I’m ba-ack! Or am I? (In which I drop bombshells, and write about what I might be writing about… maybe.)

Well, this is a short post just to let you know that I am alive, well and hope to start posting more of my thoughts on this here blog. (Oh yes and, people who didn’t know I have a blog, I have a blog. ) WordPress tells me it’s been nearly a year. Of course, you’ll say, we’ve heard THAT one before, haven’t we? Well, true. But there have been certain other reasons besides my usual sheer laziness. One of which is perhaps a year of spending a lot of time worrying about certain faith matters before getting to the point that, all things considered, maybe it would be better off not having that faith at all. That is to say, I have come to the point where if Christianity (at least in the sense I believed it) is going to be worth following, it had better be true: its demands are so great that it had better be worth it, and there had better really be a God out there able to make us into the kind of people who can follow it. But, on closer examination of reality, how much of the evidence seems to point the other way? Just which claims, interpretations of scripture, etc. are true and which are not? Is this God everybody claims is really there and working in their lives, really there, or is it just all coincidence and tricks of the mind? All in all, I concluded, it probably was not. Unfortunately not all of my Christian friends might know about this, and I have also been hesitant to make it public. Partly out of fear it might upset the faith of some, partly as a lot would try to react with surprise, tell me I haven’t really stopped believing or try to bring me back into the fold. Well, I have no objection to you believing what you want, if it is true for you then as long as it harms no-one else, I have no problem with it. But do not expect me to believe any longer. I hope perhaps to address this in more detail in future posts. In the meantime, I have this whole EU election thingy (even if it ends up being last minute again and affects nobody’s opinion or vote) and reflections on certain very nasty murders that have taken place in the last week or so. Not much fun, sadly, but needs comment. In the future, who knows? Maybe I’ll write that big ideal democracy post (my ideas have shifted on that), some stuff about capitalism (short: it has many shortcomings and needs to be replaced, eventually), and maybe more fun stuff like anime reviews, wry observations, silly rants about inane nonsense… oh yeah, and I forgot that Jenny Everywhere story.

Watch this space.

(In memoriam to the victims of the Orlando shootings, Jo Cox MP, and all victims of senseless violence everywhere.)

[Edited for typos, 23/04/2018]

Old Year’s Resolutions? (Or, perhaps, something yet more radical?)

Again we come to the end of another year… nearly. In fact we’ve actually got just short of another whole month before its end. The trouble is it seems to have gone awfully quickly, and I feel my life is little better now than it has been for the past quite a number of years. So, I’ve been thinking- instead of waiting a whole ‘nother month before making New Year’s Resolutions, how about finishing the old year the way you mean to go on? If one is really to make such a radical difference, why not start now and not wait until some arbitrary start-over time, which perhaps means you aren’t really serious?

It’s not just the problems in my own life I need to get right, of course, which are numerous. I’ve been wondering about how screwed up the world is. I amongst all the arguments I’ve been having on YouTube about the merits or otherwise of free-market capitalism as opposed to Marxism and everything in between, wondering about the ongoing economic turmoil and the hopeless state of politics, whether we ought to remain in the EU or not, &c., it rather strikes me that there is something very wrong. Even if we are to assume that capitalism has played its part in development and reducing poverty- yet we should still realise there are still a lot of desparately poor people in the world, a lot of environmental damage, and that business is taking its share of the blame. But what drives business? Us. It only exists as long as someone is buying its good and services, if people want what it has to offer, or allow ourselves to be conned into believing so. I wonder what all these campaigns, all this politicking and so on is really doing. We need to change first. So, perhaps there is an even greater need to make a real difference than just personal ones.

Of course one can hardly escape a certain festival already being hyped up as part of Phase 2 of the silly season. And we are once again needing to be challenged as to whether it should really be about the baby in a manger who would grow up to be nailed to a tree, or the portly chap with the white beard, red coat and reindeer. And another video, being shared by a certain friend on a certain social networking site, certainly makes me wonder all the more. And whether we need a paradigm shift in the way we think. The video, by the way, is here:

Really the two representative figures could not be more different. One represents ultimate self-sacrifice and selflessness, and moreover, of the God we Christians are supposed to understand. The other represents the secular (if not pagan), materialistic, worldly side of things, that if it is selfless at all, gives to its own and rewards only those it thinks deserve it. (The man who died on the tree did it to redeem those who certainly deserved nothing of the sort.)

