Thursday, 30 August 2012

Why is a secular magazine interested in what believers think?

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On occasion, as regulars readers will know, New Humanist publishes articles criticising atheism, humanism or secularism. Sometimes these are written by people who believe in god. In the past I have commissioned articles from philosopher Roger Scruton, a practising Anglican, on why children a should get religious instruction, and philosopher Mary Midgely, a part-time churchgoer, on why humanism is futile. In the current issue we have the writer Francis Spufford, author of the new book Unapologetic: Why Despite Everything Christianity Can Still Make Suprising Emotional Sense, on what the faithful and the faithless have in common, and how atheism is undermined by its own self-righteousness.

But why would a magazine dedicated to science, evidence, humanism and secularism be publishing such things? Surely, you might ask, New Humanist should be a faith free zone? I don't think so. I have always believed that it's important to hear all views – we misuse or undervalue reason if we don't test it against all the arguments, the best we can find, and I think that, though religion in my view fails the reason test, the real enemy is dogma and complacency, something of which atheists and humanists can be just as guilty as anyone else. Of course there is also something of the calculated provocation behind these editorial decisions – we want to stir it up and prod our readers to action, and in this respect Spufford's piece has hit the mark. We've already had many letters about it (to be published next issue) and it is already being widely discussed online – the evolutionary biologist and atheist Jerry Coyne took the time to refute Spufford's argument in some detail on his blog.

I found much to disagree with in Spufford's piece, but also much that to my mind raised important questions, and some very nice writing too. When he challenges atheists, for example, to be more upfront about the emotional content of their atheism, and charges that for many the point of their non-belief seems to be "a live and hostile relationship with  believers" which permits a "delicious self-righteous anger", I think he makes a valid point which needs careful defending.

This evidently does not apply to all atheists – as many responses have argued – but a brief survey of secular comment threads or Twitter revels that it certainly applies in some cases. We professional atheists know this as well as anyone, and to deny it is dishonest. We should be ready to acknowledge that non-belief can become dogmatic and self-righteous, and when it does it fails the reason test and should be challenged.

Maybe you think I've gone soft on religion. Perhaps even more so when I tell you then I was at the Christian festival Greenbelt this past weekend, giving a talk on the sources of secular hope (based on this). After the talk one of the questioners said that he thought I was clearly on the path to Christian faith and bet me £20 that in a few years I'd come over to their side. Bloody cheek. I replied that there was no chance of that, because I didn't consider that I lacked something that he had, it was more like he, and all believers, have something that I find an utter mystery, like a beige sofa.

It was quite a fascinating event. Twenty thousand Christians in wellies (it rained biblically the day before), very nice, very, very earnest. I overhead many conversations about Jesus, and eavesdropped while two 18-ish girls talked in some depth about how they had misunderstood the true meaning of God's love and how their new understanding would help inform "their ministry". Weird! Despite the familiar Glastonbury-style trappings – lots of do-gooding causes and ethnic tat – it was clearly a very different kind of festival from the norm. I was shocked to see that there was only one place you could buy a beer and none of the young people were on drugs. (Read Robin Ince's views from the Greenbelt here). There were clearly all kinds of Christians there, and atheists too, and to dismiss them all as deluded fools would be wrong as well as boringly predictable. My conversations with many of them were genuinely interesting (of course Greenbelt represents the most liberal enlightened wing of faith), good natured and, well, terribly nice.

Put simply I am an implacable opponent of religious institutions which seek to gain or retain an unjustified foothold in our public culture, law, education or political system. But in terms of personal faith its not my business to tell people what to believe and I find it interesting – and often mysterious, and sometime, yes, plain old ridiculous – what they believe and why. Which is why we have interviewed the Rev Richard Coles and Bishop Richard Holloway and Terry Eagleton. And why I published Spufford, so do read it, have an honest think about what he says and let us know your thoughts in the comments.

Wednesday, 29 August 2012

Circumcision: time to cut it out?

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Ever since a Regional Court in the German city of Cologne ruled against it in June, the practice of male circumcision has remained a highly controversial issue.

