But the categories ‘fiction’ and ‘non-fiction’ exist for a reason
One of my favourite childhood memories of my late grandmother happened when I was about eight years old. My grandmother had been on holiday and when she returned she brought back presents for myself and my siblings. My present was a Ladybird book of Greek myths containing the stories of Theseus and the Minotaur and Perseus and the Gorgons. I read the book over and over again. I’m pretty sure it was one of the reasons I got into History – wanting to know more about the society that created such fantastic tales. What I never did however, even as a child, was get my ideas about morality from the legends of Classical Greece. The gods of Olympics and the heroes of these legends seem to behave in a pretty immoral, or rather amoral, fashion. All societies have produced stories about superhuman beings – those of the Norse are particularly good and the Viking view of heaven as an endless drinking party is definitely one I can relate to. The great misfortune of History is that a large number of people have been forced to live according to the primitive morality contained in the myths and legends of the Ancient Hebrews. Continue reading “I Like Stories Too”
Science and Religion are not competitors
If the Sun was scaled down to the size of a white blood cell, the Milky Way would be the size of the continental United States. There are between 100,000,000,000 and 400,000,000,000 stars in the Milky Way and it is estimated that there are between 100,000,000,000 and 200,000,000,000 galaxies in the universe. Even if you take the lowest estimates there are about 10,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 (10 sextillion) stars in the universe. Then there are the spaces between galaxies which are even larger than the galaxies. The Milky Way is between 100,000 and 160,000 light years across but the closest galaxy to our own, Andromeda, is around 2,500,000 light years away. The sheer scale of the universe is incomprehensible to poorly-evolved east African primates who only learned to speak properly less than 200,000 years ago. But the most important things to the ‘creator’ of all this are the genitals of one species on one planet that orbits one of these stars and whether one half of said species shows its hair to the other half. Continue reading “Leap Of Faith “
Imagine a world untouched by Christianity.
I recently attended a three day history conference. Now I know that sounds like torture to a lot of people but I loved it. One of the highlights was a professor of ancient history giving a lecture comparing democracy in ancient Greece and modern Europe. In particular he drew parallels between the Brexit Referendum in 2016 and the Sicilian Expedition during the Peloponnesian War (431-404BC). Whatever your views of the referendum, it was an exercise in democracy on an very large scale. Over 33,000,000 people voted – 72% of registered voters and 65% of the voting age population. In Athens, the people’s assembly (demos) voted on all government business; it was a direct rather than a representative democracy. In 415BC, the demos voted enthusiastically in favour of a plan to conquer Sicily. The expedition was a disaster and the Athenians lost 200 ships and thousands of soldiers. Whether the Brexit vote turns into a disaster on the scale of Sicily is anyone’s guess (personally, I doubt it). The point I am trying to make is that studying Classical History helps us to understand the workings of democracy. People are people, demagogues are demagogues – although I would hesitate to compare Boris Johnson to Alcibiades because he would like it too much. Upper-class playboy with a penchant for rabble-rousing and swapping sides? Sounds familiar? Continue reading “In Defence Of Classical History “
Religion is dying but the religious mindset lives on
“What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun.” (Ecclesiastics 1:9)
In about 385AD, a group of black clad religious fanatics appeared from the Syrian desert to attack the temple of Athena in the city of Palmyra. Palmyra stood at the eastern edge of the Roman Empire and the larger-than-life statue of the goddess had been created in a workshop hundreds of miles away and transported with considerable difficulty and expense to create an oasis of Greco-Roman culture in the Syrian desert. The religious fanatics decapitated the statue, pushed it from its pedestal, cut off its arms and left it in the dirt before melting back into the desert.
In 2015, a group of black clad religious fanatics appeared from the Syrian desert to attack Palmyra. The statue of Athena, that had been carefully repaired by archaeologists, was again attacked. Once more she was decapitated, once more her arm was cut off.
These religious fanatics, separated by more than 1700 years of time, are united by their hatred of ‘idolatry,’ their ignorance and their worship of the Abrahamic god. Christianity is Islam and Islam is Christianity. Continue reading “The New Puritans”
“What can be more arrogant than believing that the same god who didn’t stop the Holocaust will help you pass your driving test.” Continue reading “Quote of the Day #28”
The most reasonable position is non-belief
I took the title of this piece from C. S. Lewis’ famous defence of belief – Mere Christianity. Lewis is most famous for his Narnia stories – a thinly-veiled retelling of Christian myths, with Aslan the Lion standing in for the Jesus of Nazareth character. Karl Marx famously described religion as the “opium of the people” although modern day radical Islam is more like crack cocaine. Lewis’ Anglican Christianity is like a nice cup of tea. All religions fail the basic test of reasonableness – there is not a scrap of evidence for the claims they make. I would contend that the most reasonable position any reasonable person can take is not to believe in any religion. Continue reading “Mere Atheism”
“There is something feeble and a little contemptible about a man who cannot face the perils of life without the help of comfortable myths. Almost inevitably some part of him is aware that they are myths and that he believes them only because they are comforting. But he dare not face this thought! Moreover, since he is aware, however dimly, that his opinions are not rational, he becomes furious when they are disputed.” Continue reading “Quote of the Day #24”