My favourite liar

Lies come in so many forms. There are the straight out, bare-faced lies. There is spin and advertising. There are the sincere truth claims of the believer. There are press conferences. And of course there is legalese. But my favourite form is...

Interesting Times

The end of the year is a traditional time for reflection, for looking back and taking stock. And it has been an interesting year. I am using the word interesting in the sense in which it features in the traditional Chinese curse: may you live in...

Thinking aloud

The placebo is an observable, measurable outcome. Indeed, its effects have been demonstrated repeatedly in proper scientific studies. They work. This is a complete mystery. A placebo, by definition, should not work. Yet, they do. They work as little...

For the sake of the children

So who is behind all the hype surrounding Internet pornography? The answer it seems is primarily Christians. Oh, not blatantly, obviously and honestly. No, they set up front organisations; something, which, with delicious irony, in these days of the...

Dimitri's

'Dimitri, what happened?' exclaimed Maxim, astounded at the transformation he saw before him. 'Last time I was here... Well, I mean it was a dump, a hovel, not fit for pigs! What have you done? I used to like this place. Nice. Quiet. No people. Just...

When was Jesus born?

So, when was Jesus born? Well the answer should be easy, as we have a Christian calendar and it is two thousand and ten in year of our lord. Unfortunately, it seems the Church fathers got this wrong as the Gospels, the inspired word of god, disagree....

The moral majority

According to the British Social Attitudes Survey, the non-religious are now the majority in Britain. In the latest survey, forty-two percent of people described themselves as Christian, although over sixty percent of them never attend church services....

Worried

In the ordinary way of things, I would not consider publishing a private correspondence. However, I am rather worried and on the off chance that someone out there might be able to help I have decided to set good manners to one side in the name of the...

The Power of Witchcraft

I was reading a post about Satanism. It was about how Satanists abuse children. The comments on the post were mixed, to say the least, with some people expressing incredulity. I noticed one person referred to the Salem witch trials. That reference...

EU Presidency

On the first of January, Hungary assumes the presidency of the European Union. On that same day a new law comes into force in Hungary itself; one that is without precedent in the European democracies. The law effectively turns Hungary's media into the...

WikiLeaks and spin

One of the ways in which the establishment had attempted to denude the WikiLeaks disclosures of any significance is by repeatedly asserting that there is nothing surprising in them, nothing that we did not already know. This is spin of a very high...

Should one expect consistency?

Consistency, it seems to me, is an essential component of all social relations. Inconsistency radically undermines trust. If someone is all in favour of the application of the rules of mathematics when it suits them, but contemptuously dismissive of...

Monbiot Madness

George Monbiot, the Guardian columnist and global warming cheer leader extraordinaire, has soared to new heights of lunacy. Perhaps, he has been affected by the lunar eclipse. Anyhow, his latest piece in the Guardian makes one wonder.   Mr...

When was Jesus killed?

The Christians will tell you that Jesus was killed on Good Friday. However, the writers of the Gospels naturally provide the timing, not in terms of the Christian calendar, but in terms of the Jewish calendar. Mark, the earliest of the Gospels,...

Stranger than fiction

The truth, it is often observed, is stranger than fiction. That may well be so, but the interrelations between fact and fiction can be stranger still. Consider the genesis, if you will, of Robert Graves' universally acclaimed masterpiece, I, Claudius....

Winner of Bad Faith Award 2010

New Humanist has just announced this year's winner of its annual Bad Faith Award.  It IISheikh Maulana Abu Sayeed, head of the UK Islamic Sharia Council, was the eventual winner in the very closely fought battle.   The Sharia Council, for anyone...

God is impossible

In my previous post, 'What is god?', I asked how people deal with the contradictory nature of the qualities they routinely ascribe to the entity they call god. The list of qualities they ascribe to this entity include that it is all-knowing,...

What is god?

Many people, billions in fact, claim that god exists. They give this entity all kinds of qualities. They say it created the universe from nothing. They say it is all-powerful, all-knowing and good. Now these qualities are mutually exclusive. They...

Sell us this day our daily bread

The Church of England has revealed its strategy to deal with the problems of contemporary society. It is to open up its churches to commerce. In future people wishing to shop, instead of having to trail to the supermarkets and shopping malls, will...

Internet Security

Yesterday I wrote a piece about how the WikiLeaks disclosures underlined the lesson that the new communications technologies have made the idea of security of data obsolete. Well, it seems many people are so convinced of this idea that they go out of...

The lesson from WikiLeaks

In all the accusations and counter-accusations in the wake of the WikiLeaks disclosures, the most serious lesson to arise seems to have been overlooked. The point to come out of these disclosures is the simple fact that governments have amassed...

The Mission

The Mission is one of the great masterpieces of the cinematic art. It was directed by Roland Joffe and released in 1986. The cinematograpy is simply stunning. The images of the South American landscape are exquisite and breathtakingly beautiful in...

Hue and Cry

Historians use films as primary sources. They are well aware that the makers of a film cannot help but reveal a great deal about the time and place of its production. A film offers a very particular view of the values and mores of the society in which...

The empty chair

As I write these words, the Nobel Peace Prize ceremony is taking place in Oslo. However, the prize-winner is not present. He is currently serving an absurd, Kafkaesque eleven year prison sentence. His crime? He used the Internet to call for the rule...