Monday, 16 December 2013

Choice When We Need It The Most

"I don't want people's sympathy - I want people's help"
These words require a context. They were made by Paul Lamb, paralysed in an accident 23 years ago, and forced to live in continual pain. His case is now being heard at the Supreme Court, and he is arguing for his right, and for the right of others to have medical assistance to end their lives when matters become too much to endure. Listening to him being interviewed on Channel 4 news I felt both sadness and anger. More than that, I felt perplexed that we have not managed to find a legal way to make this possible. Surely with the right safeguards in place we can extend dignity and autonomy to those facing years of pain and suffering? Surely we have reached a point where we can simply admit that whilst there will always be a risk of exploitation, there is a greater good to be achieved by passing a law allowing those facing extended suffering to end their lives peacefully and on their terms? The vast majority of carers would never countenance using this as a tool to exploit the vulnerable, and for those that would I argue that the percentage is so small that it should pose no hurdle to the majority whom seek only to offer love and support and mercy at the most difficult time of all. The end of our lives is a hard enough idea to countenance, and many cannot face this reality squarely. Yet surely how we deal with this says something profound about our shared humanity, our commitment to love and kindness, and our willingness to alleviate suffering as much as it is within our power. We would not allow an animal to suffer in the way that some humans have to. We spare them rather than heap indignity upon indignity. Has the time not come to take the brave step and do all that we can to provide end of life choice? We all desire personal dignity and a certain amount of autonomy, and indeed we take these things for granted when the skies are blue and all is plain sailing. Can we not find a means to extend it to those whom need it most? To those presently unable to choose when or how to bring their lives to a dignified end? Our failure to do this breaks my heart, and my sincere hope is that people such as Paul Lamb will be extended the right to make one of the most profound choices a human can make. The time to choose their passing.

Wednesday, 4 December 2013

Growing Up Is Not Optional

Next time you want to make a point try yelling and hollering at the person you are trying to persuade. Try being verbally abusive, childish, or even needy. If you're really stuck try throwing something, or threaten to harm yourself or others. Perhaps kick the dog, strangle the cat, or maybe leave the gas oven on overnight. Because that’s all going to work, right? Welcome to the world of personal immaturity, a land where nobody ever taught you to act like an adult, or deal with the emotions that come when you don’t get your own way. Welcome to a world where age is no barometer of maturity, where acting like a child is your default, where you always hurl your toys from the pram. Actually, maybe that’s a really dumb idea. Maybe that’s pretty much route one if it was your intent to lose the respect and patience of those around you. It’s the land of eternal youth. When the spoilt child erupts from the adult and seeks to control and coerce. Forgive my sarcasm, but there are days when I only deal with adults that suffer from what I term Peter Pan syndrome. Unable to grow up, or deal with adversity with maturity. Now I'm far from perfect, but what kind of arse thinks that the way to succeed is to shout and scream and stamp their fully grown feet. I mean, what happened to you? Did you skip the part where you learn to deal with and accept the fact that you don’t always get your own way? Did that particular brand of reality prove too taxing? I mean seriously people. Get a grip. Grow up. Join the rest of the adults and learn a coping mechanism or two. As you may have guessed I have just spent a nightshift dealing with a whole gamut of people who never quite made the transition from child to adult. And the barmy thing is that they come from all walks of life. Well to do’s, working class, all the way up through the spine of middle class England. Ok, so there is generally a correlation between intellect and maturity, but the line isn’t as clear as you might think. Oh by the way I’m not preaching. This is more of a world weary rant. And I’m not in the mood to offer advice. Actually, that’s not true. My advice is simply to suck it up, get a grip, and grow a pair. Frankly I don’t give a rat’s scrotum. I don't want to spend my day, or my night wading through the kind of emotional nonsense that you should have left behind long ago. Grow up. Just grow up. Find ways to deal with disappointment and frustration that don’t leave you looking like you just walked out of pre-school. I’d like that ever so much.

Saturday, 30 November 2013

It Isn't A Crime

It isn't a crime to encourage people to think. It isn't a sin to ask people to reflect on how they know what they know. The skill is in how you do it, and the attitude you have towards those you engage with. From previous blogs you will know that I am far more relaxed about these things now, but I still think truth matters. How we see the world, and the skills we use to reach those conclusions really does say something about us. I'm not in the businesses of trying to win arguments these days. It's enough that I simply live in such a way that people know that I value reason and evidence and the pursuit of truth. It's almost certain that I am wrong about a great many things, but I have an absolute commitment to changing my mind when the evidence demands it of me. I cannot stress how important it is that I take time to listen to what you have to say,because if I do not listen how can I ever hope to understand? If I do not take account of your view how could I even attempt to critique it? You see where this is going, right? Those things on the side of your head; do try to make good use of them. They have a big say in what goes on inside, in that space in the middle. Perhaps more important, and I confess I was slow to grasp this, stop trying to win arguments or score points. I've learned that this is just an abject waste of time. Some people do not want to be continually questioning the world. Some people see things in a set way, and to change would be to abandon too much, to be stripped of something core to them. Whilst I do find this frustrating, I kind of understand their reluctance. I find new ideas exiting, and I genuinely get a kick out of rattling my own cage. I don't like to stay unchanged and I want to be open to new experience and new information. This is just the way I'm wired. And yes, I know it makes me hard to be around. Never quite sure of what tangent I'm going to arc off on. I offer no apology. I fear being entrenched, in growing so old and stagnant. It must be terrifying to be so in fear of the new and different? I'd much rather remain on my toes, not just alert but actively seeking to understand the way the world is. It isn't for everyone, but it's an itch that I still need to scratch.

Thursday, 28 November 2013

It's Not Gonna' Water Itself.

If we spent less time trying to find the right partner, and more time trying to be the right partner, I am convinced fewer relationships would break down. In fact, I believe this with every fibre of my being. I'd go so far as to call it a no brainer. First off, it recognises that we have to take ownership of things, acknowledging that we really can influence the quality of an alliance. It also requires us to remain attentive to the ebb and flow of a relationship, and be ever vigilant in regard to how our other halves are doing. More than that, to adopt this perspective is to recognise that laziness and lack of attention equal a fast track to the kind of corrosion that can bring potentially good relationships to an end. I consider myself hugely fortunate to have a wife who shares the same level of commitment, and an ongoing desire to make things better and even more fun. And it is meant to be fun, isn't it? I'm assuming you didn't hook up to erode the quality of each other's lives? Why then, is this how so many partnerships end up?
I don't get it? Why would you allow something with so much potential, with such good ingredients to become so stagnant and remote? I'm sorry guys, but I don't think we can automatically blame the other person, either. It's idiotic to declare that someone isn't meeting your needs if you haven't communicated what those needs are. Or worse, when you've done that thing where you automatically expect your other half to read your mind. I've done this, I have been that Muppet. And I can't recall a single instance when this approach worked. Far as I can see it's a near perfect recipe for resentment, antipathy, and ultimately failure. So how about we're just honest with ourselves and admit that we have a massive responsibility to not just understand the needs of our partner, but to make ourselves understood. There just doesn't seem to be an alternative to good old fashioned communication. But communication is just a word, itself toothless if not accompanied by self awareness and a desire to listen. Relationships do not stay the same because people do not stay the same. The black art is accepting this, and evolving in such a way that allows all to remain fulfilled. You can be sure that the person you are today is different from who you were a few years ago. Just like the person you'll be in five years will differ from who are now. Which leaves you with a choice. You can flit from partner to partner, convinced that you haven't met the mythical creature commonly referred to as "The one", or you can try your hand at making your current relationship a thing of warmth and intimacy and beauty. You can set about the task of building something awesome and inspiring, and commit to not just surviving but flourishing. It's more than possible, and the rewards are huge. But it isn't going to cultivate itself

Wednesday, 20 November 2013

View From The Bridge

Let it be. No, not that song by the Beatles; It’s kind of my new mantra. This blog is a follow on from the last, and I wanted to convey what I hope is a more measured approach to thinking about the world. You see, I’m 42 now, and I hope I’ve a few good years left in the tank. And I want to spend those years in a generally positive frame of mind, which means refraining from some of the negative patterns that I allowed to take hold. This isn’t to say I’ve lost my passion for truth and integrity and living with energy and verve. Quite the opposite; I value these things more than ever. It’s just that I want to enjoy the ride, and help others to enjoy it, too. Any reader of my blog can see that I have often been aggressive in my criticism of various ideas. I’ve no regrets, and I haven’t had a change of heart. It’s just that as part of moving on I want to spend less time at war with the world and more time celebrating its wonders.  And what a world it is. What incredible possibilities exist amidst it? There is just so much I want to do, so many places I want to see; it would be a crime to let the past drag me into a whirlpool of perpetual self reflection. I cannot change the past. I do not want to. For good or ill it’s the only launch pad any of us truly have. I know that many who read this have had desperately difficult lives. And I understand how trauma can leave a person beaten and dejected and mired. If this is how you feel today then I feel nothing but compassion for you. But can I also strike the following call to arms? Your past does not have to dictate your future. You don’t have to live as a victim, or exist in a state of permanent mourning. There comes a point, irrespective of the hand we’ve been dealt when all that is left is to decide where do we go from here? So that’s my question? And I ask it to you even as I ask it to myself? I don’t know how many years I have left, but what I do know is that I want to spend them as constructively and positively as I can. I want new experiences, new horizons, and I want to enable and empower others to do likewise. So if you are in a dark place now can I encourage you just to pause for breath? If you have the strength just raise your head and try to understand that nobody wins if we allow ourselves to be slaves to a past we cannot change. I genuinely think that there comes a time when, regardless of how painful, we have to forge ahead. We have to change. We have to become more than we are today. For your own sake try to look upward, look outward, and get help if you need it. Your future isn’t carved in stone. And it may surprise you. But here’s the thing, you cannot keep a foot in both worlds. Ok, well perhaps you can, but I don’t see what you stand to gain? I’m not asking you to be blind to all that made you what you are. I just think that in order to venture seaward we need to push ourselves off from the shore. The land will still be there. There on the horizon if ever you need or want to look back. But you will be free to travel lighter, faster, and be more agile. Do you really think you don’t deserve that?

