Showing posts from 2012

Reading the Sky

Christmas Day 2004:   Reading the Sky       As Morag was leaving to go back to England about ten days ago, she told me she had left me a present on my desk in the bedroom.   ‘Just so you’ll have something to open on Christmas morning,’ she said.   When I got back from seeing her off to the airport, I noticed the beautifully wrapped package and I noticed it every day thereafter, but I didn’t open it.   What’s more, I didn’t even pick it up, prod it, or shake it.   I waited, as instructed, until this morning.   How different, I’ve been thinking, from years gone by when I would have eagerly ransacked the house to find out what Santa had brought me!   Now – probably because I’ve got just about everything I need – the urgent desire to satisfy my curiosity seems well and truly under control.   And, of course, there’s also the fact that as one gets older Christmas doesn’t seem such a rare event as it used to be.   When I was a child Christmas night seemed like a terrible anticli

How to Write an Anti-God Book

  There is undoubtedly a great deal of money to be made by writing a book against religion. Richard Dawkins’ The God Delusion has been among the best sellers for well over a year; yesterday (12 th April) it was the 27 th best-selling book on Amazon, which, when you think about it, is an amazing achievement. Ahead of it are the usual cookery books and popular novels, but to have a philosophical work so highly placed on the Amazon lists demonstrates that there is a real hunger among the British and Irish reading public for serious works about religion, particularly iconoclastic ones. God is not Great , by Christopher Hitchens, Against all Gods , by A.C. Grayling, and Daniel Dennett’s Breaking the Spell are selling well too; so well, in fact, that I thought that today I would give you a few tips so that you can get your snout in the trough and make a little money yourself.             However, there is one major problem. We Unitarians have a lot in common with those who vent

Hanukkah – Festival of Rededication

My dad was considered to be something of a sceptic, a cynic even. A man of few words himself, he was always suspicious of anyone – particularly politicians – whose verbal skills seemed able to justify even the most disreputable of actions. ‘Whatever they say, they are just out to make money,’ was one of his recurring sentiments, and he even saw fiddling and chicanery in what seemed to us the most unlikely places. For example, he thought that cricket matches were ‘fixed’. Now, one can easily imagine a boxing match being fixed, or a formula one car race, or the Tour de France, but cricket? How on earth could they do it? Why on earth would they do it? My dad’s answer was simple. Cricket test matches are scheduled to last for five days, but they can be over earlier if each side has had its allotted two innings. So, to gain maximum revenue from spectators, steps are taken to ensure that the game lasts as long as possible. We used to laugh at this particular opinion, but twenty year

What if Jesus had been a Follower of Ayn Rand?

    I’ve been reading Charles Dickens all this year. To celebrate the bicentenary of his birth in 1812, I determined to read all his novels, in the order in which they were written, starting with The Pickwick Papers , which he wrote in 1836 – when he was 24 – and ending with The Mystery of Edwin Drood, which he left unfinished at his death in 1870, aged 58.           I finished Bleak House a few weeks ago, but rather than continue with Hard Times , the next in sequence, I decided to have a break and read something by Ayn Rand, the Russian-American novelist and philosopher, whose name seems to be appearing all over the place at the moment, principally because Paul Ryan, Mitt Romney’s running mate in the forthcoming presidential election, has claimed that Ayn Rand is one of his sources of inspiration. Ayn Rand           Ayn Rand was born in St. Petersburg, Russia, in 1905, and died in 1982. She called her philosophica

Herodotus and Mark

While reading the Greek historian Herodotus (484-425 BCE) yesterday (ah! the joys of retirement!) I came across a curious tale in Book IX of his Histories . It concerns King Xerxes (518-465 BCE) of Persia. He was married to Amestris, but he fell in love with the wife of his brother, Masistes, and in order to get closer to her, contrived to have his son Darius marry her daughter Artaynta. (Got that?) But, fickle soul that he was, Xerxes soon transferred his affections from mother to daughter. And for some strange reason, the young girl fell for him.             His wife Amestris had made a beautiful robe for Xerxes and he wore it one day while visiting his niece/lover, Artaynta. She happened to ‘please him greatly’ on this occasion (I wonder how?), and so he said that she could ask him for anything at all and he would give it to her. She wanted the robe, but Xerxes, scared of what his wife - who already suspected that he was up to something - might say, offered the girl ‘cities,