilience on their part because I've never flinched when aiming both rhetorical barrels in their direction. 
Before you ask; no, I have not had a spiritual epiphany. I still don't believe the truth claims and do not subscribe to the belief that Christ was the son of God. Furthermore, I continue to think the legacy of some of Christian teachings have proven a stumbling block to the advancement of a tolerant and just society. But these aren't quarrels for today. Today is to acknowledge the many genuine people of faith who are living out their beliefs with sincerity and integrity; those who are actively involved in projects and initiatives intended to alleviate suffering rather than increase it. More than that, a lot of them do so without fuss or ceremony, which is a quality I greatly admire.
I'm not going to stop critiquing religion. It's fare game and has a lot to answer for. And I think many forms of American evangelical Christianity are sorely in need of a good hand-bagging. There are some religious goons out there who really mustn't be given an inch, who really do cause unnecessary harm and guilt and need people like me to be all over them like a rash. 
But I don't want you to think me blind to the good one's. I know they exist. They are a significant part of my life. A bit like the late Christopher Hitchens, I believe that disagreement; even passionate disagreement, does not have to equal discord.

Wednesday, 1 August 2012

Inappropriately Yours

Behind the veil, beyond the face I present to the world is a seething mass of contradictions. You might think me open compared to some, but trust me I'm holding back. I've never tried to be a typical man because I'm not sure I know what one of those is. And if I did I expect I wouldn't fit the mould. As I write this I am reflecting on the sheer volume of inappropriate fantasies I can entertain on any given day, and I'm confused as to whether this is something I should feel guilty about? I'm a married man and plan to stay that way, yet my ability to think sexually about other women is quite something. For the men reading this, am I alone or do we share the same predilection? It's ok guys, I'm not seeking a public answer. This isn't a confession. In fact, is confessing to this even required? I'm just thinking out loud, and now wondering whether I'm cheapening women by confessing that I sometimes sexualise them. I'm not winning any feminist friends here, am I? Oh well, I'm just trying to explore an issue that might be seen as something of a taboo. Fact is, if you're on my Facebook friends list and you're female I've probably had inappropriate thoughts about you at some point. 
What I'm exploring here is the difference between how we conduct ourselves in reality compared to how we operate in the safe space of our fantasy life. I'm not just talking sex here; on any given day you've probably had times when you reigned in an urge of some kind or another. This is, I expect a generally good thing.
I have a sneaky suspicion that you, and yes I do mean you, have probably indulged in similar fantasy based indiscretions at some point. I guess our fantasy life, our abstract other life, is a safe enough environment so long as we have control over it. I'm not here to make moral pronouncements on this issue, and I'm not the thought police. I'm trying to be honest about some of my quirks, whilst suspecting that it probably isn't even a quirk at all and that a lot of us play the same imaginary games. 

Monday, 30 July 2012

Man Haters

Recently I was in a situation where it was impossible not to overhear a conversation going on within earshot. There were three women, all different ages, each waxing lyrical about the deficiencies and general ineptitude of the men they had dated, divorced, and spent time with. The mood was was negative from start to finish, yet it wasn't that which I picked up on. With me it's the subtext I'm listening out for, some underlying principle or theme.
What I sensed, and what may annoy my female readers, was a consistent failure to acknowledge, or even mention, that each women may have played a part in why their relationships had not endured. Now let's be brutal here, if relationship after relationship continually goes wrong there's a reasonable chance that it isn't just the other partners fault. It seems to me sensible to take just a bit of personal ownership and to ask a few searching questions. Why do my relationships fail? What are the recurring themes? What can I do differently next time? Am I trying BE the right partner as much as I'm trying to FIND the right partner. This conversation I was overhearing made plain just how easy it is to project our angst and frustrations without having the bravery to take ownership of the issues at hand. It's often nightmarish when we have to be brutally honest with ourselves, but it can also be restorative, illuminating, and open up rich veins of personal insight. Don't waste time blaming the rest of the world for your woes, even if you have been hurt or deceived or damaged.
Ultimately, this three way bitch-fest was a near perfect example of why these particular women failed in their efforts. I felt that each had an underlying dislike of men, a suspicion and a lack of trust. I'm not denying that men can be appalling creatures, but I'm also going to fly the flag for those of us who think about the world, who work hard at relationships, and who confront our own deficiencies. I'm sorry ladies, I'm not perfect but I'm not prepared to carry the can for your failure to look closely at yourself. Perhaps instead of projecting your anger you might want to look a bit deeper and take ownership of your own life situation. See how far that gets you?