Wednesday, 13 November 2013

The War Is Over

I spent 13 years as a religious believer, and then 7 more years arguing just as passionately against it. That's 20 years. That's a long time. As I reflect I come to realise that the war within me is over. Peace has been declared. I do not need to prove myself right, or others wrong. And if I had the chance to change anything I would politely decline. My religiosity and subsequent apostasy have made me what I am, and in a certain sense I can give a nod to both. Had I not explored religion I would never have met let alone married Joy, an idea incomprehensible to me. Whilst had I not rejected belief I may never have had the privilege of reading and reflecting on some of the most agile minds of our age. I am, as we all are, products of our own journey. Had I not walked this road I would be different, lesser, narrower. I am grateful for even the difficult moments, for they refined me. And I am equally proud to have made so many meaningful associations on both ends of the spectrum. But the war is over. I don't need to fight with the universe, with the big questions anymore. I just want to live this life in the most real and genuine sense, fully open to all the experiences that may come my way. I am 42 now, and perhaps I should have a fixed set of perspectives. I actually don't, though. There is no opinion that I have that is carved in stone, no mantra so sacred that I wouldn't change it if the evidence required me to. I still believe kindness trumps malice, and that honesty trumps falsehood. But I never want to be so fixated on a view that I wouldn't budge. So I guess my openess is a kind of gateway, and it gives me permission to be right, to be wrong, to be enquiring and without bias. I probably spent too long wanting to be certain, to have a fixed point I could build myself around. No more. It just doesn't seem worth it. So if its all the same to you I'm going to be a reed blowing in the wind. I'm going to let life happen. I'm going to roll with it. I'm going to keep my eyes open and just take it all in.
13 years believing it. 7 years fighting it. I think that's long enough.

Friday, 8 November 2013

Where's The Love In This?

Its funny what images stick in the mind. A couple of weeks ago I'm walking the dog, and up ahead I see this really large kid crossing the road. When I say large I mean obese. Morbidly obese. Obese in a way you don't often see in kids. And here's the thing; I found myself feeling angry towards his parents, whom I expect i will never meet. I mean this kid couldn't have been more than 9 or 10, yet he was heavier than most full grown adults. Now I'm a parent myself, and I cannot imagine any circumstance under which I would stand by and watch a child of mine develop habits that will pretty much ensure a rendezvous with an early grave. So the question I have is really simple; where's the love in allowing a kid to develop this way? Under what conditions could this in any way benefit them? And what must the parents be thinking? Are they thinking? Do they care? Is it simply the case that they are large themselves?

I don't want this to be perceived as a rant against obesity. Whilst I do struggle to apprehend why people choose to self harm using food (And it is self harm) I accept that adults have the freedom to live as they chose and treat their own body as they see fit. But with this kid what the parents appear to be doing is either passively or actively supporting a lifestyle destined to lead to unhappiness, low self esteem, and in all probability premature death.

Where is the love in any of this? Where is the desire to see our children flourish? What do we teach them when we do so little to enhance their wellbeing.? Look, I know some of you are probably feeling a little irked with me for putting in my two cents. It's just that I don't get it? I don't understand. The parents of this child are killing him. Slowly, efficiently, silently. If we learned of parents whom introduced their kids to narcotics we would be aghast. Social services would be all over the family like a bad smell. Why not this? Isn't the outcome likely to be just as awful? Why accept one form of abuse whilst allowing other types to go unchecked?

I'll quit now. But I'm going out with a bang. Part of raising kids is teaching them self control, self discipline. And sometimes this means saying no to them. It means taking a sterner line, adopting a longer term view. Reality check; we don't own our children. We're stewards, and we have them for such a brief time. Let's give them the best possible chance to flourish in what is an increasingly challenging world. To do otherwise is about as far removed from love as you can get.

Thursday, 3 October 2013

Ghosts, Ghouls, Demons & Devils.

I had an utterly bizarre conversation today. It began innocuously enough, with my youngest daughter asking a question which was approximately along the lines of why Halloween was evil? It emerged that somebody had imbued some supernatural element into it, apparently genuinely believing that demons and devils and spooks and spectres are a tangible part of our world. OK then, I find myself thinking. That's an empirical claim about the way the world is. Should there not be some evidence to back this up? I mean, if you are prepared to tell a vulnerable child something that could potentially cause some psychological distress surely you'd want to be sure that such assertions had some evidence to back them up? Apparently not, as it turned out. Which of course I knew. There never has been any evidence for ghouls, ghosts, demons and devils. These things hark back to our prehistory when we lacked the nous to explain phenomena we now understand in scientific terms. Thing is, what really angered me was that, in the mind of this adult, it was perfectly appropriate to share a potentially terrifying piece of unfounded and unproven information with a young mind still forming its own view of the world. Oh heck, you've probably already guessed: this inspired piece of information sharing had religious origins. And therein lies the problem. Therein, in fact, is why my distaste for the religious claims of the world only increase with time. It saddens me that clever people, decent people, caring people can so glibly share such potentially harmful insights with the young and the vulnerable. It saddens me that the minds of these otherwise capable people have been so addled by the poison chalice of religious inanity. It's been a while since I've written about matters of faith, because for the most part it keeps its mucky paws off of me. But when it steps inside the circle and attempts to contaminate those I love and cherish most, and with such flagrant disregard for truly sacred values such as evidence, reason, and the desire for truth seeking I have to respond. I hope you don't mind, but those of you of a religious disposition please consider this as a very clear shot across your bow. It's not that I would deny you the opportunity to share your faith based opinions with my children, but I do reserve the right to expose them for the tawdry, ill informed, and frankly weak minded fodder that they are. In fact, let's sit down together. You can tell me why I should take you seriously, and then I can explain why that's not an appealing proposition to me. Now before I forget, a word about evil: We don't need ghouls and ghosts and demons and devils to bewitch us. We can find our own way. If you doubt this I invite you to think of any event in history where we have spoken of evil and the blame could not be placed squarely at the feet of mankind. Hitler, The inquisitions, the great religious wars of the past, the Stalinist purges. Stand back and study these. You will find them all man made, all the result of entertaining absurd ideas about the nature of reality. To imagine that Pope Benedict had a little demon on his shoulder, or in his soul whilst he was covering up the endemic rape of children is to release him of responsibility, and to say that he was somehow under the direction of supernatural powers is equally cheap. He, like each and every one of us has the capacity to do great harm. To hurt those near and far. To wound, to scar, to distress. Why don't we just have the moral courage to face up to this truth? Isn't it better that we take personal responsibility? That we own our own transgressions rather than to inject some otherworldly supernatural element into them? All I can say is that when I get things wrong it is because I get things wrong. Nobody else to blame. Nobody else pulling the strings. It's about me, my failings, my inner foibles. Is that really so hard to accept?

Friday, 30 August 2013

The Long And Winding Road

On a planet of seven billion people the law of averages dictates that at any given time a great many of us will be suffering. This is just the way it is, and it's right that we do all we can to alleviate suffering when we can. That said, there are times when to intervene is to court the risk of causing an even greater harm. For me, the issue of Syria was always a no brainer, and it has saddened me to see how shallow and impulsive the thinking of some people has been. Nobody denies that the genocide of so many is an unspeakable vileness. Nobody can fail to be moved when we see babies lain dead and wrapped in white linen, or people gasping as toxic nerve agents assail their respiratory system. These images are in our face, a grim reminder of what we are capable of doing to one another. For a few moments i want to ask you to put these to one side and expand your lens, however. Only when you do this will the potential cost of intervention become clear. Consider the potential risks, and then combine them with some recent historical facts. Has intervention in Iran and Afghanistan made the world a safer place? Has it reduced enmity and division? Reduced tensions? Improved relationships with the Arab world and helped to enhance trust? You know it hasn't. The West has killed a lot of innocents, and sadly done so on a platform that whilst morally sincere, was also fatally flawed and sincerely wrong. You may find this hard to believe but reformers do exist in the Middle East. People who are reaching out and trying to improve the human rights of their countrymen. Ask yourself, how hard do we make it for these internal advocates of democracy when we pursue military campaigns on foreign soil? Does it increase the likelihood that it decreases suspicion in our agenda? Does it help the reformers, those pioneers on the inside making a case for closer ties with the West? I argue that it does not. Now call me an idealist but I happen to think that many people currently denied freedoms actually desire them more than they are able to articulate. Many Arab women would love to seek higher education, or any education for that matter, without having to risk having acid thrown in their faces by male zealots. I also think Arabic children deserve a wider education than simply being farmed off to Islamic schools where they rock back and forth whilst learning the Koran all day long. This way isn't the path to enlightenment. This increases radicalisation and poisons minds and makes the world more dangerous. Combine this this with a perceived enemy in the West that they fear is seeking to undermine their way of life then it quickly becomes clear that military intervention is going to fail with any goal it intends, no matter how morally grounded. You see, morality is simply about the wellbeing of consciousness creatures. And there may be multiple pathways to achieve this. No religion has the final say on what morality is or isn't. Nor any despot. Morality is about the greatest good for the greatest number, and there is no perfect solution to many of the world's ills. But know this; no military crusade is going to make the road less rocky. It will simply add further obstacles, decrease trust, and increase tensions in a region which is already an absolute powder keg. And whatever changes that do occur will be longer lasting and more stable if they come from within. We cannot impose regime change, or enforce democracy from the outside in. It has to be the other way around. So support the reformers, support diplomacy and peaceable communications. And do so in the knowledge that this process is a winding and rocky road filled with potholes, and a journey likely to take decades.

