From ‘An Essay on Criticism’ (Part 2)

Of all the causes which conspire to blind
Man’s erring judgment, and misguide the mind,
What the weak head with strongest bias rules,
Is pride, the never-failing vice of fools.
Whatever Nature has in worth denied,
She gives in large recruits of needful pride;
For as in bodies, thus in souls, we find
What wants in blood and spirits, swell’d with wind;
Pride, where wit fails, steps in to our defence,
And fills up all the mighty void of sense!
If once right reason drives that cloud away,
Truth breaks upon us with resistless day;
Trust not yourself; but your defects to know,
Make use of ev’ry friend—and ev’ry foe.

A little learning is a dang’rous thing;
Drink deep, or taste not the Pierian spring:
There shallow draughts intoxicate the brain,
And drinking largely sobers us again.

Alexander Pope (1688-1744)

Gun crisis? What gun crisis?

“There’s nothing we can do to stop mass shootings”, says the only country in the world that suffers frequent and regular mass shootings.

Why, oh why, are so many Americans totally unwilling to accept the blindingly obvious truth that they have a gun problem? A blasphemous slaughter of innocents comparable with that of Herod. An obscenity that is heartbreakingly recognised by millions of compassionate Americans and the rest of the world. I’m sick of all the Republican and gun lobby ‘thoughts and prayers’ with their specious reasoning, while the rest of us dread the inevitability of the next slaughter and the constant traumatising of children with shooter drills. Jesus weeps!

America: You can’t worship God and guns. Repent of your obscene gun idolatry. It’s blasphemous, nauseating, and heartbreaking!

How To Be Right (James O’Brien)

This fantastic book confronts lazy thinking, populist assumptions, and downright lies. James O’Brien forensically and ruthlessly demolishes populist statements and beliefs, opinions which have no basis in fact, but ones that many people cling on to. He seeks out truth in the fine tradition of true journalism. He believes that holding truth to power should be at the heart of democracy.

He adresses the lies people believe about Islam, Brexit, LGBT, ‘Woke’, Feminism, the Nanny State, Liberalism, and the Age Gap, as well as the pronouncements of populist leaders like Boris Johnson, Donald Trump, and Nigel Farage.

If you believe any this populist nonsense, then read this book at your peril. You may need to change your opinions. Sadly, many still believe the lies, even when presented with the truth.

An exceptional broadcaster with a peerless ability to calmly point out the absurdity of certain viewpoints. The Guardian.

On the back cover there is some trolling of the very highest calibre: O’Brien is the epitome of a smug, sanctimonious, condescending, obsessively politically-correct, champagne-socialist public schoolboy Remoaner. The Sun.

Anyone who cares about the future of democracy should read this book.

You can find me on Goodreads (click the link) and see all my 2021 books here.

Racial Justice Sunday (2022)

Instead of my usual Sunday devotional I would invite to explore racial justice issues that are the focus of churches today. Everything you need is in a resource booklet you can download and read here.

The Bible has a lot to say about justice because as God’s Word, it reflects God’s heart for justice. It can be argued that we should love justice because God does! Racism and racial discrimination are justice issues because they deny basic justice and human dignity to women and men who are made in the image of God. Equally, they are sinful because, among other issues, they assume all are not equal before God and are not part of God’s family. Source

An Unexamined Life (Adam Howie)

The unexamined life is not worth living. Socrates

The Disintegration of God (from the “Atheism for Lent” studies)

I’m pleased to share a guest post by my online friend Adam Howie.

Adam’s Bio: Gamer of many a genre, geek of various forms, bordering on nerd, oft a wannabe thinker and ponderer, but mainly trying the journey of a digital and traditional media artist.

Over the last ten or so years, although to be honest this probably has its roots much further back, I have been going through a self-critical journey of examination and periods of reflection on what it means when I say, “this is what I believe”. This goes from the smallest seemingly insignificant parts, to the largest and perhaps core concepts of my beliefs system, and not just what many would call “religious” either.

Partly this evolved from the root of the idea behind the quote attributed to Socrates above, although probably when I started this process, I really wasn’t aware of that quote. It was also born from my experiences in university of being challenged over my beliefs and being confronted with the beliefs of others who could articulate their reasons. This was when I came to firmly embrace the idea that “just because” was rarely, if ever, a valid response as to the “why do you believe X?”.

A number of years later I encountered the work of Peter Rollins (“Idolatry of God”, “The Divine Magician”) which among other elements further exposed me to new facets and concepts, such as the work of the mystics, Lacan, Hagel, “dialectics”, “the lack”, and a whole swathe of other fascinating ideas that I had not been exposed to before, but at the heart, I guess, of it was embracing the unknowability, the uncertainty of reality. His work and exploration of belief/doubt/etc have been instrumental in this journey, along with of course a myriad of other thinkers etc.

One key element throughout this journey was a “creed” that I started as a way to codify my beliefs into a more logical way but has become much more of a “living document”, a way to reflect upon my journey, that I revisit, reword, and even completely rethink parts of as I continue this journey. This creed details everything from my understanding of the divine, to the nature of community, to my positions on societal and political issues, at least at a high concept level. Through the years I have went back, tweaked small parts, and rewrote entire swathes of text, reread, and reaffirmed some elements, while wholesale removed some parts.

While doubts and questioning all things of faith and belief is good, I do hold, do not find any contradiction with this process in this, that when it comes to the realms of the scientific, those parts where peer review, examination, testing, experimentation, etc can provide to varying degree of certainty answer we must acknowledge the limitations of our own understandings and trust those things where science provides such answers. This isn’t a contradiction or invalidation of accepting doubt, or questioning beliefs, rather confirming our belief in the processes and rigours tools behind the answers they seek to provide, yet even they admit that science is journey too, where they delve ever deeper into the mysteries created by those very answers.

Lying (Sam Harris)

I read this excellent book in 2021. In Lying, best-selling author and neuroscientist Sam Harris argues that we can radically simplify our lives and improve society by merely telling the truth in situations where others often lie. He focuses on “white” lies—those lies we tell for the purpose of sparing people discomfort—for these are the lies that most often tempt us. And they tend to be the only lies that good people tell while imagining that they are being good in the process. Source

You can find me on Goodreads (click the link) and see all my 2021 books here.

Am I not a man and a brother?

The inscription ‘Am I not a man and a brother?’ became the catchphrase of British and American abolitionists. Medallions were even sent in 1788 to Benjamin Franklin who was then president of the Pennsylvania Abolition Society. The image was widely reproduced on domestic objects like crockery and also became popular on fashion accessories. Source

Let’s foster a better historical, cultural, and sensitive understanding of ‘taking the knee’. Think for yourself, don’t swallow the bigotry and propaganda. We all need to fight a culture war against bigotry and ignorance.

Football (like life) can be cruel!

Football is a microcosm of all human life: the best and the worst, the good and the bad, the ups and the downs, the triumphs and the sorrows, the successes and the failures, the ecstasy and the agony, the beauty and the ugliness. Love it or loathe it, you can’t escape it. You have to deal with it.

What better vehicle is there to teach our children human character, the value of working as a team, and emotional intelligence for their adult lives? And, in the light of the result, I would add the need to demonstrate graciousness in defeat.