Saturday, 28 July 2012

Something Better, Something More

Somewhere in the UK is a young boy, a young girl. They are watching the television transfixed by the Olympics. They may or may not come from deprived backgrounds, and they may or may not have both parents to support and nurture them. Within those young genes is a person whom will one day run faster, leap further, swim harder, and fight smarter than anyone else. 
I say perhaps, because they will not achieve these goals in isolation. Success, for the most part is the result of a collective effort, a combined culture of effort and creativity and belief and sheer hard work. It doesn't come easy, and for most of us doesn't come in a hurry.
Let's leave our young child for a while and zoom outward, the entire UK flickering beneath our gaze. A nation of 60-70 million, a multi cultural milieu of life and passion and possibilities. What do we have to do to forge a culture where we all get to chase down our dreams? Where everybody actually believes that they have a fighting chance to be more than they are today?
The answer is the same. It will take collective effort, a combined culture of creativity and belief and sheer hard work. And one of the skins we have to shed along the way is any sense that we are automatically entitled to be successful, wealthy, or deserving. I think many of us tacitly hold this errant view, and in so many ways we have been hamstrung by it. When I think of the things I have achieved, those I'm proudest of have been the result of toil, bloody mindedness, a refusal to give in. I had been writing for two decades before I published a book; I'd spent years in every job I've ever had improving what I do and how I do it. Whilst in relationships I've learned from mistakes, listened to the needs of others and tried to adapt my behaviour when required. In short, nothing came easy. But come it did. Eventually. And I can look back and be proud, safe in the knowledge that no short cuts were taken. Nor did I ever feel I was owed a living, or happiness, or hope. These things we must forge through the sweat of our brow. In so many ways we have to believe we can be the answer to our own questions, and when we have a nation of people with such an outlook you are already half way towards nurturing a culture that's going to get better, stronger, more resilient.
There is a quite obvious contradiction in this blog, a call to both the individual and the collective. This is quite deliberate. We have to believe in ourselves and also empower others to belief in themselves. From these building blocks dreams are forged, hopes are realised, and nations changed.
In time.

Monday, 23 July 2012

An Open Apology To Rick Warren

Being wrong is never easy. It's a bit humbling, a bit awkward, and frankly something I could do without. Thing is, this blog is meant to be a thing of honesty, which means that sometimes I have to look hard at myself and have enough personal integrity to step up and accept brute facts when they stare me in the face.
The other day I ripped into Rick Warren, who I thought had blamed the Colorado shooting on evolution. It now emerges that his quote was not a comment on the shooting, but on something completely different.
I am amongst thousands who got the wrong end of the stick and ventured a severe critique of the man. Based on this new information I unreservedly offer a full and open apology for what was an error on my part. I got caught up in the hype, didn't wait for verification, which for someone who values truth and evidence a much as I do is a schoolboy error. Whilst I disagree with much of what Rick Warren stands for I'm not in the business of being unfair for the sake of cheap shots. I got this call wrong and the joke is on me. I offer no excuses and accept that I made a blunder. I feel it important to be up front on this because I do not wish to portray a false image of myself, and more important I do not wish to harm the reputation of another person when I have no good reason to do so.
No excuses. Mea Culpa, as they say in Italy.