Sunday, 25 August 2013

Fifty Shades Of Reality

Here's something I don't understand. Apparently most males climax between 3 and 5 minutes after beginning sex. Is this intercourse or foreplay? Well I can't imagine it's the latter, and frankly the former strikes me as a pretty poor show. This whole sex thing has always seemed to me to be at it's best when the imagination is doing the majority of the heavy lifting, and imagination needs time and space to evolve and flourish. Perhaps some of you can crack that nut in 3-5 minutes but my initial question is why on earth would you want to? If I'm missing something here do say so, because another issue I've got with the above statistic is how that factors in the needs, desires, and fantasies of the person you're with? I'm suspicious that such a short timescale may leave enough time for selfish satisfaction but not for a whole lot else. And for me intimacy is always about giving, always about putting the other person first. Perhaps that's not normal, but if normal means a straight sprint to orgasm then you're welcome to it. I cannot imagine making my own needs more important than my partner's. I cannot imagine curling up beside someone who isn't fulfilled. Previous blogs have already outlined my views on sex and creativity, so I don't need to parrot that again. It's just I don't have any inhibitions on the issue. I'm an open book and it's so cool when somebody trusts you enough to share the other side of themselves, the fantasy side, the risqué and unconventional side. Have you ever done that thing when you're in a crowd and you wonder what the people around you are into? No? Try it sometime. And do it with the certainty that you'll probably get it wrong most of the time. That's what I love about us. What you see isn't always what you get. The bus driver that drops you off every morning could be a sexual gigolo in the bedroom. That shy and understated cashier you smile at could have a sex toy collection the size of Wembley stadium. That emergency responder who breaks up the pub fight on a Saturday night might bring his girlfriend breakfast in bed the next morning and spend the entire day waiting on her hand and foot, possibly naked, and most likely loving every minute. And the nurse who spends her day alleviating pain may spend long evenings inflicting it on her compliant boyfriend. This is such an intriguing facet of human nature. These alter ego's, these hidden trails concealed in plain view. Anyway, what about you? Any hidden trails you'd like to explore? Any fantasies you've always flirted with but felt too shy or self conscious to share? My hope for you is that if you're in a trusting and stable relationship you will feel able to express yourself. And if you're still awaiting that special someone, I hope that when you meet the connection will be so complete that you get to express yourself in the fullest possible sense. There are no rules to this thing, people. And we only have so many years to our name. So don't let inhibition quieten who you are; don't subdue that inner vixen, or that Knight in shining armour. That would be a real big shame.

Saturday, 24 August 2013

Running On The Right Fuel

I am not one for political correctness. I'm one of those who prefers to speak plainly, and learn if I'm incorrect about something so I can correct my thinking. I don't like it when it certain subject's are off limits, when the potato is deemed too hot. So what if we offend each other? Who cares if the occasional nose gets put out of joint? We're big boy's and girls aren't we? We'll recover. For example, I happen to think Christianity is a tedious waste of time which is practiced by people who haven't stood back and stepped outside their assumptions. I think Islam has an undercurrent of pernicious teaching that happily most Muslims ignore. I think travellers cause a disproportionate amount of crime compared to the numbers of them. And despite having all the respect in the world for single parents I maintain that a mother and a father offer the best frame work for raising kids, assuming the aforementioned parents are loving and committed and not otherwise screwed up. All the above mean I fall foul of the PC brigade, and this to me is bizarre. Tough subjects need to be discussed, chewed over. Horns need to be locked, rough edges in our thinking ground away. I'll sit down with any Christian, Muslim, single parent or traveller and listen to what they have to say. And I have the kind of mindset that changes when the facts change. That's the kind of man I want to be. I want it so much it hurts. As many of you know I was a Christian for over a decade. I learned many important things and met some of the best people I'll ever meet. But when it became obvious that the basic teachings were fabrications I had to act. I couldn't knowingly live a life when there's such overwhelming evidence that the whole thing was backward engineered, redacted, and cut and pasted from all manner of sources. So I left the fold. I followed the evidence. And to this day I am obsessive about ensuring that my opinions match reality, that my worldview is evidence based and driven by a voracious desire to get to the truth. It startles and saddens me how few people actually do this. It's a mystery I cannot apprehend. The other day I happened across a quote which said something along the following lines; "Knowledge isn't about knowing everything. It's about questioning everything you think you know." I adore this quote. This is my entire worldview bottled and distilled into one handy statement. So please forgive me if I struggle to understand people who don't think this way. Sorry if I remain puzzled by people who appear to actively seek to delude themselves. I am convinced that I am wrong about a great many things. And I'm equally sure that I've so much left to learn, and that the opinions I hold today will not be exactly the same in the future. Above all, please don't think that I'm a man that doesn't know his own mind. I know it just fine, thanks. I'm just keen to ensure I'm running it on the very best fuel.

Monday, 19 August 2013

The Greatest Non Secret Of Them All

Some days are illuminating. Today's been one of them. A drive to Marlow, a bus to Henley, a pub lunch beside the Thames, before walking 8 miles back along the river to rendezvous with the car. Just a couple enjoying a day out. Like many other couples on any given day. Well yes, but also no. Joy and I aren't any other couple. We're us, and we've been doing this for 15 years now. I'm proud of that. About as proud of that as I am of anything. In a world where so many of us come and go from relationships I am going to celebrate the fact that we're working as hard today as we did from day one. Actually harder, because we're both so aware that to take each other for granted would be the most dumb ass, yet easiest mistake to make. For all our differences, and there's a truckload, there is a core of trust and resilience that everything else revolves around. We want this to work because we've invested so much in it, and because we've seen how damaging and traumatic divorce and separation can be for families. When Joy was a teacher couples would often come in, sit down and routinely explain how they were splitting up, whilst giving assurances that the children won't suffer. As statements go it borders on the delusional. Of course the children suffer. Always. And to just hand wave that away always seemed a real affront. That said, Joy and I would never stay together for the sake of the children. We're together because we've spent fifteen years building something awesome, and neither of us want to see that go up in flames. We know how we tick on so many levels, but we're also self aware and we know that you can't just keep recycling the same stuff. And we both want each other to grow. I want her to be everything she aspires to be; I want to give her the freedom and the support to do that. And neither of us want to stagnate, or become some stale old couple that just withers in a tired old marital decay, devoid of spark or energy. There's no secret to making relationships work. I don't think there ever was. It seems that we just have to step beyond ourselves and learn to speak the love language of the person we've chosen to walk with through this incredible thing called life. One tip I would like to share if you'll permit me, is that from a personal perspective I am at my least attractive when I am being selfish, when I cannot see beyond my own desires and wants. When I step beyond myself I'm just simply a better man, a more interesting man, a more responsive man. In an odd way it's just liberating. Look people, there's no secret to any of this. No magical formula or quick fix. Just time and investment and a bloody minded refusal to give in to the spirit of the times. I'm not going to walk away when things get hard, or if we stray into the mundane. I'm going to try and fix it, and make it right, and not pour a vintage wine down the drain. Joy and I work because Joy and I work at it. We confront the issues, confess our weak spots, then try to figure out how to make it better. That's the only recipe that works for us.

Friday, 2 August 2013

A Boy Called Daniel

Perhaps forgiveness is a good thing, but there are times when it has limits. Do any of you think that we should forgive the vile parents of Daniel Pelka after what they subjected him to? Systematic, prolonged, and pre-meditated torture. Imprisoned, beaten, starved, humiliated, forced to eat pure salt until he vomited. Caged inside a room with no inner door handle and with only an increasingly urine stained mattress to sleep on, his final hours spent alone as his emaciated body drained of life, a body incidentally that weighed approx. one and a half stone.
Don't talk to me about forgiveness. Don't seek to persuade me that it's better to forgive than to hold anger and rage in the heart. Perhaps nine times out of ten you would be right, but not here, not today, not further to the suffering this child has endured. A young boy, a beautiful life teeming with potential, brutalised and crushed under the shadows of what appears to be almost beyond evil.
The parents have been sentenced to thirty years. What Daniel would have given for such a life span. And please, no tedious talk of heaven and of Daniel walking in paradise with God. He's dead. He has been extinguished. His story is over. And do not talk to me about God or the useless nonsense that he allows us to do evil for reasons of free will. These are the arguments of intellectual midgets, pathetic and sickly and worthy of no reflection.
I do not forgive the parents of this child. I choose not to. I consciously elect to hate every fucking sinew in their bodies, and I wish nothing but suffering and torment for them. The legendary Christopher Hitchens often quipped that for some people he almost wished there was a Hell for them to go to. I'm with him on this. But in the absence of a real Hell it is my sincere hope that they suffer on Earth. That they know pain, that they know fear, that they are forced to cower in terror. I hope they die inside, I hope depression casts a perpetual cloud over their every waking minute. Can any of you honestly hope for their rehabilitation? Could it ever be right for them to be freed to enjoy life as we do?
They tortured a child. I have two children. I know in the very core of my being that what they have done is evil, unfathomable, despicable in every possible way. I want their last breaths to be filled with terror. I want them to gasp, their eyes to bulge, their bowels to evacuate. I want them to die in humiliating squalor. And then, and only then will I consider they have served their time.

