Tuesday, 19 June 2012

Secular immortality: New Humanist July/August 2012

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At New Humanist we don’t do themed issues, but in every issue themes seems to present themselves, popping up unexpectedly in several different places.

In the new July/August issue the themes are the problems of secularism, and the desire to live forever. On the former we have Kenan Malik’s amazing step-by-step guide to religious freedom. Put that way it sounds abstract, but it’s actually very concrete and practical, providing the clear ethical logic behind some great dilemmas: should states ban the burqa? Should employees be allowed to wear religious symbols at work? Should the Church of England allow gay marriage? In the piece Malik suggests that it is incoherent and prejudiced to expect religious people to leave their religion at home. This seems to have become something of a secularist demand, but Malik is not alone in thinking it does not stand up to scrutiny. In his opinion piece in this issue, Richard Smyth also dismisses the insistence on privatising faith – far better, he says, to have faith out in the public sphere so we can argue with it.

The arguments of transhumanists – those who would like to use science to enhance humanity, defeat disease and potentially live forever – are much in evidence these days. In this issue Adam Smith provides a handy guide to the different groups trying to perfect mankind (with wonderful satirical drawing by Martin Rowson). Elsewhere transhumaist ideas pop up philosophical superstar Bruno Latour’s book The Cult of the Factish Gods, reviewed for us by Jonathan Rée, and in our Q&A with the prolific author Iain Banks, who has invented his very own transhumanist civilisation, The Culture, in his sci-fi novels. In our cover story this time, Julian Baggini goes in search of the sources of secular hope – do we have to give up hope if we don't do God? The outlandish optimism of transhumanism rates a rather scathing review from him, though he does find other reasons to be cheerful.

All this, plus: an assessment of how Mitt Romney's Mormonism will play with America's Republican base, how Snow White reflects us, Clive Stafford Smith on a real life Miami murder mystery, and a profile of the atheist basketball superstar John Amaechi.

The magazine hits the newsstands this coming Thursday, but to make life easier why not subscribe? We'll even make you an offer you can't refuse – follow this link and get the next three issues for just £1 (order by phone and request the July issue to make sure your sub starts with that).

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