All this digresses of course from the somewhat trivial idea of making a few small resolutions in order to improve one’s own life. Perhaps indeed though one ought to start somewhere. The question is, exactly where? I shall perhaps give myself a little time to think about it, and return to it in another post in a day or two. Meanwhile, I must start by doing something positive and serious before the next 24 hours is up.

Meanwhile, a question- what would your Old Year’s Resolutions be? What suggestions do you have for mine? How would you have them not just to change your own life, but impact on others and maybe the world? (If we start small, it might build up…)

And by the way, the baby in the manger who grew up to be nailed to a tree and die is, of course, Jesus. I would suggest He also didn’t stay dead, but rose to new life, so that we too, could die and live again. That, I contend, is the essence of real change. The thing is, do we trust Him to do that? (If, indeed, some of us believe in Him at all?)

Addendum, 1st January 2022: This post has been edited for reasons of personal privacy.

Religion, atheism, moral awkwardnesses, and all that (pt. 1)

Now I have other, much better and perhaps more interesting or amusing things I could be talking about on this blog. But after reading a certain post on a certain blog, and having got into heated arguments in the comments section of that post with the blog’s author, and on a certain discussion forum elsewhere on the internet having come across much the same sort of issue, I feel like it is about time I addressed certain issues which, to say the least, are going to be pretty divisive.

(And yes, after reading the above, some of my readers are wondering what the bleeping heck I am on about. Why can’t this guy just write clearly?)

It is often the criticism made of atheists and skeptics that ‘religion’ is pretty much the cause of most or all of the world’s problems, responsible for all manner of wars, injustices and atrocities. And whilst indeed what is commonly called religion has played a contributing factor in many of these things, often it is given far more credit than it deserves. It’s not like mankind has not managed to commit wars, injustices and atrocities completely independently of religion, after all, and may or may not even have tacked on religion as an excuse. Think about it: were the Troubles in Northern Ireland, say, a conflict concerning Protestants and Catholics? Or about whether Northern Ireland should be part of Britain, or part of the Republic of Ireland? And what about Emperor Constantine, the man who is credited with making Christianity the official religion of the Roman Empire, really conquering by the sign of and in the name of Christ? Or was he just using the faith for political gain and as a convenient way of uniting the already fractious empire? And did that act, ultimately, do more to damage the perception of the faith than anythng else in history? After all, it is a sad thing when something which is supposedly not of this world, which is supposed to stand headlong against all the world’s evil, corruption and wickedness, is co-opted by it and used to justify that very evil?

Or is that really so?

Because it is also the same criticism of those atheists and skeptics that said Christianity in particular, whilst supposedly claiming to be all about love and righteousness, is anything but, and that its foundational documents, that collection of writings called the Holy Bible, is full of all manner of atrocities including slavery, genocide, oppression of women and more.

The trouble is, on the face of it they might seem to be right.

Yet in ways, not all is as it seems. For instance, many of these allegations prove to be completely unfounded when you understand the text for what it really is, the context of the ancient world (which let’s not forget was not only operating under much different constraints to now, but did not and cannot be expected to share all of our values and presuppositions about what is right), and so on.¬† I don’t claim to understand everything about this of course, as I am no scholar or full-time apologist, but it certainly makes for enlightening reading. Yet other things, when viewed from a radically different angle, turn out not to be unspeakable evils, but perhaps unfortunate though necessary ones. In future posts I may try to address these issues in more depth, though time, space and willingness do not permit such in this one.

It might be also worth pointing out that many views the atheists and skeptics themselves tend to hold are far from perfect. I could mention certain things such as abortion, say, though at the same time I realise that particular issue is not simply divided by matters of faith. There are “pro-life” atheists and quite probably people of faith who are probably ‘pro-choice’. (Both of those terms are lacking.) I could mention the historical example of Marxist-Leninist communism, which also sought to do away with religion (and yes, a certain fellow-blogger who knows who she is, it was an atheistic value-system as well as a political ideology) in the name of providing a fairer and better world. At the same time, it is unfair to assume that all atheists are like the communists became, or to assume they share that political ideal. After all, Ayn Rand despised Communism and Christianity alike, in favour of an also extreme laissez-faire ideology the complete opposite of communism. I could use the example of Rand too, though I dare say many atheists despise her views too. But it all goes to show how rejection of religion does not imply whatever else we believe is automatically better.

And ultimately, I would like to show my faith as not one of evil but of good- of love shown to those whom all others have rejected, of sins forgiven, of the sick healed and the hungry fed and injustice replaced by justice. Of a God who is Love, not some vindictive and uncaring monster.