Saturday, 20 July 2013

Same But Different

It's so easy to forget that every human being that ever lived shares a common ancestor. Too easy to see the differences rather than the similarities. Yet if we pause for just a moment it can be done, and perhaps we all need to try harder sometimes. How many of us have been quietly racist without ever opening our mouths? Perhaps chosen a white taxi company over an Asian one? Or secretly wanted to see an English doctor rather than one from overseas? If the answer to the above is yes, then it's hard to deny that there's a little racism simmering in the background. It might not be overt, might not be confrontational. Just a tiny ingot of fear and suspicion curdling away beneath the surface. Truth is, there's no moral way to justify it, so save yourself the hassle of tying yourself in knots. Just be aware if any of the above includes you.
Turning the screw a little tighter, lets exchange national racism for cultural racism. If you are seeking an example I will use the travelling community as an illustration. How many of you are suspicious of them? How many of you would leave your doors and windows unlocked if you heard there was a traveller event in the area? I confess straight off the bat that I fall into the above category, and at risk of flirting with cultural racism I'm going to add a caveat. The fact is that members of the travelling community are responsible for a disproportionate amount of criminal activity. This is not, I stress, a racist comment. It's a brute fact, supported by good empirical data. A high percentage of distraction burglaries are carried out by travellers. This is just one example among many. To be aware that a small subset of society is responsible for a fair percentage of criminal behaviour is simply to be versed in the facts on the matter. Now my issue is that this knowledge has informed my overall perception of travellers, and this is where i need to tread with a bit more care. Just because all my dealings with them are negative doesn't give me license to write every last one of them off. Caution is one thing, blanket condemnation another. I have often fallen into the latter category, and I'm working on having a more sensible attitude on the issue.
Summing up the above you will see the whole issue of race and culture is a potential minefield. You can't ignore facts, but we do owe it to ourselves to be aware of those inner racist perceptions we hold. If you want the most obvious fact of the day it is simply that not all folk are bad. I know some wonderful people from all walks of life.They like me, aren't cardboard cut outs that fit any given stereotype. They are people. They are individuals. Engaging, erratic, human to the core.
I know I need to work at my attitude towards people outside my cultural circle. I expect most of us do. I expect many blacks and Asians need to reflect upon attitudes they hold towards whites, too. I expect every last one of us, irrespective of our background, has an inner racist all too eager to muddy the water.
None of the above should be read as a sermon. I'm just wrestling with my own confusion on the issue, and doing it out loud, and inviting you to do the same.

Sunday, 30 June 2013

How Honest Are You About Sex?

Sex fascinates me. It's potentially the most awesome means of expressing ourselves. Our minds and bodies are just incredible, and when it all comes together it can take relationships off in directions that can surprise, enrich, and illuminate. Thing is, I suspect for a lot of couples there's a little issue known as overlap. If you haven't had the low down on this here's the distilled version. No two people are the same, and no two people are the same sexually. With me so far? Because of this, when it comes to our sexuality many couples find themselves in a state of perpetual compromise. Put simply, we get off on different things, have different desires, different kinks. The trick is to find a place where both partners can express themselves without going beyond what they find comfortable. In a sense I understand why this can be a stumbling block, but for me it's never been the big issue that it has been to others. My natural disposition is to want to please my partner, or to put it another way, I love seeing the most special person in my life totally fulfilled. I can honestly say that it's a higher priority for me than my own satisfaction. And the truth is, I've never quite decided whether this is normal? I cannot enjoy intimacy unless I've met the needs of the person I'm with. I feel hollow, I feel selfish. It's never felt right. The thought of being self seeking sexually is just not a road I can travel. I guess that makes me a giver. I'd be interested to get the perspectives of other guys in respect of this. Now for those waiting for me to go into sordid details I'm afraid you'll be waiting a long time. I may be open about sex, but I'm not in the business of betraying confidences. The reason for this blog is to get people thinking about their own sexual identity, and the way they communicate this. How honest are you with your partner? For that matter, how honest are you with yourself? I freely confess that I battled with aspects of my sexual persona for years, and it wasn't until recently that I just accepted that I don't fit the stereotype. More than that, I don't want to. I'm drawn to very specific types of females, and I'm ok with that. And i'm with a partner who understands me, and listens, and talks.
Sexuality is incredible. If you have the courage to be accepting of who you are, and if you quit trying to fit into the narrow definitions we appear to have forged, then a whole new world opens up. So ladies, gents, I guess all I'm saying is be real. Be you. And trust that this is ok. And the right person for you will embrace this, which is key to making any relationship tick.

Saturday, 22 June 2013

A Very Lucky Escape . . . .

I'm duly inspired by a video I've just watched. The one I've just posted to my Facebook page called "Atheists - what if you're wrong?"
It's a fair question. If I'm wrong then I'm really in it. Hell for eternity. No parole, no escape, no end to my suffering. And all because I couldn't bring myself to believe something that in the end was just ridiculous to me.
I was an evangelical for 12 years. A genuine, Bible believing, spirit filled agent of Christ. I prayed, I fasted, I sought to persuade others that Jesus was the way, the truth, and the life. And now I'm not. Now I'm the polar opposite, an open and often vocal critic of all religious claims.
Have I been drowned in sin? Are my lusts and cravings blinding me to the reality of God? I don't think so. I'm not feeling lustful or gluttonous right now, and I still think religion, all religion, is nothing more than the imaginings of the delusional. Is this harsh? I think not. I'm perfectly open to new information that would change my mind, and if I ever think I've missed something I investigate. Over the course of several years I've listened, read, and watched the very best Christian apologists. I've tried my best to take what they say aboard and think it through. Trouble is, then I listen to the other side, secular philosophers, free thinkers, and what they say always makes a lot more sense. And what the latter say require me to use the simple tools of reason and evidence, with a sprinkling of philosophical reflection thrown in. I don't have to believe claims without evidence. I don't have to accept second hand accounts of miracles. I don't have to believe baseless threats of eternal damnation for the simple act of unbelief. In short, I don't have to make leaps of faith, or make sense of the countless absurd claims the religious make.
If you want to accuse me of rejecting God then go right head. For my part I'm just trying to make my way through the world with honesty and integrity and consistency. If a person of faith wants to bring something to my door for consideration then I won't slam it in their face, but I'm pretty sure I've heard every argument out there. More than that, there's so much we can explain that doesn't require the existence of God. We're so close to figuring out the origins of the universe now, and we've a good grasp of how this planet and its denizens have emerged and evolved over vast epochs of time. And the thing is, even if I'm totally wrong, or just a bit wrong, the religious simply cannot shoehorn their particular God of choice into the gap that remains. This isn't how we learn things. It's not how we accumulate knowledge. Simply to say that just because we do not understand a thing that God did it is to say precisely nothing at all. It's really very lazy, and massively feeble minded.
I know that a fair few Christians read my blogs. I expect I haven't changed many minds. To you I suggest the following; just step back from what you believe and try listening to an alternative voice or two. Don't drown yourself in religious teaching and culture but instead make a genuine attempt to at least listen to another point of view. Here is where I feel the most frustration; and where I encounter the most resistance. I've come across so many excuses to the last challenge. My friends say they haven't the time, or they're not in the right place to ask these questions. Saddest of all I've encountered many who simply won't go there. They are riddled with unease at the prospect of really examining their world view, of stepping out of the comfortable and into a place where nothing is certain. The risks are too high, the implications of having to change too severe. This to me is tragic, and itself an indictment of the religious position as a whole. How cruel that a mind cannot go where it wants. What a prison. What captivity.
I feel very lucky to have escaped.

Thursday, 30 May 2013

The Beating Heart Of Wisdom

I think it's truly inspirational that a mosque in York offered custard creams and tea to EDL supporters who came to stage a demonstration the other day. This is "Love Thy Neighbour" in the truest sense. Christians often annex this phrase as one of their own, although they would be quite wrong on this count. It's origins lie in multiple sources, perhaps most famously in the musings of Confucius several centuries before. Either way, whatever the source the principle is sound. Never repay violence for violence, hate for hate. All disagreement should be peaceable, lively, and armed with such qualities as irony, passion, humour, and a commitment to truth seeking. As I've often stated, the best of religion these days has to circumnavigate a lot of very nasty text which exists within the respective holy books themselves. Both the Koran and the Bible contain a lot of unsavoury instructions, ranging from the murder of children for verbal disobedience, to the rape of conquered females. The list is long and, well, pretty much consistent with the mindset of the civilisations of the time. During the latter part of the last millennia Christianity was subject to the enlightenment, an extended and robust critique which rendered its ugliest teachings redundant. Don't, by the way, ever listen to a Christian who states that Jesus had already done this. Utter rubbish; he very specifically endorsed every jot and tittle of the Old Law. No, the pressure came from the outside, and down the years Christianity has been thoroughly neutered and bought inline with progressive secular thinking, give or take some silliness over issues such as sexuality or abortion. Islam is in need of a similar reformation, and perhaps the response of those in York is some indication that the overwhelming majority of Muslims want no part in any violent jihad. As we speak there are some seeking to reform and re-interpret the texts to fit a new millennia, a new cultural zeitgeist. I wish these brave souls all the luck in the world. Wouldn't it be lovely if an Islamic enlightenment swept through all rank and file believers, cleansing them from the nastier edicts of the Koran. We are not there by any means, but I'm persuaded that the majority of Muslims want to live peaceably alongside those of other cultures. They want to raise children, pursue dreams, laugh and love and live and lead rich and vibrant lives. I want this for them as much as I want it for myself, but I understand that things take time to change. As you know, I don't have a whole lot of time for religion, yet I do defend the right of citizens to hold any views that do not come at the expense of others. I am critical of religious ideas, but I try not to make my critique personal. I know only too well that every person on earth shares a common ancestry; we're all part of the great human tide. If we can live together and hold separate views then I'm fine with that. My line in the sand is where the convictions of others threaten real harm to those of a different persuasion. I will stand alongside any Christian, any Muslim, and any atheist who values peaceful freedom of expression. And I hope that they would stand with me as I speak against anything that sought to steal this, erode this, or choke the air from its lungs.

