Wednesday, 24 December 2008

Advent Podcasts Day 24: Richard Dawkins

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We made it. A podcast for every day of Advent, giving you a daily dose of reason in the build up to Christmas. And who better to round things off than Richard Dawkins, who explains which scientist he would like to have a Christmas-style celebration around. Think of it as an alternative Christmas message - it may be the podcast for the 24th, but you can always play it on Christmas Day (see it as the perfect replacement for the Queen's speech, if you're of a treasonous persuasion). You can download the file for your MP3 players or listen with this player:






I'd like to take this opportunity to thank Robin Ince who, on top of organising the Nine Lessons comedy shows, has recorded many of these podcasts. You can hear the rest by visiting this page. We''ll have loads more great audio content coming up in 2009, so make sure you don't miss out by doing one of the following:
Merry Christmas.

[Podcast music by Andrea Rocca]

Tuesday, 23 December 2008

Advent Podcasts Day 23: Dara O'Briain

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At the Nine Lessons and Carols shows, Robin Ince joked that they were his "folly". And these Advent Podcasts, another joint venture between Robin and us, could easily have been this blogger's folly. 24 podcasts? One for every day? Edited and uploaded while simultaneously working on producing the Jan/Feb issue of New Humanist? Surely it wasn't possible? Or was it?

Yes it was - we opened with Stephen Fry, and since then contributors have included Dave Gorman, Alexei Sayle, Eddie Izzard, Ricky Gervais and many more. And now we're on to the final two - I'm giving you one today, and the final Christmas Eve edition, from a certain Professor Richard Dawkins, is sitting on my desk recorded, edited, saved to a memory stick and ready for upload tomorrow.

Today we're delighted to give you comedian Dara O'Briain, talking to Robin Ince. They were recording backstage at the Hammersmith Apollo during Sunday's Nine Lessons, and you'll notice they're rudely interrupted by Ricky Gervais:






You can also download the file for your MP3 players, and catch up on all the podcasts here. We're sure you won't want to miss out on Dawkins tomorrow, so make sure you do one of the following:
[Podcast music by Andrea Rocca]

A Cruel December: Crick and O'Brien die

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In just two days - December 18 and 19 - the Rationalist Association (which publishes new Humanist) lost two dedicated supporters. We celebrate Conor Cruise O'Brien and Sir Bernard Crick: two great, original and also irascible rationalists.

Monday, 22 December 2008

Advent Podcast Day 22: Philip Jeays

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There's a twist in the Advent tale for day 22 – we've just finished our three fantastic Nine Lessons and Carols for Godless People shows in London, and one of the performers, singer-songwriter Philip Jeays, has very kindly provided us with the song he performed at the show, "Death Bed" (just in case your kids are around, be warned the song features some colourful language):






You can also download the podcast. "Death Bed" comes from Philip's album The Ballad of Ruben Garcia. You can learn more about his music by visiting his official website.

There are just 2 more days to go in this series, and we have two very special guests lined up for to see out Advent. I'm not giving them away right now, but to give you a clue they were two of the biggest draws at our Nine Lessons shows. You can hear all the podcasts so far here, and do one of the following to make sure you don't miss out:
[Podcast music by Andrea Rocca]

Christmas shopping...

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It's the last day of work before Xmas and we're finishing the next issue of New Humanist, so just time to share this clip quickly. Christina Martin sent it to me, and it's a very amusing item from Russell Brand's Ponderland Xmas special, involving a vicar who just doesn't quite get it:

Sunday, 21 December 2008

Advent Podcasts Day 21: Tim Minchin

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Today's Advent Podcast comes from comedian and musician Tim Minchin, who's been closing the Nine Lessons shows this week with his fantastic beat poem "Storm". Robin Ince grabbed him in the bar after Thursday's show, and we assure you it's pure coincidence, and a fitting tribute to the man, that both Minchin and Josie Long chose to talk about Kurt Vonnegut:






You can also download the file. Make sure you don't miss out on the last few Advent Podcasts:
[Podcast music by Andrea Rocca]

Saturday, 20 December 2008

Advent Podcasts Day 20: Josie Long

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I just went to Tesco and they were playing Christmas songs, which began to grate on me after approximately 2 minutes, so what better anti-dote than getting home and teeing up the latest instalment of our godless Advent Podcasts. Today we have comedian Josie Long, who Robin Ince recorded backstage at our first Nine Lessons show the other night:






You can also download the file. Coming tomorrow: Tim Minchin. Make sure you don't miss out:
[Podcast music by Andrea Rocca]

Friday, 19 December 2008

Advent Podcasts Day 19: Ann Druyan

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Behind today's pod window we have a very special guest. We're currently in the middle of hosting our Nine Lessons and Carols shows with Robin Ince, and part of the reason Robin organised them in the first place was because of his passion for the work of the great Carl Sagan. Luckily for us he's in touch with Sagan's wife, Ann Druyan, who along with her late husband is one of the great popularisers of science. Earlier this week we recorded her over the phone (which is why you'll have to forgive the slightly fuzzy sound quality), talking about which scientists she'd like to celebrate at this time of year:






You can also download Ann's podcast. We're very close to the end of Advent now - coming up in the next few days are Josie Long, Tim Minchin and some more great guests. Don't miss out:
[Podcast music by Andrea Rocca]

Thursday, 18 December 2008

Advent Podcasts Day 18: Mark Steel

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With less than a week to go until Jesus' birthday, we're well and truly on the Advent Podcasts home straight. Today: comedian Mark Steel:






You can also download the file. Hear all our other Advent Podcasts, which include Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant, Stephen Fry, Dave Gorman, Alexei Sayle, Eddie Izzard and many more, by following this link, and make sure you don't miss out on future podcasts by doing one of the following:
[Podcast music by Andrea Rocca]

Wednesday, 17 December 2008

Advent Podcasts Day 17: Marcus Brigstocke

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If this blog seems to have become an Advent Podcast vehicle, that's because we're producing the next issue of New Humanist with an earlier-than-usual deadline because of the celebration of the brith of some guy, gearing up for the Nine Lessons and Carols shows from tomorrow and knocking out Advent Podcasts at the rate of one per day. So, in short, it's all happening, and it's all very exciting. And who needs regular blog posts when we have comedian Marcus Brigstocke talking to Robin Ince for the 17 December Advent Podcast:






You can download the file too if you like. Hear all our other Advent Podcasts, which include Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant, Stephen Fry, Dave Gorman, Alexei Sayle, Eddie Izzard and many more, by following this link, and make sure you don't miss out on future podcasts by doing one of the following:
[Podcast music by Andrea Rocca]

Tuesday, 16 December 2008

Advent Podcasts Day 16: Laurie Taylor

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Today, on this the 16th day of Advent/December, we bring you Professor Laurie Taylor – presenter of Radio 4's Thinking Allowed and Commissioning Editor of a certain magazine named New Humanist:






You can also download the file if you like. Hear all our other Advent Podcasts, which include Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant, Stephen Fry, Dave Gorman, Alexei Sayle, Eddie Izzard and many more, by following this link, and make sure you don't miss out on future podcasts by doing one of the following:
[Podcast music by Andrea Rocca]

Monday, 15 December 2008

Advent Podcasts Day 15: Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant

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As promised, on the 15th day of Advent we bring you a podcast from two men who pioneered the medium – Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant. I doubt you want any further introduction from me, so let's get straight to it:






You can also download the file if you want to. If you've just landed on this page and are new to New Humanist, we've been doing this all month so make sure you catch up with all the other podcasts, featuring Eddie Izzard, Stephen Fry, Dave Gorman, Simon Singh, Ben Goldacre and many more. And we're not just podcasters (that's our bit on the side). Our big operation is producing New Humanist magazine, which we'll happily send you a free trial copy of if you fill in this form.

To make sure you don't miss out on future podcasts, do one of the following:
[Podcast music by Andrea Rocca]

Sunday, 14 December 2008

Advent Podcasts Day 14: Eddie Izzard

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It's time to get very excited as we bring you the 14th instalment of our Advent Podcasts, namely surreal comedian Eddie Izzard talking to Robin Ince about the smell of 17th century scientists and other aspects of science that interest him. Let's face it, you won't want to miss this one. Download it or listen with this player:






And presumably you won't want to be missing tomorrow's edition -Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant in a podcast double. Check back or make sure you do one of the following:
And if you've missed some of the others, catch up by visiting this page.