Saturday, 21 July 2012

A Rant About Rick Warren

This blog is born of anger. Correction, it is born of contempt. Sheer contempt for a tweet issued by mega church pastor Rick Warren. The tweet blames evolution for the Colorado shootings, suggesting that if we teach people that they are animals they will act like animals.
Really? I mean, really? Is this the most salient, considered response we are going to get from America's leading evangelical? I wonder, what about all the billions of people who didn't go out an kill a group of strangers today? Should we credit evolution for their self control? No, and let me just clear this up for all concerned. Evolution is blind and without purpose, with natural selection winnowing out unfit organisms and favouring those with the required survival tools. It doesn't feel, doesn't think, doesn't consciously plan. It's a process billions of years in the making and it is unguided. Now with that out of the way, let's be honest about what has happened here. Some disenfranchised kid has lost the plot big time, a kid who probably had the lid screwed on too tight for too long. Make no mistake, his actions were planned and purposeful, from buying the weapons to the acquisition of ammo. Somewhere along the way his mind went wrong and he began to plan this horror. I note he was a churchgoer, but I wouldn't for a second attribute his actions to christianity. Why then does the good pastor Warren see fit to throw this carnage at the door of secularism?
The answer is quite simple. Rick Warren is an overweight idiot beguiled by his own delusions. And he has kindly decided to out his idiocy in the clearest possible terms. Nobody who reads or who hears of his tweet need ever doubt this man's credentials again. He has nailed his imbecility to the mast, he has dangled his intellectual genitalia in the wind and said "Hey, look at me"
The troubling thing is that Rick Warren is a heavy hitter in evangelical circles. His books sell by the millions, and Christians the world over appear often dazzled by his proclamations. Perhaps today will serve as an appropriate wake up call to those intoxicated by his cretinous warbling. Rick Warren is an intellectual midget, a lightweight so self evident that nobody need harbour any doubt. Those of you who respected him before are thus released from further obligation. He is a cretin. He is a weapons grade arse. And we should thank him for doing us the service of making this so crystalline clear.

No Guns, Less Dead People.

People without guns can't shoot each other, can they? Am I naive for looking at this from such a simple perspective? I mean, the law of averages suggest that the more guns out and about the higher the probability of shootings. I just don't think this is open to question.
There is much I admire about America. It's laxity of the control over firearms is not amongst the list. It seems plain bonkers to have a culture where owning a firearm is such a normative thing. Could such a way of life ever make the streets safer?
Once again the debate over gun ownership will rage. And once again the same old arguments will resonate. The right to bear arms will be front and centre, a philosophy deeply ingrained in the American psyche. With all we know about the harm such weaponry can inflict I can't help but wonder why this frontier mindset persists? Plenty of other nations have violent history's yet carry no such desire to brandish arms. What is it about America that makes it so unique amongst developed nations? I do not pretend to know, and I certainly do not pretend to understand. From my libertarian English perspective the thought of carrying a weapon of any kind makes me very uneasy. Heck, I'm even averse to sharp kitchen knives. Surely though, no guns on the streets would reduce the number of shootings? Is there even a discussion on this point?

Friday, 20 July 2012

A Black Night In Denver

As I write this, news is emerging of a mass shooting at a cinema in Denver. Whenever details of such horror come my way I am both surprised and unsurprised. Surprised because I cannot conceive how any human being could want to end the life of another one, and yet unsurprised because I know much about our origins. In so many ways we remain primitive beings, very much in the infancy of our development. Don't be fooled by the technology and the culture and all that we have achieved; inside us remains what Christopher Hitchens once described as the "hallmarks of our lowly origins".
Whether we like it or not we have evolved from more primitive ancestors. Ancestors that routinely  expressed violence as a simple survival tool. We come from hunter gatherer stock, and our ancient ancestors would have been violent on a scale barely comprehensible to us. We existed in small bands, distrusted strangers, and rarely looked beyond close kin. For many years that was the order of things, but as civilisation developed, and as we started to live together in larger groups we found ways to adapt. We began to trade, we began to develop agriculture, which meant we often remained in one place for longer and were surrounded by larger groups of fellow humans. Under these circumstances it made no sense to kill or maim a rival, and over time we see our behaviour, for the most part, moderated and refined.
It may come as a great surprise to some of you to learn that we are, in fact, statistically less violent than at any time in our history. All the pointers indicate this; although in the information age it is forgivable to think otherwise. Yes, I know that violence persists, but it's nowhere near the levels it once stood. Yet within us all remains those features that enabled our ancestors to survive and reproduce, a violent survival instinct that, whether we are comfortable to admit or not, played a huge part in ensuring that you and I are here to read this. Which is why when I hear cases like Denver I mourn in the knowledge that such instances are isolated and rare. From time to time our deep rooted instincts are going to surface. We all have the capacity for violence; we mostly manage to curb it and listen to those better voices in our head. That's the way mankind appears to be going, so don't be too despondent when we hear the occasional anomaly. The overall trend is in the right direction. That said, clearly our thoughts need to be with the bereaved and those that will survive this terrible ordeal. They will have experienced something nobody should have to and the trauma will run deep. At the end of the day none of us can legislate for the behaviour of other people. We can only take account for our own actions and seek to be better people, wiser people, kinder and warmer people. That's what I'm aiming for. Perhaps we should all do the same?