Wednesday, 22 May 2013

British And Proud

Details are emerging of a particularly nasty, and hopefully isolated terrorist attack by what appears to be radical Islamists. If the initial facts stand, then it would appear that the "Religion of peace" has struck again.
Well I say struck. In actual fact it has done little more than score another pathetic own goal, dropping its intellectual trousers and parading its microscopic genitalia for the world to see. Apparently Islam "Will never stop fighting us."
Crack on, I say. Continue with your ridiculous antics. But if you think for a moment that the people of Britain are going to capitulate then I think you're at a misapprehension. You see, we Brits, for all our faults, have been batting off fleas for as long as the history books record. Fringe groups, political organisations, religious loons; we've seen them come and go. Now to be sure, Islam is a particularly stupid brand of religious inanity, laced as it is with teachings both bizarre and ridiculous. I would want to go on record and laugh at this creed. And i mean belly laugh. Laugh until I cannot laugh anymore. And I suggest you do similar. We must strive not for violent revenge, but instead to mock and ridicule this daft little Bronze Age myth off the map. It makes good people believe stupid things, and gives bad people a fuse to live out their own crazed pathology.
Violence begets only violence. And violence is a form of self defeat. Ridicule, however. Ridicule and irony and humour, combined with the kind of steadfast resilience we Brits are famed for, well that's a fierce beast indeed.
So lets not be rendered afraid by the these strange men with their low IQ's and bizarre ideas. Lets not change our way of living or our routine. Lets just keep calm and carry on, as those mugs extol. Keep being Brits. Keep being brave, self effacing, resolute and united. Against such strength our foes will fall, or better still remove themselves elsewhere.

Sunday, 19 May 2013

Flotsam On A Human Tide

Why be good?
This question isn't nearly as easy to answer as you might think. Yes I know we've laws and social expectations and all that, but when all is said and done what's stopping you from doing the countless things you secretly craved yet managed to deny yourself?
In a recent Facebook status I observed that I have Love/Hate relationship with my moral compass. It's kept me from doing all kinds of things over the years, things that could hurt me, hurt those I love. More often than not I listen to it begrudgingly, yet listen I do, and today I am reflecting why?
I don't want to hurt people. That's front and centre. But that still leaves vast oceans of potential for nefarious behaviour? But then does it? Perhaps every action has a consequence, a subtle or not so subtle effect on the world around us. Is there something in me that just prefers to live without excessive deception, that seeks genuineness and transparency wherever possible? Note; we all live with a certain degree of deception, and if you doubt this might I suggest you're, err, deceiving yourself? I have days when I'm pleasant on the outside only, when beneath the surface I'm a seething mass of unpleasant thoughts and ill will. On other days I'm the polar opposite, bursting with warmth and a desire for the happiness of others. What's that about? Hormones?Chemistry? Some conflicting residual evolutionary element?
I know that my distant ancestors were less troubled with the kind of moral finesse we grapple with. They of course had a kind of morality, but it was a blunter thing, more easily bypassed by our core urges. These are urges we've all still got, of course, but over the millennia the scales have shifted, and for the most part they override the voices of what some refer to as our inner chimp.
We have, to be sure, evolved. And whilst we can still be cruel, selfish, greedy, and brutish, society will leave us in no doubt as to what it thinks. Perhaps then, we're all kind of exerting a tacit pressure on each other? Perhaps were all flotsam on an evolutionary tide with a kind of rough awareness? So then, that suggests to me that morality cannot evolve in isolation. It has to be transactional, born out of how we interact with each other. Now I'm not saying that the world isn't still full of horrors spilling forth from every creed and culture. Yet we're still oddly bound by a shared humanity, a shared something that kindles us somehow. So even when I look at someone I disdain I could never justify causing them real harm; and in my case I choose not to interact with them, or to keep interaction to a minimum. I'd never wish them bodily harm, although I'm not beyond hoping that they might learn a few emotional lessons along the way. This blog is going to spiral if I keep going. I hope you can see what an odd and uneasy relationship we have with our moral compass. The sailing isn't plain, the waters often murky. How could it be otherwise?

Monday, 29 April 2013

The Itch They Need To Scratch

Every now and then I get letters from well meaning Christians. They tell me how they miss me, how they think about me, how they would love it if I turned back to God. I've come to regard myself as a kind of itch these people feel they need to scratch. I expect they've thought long and hard before putting pen to paper, prayed about it, procrastinated some, before finally plucking up the courage to proceed.
I cannot fault their sincerity. It is genuine and heartfelt, but in all honesty I'm left feeling nothing whatsoever. Sometimes they might tell me what convinces them, or admit to having doubts. Perhaps this is cruel of me, but I simply do not care. If you want to believe this stuff then ok. Believe it, battle with it, party on. You've made a life choice to do that. But I don't have a dog in your fight. I don't have an interest. It's just that simple.
You see, there is no God shaped hole in my heart. No spiritual vacuum. I thirst only to know what's true and honest, which is a space no religion could hope to occupy. Now I know some Christians read my blogs, and to you I say simply the following. I've moved on, grown up, chosen to accept reality as the unsteady and turbulent thing that it is. Happiness and sorrow will be my companions through this life, good fortune and poor fortune will accompany me to various degrees. Your God is of no interest to me, and your concern is wasted. You see, I just can't shirk the conviction that what you believe is silly. Silly and nonsensical, and I cannot in good conscience pretend otherwise. I accept that people get their kicks in different ways, and if religion is one of yours then so be it. But please understand, I am as fulfilled and intellectually nourished as I've ever been. My thoughts are free to engage with the world in all it's awesome splendour. Chain yourself to your dogma if that helps you to get through the day, but do it quietly, privately, and leave me to get on with my life.

Friday, 19 April 2013

The Words You Should Have Said?

Consider the following; you are the parent of a four year old child whom screams continuously whenever they do not get what they want. As a parent you hate the distress this causes, and you often capitulate. Example two; you are the sister of a person whom is morbidly obese, and the affection you have for them dissuades you from raising the question of weight.
Example three; some of your closest friends are evangelical Christians vehemently opposed to stem cell research or abortion, yet you remain quiet when they wax lyrical about their stance on these matters. And finally, you are the partner of a person no longer making any effort to build or sustain their relationship, yet you fear hurting them and delay the tricky task of raising the issue.
In your estimation, is your lack of response a gesture of love?
Let's consider potential real world outcomes for the above. The child raised without discipline knows nothing of boundaries, and then struggles to adapt to a world full of them. Your overweight siblings health deteriorates in gradual increments over time, reducing their mobility, their vitality, their quality of life. Your Christian friends actively obstruct potentially life saving research into treatments for congenital medical conditions, deeming that the rights of a three day old blastocyst equal those of a teenage burns victim. And then the silent partner, indolent as a relationship crumbles, watching all the warmth and desire deflates from it like air from a tyre.
Still think your silence is a good idea?
I of course take these worst case examples merely to illustrate a greater point. That being; our silence can sometimes be every bit as corrosive as the wrong words spoken in haste. Now I, for my sins, know a thing or two about speaking in haste, and I've said more than my fair share of stupid things down the years. But perhaps you would fare better, and perhaps there have been times when you wished you had said something rather than remaining mute.
You've already got an example in your head, haven't you?
So today I want to issue the following encouragement, laced with a note of caution. If you love people, if you desire their greater good, don't always leave those difficult conversations for later. Have the courage to cross that line, to breach that taboo, even if this comes at a risk. There is, to be sure, a type of person that will respond badly when challenged, and you may be left with initial regret. Yet if regret is unavoidable ask yourself whether you want to regret that which you did say or that which you did not? I don't promise happy outcomes; you might create a real atmosphere. May even change the dynamic of the relationship itself. But by saying those words you'll at least have been authentic. People will know you have invested in them, and who knows, some might make changes as a result. Best case, and just using the examples above, you could have a more rounded child, or a healthier more self aware sibling, or a Christian who's consciousness has been raised, and perhaps a partner waking up to what's at stake.
Worth a gamble?

Tuesday, 16 April 2013

The Ghost Of Martin Richard

Images of 8 year old Martin Richard are wherever you look right now. What a beautiful young boy, what an angelic and pristine face. Gone now. Extinguished. Snuffed out by virtue of minds surely so deranged that rational souls cannot contemplate them. I wonder, what does it take to reach the point where one thinks that an act of barbarity is the clearest message that can be sent? What calculations churn within the mind of a bomber, a gunman?
I cannot fathom such things. I’m glad that I cannot. And I have frankly no idea how we eradicate such people from society.
But then perhaps I do. Perhaps we all do. Perhaps the clearest message we can send is to seek to live the best of lives, the most compassionate, the most real. On a planet of 7 billion people we can expect more than a little disagreement, but wherever we exist we share a common bond of humanity, and of course a common ancestry. As you hug your children tonight do so in the knowledge that people from every culture are doing the same, and that these people have desires, needs, fears. It would be so easy to be idealistic at this point, but rather than succumb to this I suggest that the fast track to compassion begins with the simple recognition that almost everything we do has an impact. The words we speak, the choices we make; our very existence is a single strand amidst a vast web of human experience. That’s not to suggest we have to tread on eggshells and do nothing to rattle the cage. As if I’d say a thing like that. In fact real change has been brought by cage rattlers down the years, people unafraid to be unpopular, to take the narrow pass rather than the wide road to conformity. Imagine where we would be if we’d lacked the courage to overcome communism, or organised religion, or racism, homophobia.
No, to elicit change is to rock the boat. But how we do it will be the truest measure of our humanity. And the thing about the bombers and the gunmen of this world as that they have left all humanity at the door the instant they choose to express themselves this way. Yes they can hurt us. Kill us, even. Yet ask yourself, the sounds we hear further to this Boston atrocity appear to magnify the better angels of our nature. Compassion, courage, a will to resist evil. Perhaps when evil rises as it has done, it creates the very thing that unifies us most. Amidst the debris I see human beings. People like you, like me. People in need. And I care. And I want to help. And I want to be part of a world where no life is extinguished in this way.
How about you?