As the German authorities considered how to respond to the court's decision, which ruled that circumcision of a child constitutes constitutes "bodily harm", some hospitals in Austria and Switzerland suspended the practice, while newspapers across Europe published impassioned arguments from commentators on both sides of the debate.

Meanwhile across the Atlantic, the American Academy of Pediatrics has just this week released a report concluding that "the medical benefits outweigh the risks of the procedure". However, while a positive report from a professional medical association could be viewed as a ringing endorsement of circumcision, the supposed health benefits are the subject of much debate among medical experts. The British Medical Association have stated that “the evidence concerning health benefits from non-therapeutic circumcision is insufficient for this alone to be a justification”, while on the more specific issue of whether circumcision can help reduce the spread of HIV, Brian Earp of Oxford University has concluded that the claim amounts to "bad science".

With the debate already raging when we were planning our new issue, we asked Toby Lichtig to investigate for us. Coming from a secular Jewish background, Toby is familiar with the persistence of circumcision as a cultural signifier – he's circumcised himself, and has debated the issue with members of his family who insist that circumcision is an important ritual milestone in the life of a Jewish boy.

Having concluded that he would not have a son of his own circumcised, in his piece for New Humanist Toby goes on to consider whether the practice ought to be banned by the authorities – is it a harmless ritual that may even have some health benefits, or an antiquated and dangerous procedure, forced on those too young to offer consent, with no place in the modern world?

Read Toby's piece over on our main website, and please do get involved in the debate in the comments.

Friday, 24 August 2012

Leonardo Da Vinci's Last Supper undergoes restoration

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Earlier this week, the Spanish pensioner Cecilia Gimenez stunned the art world with her beautiful restoration of a 19th-century fresco of Jesus Christ, having carried out the work on her own initiative after observing the deterioration of the piece in the Sanctuary of Mercy Church in Borja, near Zaragoza.

As you can see from this before-and-after representation, it truly is a marvellous piece of work, and it should come as no surprise to hear that it caught the eyes of the Catholic authorities in the Vatican, prompting them to invite Gimenez to assist in the restoration of the Church's vast collection of priceless sacred art.

Aware that time is of the essence in averting the deterioration of historic works, the Vatican despatched Gimenez to the monastery of Santa Maria delle Grazie in Milan, where she was instructed to begin restoring one of the most important pieces of all: Leonardo Da Vinci's The Last Supper. As you can see below, Gimenez's unique talents have ensured that future generations will have the opportunity to admire Da Vinci's masterpiece.

(I found this via a friend on Facebook, who had no idea of the original source, so unfortunately I have no one to credit. But if anyone does know who did this, let me know so I can credit them for their sterling work.)

Monday, 20 August 2012

View from America: A Model Secular Politician

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To coincide with the publication of his new book How to Be Secular: A Call to Arms for Religious Freedom (Houghton-Mifflin) we are posting a series of short films and blog posts by Jacques Berlinerblau, one of the most perceptive commentators on America’s religious and irreligious landscape.

In his sixth dispatch, he argues that New York's mayor Michael Bloomberg is America's best example of a secular politician.
The Secular Centre, Episode 6: A Model Secular Politician – Mayor Michael Bloomberg of New York

Very few American politicians have dared stare down the Religious Right. A rare (and highly instructive) case of one who did is Senator John McCain. Way back in 2000 “The Maverick” boldly denounced the “agents of intolerance” who had sabotaged his South Carolina primary campaign against a certain George W Bush. Of course, knowing where his bread was buttered, McCain eventually walked that one back. By his 2008 presidential run he was obediently and expediently spouting “Christian Nation” platitudes.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg of New York City, however, has yet to back down. Last September, for example, spokespersons on the Right drummed up a little controversy in the Big Apple. They charged that Bloomberg’s refusal to let religious (i.e., evangelical) clerics speak at the 9/11 memorial service constituted an assault on religious liberty. I should note that in ten years of commemorating the tragedy official clergy had usually not been invited to participate. The whole episode thus had the forced feeling of a war game for an increasingly probing, confident and swaggering Religious Right.

The mayor stood his ground (testily as you shall see in the video above) and stood for a core secular principle: a government cannot endorse one religion over any others.