Tuesday, 17 July 2012

The Mullet Effect

If you sport a mullet you are making a very clear statement about yourself. You are, simply put, announcing to the world that you are the result of in breeding. You may just as well wear a t-shirt adorned with the slogan "I married my sister"
You see, a mullet makes plain that you lack self awareness. It means each time you look in the mirror you consciously ignore that you look like you've just emerged from some shack in the Florida Everglades. Even if you're not called "Bubba" or "Cletus" you would probably answer to either. The message you send is that you are incapable of realising you look like you've had a lobotomy, and that this mop of absurdity atop your freshly stitched skull was what theatre staff scooped off the floor post op.
If you doubt any of the above, consider the sad case of the head of G4S, responsible for the shambles now more commonly known as Olympic security.
I wonder; when bidding for the contract was it all done over the phone? Surely no self respecting MP could consider dealing with a person sporting a mullet? It would be as risky as telling Jeremy Kyle about your affair with Tracy Twelve-Kids and then expecting him not to reveal this on daytime television, or being a female employed by Bill Clinton and not expecting him at some point to be asking you for a blow job. Ain't gonna happen partner.
To conclude, mullets are one of natures warning signs. A bit like brightly coloured insects or Travellers in white transits. You can ignore these red flags if you want to, but it's not as though you haven't been warned.

Saturday, 7 July 2012

Because I Choose To, Because I Can

Isaiah chapter 64, verse 6 informs me that "Our good deeds are as filthy rags" to God. Put simply, it states that without belief in God, trust in God, nothing that we do can be considered good.
Now I'm no angel, and I'm no moral leader, yet even to me that verse seems off kilter. Does it really mean what it says? Can nothing be good without first off doffing our caps to the Lord?
Many years ago I was in London with a friend who's name I won't venture. We were drunk, although I was marginally less so. Anyway's, courtesy of some dodgy pizza eaten in Camden town my buddy decided to show us what an extreme anaphylactic reaction looks like. His eyes turned to slits, his face bloated outward, and his windpipe began to constrict. Godless drunkard that i was i decided to stand in front of an oncoming bus, which kindly stopped. The driver took one look at my friend, let us aboard, and delivered us to the nearest hospital whereby treatment was administered and, without being too dramatic, a life was saved. Some years later I was at my parents house and My father, as only he could, decided to demonstrate how to choke on a piece of cooked chicken. He collapsed and was going into panic, so I stuck by fingers down his throat and retrieved the offending obstruction, leaving Dad to recover over the course of several minutes.
That's two lives saved. I seek no credit for either, but use each account by way of example. Two deeds which played a part in keeping two human beings alive. Do these sound like filthy rags to you? Am I really required to fawn and grovel at the feet of an imaginary bronze age thug in order that those two actions be deemed good? I do not think so. Rather, it seems to me that the choice to pursue goodness is available to us all, irrespective of what we believe. Surely the truth of our character is measured in the integrity of our character rather than decided by the simple practice of belief?
I won't always do the right thing. I won't always want to even though I know I should. Yet this much I know; on the rare occasions when I'm not acting like a barbarian, and when the better angels of my nature compel me to reach out with mercy and bravery and compassion, I will do so not because I'm seeking the approval of God, but because I choose to, and because I can.

Tuesday, 3 July 2012

Newsflash!! Females Loose In The UK Who Admit To Enjoying Sex!!!

