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Everyone should be able to appreciate Rev

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I’ve waited a long time for this – on Monday, Rev returns to our screens, probably for the last time. It’s one of my very favourite shows, but I’ve always found it hard to summarise its appeal for the benefit of those who haven’t watched it. It’s very frustrating to like something without being able to explain why, so it’s about time I had a proper go here.

First, it’s easiest to say what it isn’t. Rev isn’t really a sitcom, although it is funny, but nor is it a straight drama. It walks a delicate line, portraying the reality of inner-city church life as accurately as any series I’ve seen and allowing the humour to flow naturally from the absurdity of situations that many churchgoers will recognise – the plots and ideas are meticulously researched and typically based on real events, however unlikely that may seem. Read More…

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Religion isn’t a special case, but that cuts both ways

Minaret 3Since I wrote about Katy Perry and the Dark Horse video, I’ve been involved in quite a lot of discussion about the subject in various places, which I’ve found helpful in crystallising the issues, and where any disagreement might lie. Ideally, I would have liked to cover these areas in the first place – blame fatigue and lack of time – but I think this is a topic that’s worth covering on its own.

One subject that appears to be at the root of a fair amount of disagreement is the sincerity or otherwise of the complaint. Was it a respectful request, or was it cynical rabble rousing? I favour the former, though the latter is definitely a possibility. I’d prefer to err on the side of assuming good faith, especially as none of us can know either way, but it’s an open question, and potentially has a bearing on how it should be responded to. However, this also ties up with a bigger issue. Read More…

Katy Perry was right to edit her video, but I wish she hadn’t

Poor Katy Perry. It seems that whatever she does, she’s doomed to upset a handful of religious extremists, with nothing but lots of media coverage and record sales to show for it. Fresh from her controversial performance of Dark Horse at the Grammys, she’s stirred up a whole new fuss over the video for the same song, managing to offend Muslims this time instead of Christians.

It appears that someone was watching the video and noticed that if you looked closely and paused the video at just the right time, a man appeared to be wearing a pendant bearing the Arabic “Allah” before he was turned to dust. Now, I’m not an expert in Arabic, but seeing how often people claim to have seen “Allah” spelt out inside a tomato or by any number of strange objects, I suggest that it isn’t trivial to demonstrate that this meaning was either intended or even really there. But let’s assume that it was. Read More…

Atheism could do without the naturalistic fallacy

Baby

An atheist yesterday?

I hear a lot of atheists laying into religion (well, duh), making the claim that atheism is the natural default we’re born with, and religion only exists because people are indoctrinated to believe it. I like that idea, and it rings true on several levels. We find it so easy to bring children up believing religious doctrines that are wild guesses at best. And we teach them these things as fact, not only introducing fables but loading them with emotional significance to ensure that they aren’t easily challenged and dismissed.

Unfortunately, this belief in “default atheism” is simplistic at best. Babies and small children don’t have any kind of comprehensive answer to major life questions, but I think the early tendency to see one’s parents as perfect, infallible paragons can fit into the most basic definition of theism without too much squeezing and breathing in. And even adults with no interest in religion can still be led down a theistic line of thought by a certain stirring at the wonders of nature, for example. Read More…

What Would Jesus Do? Good question!

WWJDOnce, long ago, I picked up the habit of wearing a wristband – they were quite fashionable at the time, in a nerdy God Squad kind of way – with WWJD written on it. It stood, of course, for “What Would Jesus Do?” The idea was to control for my normal human weakness and inability to live up to my ideals, but it ended up being just another reason for feeling guilty, a constant reminder of my failure even with a constant reminder of what to do.

I liked the sentiment – What Would Jesus Do? What, indeed? It seemed so simple, but so profound. If Jesus was truly God incarnate, where else would I go to find an example of how to behave? He was the ultimate man, and therefore the ideal to aspire to. Even though I struggled to apply it to my life, it seemed obvious that the principle was sound. Read More…

Want to protect Christians from persecution? Then ignore Douglas Alexander

Jerusalem RooftopsDouglas Alexander, a frontbench member of Her Majesty’s Opposition, has got into the news by speaking out about the treatment of Christians in the Middle East, and saying that politicians should “do God”. He says lots of people this Christmas will be risking their lives if they attend a church service, and that is both wrong and something that politicians should be opposing.

It’s clear that Mr Alexander feels the plight of Christians in certain parts of the world very keenly, as his faith leads him to identify closely with them. I don’t blame him for that in any way, but his words run the risk of exacerbating the very situation he wishes to correct. Read More…

Pope Francis is a breath of fresh air, which doesn’t reflect well on the church

Pope FrancisBack at the start of the year, you’d have got pretty long odds on the Pope being named Time Magazine’s Person of the Year for 2013, but that was before Ratzi hung up his blingtastic papal shoes and cleared the way for a younger (or rather, slightly less old) man.

Pope Francis has undoubtedly had a good year. He immediately had a profound impact on perceptions of the Roman Catholic Church with his obvious humility and simplicity in dress, and his softly spoken inclusivity in speech has also been very popular from the beginning. To be honest, though, he mostly benefits from comparison with his predecessor’s considerably more prickly character. Read More…

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