[Podcast music by Andrea Rocca]

Saturday, 13 December 2008

Advent Podcasts Day 13: Andrew Collins

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As if I didn't make this point last week, we don't just stop Advent podcasting because it's the weekend. It's day 13, which would be scary if a) it was a Friday, not a Saturday, and b) this wasn't a rationalist blog. As it is there's nothing scary about it, and we're bringing you the journalist and broadcaster Andrew Collins chatting to Robin Ince about the greatest philosopher of modern times . . . Tony Hancock. Download it or listen here:






For the uninitiated, which as a relative youngster largely includes me, I've included a YouTube clip of Hanock below. I don't know if it's a classic clip, as I've never seen much, but there's loads of Hancock on YouTube so maybe you could share other clips in comments on this post.

Also, you may want to remember that in the podcasts we have Eddie Izzard tomorrow and Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant on Monday. You won't want to miss out, so do one of the following:
And if you've missed some of the others, catch up by visiting this page.

[Podcast music by Andrea Rocca]

Friday, 12 December 2008

Advent Podcasts Day 12: Ben Miller

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As we enter the home straight of Advent, if that's a way in which people like to think of Advent, to mark the 12th day we have actor Ben Miller, who British readers will know from loads of TV programmes, including the hugely popular sketch show Armstrong and Miller. He's talking to Robin Ince about a little know physicist named Albert Einstein. Download it or just listen here:






We don't want to get you too excited, but you might want to get excited about some of the upcoming Advent Podcasts, including Eddie Izzard on Sunday, and Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant on Monday. Don't miss out – do one of the following:
And if you've missed some of the others, catch up by visiting this page.

[Podcast music by Andrea Rocca]

Christmas cheer

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We've been trying to bring some to you with our Advent Podcasts, but we're afraid we can't quite equal the good folks at the Westboro Baptist Church, who are looking to put the following message next to the nativity scene at the Washington state capitol building:
"You'd better watch out, get ready to cry, You'd better go hide, I'm telling you why 'cuz Santa Claus will take you to hell. He is your favorite idol, you worship at his feet, but when you stand before your God He won't help you take the heat. So get this fact straight: you're feeling God's hate, Santa's to blame for the economy's fate, Santa Claus will take you to hell."
Look at our picture of him. Now fear him. . . Anyhow, this ridiculous turn of events is part of an ongoing saga over the display of a nativity scene at the capitol building. It seems that separation of church and state means that if the Washington state government are going to allow a nativity on their premises, they have to allow, and at least consider, the display of competing viewpoints. As a result atheist signs have been displayed, including this message from the Freedom From Religion Foundation:
At this season of the winter solstice may reason prevail. There are no gods, no devils, no angels, no heaven or hell. There is only our natural world. Religion is but myth and superstition that hardens hearts and enslaves minds.
Of course counter-signs hitting back at atheism have appeared, and at one point the atheist sign was stolen, before turning up again at a Seattle radio station. All this means the state has to consider any request for a display, however ridiculous. They're currently looking at Festivus and Flying Spaghetti Monster messages, and also the Westboro Baptist Church dose of goodwill.

Just one more thing. I can sort of understand the whole false idol problem the WBC might have with Father Christmas, but blaming him for the state of the economy. I think he'd plead not guilty to that one.

A wonderful Stephen Green update

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Yesterday I begrudgingly reported on how Stephen Green had managed to raise a Christian army of over 200 people to protest outside Patrick Jones' poetry reading at the Welsh Assembly in Cardiff.

Fortunately, for us, it does get better. Reader Greg, who's been keeping us up to date on proceedings, has just commented on my last related post with news, from Welsh paper the Western Mail, of what happened at the launch of Jones' book Darkness Is Where The Stars Are at Cardiff's Borders store later in the day:
Only three protesters gathered outside including Christian Voice leader Stephen Green, who was thrown out of the store by security guards after refusing to leave.
Excellent. Back to Stephen Christian "Lone" Voice Green, then.

[Thanks again Greg]

Thursday, 11 December 2008

Advent Podcasts Day 11: Chris Addison

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Today we bring you Robin Ince in conversation with comedian and The Thick Of It actor Chris Addison, who says he'd like to celebrate some popularisers of science, particularly the '70s and '80s children's TV presenter Johnny Ball. You can listen with this platyer or download the file if you want to:






Make sure you don't miss out on our podcasts by doing one of the following:
And if you've missed some of the others, catch up by visiting this page.

