Tag Archives: atheism

Wise words for Spin Doctors?

Alastair Campbell doesn’t “do” God. However, Blogging about his appearance yesterday at the Iraq Inquiry, he says:

Among the private messages I got in advance were some from former Iraqi exiles I mentioned in my evidence, some of whom are now back in Iraq and say despite all the problems their country without Saddam is a better place and one where democracy is beginning alongside, by their standards, normal life.

I am amazed too how many people, though they know I don’t do God, sent me passages from the Bible. As I walked through the media scrum on the way in, and on the way out, and listened to some of the overblown and agenda driven commentary, I was glad to have read in the morning an email with Psalm 56 attached … ‘What can mortal man do to me?’ it asks ‘All day long they twist my words, they are always plotting to harm me. They conspire, they lurk, they watch my steps, eager to take my life…’ I never detected a death plot among the British media, but the rest of it sums up the Westminster lobby to a tee.

And no, I’m still not doing God, but as Neil Kinnock once said to me, I sometimes think it’s a shame we’re atheists, because some of the best lines are in the good book.

It seems even spin doctors find comfort in the Bible. Campbell might not believe in God, but it seems maybe God still believes in him…

hat tip: Church Mouse

An American messed with my head…

Shane Claiborne’s first book, The Irresistible Revolution, messed with my head. I don’t agree with his every word, but this man talks a lot of sense about faith. Here’s a letter he wrote at the invitation of Esquire magazine, to people who don’t share his faith: Letter to Unbelievers.

Robbie Williams is (nearly) back

Robbie_Williams-Bodies-300x300Of course, if you’re a female in your 30’s or you watch the X Factor you almost certainly know that already. And I’m guessing you’re either delighted and have your pre-order in with iTunes for the album’s release next Monday, and you’ve been sneaky peeking the previews or you’re trying to drown out the every mention of his name (in which case you’re probably not reading this).

Love him or hate him, Robbie likes to court a little controversy. It’s good for sales figures, after all.

I’ve been pondering what his latest single, Bodies, is getting at. Here’s an excerpt…

God gave me the sunshine 
Then showed me my lifeline 
I was told it was all mine 
Then I got laid on a leyline 
What a day, What a day… 
And your Jesus really died for me 
Then Jesus really tried for me

U.K. in entropy 
I feel like it’s fucking me 
Wanna feed off the energy 
Love livin’ like a deity 
One a day, One day 
And your Jesus really died for me 
I guess Jesus really tried for me

Bodies in the bodhi tree 
Bodies making chemistry 
Bodies are my family 
Bodies in the way of me 
Bodies in the cemetery 
And that’s the way it’s gonna be

All we’ve ever wanted 
Is to look good naked 
Hope that someone can take it 
God save me rejection 
From my reflection 
I want perfection

Praying for the rapture 
Cause it’s strange and gettin stranger 
And everything’s contagious 
It’s a modern middle ages 
All day, every day 
And if Jesus really died for me 
Then Jesus really tried for me

Profound? meaningless? I’m not sure. According to comments, the song’s a criticism of  George W Bush and the Iraq war. If so, did Jesus really need to come into it?

Someone said to me once that they thought the reason people who claim they couldn’t care less or don’t believe in God take his name in vain is that they realise on a deep subconscious level, that there’s huge power in God’s name, and that “For J…. sake” implies “for the sake of the highest thing I can think of”, even if that’s not what you think you really believe. I’m not sure it’s right, but it’s an interesting thought. And although I’m not sure I agree with it, I’m not sure I can come up with a better answer as to why an atheist, who might be expected to have no reason to make reference to God in any context, would blaspheme…

So what’s Robbie about here? He probably says it’s got nothing to do with God. And yet he can’t quite stay clear of the topic somehow, can he? No big deal. Except that if God’s so irrelevant, why does our talk so often keep coming back round to him?

Bill Maher v Jesus Christ: Religulous #2

090401billmaherandjesusWell, I did it. After my earlier post I bought an enormous bar of chocolate and settled into a big, comfy  cinema seat to watch Bill Maher take on Jesus Christ.

I have to tell you I was disappointed.  

I’ll say this for Maher – he is a funny guy. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t laugh – a lot. But despite setting himself up as honestly investigating God, a major strategy Maher employs is to ask people hard questions, to expect eloquent one line replies, to laugh at their absence, and to intersperse them with footage of material deliberately intended to undermine and ridicule them.

Predictably, he focuses on easy pickings, examining the controversial edges rather than the core foundations of faith. Creationism, homosexuality, and Islamic fundamentalism are come under scrutiny in favour, for example, of asking people about the basis and values of their faith. We come away knowing the ways in which it’s possible to ridicule religions but without the balance of counter-arguments.

So first and foremost, sadly, Religulous is a rant. That said, it’s also thought provoking. 

First, I was struck how frighteningly easy it is for christians to be way out of touch with people who don’t believe the same things they do, and to be unable to relate to them.

Second, I was reminded sharply religion can be ugly, has a great deal to answer for, and that  as a church we face a huge challenge in disentangling our mistreatment of God and His people from the truth of His message.  We have a lot of work to do to re-introduce our society to who Jesus is and his cultural relevance. 

Third, I the film was a reminder that what a person of faith says and does is watched, and it’s judged, and will be viewed through filter of: “this is what God stands for”. Scary. How we choose to present ourselves and our faith –  whether we’re thoughtful, balanced and equipped to discuss intelligently and honestly with other, matters.

Fourth, as I blogged previously, even without the help of satire, it’s easy to see how faith can seem to be crazy. We need to recognise that. However, the fact is that people continue to want to investigate Christianity. We also need a space where people can really consider life’s big questions and make their own informed decisions. Gordon Brown (reportedly) recently said he intended to do just that  attending an Alpha course. It was on April 1st (shame – I thought it might be for real – my innocence made me giggle when it was pointed out to me!) Whatever, having skirted the edges, maybe Maher should consider it. 


religulous_l200806061617I’ve been pondering whether to go and see Religulous. About 6 months ago someone showed me a trailer. Gotta be honest – it made me chuckle.

I’ve read a few reviews. They made me question whether I should steer clear, especially the ones from Christian sites, which major on the offence the Christian community might take. But then again, if something really annoys someone, there’s usually a reason for that…

I can see why people with a faith would choose not to see Religulous. Even putting to one side for now the offence it might cause to people of other faiths, this is a film, judging from the trailer, that’s going to deride what I believe in as a Christian. Let me illustrate: if I had a friend who loved me so much they allowed their own child to die in order to save my life, and someone made a movie satirising that, how  do you think it would be received. Would I go to see it? No… because it would be hurtful to my friend. But more generally, how would the press receive it? Pretty badly, you’d hope. To say it would be in bad taste would be an understatement.

And yet I’ve decided I’m going to see Religulous. Why? Because although I see strong parallels between the analogy I’ve just made and my relationship with God, the larger part of society doesn’t see it that way. You know, I’m open to being challenged. Most of all I want to be reminded of how you see things if you don’t agree with my worldview. I might not like it, but I want to understand it. I know you have your reasons, and I want us to be able to talk honestly about it. I’d like you to engage in what I think, and I want to engage with what you think too.

If you’ve seen Religulous, or you have a view about whether seeing it’s a good idea, let me know… I’ll post my review in a couple of days.