Monday, September 29, 2008

Terms of trade

This was a key passage from the Chief Rabbi's recent Thought for the Day:

"The fault is not markets but morals. Markets remain the best way we know of harnessing human creativity for the benefit of all. Economic liberalization has taken 500 million people out of poverty in China, and 130 million in India. They're also the best antidote to war. As Montesquieu pointed out in the eighteenth century, when two nations come into contact with one another, they can either fight or trade. If they fight, both lose; if they trade, both gain."

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Aren't women human beings?

Asks Tahira Abdullah, a Pakistani feminist. Apparently not.

Acid burned women in Pakistan

Burned with acid for crimes of honour.

More reporting from Frédéric Bobin here, where he describes how three young women aged 16 to 18 were buried alive with a JCB for the crime of wishing to marry someone they had chosen.

I wonder if someone will write a play about them one day? says Neil D at Harry's Place.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

And me a descendant of master hairdressers!

Not very intelligent design

A C Grayling explains why ID theory would be hilarious if it were not such a threat to world peace. Actually I think he exaggerates the threat to world peace.

" . . . your average engineer, tasked with building a human being, would not separate the entrances to the trachea and oesophagus with a movable flap tagged with an instruction not to breathe while you eat, or the organs of generation not just next to but partially carrying the organs of excretion, or redundant bits of anatomy than can become infected and kill their owners, or permanent vulnerability to large numbers of invasive life-threatening organisms, or cells that constantly mutate in potentially life-threatening ways, or the origin of the optic nerve slap in the middle of the retina, or... and so endlessly on. Next time Fuller (an ID theorist) crosses a bridge or a railway line, let him note the way it allows for expansion and contraction of the materials from which it is made in response to circumambient temperature; and ask him why the soft tissue constituting the brain, apt to swell if bruised, is encased in a rigid box of bone. I take it, on the evidence of his book, he has never had wisdom teeth: had he done so, he might have contemplated the evidence they constitute, in connection with orthognathy, of evolution's blind gropings. Intelligent design? Look in a mirror for the horse-laugh answer to that one. Look at nature - in all its beauty, ugliness, sweetness, brutality, charm, indifference and immense variety - and the idea that it manifests conscious design or purpose, still less intelligent design, is seen for what it is: a little driblet of childish ignorance; a mark of mankind's infancy."


Neil D has this on Sarah Palin:

"There are some things about Palin that are worth examining, there are some that we might enjoy examining because it might engender righteousness, and there are things best left unexamined if you want to win the election. There’s a certain level of patronising arrogance [technically correct, snobby and mean: certainly] in Democrat-leaning blogs. You might find that a pathetic criticism, but your views don’t matter. What matters are the voters, and characterizing Palin as a simpleton George Bush in a dress is not going to win the election."

Monday, September 15, 2008

Painfully honest

Miranda Richardson (when asked to describe her most unappealing habit):

"I am a truth-seeking missile. A lot of people find that unappealing."

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Spiritual Viagra

The only time I ever prayed, it was for an erection.
Christopher Hitchens

A happy event?

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Church Inside Out

As a student I read a book with this title. It has something to offer the debate about inclusivity.

In a nutshell, for me, the Church of England has always been problematic; the Church as England - now that I can work with!

Larkin about

Mark Lawson in The Guardian writes of P D James's latest novel, "Christian religious faith, a recurrent touchstone for James's characters, seems in The Private Patient no more than a comforting ritual: a suicide takes place on holy ground, and James's sentiments throughout feel closer to the atheistic philosophy of Philip Larkin - 'what will survive of us is love' - than any sense that the many corpses in her story are happy in paradise."

'What will survive of us is love.' Atheistic? What can this mean?

For the time being

We only have, know, and are anything or anyone for the time being. Religion can so easily be a way of denying this, of escaping into eternity or the present moment. But the passage of time is the necessary context of all our human experience, a necessary part of its uniqueness. Our history and biography is who we are. Can we not learn to love it, to love life, this changing, ambiguous, ephemeral mixed bag?

Letting go of Jesus

I wonder whether this is what I have to do.

It's nearly thirty years ago that Don Cupitt started to teach us that we should be 'Taking Leave of God'. Sheldon Kopp had already written his 'If you meet the Buddha on the Road, Kill Him!' But letting go of Jesus, for a Christian, seems like spiritual suicide. Need it be?

Sunday, September 07, 2008

8 out of 10 cats

In last week's Channel 4 programme a member of the panel, a gay man, referred to Jesus as the hottest Jew on a stick. Funny perhaps. And anyway Jews and Christians are fair game.

Also on the show was an item about the paralympics, potentially one of the richest sources of humour imaginable. No poking of fun whatsoever.

Why are we so selective in our squeamishness, so unequal in the distribution of our bad taste? Why is The Vicar of Dibley acceptable to the BBC but The Imam of Dibley no laughing matter to the lawyers of ITV?

No, Jesus! No, Jesus! No!

I have often found myself in a minority of one when exercising the human right of disagreeing with Jesus. That's because I do it as a kind of Christian talking to other Christians. We're not supposed to say that Jesus might have been wrong.

But the only other options are either blind obedience to the literal meaning of the scripture or subtle exegesis/eisegesis to ensure that the Lord's words always accord with our own prejudices.

Jumping off

The trouble with joined-up thinking is that there are so many different ways of joining things (thoughts) up. I find it attractive, as in a really persuasive speech, but increasingly unsatisfactory.

So I'm going to try the way of the desultory. A desultor was an equestrian acrobat who entertained the crowd by leaping from one swiftly moving horse to another. That's what I'm going to do in this blog - to jump randomly from one thing to another. One of the fears I shall have to face down in doing this is the fear of being, or seeming, disconnected or superficial. Still, no more detailed explanation or it rather defeats the object.

Friday, September 05, 2008

It can't be!

Yes it is the same George W Bush that the historian John Lewis Gaddis is talking about here:

"The President has surprised me more than once with comments on my own books soon after they’ve appeared, and I’m hardly the only historian who has had this experience. I’ve found myself improvising excuses to him, in Oval Office seminars, as to why I hadn’t read the latest book on Lincoln, or on—as Bush refers to him—the “first George W.” I’ve even assigned books to Yale students on his recommendation, with excellent results."

Don't you just love it when facts get in the way of popular prejudice?