[Podcast music by Andrea Rocca]

Protest outside the Welsh Assembly as Patrick Jones reads his poems

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Perhaps Stephen Green can muster a more formidable army of God than we previously thought (that's them there on the right), with 250 Christians reported to have protested outside the Welsh Assembly as the poet Patrick Jones read his work inside this lunchtime. It seems they didn't live up to Green's expectations though, with him having spent the past month insinuating they'd cause disruption and even trouble, as they held up a few placards and sang some hymns.

One reader in Wales emailed us a few minutes ago updating us on the situation. Here's what he had to say:
Here's the latest on the Patrick Jones story in Wales - he read several poems in the National Assembly this lunchtime, a local actress Stacey Daley read the "blasphemous" one, called "Hymn". The carols and hymns outside were quite pleasant - very festive. But these were interspersed with Stephen Green amongst others on a step ladder.
Stephen Green on a step ladder. Now there's a sight we'd like to see.

[Thanks Greg]

A peek inside the Creation Museum

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Here's a nice bit of work from the Secular Alliance of Indiana University, which I found via the Friendly Atheist blog.

The Secular Alliance decided to take a day out to the preposterous Creation Museum in Kentucky, and in the process produced a very well-made mini documentary. The best thing about it is that you get to see lots of the absurd exhibits the place uses to carry out its intellectual deception. It'd be hilarious, if it wasn't for the fact that lots of children get taken there:


SAIU trip to the Creation Museum from Secular Alliance on Vimeo.

Wednesday, 10 December 2008

Advent Podcasts Day 10: Martin Rowson

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Today we bring you Martin Rowson, cartoonist for our magazine (the cartoon on the advent calendar to the right is by him), as well as the Guardian and many other publications. He introduces you to the work of anthropologist Christopher Boehm, who in his book Hierarchy in the Forest came to the amazing conclusion that humans are naturally egalitarian creatures. Download it or listen with this player:






Make sure you don't miss out on our podcasts by doing one of the following:
And if you've missed some of the others, catch up by visiting this page.

[Podcast music by Andrea Rocca]

Disagreements over American fundamentalism

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For our current issue we asked James Crabtree, a senior editor at Prospect who previously worked for the Obama campaign, to review the latest book by Jeff Sharlet, a leading US commentator on religion who you may know as the editor of the excellent Revealer website.

The book was The Family: The Secret Fundamentalism at the Heart of American Power. It's had some very complimentary reviews in the States (see snippets here), but Crabtree wasn't so impressed, calling it a "half-convincing conspiracy yarn". In reaction, Sharlet wasn't impressed by Crabtree's negative review, and wrote us a response which we've just put up on our site.

Have you read the book? Who's right? You can let us know by commenting on this post.

Tuesday, 9 December 2008

Advent Podcasts Day 9: Ben Goldacre

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Told you we were going with the scientists for a few days. Today we bring you none other than Ben Goldacre, doctor and writer of the Guardian's acclaimed Bad Science column. Of course there's no place for bad science in our Advent pod, so here we have him talking about how he'd like to celebrate someone who pioneered some very good science:






If you wish, you can also download this instalment. Make sure you don't miss out on our podcasts by doing one of the following:
And if you've missed some of the others, catch up by visiting this page.

[Podcast music by Andrea Rocca]

Bush on religion, creationism

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It's a shame you only get to know these things at the very end of a presidency – in an interview with ABC George W Bush has shed some light on his religious beliefs, and if you take his word for it they're not quite as extreme as you may have thought. It turns out God didn't tell him to attack Iraq, and he's not a creationist per se:

I think evolution can - you're getting me way out of my lane here. I'm just a simple president. But it's, I think that God created the earth, created the world; I think the creation of the world is so mysterious it requires something as large as an almighty and I don't think it's incompatible with the scientific proof that there is evolution.

No, I'm not a literalist, but I think you can learn a lot from [the Bible].

"Just a simple president". Don't underplay yourself, George. I can't help thinking that a similar interview with Sarah Palin during the election campaign would have been nice. Or frightening, depending on what she said of course.