Thursday, 11 April 2013

A Torch To Light The Way

I was at the theatre the other night. The play was dull, but I was struck by some of the audience. In particular, the older couples that were out together. Now I'm assuming that many of them will have been together for years, and I confess I had a real admiration for them. People in their 60s and 70s, still hanging out and doing things together, as couples, still building after so much water has flowed under the bridge. I freely admit that I have been going through a tough time for a while now; specifically I've been having those pangs of boredom, of flatness, of wondering whether the best years of my marriage were behind us. I've been asking a lot of questions about whether Joy and I are still compatible, and just doing a lot of soul searching. Any mature couple that has been a unit for as long as we have go through this; lulls in the appreciation of our partner, perhaps even resentment for not quite ticking all the boxes. It's too easy to imagine the green grass and white surf of new pastures, and I'd be lying to deny I haven't thought this way. Thing is, fifteen years ago I made a choice, I made promises, and that means something to me. More than that, with children to raise I recognise that stability is good for them. And let's be honest, I've built a life with Joy over the past decade and a half; we've walked a road together, and to forsake that would be just insane. And now I see those grey and elderly couples I realise that a few years down the road I want to be like they are, health and marbles permitting. I want to get through the silly male stuff that's wrecked potentially salvageable relationships down the years. I'm not easy to live with; I have quirks and eccentricities and enough double standards to make you dizzy. But, and this is the important bit, I just can't help feel that all the best relationships need not just building but maintaining. The path gets slippery when we take people for granted, when we think the worst but never dare share it with our other half. Now there's a phrase; "Other half." It implies that without this other entity we're only half complete. Now I cannot predict the future, and I won't deny that the path won't sometimes be rocky, but when the track gets hard, when the waves crash in, I'm going to imagine those older couples still building together, still making their relationship fulfilling and worthwhile and enriching. For all my foibles, through my inability to see beyond my own selfish needs, perhaps they can be a torch to light the way.

Saturday, 6 April 2013

United In Grief

I was distraught this morning to hear that the 27 year old son of Mega church pastor Rick Warren had taken his own life. From what little details I have the lad was suffering from mental health and depression related issues. Followers of this blog will know I have been a critic of Rick Warren, but today I want to stand alongside him and offer my sincerest heartfelt condolences. No father should outlive their child; no parent should have to stand at the grave of someone they bought into the world. Ideological differences are white sound when confronted by such tragedy, and I wish Pastor Rick and his family the very best as they come to terms with such an abyssal loss.

The Gravest Sin Of All

How many radical feminists does it take to change a light bulb (You need to imagine you're at a feminist convention when asking)
Answer) That's not funny.
This is my favourite joke at the moment. It distresses me how few people get it.
I'm not a feminist. I'm not the male equivalent, either. I just take each person on merit, and if they happen to be a shit-bag then it's their problem and not mine.
Confession; most people bore me. Tedious creatures, nothing original or engaging to say. Same old recycled crap filtered through a different voice box.
I think I get irked at how so many just don't want to think, or speak plainly about how the world is. I loathe the pretence and the disguise and the double standard, the grim conventionality of it all.
I just can't do it. Tried conforming. Fuck that. It's as much as I can do to tolerate it for most of the time. Perhaps you think I'm having a dig at you personally. I don't much care what you think, but for what's it worth I'm more intolerant of what we, as a species, have allowed ourselves to become. I bet a good many of you are bored out of your minds a lot of the time, and that you accept it in quiet desperation. Why? Isn't there something you can do to make your life better, richer, more engaging? I'm not saying we should all jettison our responsibilities, and if you were thinking that I was then you're an idiot. No, what I'm saying is stop settling for less. I mean it, stop succumbing to the banal, the dull, the life sapping, and make your journey one that's worth living.
You are going to die. You have this amazing stage before you now. Who of sane mind wants to live it as some perpetual self deception? Who of sane mind will sit idly as the clock ticks, not seeking new horizons, not challenging bullshit, not looking others in the eye and being genuine and honest, without fear of reproach. Worst of all, who's permission are you waiting for? Those closest? Peers? The great sky fairy some refer to as God? For goodness sake, take some personal responsibility, get off your indolent arse and make your life one you can be proud of. Make it vivid, make it memorable, make it as meaningful as you can. As far as I can tell, to do otherwise would be perhaps the gravest sin of all.

Saturday, 23 March 2013

Listen Up

Have you ever been in the presence of someone who seems to think that a conversation requires the input of only one person? From time to time this happens to me, and I've come to the conclusion that people just don't realise they are doing it. And these people can be superb, and the things they talk about really interesting. It's just, well, they don't leave room for anyone else to join in. A part of me wonders whether these self same folk aren't natural listeners, or whether they even have any interest in learning the perspective of others? If true then this is a shame, because when I take time to listen more often than not I learn. I might not agree with what's being said, but at least I understand the other person that bit more. So really, if you're the kind of person who, unwittingly or not, hogs the conversation and turns it into a monologue can I gently suggest a slight behavioural shift? Start small if you must. Ask a question or two, and then listen to the answer, and just hold back before you dive in with your perspective. Even if what you're about to say is correct, just give people time to breathe, time to be, time to share a little of themselves. There's room enough for two people in a conversation, and often many more. When I've allowed people this space I've rarely had cause for regret, and I come away just that bit more informed.
You might be the kind of person who has strong views. You might be passionate about sharing them. All good, I say, because I'm passionate about things, too. Just step back, take pause, and allow other people to make your world a little bigger, a little richer. You might enjoy where the journey takes you, and you can also bet that people will have much more time for you.

Friday, 15 March 2013

Suffer The Little Children?

Cardinal Napier, a South African Bishop involved in the recent papal conclave has announced that pedophilia is a medical condition and should not automatically result in prosecution. He shared this nugget on Radio 5 Live this evening, and I hope that news agencies around the world give it wide coverage. I listened to the interview, and I found it darkly disturbing, and proof positive that nothing warps morality like religion.
Consider what his words imply. Imagine you are a nine year old alter boy repeatedly raped over the course of six weeks by a predator priest. Would being told that your suffering does not merit a prison sentence for the offender seem to you like justice?
Is the Cardinal really saying that child rape is not a crime? Is he saying that the violation of innocents is something the law should turn a blind eye to? Apparently yes.
What more needs to be said? The sheer level of ignorance at the heart of the Catholic Church has been laid bare for all to see. And perhaps what troubled me above all was that the Cardinal at no point even mentioned the plight of the victims. He did not acknowledge them, or show even the slightest trace of empathy. Instead his compassion appeared weighted towards the offenders, and he spoke at length as to how they might be rehabilitated.
As I write this I am still listening to the show, and numerous victims and even some offenders have been calling in to share their stories. The Cardinal is enjoying universal condemnation for his cold abdication of morality, and one has to wonder what the future holds for him? Can he really be entrusted with responsibilities given his flagrant inhumanity? Can his diocese back in South Africa have any confidence that he would put the plight of the abused above the reputation of the church? I sincerely hope that the Vatican is quick to condemn Cardinal Napier, and perhaps remove him from his post. His ignorance, his callous disregard for victims renders him unfit for the role required of him. I suppose I could use this incident to further emphasise my contempt for religion, but in all honesty there is nothing I can add that would further sully it. Whenever I think it has hit bottom something occurs that provides additional proof that organised religion still has further depths to plumb.
Let's just hope that the destruction is of the internal variety. God forbid that further children should suffer in its wake.

Thursday, 14 March 2013

Why I Say "No" To Islam

You may have seen a link on my Facebook site, where renowned scientist Laurence Krauss walks out of a debate with Muslims due to them seeking to impose segregation between genders. Just let that sentence sink in for a few seconds. 2013, at University College London, Islam seeks to impose its values upon those present. And when three young men tried to sit where they wished they were ejected from the venue for being a threat, which was when Krauss decided that enough was enough. Make no mistake people, if we tried to segregate people based on colour or political affiliation there would be an uproar, yet somehow Islam thinks it can get away with it with gender. One has to wonder where this is going to end? No Penis's nor Vaginas in the same room perhaps? Separate carriages on the tube?
And now a question for you. Are you prepared to tolerate this? Are you worried about upsetting another persons religious sensibilities? If yes then I want to challenge you to think a different way. What we capitulate to today will still be with us tomorrow. In Islam we have a set of backward beliefs and failed philosophy that would propel us back to the dark ages if we let it. How many cutting edge Muslim scientists can you think of? How many social reformers? Islam is based upon the same monotheistic nonsense we have already dispatched with Christianity and Judaism, albeit with a slightly more vindictive streak. And frankly if it hadn't worked so hard to quash opinion and stifle free thinking in the Arab peninsula then perhaps we might not have been faced with the threat that this nonsense presents. Like other religions, whilst it makes claims to being the sole owner of literal truth it appears to run terrified in the face of anything that seeks to challenge it. Like all religions it is man made and man sustained from beginning to end, and kept alive due to the folly and wish thinking of people too afraid to face reality as it is.
There is no God. There never was. There never will be. The world and all its considerable riches are all we have and all we need. We can love, learn, laugh, and lament, and I expect lots of other things which begin with "L". We need religion like men need a third testicle. It is, bluntly speaking, surplus to requirements. Now I accept with Islam that to stand against it is to accept a certain risk, but my argument is that if everybody does so then the risk is shared equally. If a million voices, ten million, twenty, chorus together and stand up for what is decent and right then we will get the message across. In the west we've become lazy, and we've assumed that nothing can change and that our values and freedoms are safe from all comers. They are not. And until you, and yes I mean you come to realise this then the threat that we face will persist. I'm not trying to see Islam banned, nor stifle its freedom to lie about reality. But I do advocate that people of reason stand up and be brave and say "No". No Islam, I have no interest in what you want to teach. No Islam, I will not live my life according to what you demand. And No Islam, I will never, and I mean never allow you to cripple the freedoms that our ancestors fought and died for. Islam, I do not believe you have anything to say that non religious thinkers haven't said better and more clearly and without threat of an eternal hell. Keep your hands off of my freedoms, my rights, and know that should you ever seek to distort the truth in my hearing, my voice will be the first you will here.