If sales of the Mr Grey trilogy are anything to go by, females appear to quite enjoy sex. And not just conventional sex, but kinky and erotic fetish and domination games to boot. The Daily Mail appears to think this is news. I, on the other hand think this is about as newsworthy as leading with the story that the sky is blue.
I mean, what an overreaction. This isn't news. It's good old fashioned common sense and common knowledge to any man that's ever taken the time to listen to a partner speak candidly on issues of sexuality. So what if a women likes the idea of being dominated by an experienced male? Who cares whether a good dose of bondage is route one to orgasm central. This is quite possibly the least controversial piece of breaking news in years.
This whole sex thing still appears shrouded in a combination of hypocrisy and denial. There appears a continued awkwardness on the part of many that a good section of society might like to engage in role play or fantasy or the creative expression of sexuality. In a sense, sex can be considered as adults playing, so why shouldn't this be a rich and varied and creative process? Intimacy shared is a wonderful thing, and when partners commit to listening to each other and encouraging sexual openness I reckon even the sky doesn't have to be the limit. 
Let's stop being coy about the whole thing. This is the 21st century and sexuality is a fantastic part of being human. We still carry an awful lot of unnecessary baggage and I think it weighs us down more than it needs to. 
Perhaps you think me too candid? Too outspoken? Making too many assumptions? I just get tired of all the denial and the covering up of desires and compulsions that can potentially be avenues to a rich vein of human experience. And as I have said before, finding out what makes a person tick is such mischievous fun I think everybody should try it.
So there. Said it. It's ok to be sexual. To admit that your sexuality is unique and expansive and positive. So whether you're straight or gay, in a relationship or flying solo, just let yourself off the hook and get down to the business of enjoying who you are.

Wednesday, 27 June 2012

Dear Rabbi, Leave That Infants Penis Alone

There is an orthodox Jewish circumcision ritual called metzizha b'peh. It involves a rabbi removing the blood from around the freshly butchered penis of an infant male. Health officials have long warned of the risks that this arcane practice poses to babies, yet if the Creator of the universe requires us to hack around with a child's penis then who are we to protest?
Hang on. Isn't this the same Creator that apparently, to quote Christian tradition, knits each human together in their mothers womb? If yes, it rather begs the question as to why if foreskin was so objectionable to him then why did he not just create boys without it?
Let's not dwell. Suffice to say that recently another infant died from the type 1 herpes simplex virus further to being subjected to this ritual. Another entirely preventable death the direct result of people abandoning common sense in the name of religion. Now I happen to think that the average newborn is quite an incredible thing, and slicing its penis with a sharp implement before sucking away the blood via priestly lips somewhat unnecessary. Yet we have not banned the practice. Why? 
Oddly, I find myself angry not just with the Priests who deem such an act as Godly, but also with the oceans of educated believers out there whom sit idly by and let such such barbarity persist. I don't doubt that the majority are unsettled by these stories, but why are they not leading the charge to outlaw these superstitions? I suppose they can simply hand wave the problem away and say that their denomination doesn't practice this particular Jewish rite, which is true, yet all versions of faith are brimming with bizarre notions.
Take for example my former denomination, the Baptists. They believe in speaking in tongues. For those not familiar it means praying in what's called the language of God, an indecipherable jumble of non words which are then interpreted by those nearby. It sounds entertaining as a children's party game, but these are adults, often middle class adults buying into it. 
Fancy another example? How about the "Laying on of hands". This is when believers place hands on the body of the sick or injured and pray that God bring healing and restoration. Whilst this act can have a certain placebo effect, and make the recipient feel genuinely loved and valued, there is simply no evidence to suggest the practice works despite many outrageous claims.
So in summary, whilst some practices are more dangerous and deviant than others, all are the offspring of delusion. And it matters not how clever you are in other areas of your life; if you're holding these views you've rejected reality and should frankly be ashamed. I could go on about how religion corrodes young minds, and infuses often lifelong guilt associations such like and so forth, but you get my point. If you believe ridiculous things then there's an increased chance you'll do ridiculous things. I can't speak plainer than that.