Monday, 8 December 2008

Advent Podcasts Day 8: Simon Singh

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The comedians have been out in force on the Advent Podcasts in the last few days, so now it's time for some scientists. Today we bring you the science writer and broadcaster Simon Singh, who'll be appearing at our Nine Lessons shows later this month (you can download the file here if you like):






Make sure you don't miss out on our podcasts by doing one of the following:
And if you've missed some of the others, catch up by visiting this page.

[Podcast music by Andrea Rocca]

Poetry book launch with added security

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Remember the Stephen Green-generated fuss over the launch of Welsh poet Patrick Jones' new book Darkness Is Where The Stars Are? Well you may also remember we reported on how Borders have stepped in to host the launch in place of Waterstones, who cancelled it following implied threats from Green.

As well as being a very clever way to seem braver than your high street rivals, Borders' move is of course good news for free speech and we're pleased to be able to confirm that the launch is indeed going ahead at their Cardiff branch on Thursday evening. It is, however, a book launch with an added twist because, seemingly due to a fear of disturbances by Stephen Green and his army of Christian evangelists consisting of, well, pretty much just him, the invitations read as follows:

"Please note that in order to make sure that security for this event is not compromised and to ensure that the launch is a celebratory party, guests will only be admitted with a valid invitation and proof of ID – one invitation per guest. Please print the attached invitation and bring it with you. Borders retains the right to refuse or remove permission to attend this event."
Green must be very proud of himself. And he's planning on causing some trouble at both this event and the readings at the Welsh Assembly, having sent this email, which I found on MediaWatchWatch, to his "supporters", which presumably means he emailed himself:

We are holding a Christian witness outside Ty Hywel from 11.30am and we shall hold another outside Borders (The David Morgan Building, 14 The Hayes, Cardiff, CF10 1AH) at 7.30pm. Both events are ticket only, but there is scope to apply for tickets by email. I am known, but you are probably not!

For the Assembly event, email: Helen****e@wales.gov.uk Say how much you would like an invitaton to the event, but don’t say you wish to protest! For the Borders event, email Patrick Jones on janey****1@btinternet.com

Say whatever is needed to get alongside and get a ticket without bearing false witness. You cannot give a false name for either event as ID will be required.

So Onward, Christian soldiers, Stand up, stand up for Jesus! If you are successful in getting a ticket, let me know urgently, as this is a spiritual battle and tactics among those with tickets will need to be co-ordinated.

Hmm. All very underhand in a not-very-scary way. However, as usual with Green it's more laughable than anything else. My favourite bit? He doesn't want anyone to "bear false witness", but only because you need ID to get in.

Nine Lessons in the Sunday Times

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Yesterday's Sunday Times had a nice feature on Nine Lessons and Carols for Godless People, the rational Christmas shows we begin hosting in a little over a week's time. It's mostly an interview with organiser Robin Ince, but it also suggests that British comedians have suddenly gone all atheist and started going after faith – great, but haven't they been doing that forever?

My favourite bit is this quote from someone previewing the shows on a website:
"[Nine Lessons will be] taking the piss out of faith of all kinds at the holiest time of the year. In many ways, it’s a tribute to the Church of England’s genial tolerance that this staggeringly offensive event can take place with so little complaint (you certainly can’t imagine them doing the same for Ramadan)."
And Robin's answer to that?
"In a way, it’s unfortunate we picked Christmas first. We definitely need to do a rational Ramadan."
As he said in our Nine Lessons feature for the current issue of the magazine, "When we say we’re having a Godless celebration, that means no god at all, from any religion. Not one. It’s not about having a go at religion – it’s going to be a proper celebration; of the Big Bang, of evolution theory and of comedy."

It's going to be great. And in case you haven't noticed, we're building up to it with our Advent Podcasts. Catch up on them all if you've missed out so far, and watch out for the latest instalment later today.