Sunday, 10 March 2013

Religion & Cross Dressing

Have you ever noticed that whenever men dress up as women they more often than not look like they just stepped off the set of Priscilla Queen Of The Desert? They look daft, often ridiculous, and you cannot help feel that they should have kept the habit behind closed doors.
I'm going to suggest that we should have the same attitude towards religion.
I mean, in private it's just fine, and if you want to have people around to share these urges then I've no objection. It's just that when you bring it out in public, when you put it on parade it just looks daft.
Perhaps the comparison is not one you recognise? But why not? Is public religious profession any less ridiculous than middle aged Les the plumber going out in his frock, tights, and wig? Ok so the image of Les is more striking, but when you think it over is it any less absurd than when Bill the evangelist stands at your door telling you how you need saving from the imaginary crime of sin? I argue that it's not, and I'm yet to hear a convincing argument otherwise.
Les the transvestite is actually far less damaging if you really want to press the point. If you see him he might raise a giggle or an embarrassed shrug, but with Bill the evangelist he might leave certain people uneasy, unhappy, and unnecessarily ridden with guilt. I would therefore, like you to try the following. Next time someone preaches to you, think cross dresser. Imagine Les in all his ridiculous glory, tottering about with excessive lipstick smeared over his craggy face. When your religious friend starts talking about the gospel imagine the twelve apostles dolled up in fishnets and corsets doing the Can Can with Jesus doing a burlesque routine. Think ridiculous. Think absurd. And just hold onto the idea that the same principles apply with Religion as with cross dressing. All well and good behind closed doors. But when you bring it out in public it starts to look a little bit daft.

Saturday, 23 February 2013

The Dark Side Of The Rainbow

Sometimes I really like the idea of having an affair.
There. Said it. Surprised? You shouldn't be, because I've felt exactly the same for more years than I care to remember. The whole thought of doing the wrong thing, of being illicit, of crashing through the moral barriers before me. It's really quite appealing, and sometimes the urge is stronger than at other times.
Remarkably, I've remained faithful for fifteen years, despite having at least a couple of opportunities not to be. So why didn't I? Well the answer is kind of dreary. I didn't want to see people hurt. Specifically, I didn't want to betray the trust of my children nor the women who gave them to me. Don't think for a second that I've achieved some kind of moral victory here, because its a battle I'm still fighting at various times. And yes, I can play the evolutionary card and admit that all men are wired this way, which is true, but I can't do that without also admitting that our evolutionary heritage gifted me a brain which, in theory, should help me overcome some of those urges.
Ladies, I'm not going to apologise for any of the above. I began blogging with the aim of being as honest as I could, which means sometimes the veil gets torn and you see me for what I am. A double standard, a man who does the right thing through gritted teeth rather than due to any strength of character.
At this point I could also play the "all men are like this card" , but that's so dreary and predictable. I don't have to be them, or inhabit their body. I can only be me, and as I play out the role this is one of my Achilles heels.
So there it is. Good old Rob. Rob who makes people laugh, who says the things other people only think of saying. At it again. On the plus side, I've never claimed to be on a moral pedestal. Fact is, whilst statistically I do the right thing probably 90 percent of the time, I could only claim of actually wanting to do the right thing for about 10 percent. I do the right thing because its the right thing to do, when more often than not the appeal of doing the opposite is way more alluring.
Bit of a mess, really? Oh don't worry ladies, I'm not about to leer lecherously in your direction anytime soon. Chances are I'll just continue to do the right thing, and continue to sometimes loathe having to do the right thing.
In spite of myself.

Friday, 8 February 2013

A Night On The Town

Neck it, deck it, have another one,
Chuck your guts and call it fun,
Head down the bog with your tits hanging out,
Is this really your idea of a good night out?

Wobble on your heels, dribble in your glass,
Flirt with that tart with the enormous arse,
Stagger through the noise and the music and the gloom,
Waking with a headache like a sonic boom.

Talk to the waiter like you wiped him off your shoe,
Summon and discard him like the guy belongs to you,
Snigger at his accent, mock his moustache,
All part and parcel of being on the lash.

Argue with your soul mate or the bouncer at the door,
Slurring that your sober and your ready for more,
Pushing and shoving then the smashing of a glass,
Bottle in the face and flat on your arse.

Blue lights flashing, ambulance on scene,
Crowds leering, cheering, get another beer in,
The night goes on, the groping continues,
High heeled shoe through a kebab van window.

Police on scene, bodies on the floor,
Squirming and snarling and wrestling with the law
The cuffs go on, the natives guffaw,
Neon lights fade at the slamming of a door.

Lost your phone, can't get home
Wandering through the estate,
Your make up is smeared and you look like the joker,
Nylons laddered, senses bladdered.

Pushing and shoving, kicking and punching,
Slap your partner, steal her keys,
Words go wild, bitching like a child,
Don't be surprised if I'm less than beguiled.

Sunrise looming through half drawn curtains,
Stink of your farts the one thing now certain,
Your brain has gone south,
Taste like cat piss in your mouth.

Opening your wallet, seeking out the cash,
Really can't believe that you burned that stash,
Didn't get a snog, nor a fumble or a grope,
Waking up single with a little less hope.

Here ends this tale of a night on lash,
And frankly I'm somewhat perplexed.
I'm not really tempted, I'm not really sold
Perhaps I'm just boring, sour faced, too old?

It sounds a bit wasteful, I hasten to add,
I suspect I prefer other ways to be bad.
But hey you crack on, get dolled up, scream and shout,
Cos apparently this equals the perfect night out.

Tuesday, 5 February 2013

The Intemperate Vandal

Mark Twain once famously admonished religion for the way it stood in the way of moral progress, preventing it up until the point where it realised the game was up, at which point it joined the parade at the back of the queue. He was right of course. Has there ever been a bigger stumbling block, a larger obstacle to clear thinking and reasoned discourse? I think not. Nowhere is this better emphasised than the church's pitiful, enfeebled efforts to prevent homosexuals from enjoying the same rights as anyone else. But rather than dwell on this I want to press home another point, namely to dismiss the idea that we need religion for any moral problem. Let me illustrate using the image of two missionary's working overseas, perhaps with children with HIV or some other degenerative condition. They sacrifice themselves because they believe they are doing Gods will, pouring heart and soul, blood and sweat into enriching the lives of others. If, one day, they learned that God was imaginary,would this give them license to stop doing what they do? Would the absence of God negate the need to care for these children, or render their commitment any less wonderful? What should we think of them if they suddenly packed bags and flew home, feeling everything they did was for naught? Well might I suggest that we could be legitimately scathing. Ask yourself, what was their true motivation? To please God? To live lives pleasing to The Lord? Do the needs of these children diminish one iota whether or not God exists? No. Of course, no. I argue that whilst the idea of God compels many to great sacrifice, it shouldn't be necessary. If you're going to be benevolent do it because it's the right thing to do, because it reduces the surplus of human suffering. Be good for the sake of goodness. No other reason is required. God is now surplus and superfluous, an outsized comfort blanket dragged around by many people unable to face reality as it is. If you truly need religion to sculpt your moral architecture then that says something about you. Whilst you might consider yourself humble for thinking you can't make it alone, it seems to me that you possibly lack some courage. Yes, this world can be terrifying, and we are more fragile and vulnerable than many of us care to admit. We blunder through ethical and moral dilemmas and often only learn with the added tool of hindsight. That's the price of being human, the cost of the ticket. It's non refundable and there are no terms and conditions. Finally, back to religion. We're reaching the point where it really does have the power to damage and corrode as never before. Whilst Christianity is in its death rattle, it still twitches from time to time and makes a noisy nuisance. And Islam remains an intemperate vandal just waiting for its big moment in the spotlight. Both must be resisted by people of reason. Calmly, firmly, continuously. We need a climate of good natured mockery, where confessions of faith are seen as a personal hobby rather than as something with deeper, more profound significance. I have no objection to a persons private religious belief, and I support an individuals right to practice this. But my line in the sand is crossed when it transgresses on the important moral issues of the day. When it does, we get bogged down in muddy thinking and positions based on mere vapour. We cannot afford this and need to make this clear. Join me as we seek to limit the influence of religion; play your part in taming this eternal teenager, this gangly and erratic relic. We need not be unkind, nor rude or needlessly mocking. We just need to ensure it knows its place.

Wednesday, 30 January 2013

A Life Well Lived?

Last night I watched a movie about how we adapt to growing old, a transition we all have to make some day. It was called "The Best Exotic Hotel Marigold" and I'd rate it as one of the best, most thought provoking films I've ever watched. It got me thinking about age, about all that comes with it, and about how we make that journey. The face staring back at you today is going to change. The physical beauty will decline. Fight it if you must, but don't live in denial. The things that once came easy get harder, the road behind us longer than the one ahead. We're all heading towards the same vanishing point, and we must decide how we walk the path. As for me, I am 41 years of age, and whilst in generally good nick the grey is persistent, the stomach not as flat, along with other minor things that I notice from time to time. Now I'm as drawn to physical beauty as the next man, but I'm not so fooled that that I can't see beyond to what's really important. Our character, our true nature, the reality of who I am, who you are in the quiet moments away from prying eyes. Have I lived a good life? Have I been as kind as I could have been? As genuine? Am I even equipped to decide for myself? Such things press upon me, for I know at heart that I'm a man of extremes, as prone to goodness as I am to folly. My intentions aren't always pure, my motives mixed, and I've my fair share of skeletons. Don't be fooled by my laid back demeanour, it isn't as consistent as it could be, should be. I'm not even sure what I'm trying to say here, but it has something to do with wanting to grow old with genuineness and with a warm heart, not overshadowed by my failings but rather informed by them. Not embittered but better equipped. And not content in the best of ways, by which I mean always curious, always wanting to look beyond the obvious. I'm never going to be the easiest person to be around. I'm no good at being quiet when I perceive something as wrong, or as ridiculous. Being a friend to me is a bit like being on a tiny boat amidst a bucking, boisterous ocean. The boat could tip this way or that, and by the end you'll know you've been on a journey and you might feel a bit disoriented. But hey, you'll also go home thinking about it, and you'll remember it. I'm just one of those people who tends to leave an impression, be it good or bad. You know where the door is if you cannot live with that. And if you can, well come in, buckle up, and lets enjoy the journey together. That's a legacy that I can live with.