Monday, 25 June 2012

Confessions Of A Realist

The last few days have bought me face to face with my own inadequacies.
Realist that I am, it has been a chastening experience. You see, I'm trying to learn new skills, and thus far the results have been underwhelming. Each day I am being taught something new, and each day I am doing it badly. In fact, it has reached a point somewhere between comedy and absurdity. Such is life out of my comfort zone.
By the way, I'm not melancholy. I'm pragmatic. I never expected to adopt this new skill set easily, and everybody had warned me that this particular course would be amongst the toughest my organisation offers.
Thing is, it doesn't matter how badly I feel I'm doing, it hasn't occurred to me for a second that I won't ever be able to do the job. Fact is, in a few months I'll look back and wonder what all the angst was about. I am going to get proficient at this. I'm going to get good because I have chosen to do so, and Hell will freeze over before I abandoned this hope. This means I've committed my immediate future to many days when I come home feeling as I do now. But I'll tell you what, when I do click into gear it will make the feeling all the sweeter. Without wishing to betray my arrogance, if I choose to pursue a goal I more often than not achieve it. It's going to be the same with my current situation. Today I'm not very good. Tomorrow will be a slightly improved version of the same replete with new errors. Which means I'm going to have to get my head down and push through, reminding myself constantly that to do my job well will likely take a very long time.
The reason for this blog? My way of reminding myself and perhaps others that just because it doesn't come easy doesn't mean we should roll into a ball. For those in similar situations I encourage you to gird your sides, to take a deep breath and keep going. Don't worry if you knock down a few hurdles along the way; that doesn't mean you've failed.
So tomorrow I'll once again turn up and take a further few slices of humble pie. But if you look closely, and squint hard enough, you might also see some clue that there's light at the end of the road.

Saturday, 23 June 2012

What Lies Beneath

I have a bit of a reputation for plain speaking. I'm told I say the things that people think yet won't articulate. This either means I'm brave or just have a social skills deficit. Take your pick.
Sadly, I spend a lot of my time having to be critical of people who are, by most reasonable standards, very nice. Trust me when I say I don't do this to be vindictive, or to oppress, or to bully. I do so because I feel it's the right thing to do. You see, when I write I try to be authentic, and to speak without sentiment. For example, I've blogged on issues of obesity and why I feel it usually occurs as a consequence of personal lack of self control. Might this be hard for an obese person to hear? Well yes. Is my observation correct? More often than not. I've also been known to be hard on benefits scroungers, many of whom number among the less fortunate and deprived members of society. Might this be hard to hear if you're playing the benefits system or refusing to work because the idea doesn't appeal? Again yes. And finally, the recipients that always get both rhetorical guns are the religious. How unkind of me to rob others of comfort? Good people, decent people, active and courageous individuals who do so much to make society fairer and kinder. What a terrible thing?
Ok then, ask yourself how kind it is to allow people to humiliate and mentally enslave themselves day after day, year after year? How kind is it to allow a person to actively deny themselves so much in this world in anticipation of an eternal one? I happen to think I'd be guilty of a greater evil were I not to speak against falsehood and delusion. Perhaps you disagree? Perhaps you take the line that false beliefs do no real harm? To say this is an affront to the pursuit of truth, and truth is our greatest weapon as humanity seeks to overcome the challenges of this century. It's never been more important to get people thinking clearly, thinking honestly, and accepting life for all it's precious transience.
Along the way I have and will continue to cause offence. This is the unavoidable by product of not giving an inch to delusion in whatever shape or form it takes. If it makes you feel any better I often struggle to face reality with fortitude. I get scared and feel vulnerable and am dogged by a continual fear of failure. I, like so many want to see  "happy ever after" at the end of each trauma, but I cannot kid myself into believing it. The best I can do is work at my character flaws and see what can be done about them. In some ways I'm a less pleasant man than when I held my former beliefs. I'm less tolerant, more direct, and sometimes more dismissive. Yet as hard as these faults are to accept, they manifest because I have, at the very core of my being the desire to put reality first. 
Several years ago I wrote a monologue called "Am I the man that God made me?" and even now I can remember several lines.
"It isn't always pleasant, it isn't always good, I often don't behave in the manner that I should."
Everybody knows that this observation still holds. Yet even more incisive is a line that comes later, at a point when I admit to myself that I often put on a face that's conceals the real me. It reads simply, "But you can't see the darkness, and you can't see the gloom, and you can't see the anger that's inside this whitewashed tomb"
So you see, I don't speak from a pedestal, or pretend to be perfect or the lone voice of reason. I'm the same old messy me in practically every way. It's just that I'm honest enough to admit that if any of that's to change its going to have to come from within.