Sunday, 7 December 2008

Advent Podcasts Day 7: Natalie Haynes

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What's that Reverend? You shouldn't podcast on the Sabbath? Whatever - we've got comedian and writer Natalie Haynes in the 7th instalment of our Advent Podcasts. Download it or listen with this player:






[Podcast music by Andrea Rocca]

Saturday, 6 December 2008

Advent Podcasts Day 6: Dave Gorman

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There's no rest when you're Advent Podcasting. It may be Saturday but it's also the 6th day of Advent which, when you don't really care about the whole religious angle, could only mean that we have comedian and broadcaster Dave Gorman talking to Robin Ince. Beats a stale bit of chocolate or a crappy picture of a snowman any day. Download it or listen with this player:






Catch up with the other five podcasts - Stephen Fry, PZ Myers, Robin Ince, Christina Martin and Alexei Sayle - by clicking through to this page where we've helpfully grouped them all together. To make sure you don't miss out on forthcoming installments, you can do one of the following:
[Podcast music by Andrea Rocca]

Friday, 5 December 2008

Advent Podcast Day 5: Alexei Sayle

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A real treat for the 5 December – download or click on the player below to hear which scientist Alexei Sayle (who Laurie Taylor interviewed for our current issue) would celebrate at Christmas and what science-related present he'd like to receive. You may be surprised and even slightly scared:






Just because it's the weekend we wont be suspending Advent (we wouldn't, even if we had the power to do so). Check back on Saturday and Sunday to find out who's behind the next two windows. Make sure you don't miss out:

[Podcast music by Andrea Rocca]

The death of a Patriarch and a look at religion in Russia

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Reading of the death of Patriarch Alexy II, the head of the Russian Orthodox Church, reminded me of our March/April cover story, in which Michael Binyon, who was Moscow correspondent for The Times from 1979-82, took a look at the relationship between the Russian government, i.e. Putin, and the Orthodox Church.

It's well worth revisiting in light of the Patriarch's death. As Binyon wrote, since the fall of communism religion has been back in full swing in Russia, with the full support of Putin. The Church tows the government line, and in exchange the Patriarch has the ear of the powers that be. Now the Church will have to choose a new Patriarch, and you can rest assured that person will come with the Kremlin's seal of approval.

Thursday, 4 December 2008

Advent Podcasts Day 4: Christina Martin

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21 days to go until Christmas, not that that means anything to us atheists, who are busy taking the Christ out of Christmas in revenge for something or other. One of the ways we're doing this is by putting up a series of Advent Podcasts (aggressive stuff, we know) in which comedians and scientists say who they'd like to celebrate on 25 December instead of Jesus H. Today we bring you stand-up comedian Christina Martin, the creator of our hugely successful God Trumps. You can listen to Christina via this link or simply click play here:






If you're new to the podcasts, already this week we've had Stephen Fry, PZ Myers and Robin Ince, and we've helpfully created a page where you can catch up on all of these. Coming up in the next few days we have Dave Gorman, Simon Singh, Alexei Sayle and many more, so to make sure you dont miss out you can keep checking back or do the following:

[Podcast music by Andrea Rocca]

Nativity in a bus shelter – sounds familiar...

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So the Churches Advertising Network are worried that no one actually understands the nativity story any more. How do they plan to make us understand? By putting out this ad (the one on the left, you can see it bigger here) featuring the whole thing taking place in a bus shelter.

Understand it better? No me neither. But I'm pretty sure I understood it in the first place. And if the son of God had just been born in a bus shelter, I'd probably just carry on walking once it was clear that enough people were providing maternity care, as I'm no midwife and I'd just feel like I was intruding. After all, Joseph would probably have enough to deal with, particularly the whole not actually being the father thing, without me getting involved.

This ad has even made it into the news this week, somehow. Perhaps that's because it's just so very original. But there was something about it that seemed familiar to me. Hadn't I blogged about a nativity scene in a bus shelter this time last year (see the image on the right)? I mean, I'm not saying they've copied the idea, but isn't there a chance they've copied the idea?

Still, the ad is so newsworthy that they had some guy from the Advertising Network on to Breakfast News yesterday to talk about it. Thankfully they also had Atheist Bus Campaign creator Ariane Sherine on to counter him, as he whipped out the old in our PC-culture people are stopping us from celebrating Christmas for fear of offending absolutely everyone, which is a travesty as our society is founded on Judeo-Christian values argument.