Sunday, 27 January 2013

Smart Enough To Think Another Way?

I deal with drunk people all the time. All the time. It is one of the most wearing aspects of what I do, and you are paying for it. Through your taxes, I mean. Because trust me, the amount of time and money the emergency services waste dealing with the actions of drunk people far outweighs any other operational expense. Whether it is a drink filled domestic incident, a public order offence out on the streets, or a road traffic incident caused by excess alcohol, trust me when I say that if people could manage their alcohol intake, the lives of a lot of people would be so much easier. When I left school, and perhaps into my early 20’s I bought into the drink culture. I was out Friday and Saturday night and I often got rolling drunk. Fortunately, alcohol only made me more laid back than I am already, but even so I made some insane errors of judgement. I recall climbing 70ft floodlights, smoking various substances, and even walking from Buckingham to Padbury naked for reasons that I cannot recall. I know, mostly harmless, but I’d do none of the above sober. And how many people have done similar and not gotten away with it? How many young males have fallen from roofs, or overdosed, or tried to cheat the laws of physics and drive a vehicle through a solid object? What I’m trying to say is that if we could just reign it in a bit, if we could just stay the right side of the line we would all be the better for it. I’m no killjoy, and a drink with friends is one of life’s pleasures, but as a culture we seem uniquely able to forego clear thinking when it comes to the grog. And the thing is, whilst age is often a factor I also have a lot of dealings with folk who frankly should know better. And then there’s the other side of the coin, the countless victims on the rough end of our national idiocy. How many taxi drivers have had drunken fares do a runner, or vomit in the cab, or been threatened with violence? How many females have been the recipient of unwanted advances from men on the pull? How many cars have been keyed, or wing mirrors knocked off, the list is pretty much only constrained by your imagination. And the thing is the fix is so simple, so obvious, and so achievable. Drink less, know your limit, and perhaps change your definition of a good night out. The last amongst that list is the hardest; we’re a culture obsessed with getting drunk, and I honestly don’t know what it would take to change this. Higher alcohol prices? Education at a younger age? Your guess is as good as mine. All I know is that time could be saved, public money could be saved, and lives could be saved if we could just learn to think another way.

Monday, 21 January 2013

Snow!!!!! Death From Above!!!

People of Great Britain, this is a public service announcement. Snow is precipitation in the form of crystallised ice. It isn't very scary and it isn't going to harm you unless you go out of your way to be a muppet. It's common throughout the world, and civilisation has been managing it for a very long time. Why then, do you begin to dribble and lose control of your bodily functions at the thought of the stuff? Why do you empty the shelves at Tesco, bleat to your nearest and dearest about how awful and scary it is? I think I have the answer. It is because you've forgotten what it means to be a true Brit. You've traded your spine for a nice comfy cushion, and now when the slightest challenge comes your way you buckle like a stack of Jenga. These last few days have made me wince. Some of the rubbish I've had to listen to about how we're suffering due to these epic weather conditions has mad me gag. Really people, if something really bad happened how would you cope? Because if this weeks demonstration is anything to go by I fear you'd collapse into a foetal ball and cry out for mummy. People of Great Britain, you are toothless, spineless, and a disgrace to our heritage, a heritage built upon courage and fortitude and, dare I say it, a "Get on with it attitude." We don't send our kids to school because of health and safety concerns, we close airports and public infrastructure, when the rest of the world just rolls back its head and laughs. And so it should, because we've become a laughing stock. We roll over when faced with adversity, demand rights without responsibility, and in so doing sacrifice the very core of what put the "Great" into Britain. I'm ashamed of many of you. I think you are utterly weak and pathetic, and I think many of you need to take a long hard look at what you've become. If this makes you angry then perhaps there's hope; at least you've a little fire in your belly. Please please please, will you just grow a pair and man up (or wench up) if you're a feminist. I'm not interested in how many inches of snow you've got in your garden, or that you spent simply ages defrosting the car, or that your precious children were so upset at the prospect of going to school that you simply couldn't bare to let them. Pathetic. Pathetic. Pathetic. Fuck right off, and come back when you're mature enough to cope in the real world. God, that's feels so much better. . . .

Sunday, 13 January 2013

Better If He'd Never Been Born?

This is going to be controversial, and I write this as a thought experiment built upon something I've been thinking about for a while. Simply put, did Jimmy Savile make a net positive contribution to society? Here's my take; it is estimated that during the course of his life he raised in excess of £40 million for charity. His beneficiary's will be mostly people he never comes into contact with, rendering them safe from his diseased and predatory sexuality. Think about how much medical equipment his efforts raised, how many wards refurbished, projects funded? It is without question an impressive figure, and his work has improved the lives of countless thousands down the years. This of course assumes you never had the misfortune of being a minor, or vulnerable, and alone in his company. Now please note that I am not condoning his behaviour, nor seeking to accept it as some kind of twisted trade off to balance the moral books. I'm trying to get you to think about wellbeing in a way that is counter intuitive, disquieting, yet undeniably self evident. Jimmy Savile ruined lives, robbed vulnerable children of their childhood, and established a pattern of predatory behaviour that should have been exposed years before. But, and here's where the rubber hits the road, the fact remains that his charitable efforts improved the lives of many more people than his personal vices destroyed. So lets replay the tape of history. Based on everything we now know, would we let things play out the same again? Well no, he would be banged up quicker than you could say Jack Flash. But in so doing, know that you may have decreased the overall level of wellbeing for countless thousands. Perhaps those life saving machines would never have been delivered, or those wards not refurbished, or those rehabilitation centres never green lit? We will never know. But before you brand me heartless, or indifferent to the intimate suffering of his countless victims, just try to see wellbeing in the widest possible context. In this world many, if not most people employ regular double standards when it comes to our moral behaviour. This is part of the spectrum of human experience. With Saville, the swing was extreme; his remarkable charitable work being one aspect of his psyche, whilst the predatory sexual animal lurked in the shadows. Yin and Yang? Darkness and light? In an ideal world we would be charitable, moral, and devoid of such double standards, but unfortunately that world is one we are yet to reach.

Sunday, 6 January 2013

Jesus And The Flintstones

Did Jesus have his own pet dinosaur? In some circles, if you assume a certain worldview, this is not an unreasonable question. I mean, if you believe the Bible then the age of the earth is 6000 years and dinosaurs lived alongside early man. That's right, we're talking Flinstones. Barney and Fred may not be such a tall story after all. Welcome to the whacky world of fundamentalism, a world where evolution never happened, where all the life we see around us came courtesy of the creatures that gambolled off of Noah's ark. Every penguin, every lion, every stick insect, they all lived happily alongside each other for months whilst God flooded the earth because the people on it were all sinful and yucky. I shit you not. It happened because it says so in the Bible, and if it says so in the Bible it's the gosh darn truth. Ok, I'm game for a little experiment. If you truly believe in every jot and tittle, then the next time your kids are cheeky be sure to kill them. The Bible says you should. And if you should marry, and you discover on your wedding night that your wife is not a virgin you best kill her, too. It says that in the clearest possible terms. And by the way, no more prawn salad, or tassels on your dresses. And don't work on the sabbath or else I'll have to go ninja on your ass and stone you to death. And all those nasty satellite pictures of the planet, those ones that show that its all round and curvy; photoshop I tell you. The earth is flat. Says so. And if it says so then that's the end of the matter. Dear modern Christian, we both know you don't believe any of the above. You are educated, sensible, and give or take the odd anomaly as rational as most other people. You've already dumped the majority of what's in the good book, and most of your morals come from the secular world rather than the biblical one. What are you clinging on to? All the Jesus stuff really isn't a whole lot more impressive, and frankly it makes you look a bit of a nonce. Today is Sunday, and less than 2% of the UK population will go to church and seek a personal relationship with. . . . . well actually the inside of their head. They will sing to the invisible, pray both in silence and aloud, and then think that they hear a response. And they would be right. They do. They get a response from inside their own brain, because that's as far as any relationship with God can go. It's in your head. It's been inside your head all your life. And all those lovely people you spend time with, so warm and generous and kindly, it is the same for them. You all have the same brain relationship with a work of fiction cobbled together by multiple authors, and then changed repeatedly over the ensuing centuries. I know it makes you feel better. I know it brings comfort and hope and some sense that you're part of a bigger picture. Thing is, you are not, and all the consolation you feel is false. If common sense should prevail and the penny drop, I'll be here ready to walk with you. I spent 13 years as an evangelical, I was deranged in the same way that you are deranged. Looking back into that world the lunacy astonishes me; I can't believe I ever took it aboard. If you've any self esteem, and any sense of self respect, and a real desire to know what is true about reality then wake up. Wake up from the delusion, from the wilful retardation of your otherwise stunning mind. Life is rich and beautiful and, whilst brief, still a thing of immense value. Live in the power of it. Live with intellectual integrity and face reality head on. Be brave and look through honest eyes, accepting that now is the hour, today is the day, and that every waking minute really counts.