Notepad on Life

September 12, 2017

Believe it or not, Church decline is bad news for all

Filed under: Culture,philosophy,Religion — - @ 12:21 am
Tags: , ,

It was good to see little in the way of overt glee from the non-religious camp when the latest damning Church of England statistics emerged last week.

“…how can the Church of England remain in any meaningful sense the national legally established church, when it caters for such a small portion of the population?” wondered Andrew Copson, Humanists UK’s chief executive, while Terry Sanderson, president of the National Secular Society, called for “…a serious debate about the place of religion in our society.”

All fair enough, and, in Copson’s case, possibly the only time humanists and I stand shoulder-to-shoulder, for reasons masterfully encapsulated here by Giles Fraser.

I would suggest, however, that crumbling church numbers also present a problem for those for whom mere atheism is not enough. The underlying mantra of The God Delusion – that if we could only put this silly religious nonsense behind us, Mankind could embark on a golden age, celebrating science instead of Holy Communion – has been seized on by many since its publication. Not so much the atheism lobby as the atheism-looking-for-work lobby, they have sought to elevate non-belief from a negative to a positive.

We can’t give you God, but we can give you this instead, is the gist of their evangelism: minds focused on earth instead of empty heavens, looking out for one another instead of for the Second Coming, celebrating evolved reality over myth. No more religious wars on the macro scale, no more judgmentalism on the micro level. Net result? Everyone just calms the hell down.

You wouldn’t have to be the world’s greatest PR guru to spin that little lot but you might be struggling to shore it up after a week like the last one. For with our national religion in full-blown retreat, we should be seeing the green shoots of this alternative utopia in Britain now, surely? With faith ploughed under, fallow minds should be starting to latch onto the humanist creed, with all the happy consequences it portends. At least one Sunday supplement should have picked up on the new, more mellow Britain emerging around us.

Er, not quite. These are mere snapshots to the contrary, but see how many more follow in the next few days, weeks or months: a full-blown brawl breaking out in a Cambridgeshire church yard; someone gunning down a 14-year old child in London. The latest manifestations of what one journalist previously called “the astounding prevalence of fury” that he notices whenever he returns to the UK from foreign assignments.

Walk among the public as I do each day and see it for yourself, the increasing chippiness of people when matters are not quite to their liking, as if anger were the sole release valve to an inner despair. Note the insularity, and the erosion of those myriad small courtesies that our parents took for granted.

Ponder then, the contradiction of a secular philosophy that decrees that life is all we have, and the diminishing reverence with which that same life is regarded, should it be unwanted, past its sell-by date or standing between a criminal and his loot.

No, that ‘golden age’ penny just doesn’t seem to be dropping. If the Church of England looks increasingly irrelevant, those who inflate non-belief into an alternative lifestyle look increasingly like poker players, bluffing with a handful of nothing.


February 21, 2017

Why ‘stressed’ Jane is right to sue lottery that made her a millionaire

Filed under: Consumer,Culture,Women — - @ 12:17 am

Pic courtesy of Smart Winners

Living in a council flat and earning just £8 an hour as a temp, a terrible thing happened to Jane Park in 2013.

She won one million pounds on the Euromillions lottery, aged just 17.

Her life since, she claims, is a ruin, although some might call it a parable.

She has bought the cars, the real estate, the fake breasts. She has sought to share her good fortune with a man, only for him to throw it back in her face. She is discovering that a worthwhile return on a windfall is not measured solely in percentage points.

Now, after inviting the nation to feel her pain through the media, she has her heart set on that other must-have Millennial accessory. After the boob-job, comes the lawsuit. In the latest manifestation of an age beyond satire, she is considering suing Euromillions organisers, Camelot, for making her a millionaire. To spare others from a similar downfall, she believes people should not be allowed to buy a lottery ticket until they’re 18. Something to chew on for those who would blithely hand the responsibilities of the voting booth to 16-year-olds.

“At times it feels like winning the lottery has ruined my life,” she told the Sunday People. “I thought it would make it ten times better but it’s made it ten times worse. I wish I had no money most days. I say to myself, ‘My life would be so much easier if I hadn’t won.’

“People look at me and think, ‘I wish I had her lifestyle, I wish I had her money.’ But they don’t realise the extent of my stress. I have material things but apart from that my life is empty. What is my purpose in life?

“I’ve read about other lottery ­winners who’ve just blown it all and I can totally see how it can be done. I was stuck in front of a financial adviser who was using words like ­investment bonds. I had no clue what they meant,” she added.

It wasn’t my initial reaction, but having mulled over this infuriating story, I actually hope Ms Park gets her day in court. For while her education has clearly begun, with the realisation that money can’t buy happiness, it appears to have stalled, reflecting little credit on those around her. Never mind the financial adviser lacking in empathy, or what is entailed by the “ongoing support” that Camelot insists it has offered: I would be interested to know if any of her nearest and dearest at least tried to advise her against using the words “winning the lottery” and “stress” so close together in a public forum.

So it looks like leaving this to the judge could be Park’s last hope: an older, wiser head who, after considering her claim, might gently counsel her on leaving the money to the machinations of compound interest for the time being and finding purpose and genuine satisfaction through helping those who really need it.

Before teaching her another important life lesson, and telling her and her lawyer to sling their hooks.

December 19, 2016

French at a bus stop – a nation transformed

Filed under: Culture,music — - @ 12:29 pm
Tags: , ,

Whether or not climate change is the culprit, it was the type of English winter evening that I have come to despise. No crisp, cleansing cold, just a disheartening mild wetness; creepy drizzle making persistent inroads down the back of my neck, forcing me into the haven of the bus shelter.

The woman already in there could have been talking to a friend or partner. I caught the word “acheter“, so maybe the subject was Christmas shopping. All that mattered, however, was that she was speaking into her mobile phone in animated French, and the longer she did so, the more transformed our location became, like when you catch part of a song you haven’t heard in years, and your environment is suddenly tinged by memories.

The rain gradually took on a romantic aspect. Reflected office lights twinkled in a thousand tiny pools on the road and sullen Nature was lifted by human charm. Someone lighting up a Gauloise at this point would have been  favourably received.

What if you could extrapolate that cameo, I wondered, walking through the city bus station, half-an-hour later: replace the tinny Christmas jingles on the PA with a bit of what follows. Would its denizens find their mood softening without really knowing why? Would they smile at strangers and pass the time of day? Would love fill the air instead of the all-pervading stench of dope?

Play some of this and envisage your own local bus station as you do so. Has to be worth a try at least.

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