The 38,000 Club

It occurs to me that the Creator of the Universe is not lacking in bandwidth. By all accounts he is communicating daily with followers all over the planet.
Thing is, I'm apt to wonder whether the comms are quite as clear cut as we might hope for? For example just dwell on the following statistic; there are 38,000 denominations within Christianity alone. Let that one settle for a moment if you will. The Lord appears to revealing his "absolute truth" in a variety of ways, many of which appear to differ from the "absolute truth" revealed to other Christian sects.
In some cases disagreements in doctrine are minor, whilst in others there is a vast gulf in ideas that have given us such delights as the crusades and the inquisition. A modern day example of division could be the 7 day Creationists vilifying the "Intelligent Design" movement, the latter believing that God used evolution to shape humanity. There are differences over the acceptance of Gays, of female clergy, of theology, and these have real effects in the real world.
Now rewind for just a moment. 38,000 variety's of the same faith is a lot of disagreement. Point is, what is the more likely here; is God deliberately giving mutually contradictory "truths" to different denominations, or is it more likely that each and every person who has ever claimed to have received divine revelation has simply received their message from somewhere inside their brains?
I can see arms being flung into the air as I type. No! God has spoken to me! I can feel his presence, he guides me daily. The message is from beyond rather than within.
Really? Really? What makes you so sure? Where's your evidence?
Let me guess; certain things have happened that could only have been from God? A job at the right time perhaps? A healing from some malignancy? Some sign or other just at the perfect moment?
Here's my take. Humans are pattern seeking mammals. We have a facility called hyperactive agency detection, which is simply to say we actively seek to detect patterns in our own experience. So if you're a Christian and you get that job it was a gift from God; read the same for that car parking space, or the time you found your wedding ring after praying etc. What I'm suggesting is that if we we already believe something we are more inclined to go on believing it and find ways to do so.
So back to the question of 38,000 distinct revelations. Taking the above into account what is the more likely. That a God has deliberately infused confusion amidst his faithful followers, or that certain cultures merely imbibed a basic message and then began installing there own "truths"?
In computer terms it's called a software update. You add stuff on. It doesn't mean for a second that the basic message has any truth to it; merely that you've run with an idea and now you're decorating it with your own personality.

Thursday, 14 June 2012

The Milk Of Human Kindness

Apparently, according to one Islamic scholar, the Polio vaccine is Un-Islamic. Apparently it is part of a Western conspiracy to render young Muslims impotent. 
This is weapons grade stupidity. But then, weapons grade stupidity is the beating heart of religion itself. It has been suggested that when a single person claims to have heard the voice of God he is a madman, yet if an entire group of people claim likewise we call it a religion. Now I know that there are many bright and capable persons of faith in the world and I don't mean to be rude. However, your benign and harmless belief lends a shroud of credibility to an undercurrent of real loons out there that believe in absurdity as evidenced above. In short, whilst the majority of believers are good and kindly citizens, they tacitly fuel the mania that lurks in the deeper reaches of faith.
I don't object to you going to church or a mosque. I encourage you in your desire to live decent and caring and productive lives (qualities that shouldn't require religious adherence anyway). What I object to is when your beliefs impinge upon the welfare and wellbeing and freedoms of your fellow denizens.
Our deranged Muslim scholar is but one example. Another might be the Church's position on gay marriage, or perhaps if you are American the corruption of education by zealous fools seeking to teach Creationism in class rooms.
These are the facts, which can be applied to ALL religions. First, none have a shred of evidence to support them. Second, none of the Holy books say anything moral that hasn't been said better elsewhere. Third, religion has been and continues to be a stumbling block and an active obstacle to scientific progress and reason. In short, you have NOTHING to bring to the table.
If you want to be kind, to reach out and help the disadvantaged you can do so without believing ridiculous things about the nature of reality. The milk of human kindness doesn't exist under a cross or a crescent, but amidst the shared experience of our species. Your claims about eternal life, as appealing as they may sound, are mere wish thinking when confronted by the spectre of our mortality. If believing the unbelievable gets you through the day so be it, but don't expect credit or praise for your abundance of faith.
To conclude, it remains as vital as ever that delusion is challenged and outed. When people make claims about reality they need to back these up with evidence that can be tested. As I've joked before, religion is a bit like cross dressing. All well and good behind closed doors, but more often than not looks a bit daft when paraded in public.