"Alone, even doing nothing, you do not waste your time. You do, almost always, in company. No encounter with yourself can be altogether sterile: Something necessarily emerges, even if only the hope of some day meeting yourself again." (E.M. Cioran)

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Religion is Stupid

Enough is enough. I've had it with religion and the concept of a 'man-in-the-sky' God. Up until now, I've swung this way and that, without committing - generally considering myself to be an agnostic. But it isn't enough any more. Whilst I realise I'm opening a huge can of worms, I think it's high time I took a stand and spoke out in support of atheism.

Agnostics sit on the fence, requiring proof of God in order to believe in Him. But here lies the problem. They are actually prepared to believe. To be prepared to believe in God means one is prepared to believe in the concept of an omnipotent, omnipresent being - ie knowing absolutely everything, including everything each one of us is doing, thinking and feeling at every given moment, and being everywhere all at once. There has never been one iota of proof of this! It's obviously ridiculous. Surely, being prepared to believe in life on other planets is a much more reasonable idea?

Yet billions of people everywhere believe in God and, despite the total lack of evidence, religion is becoming more popular. It is the source of much of the escalating conflict in the world and is - quite alarmingly - progressively starting to infiltrate and inform traditionally secular politics in western countries. OK, so human beings naturally turn their minds to the question of the meaning of life and its mysteries at some point in their lives, including what happens when we die. But religious nuts just can't seem to accept that we are part of nature and that all manifestations of life within nature eventually expire and die - finito!. I think this is the root of the problem. People don't want to accept that we all die. So the concept of 'afterlife' is invented as a comfort, where an elite group of 'believers' is allowed entry into a special, perfect world called 'heaven' (or are otherwise reincarnated in another form etc etc). I mean each to his/her own, but this seems seriously deluded to me - and a cop-out to boot. And then there are the Holy Books, of course, including the Bible, the Koran and many more. Yet, surely these books can just as easily be interpreted as a mixture of fact and metaphor - morality fables passed down through generations - relating to our connectedness to each other and to nature as a higher authority? Whichever way you look at it, I don't see why believers in God Almighty assume the higher moral ground when it comes to these questions, because that's what they ultimate are - questions.

I believe that we can own our own morality and be compassionate and responsible human beings, without involving (the idea of) a 'supreme being'. Surely we can continue to question ourselves, our actions and the ways in which we affect others. We can learn to be accountable for these actions and to live with ourselves and what we do - learning from our mistakes as we move through the world - as we can also learn to forgive ourselves and others. And our life on earth is the opportunity we are given to carry out these tasks. To my mind, at least, the concept of God is a distraction that seriously undermines this work. None of us is perfect, but we can evolve. Religious types would say that only God is perfect. But it is nature that is perfect because all of life - and its complexities - is contained within it. But I do not believe in God.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

'Marie Antoinette' & 'Leonard Cohen: I'm Your Man' movie reviews

Just a couple of recently seen films I wanted to tell you about, so here goes:


This movie is delicious - a visual tour de force through the palace and lifestyle of the court of Versailles in the heyday of Louis XVI and his young Austrian bride. As a visual and musical piece, this is stunning work, with everything reflecting the pastel tones of the ever-present displayed cakes - the colours of marzipan and sugared almonds - but if you're looking for a history lesson, it's rather light on detail - more like candy floss. Powdered faces and lacquered hair piled high, perfectly symmetrical shots of the manicured gardens of the palace and a post-punk soundtrack that seems absolutely perfect. Suzie and the Banshees' 'Hong Kong Garden' has never worked as well as it did in the masked ball scenes. Inspired.


I love Leonard Cohen. I'd even go as far as saying I've always preferred his music/poetry to Bob Dylan's. And he's still producing good work.This film is based around a tribute concert of his music, performed by some of the "world's best singers" (as we are informed) including Nick Cave, Martha and Rufus Wainwright, Antony Hegerty and Jarvis Cocker, amongst others. The performances are cut with bits of interviews with Cohen himself and some impressions of him, given by artists performing the works. Unfortunately though, members of U2 - Bono and The Edge - have too much to say in this department. And to make things worse, U2 are also given the privilege of doing a separate, filmed performance - in a 'retro-cabaret' style stage setting - of one of the songs, with Cohen also singing a song to their backing, though only a part of it, which was most disappointing. U2 have to be one of the most over-rated, over-represented groups ever, so their presence here seems completely superfluous. Also, what I love about Leonard Cohen's songs is that they deal with the emotional realm - uncertainty, longing, self-reflection, sensuality, pain, guilt etc - themes that are explored poetically and usually ambiguously. They are like unsolved fables that contain a genuine air of mystery. Yet, Cohen's search for meaning, as revealed in this film, kind of tainted this mystery, especially since he is now 'at peace' (so to speak) via his relationship with Buddhism, which kind of wrapped the whole movie up a little disappointingly.