I very much doubt I can do it, but as the Apostle Peter said, “always be ready to give an answer to everyone who asks you a reason concerning the hope that is in you…” (1 Peter 3:15, WEB)- and that is hope, not despair and disbelief.

Merry Christmas to my readers… (pt. 2)

Well, it is technically Christmas, surely? Are there not traditionally 12 days of Christmas, ending on 6th January (Epiphany)? Of course it doesn’t mean we all need a partridge in a pear tree, but even so!

(And yes, I know I’m cutting it fine leaving it until now, but better late than never…)

I thought the second part of this post- which would have been the first part but for the fact I was a. basically too lazy and b. well, Christmas day isn’t exactly the ideal time for updating one’s blog- should be dedicated to decidedly Christmas-related musings. After all, there’s plenty of the utter madness this blog is partly meant to be about, in the practice of Christmas, and plenty of other stuff worth thinking about.

Of course, this time of year is so often derided for ending up being about exactly the opposite of what it’s supposed to be. If you’re Christian, you might well bemoan the fact that modern society has secularised things, and forgotten the bit where it’s basically supposed to be about, you know, the birth of Jesus, not about jolly bearded chaps and their red-nosed reindeer, and certainly not about the basic worship of Mammon, whereby people must spend inordinate amounts on presents, extravagant and gaudy decorations, food drink and so on, the shops beginning perhaps as early as September or October, and if you don’t, the gods of the economy will punish you with low growth, business failure and job losses. And if you so much as mention the Jesus bit, the PC crowd will jump down your throat because it might upset¬† Muslims or atheists, who probably don’t even mind. Whether or not you are a Christian, there are other concerns, too- the materialism also, the bit where it’s supposed to be about peace, goodwill and having a good time when often it is anything but- all the stress of buying presents, preparing Christmas dinner (I am sure my mother will have words with me on that score) and falling out with the family who come round to share it (so some claim).

Now it might be worth pointing out, that maybe Christmas is based upon pagan festivals after all- like, say, the Roman Saturnalia or perhaps the birth of the sun, the Norse Yule, and various other things connected with the winter solstice. Maybe when the church became established after Roman Emperor Constantine co-opted it (creating the Catholic Church and its Eastern equivalents in their present form) these things were simply Christianised, and it’s fair to say that we don’t know if Jesus was actually born anywhere near December- some suggest mid-September, say. My Presbyterian friends don’t bother too much with it, and don’t seem lacking in their Christian faith or witness for it one bit. Another guy- evangelical Christian from America, naturally (not to do down the nation, but it seemsthey’re always from America, this sort) appeared on TV, as part of a programme on theories of what the star the wise men saw was, trying to point to an astronomical phenomenon which did appear on December 25th- so maybe it was the date after all. Either way, traditionally it has become the date which celebrates Christ’s birth, and it is a time when some folks are still inclined to go to church and do the Jesus thing more so than at most other times of the year, so it can be a worthwhile witness.

There are secular observations I can add too. Firstly, the time we bother with Christmas. As I pointed out, it is well overdone in the commercial sector, often with Christmas relate goods being sold months ion advance. Then, over the tannoys, in the media, Christmas music, TV programming &c. comes out at least by late November or the beginning of December. Works Christmas parties are several weeks before Christmas day. And then, by the time the day is done, along rolls Boxing Day… and the sales start, and as if the mad shopping frenzy which preceded Christmas (right up to the Eve) didn’t leave folks with retail fatigue, back they all go again as if nothing happened. They can’t get through the doors fast enough. And then it’s back to work, and it’s as if Christmas is already over, all we have to look forward to is the New Year, and it’s not like Christmas doesn’t last for days to come. Yet, if I recall right, our mediaeval forebears continued the festivities for days after, all the way up to Twelfth Night, and didn’t go back to work ’til the following Monday (‘Plough Monday’)*. After all, in the dark, cold, miserable time of year, we need something to cheer us up. And is this the best time to still be working? The thing it, we have it all the wrong way round. If we started Christmas on December 24th (Christmas Eve), didn’t concentrate it into one mad day of meal preparation, gluttony, drinking, falling out and Morecambe and Wise repeats, and kept going after that, into January, we wouldn’t be quite so miserable come later on, when it’s still the dead of winter and there’s nothing to look forward to. There’d be no concept of ‘Blue Monday’.

Yet sometimes it seems, perhaps Christmas is a waste of time, if it’s all about materialism and isn’t even that Christian. But, nevertheless, I’m not giving up just yet.

*Then, it was perhaps one of the few times in the year, if at all, they actually got any time off.