Ariane does a nice job of debating him (to clarify, she meant to say the world would be more peaceful if there was more apathy towards religion, not less), and he pretty much defeats himself when he uses the following argument as proof for the existence of God:
"You can't prove everything. I don't understand how television works, but I believe it works."
Oh dear. Here's the clip:

Stephen Colbert rips in to an "Atheist Christmas"

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I've just seen this on Pharyngula and had to share it given what we've been up to with our Advent Podcasts and our Nine Lessons shows. US comedian Stephen Colbert expresses his distaste with atheists celebrating Christmas, taking a look at the cards they send and what might be in an atheist version of those nauseating annual family update letters. Flick to 3 mins for the atheist bit:

Wednesday, 3 December 2008

Advent Podcasts Day 3: Robin Ince

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Behind today's Advent window we have the comedian Robin Ince explaining which scientist he'd like to celebrate at this time of year, and which science-related present he'd like to receive.

Robin's love for science is the reason our Nine Lessons and Carols for Godless People shows are taking place at the end of this month (well, that and the fact that Vanessa Feltz and Stephen Green wound him up on telly last year), and the Nine Lessons shows are part of the reason we're doing these Advent Podcasts, so Robin's instalment will shed some light on how we came to have three sold-out London shows and a series of 24 podcasts. You can download it or listen to it through the player below. Enjoy:





[Podcast music by Andrea Rocca]

Tuesday, 2 December 2008

Advent Podcasts Day 2: PZ Myers

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We're keeping our promise here in the blasphemy lab – it's day two of Advent so it's day two of our Advent Podcasts. Behind the window today is the American biologist and hugely popular blogger PZ Myers, who tells you which scientist he'd celebrate at this time of year and what science-related gift he'd like to receive (PZ wants something pretty cool – you'll want one too after you've heard him). Listen through the player below or by downloading the MP3 file. It's up to you:






With 22 days left in Advent we have plenty of big names left to reveal behind our windows, so make sure you don't miss out by checking back regularly to the blog and signing up to the podcast in one of the following ways:
We want to hear your choices: Which scientist or philosopher do you think deserves a Winterval celebration day, and what science-related gift would you like to open on the 25th? Let us know by commenting on this post, and we'll do a round up of the best ones.

[Podcast music by Andrea Rocca]

Monday, 1 December 2008

Advent Podcasts Day 1: Stephen Fry

Dear reader, our blog has moved to a new address.

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How could that headline not have caught your eye? In a special treat to coincide with our Nine Lessons and Carols for Godless People shows later this month, each day during Advent we'll be bringing you a short podcast in which someone from a stellar selection of comedians and scientists explains which scientist or philosopher they would like to celebrate each year as a rational substitute for Jesus, as well as what scientific Winterval gift they'd most like to receive.

In the coming days we'll be bringing you Alexei Sayle, Dave Gorman, PZ Myers and many more, but who better to get things started than the actor and broadcaster Stephen Fry? You can have a listen by clicking play on the shiny embedded player below or by downloading the file for yourself, if you like.






To accompany this first installment, our editor Caspar Melville has recorded a short clip introducing our Advent Podcasts, letting you know what to expect in the run up to 24 December. To ensure you don't miss out on the rest of our advent treats, be sure to either:
[Podcast music by Andrea Rocca]

A miracle cure for financial hardship

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I'm always thankful to New Humanist contributor Christina Martin for the off-the-wall religious stories she sends me – assuming there are lots of people out there looking for them, I'd say few can find them like Christina. Which brings me to today's story, which frankly is just plain weird. It took me a few minutes to work out exactly what the story was, but I think I've cracked it, so here goes:

Two years ago an image of Jesus appeared in a "doggy door" (which I can only assume is the canine equivalent of a cat flap) in a family's house in California. The holy hole created lots of good luck for the family, including fixing their ice machine, but then the man of the house, Roger Bowman, became a casualty of the financial crisis and lost his job. Now he's planning on selling the lucky Christ-door on Ebay at a starting price of $990 in order to help his family through hard times. Oh, and before Jesus appeared on the door Bowman was planning on having one of the dogs put down, so the only reason they're still alive is because of JC.

Told you it was weird. And if you visit this page on US Ebay you can have a look at the listing and even buy it yourself. It's worth a look if only because it contains the most elaborate and absurd item info I've ever seen on Ebay including, bizarrely, a bit of advice on dog training.