His willingness to take on the powerful and well-funded Christian Right is such an oddity in American politics that it necessitates explanation. Maybe Bloomberg can stand firm because he presides over a city teeming with secularists. Maybe he can push back because he has generally maintained good relations with New York’s communities of faith.

Then again, maybe it's because he is one of the richest fellows in the country. Money talks (and eviscerates) in the American political process. Few un-secular individuals or groups can match the mayor’s personal resources; his vast wealth renders him fairly invulnerable.

More than any other US politician, New York mayor Michael
Bloomberg has stood up to the religious Right
Whatever the case may be, the Bloomberg administration is a case study in secular governance and sobriety. Last year the group American Atheists sued the city to have the “World Trade Center Cross” removed from a memorial commemorating the victims of the 9/11 attacks. Even though Bloomberg was named as a defendant in the suit (and supported the inclusion of the cross in the museum) he himself championed the right of the group to bring the case forward. In his own words: "This group of atheists, they're free in our country to not believe and not practice and we should defend their right to do that just as much as we should defend the right of every individual to practice and to believe."

Yet we should realize that secular forms of governance have their shortcomings and Bloomberg embodies these as well. At their worst, secular regimes have evinced a type of absolutism that tends to concentrate way too much power in the state. Bloomberg has brazenly banned smoking in public spaces. He has tried to limit the size of soft-drinks. The mayor has rallied against sodium levels in food at homeless shelters and recently launched a campaign against artificial baby formula.

He does this in the interest of public health and we should cut the civic-minded leader some slack. Less civic minded was his decision to grant himself a third term in 2009. At the time mayors were only allowed to serve two tours of duty. Bloomberg rammed through legislation making his eventual threepeat possible.

His considerable fortune, ostensibly, was exceedingly helpful here.

For better or for worse, Michael Bloomberg is America’s secular mayor par excellence. The next generation of secular politicians would be wise to emulate him on everything save that nasty absolutist streak.

Friday, 17 August 2012

Equal marriage is cause for celebration, but the fight for gay rights goes on

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With leading Catholics such as the Archbishop of Glasgow
Philip Tartaglia referring to equal marriage as a
"grotesque subversion", it's clear the fight for
gay rights has some way to go
This is a guest post by Emily Band

Provided my home country of picturesque hills and long-delayed tram projects hasn't been razed to the ground by divine fire and brimstone by the time this post is published, the Scottish government is planning on legalising same-sex marriage after a lengthy consultation with various sections of society.

A very common argument made against allowing same-sex marriage is the idea that all religious denominations will somehow be forced to offer this ceremony regardless of their decision on the matter. How many times can it be said that this is simply not true before this persistent myth is finally dispelled? Scotland's deputy first minister, Nicola Sturgeon, has mentioned this once more for good measure, and the government will soon be launching another consultation to consider any extra measures which need to be taken to guarantee freedom of speech.

In spite of these guaranteed protections for opposed religious denominations, a spokesman for the Catholic Church in Scotland has called the move "dangerous social experiment on a massive scale" and said that the church will be proven correct about the idea that "same-sex sexual relationships are detrimental to any love expressed within profound friendships". (“Profound friendships”, I should say, is the Catholic Church’s preferred euphemism for gay and lesbian relationships.) I'm sure an unspecified amount of time will tell, but I will point out that long-term gay and lesbian relationships are still very much alive and well in places such as Iceland, Canada and Spain after allowing couples to affirm their loving commitment to each other in a marriage ceremony.

These hostile reactions come at an interesting time, coinciding with the launch of a Parliamentary bill for the pardon of Alan Turing who was convicted in 1952 of then-illegal homosexual relations. It's worth taking a step back for a moment and reflecting on just how much things have changed: in 60 years gay people have changed from a sinister and criminal entity to individuals who the Scottish government finally wish to treat as equals to our heterosexual counterparts, despite pressure from some religious denominations.

I'm immensely grateful I've had the luck to grow up in a time and place where I don't live in fear of imprisonment or of the barbaric treatment suffered by Turing, but there are still forms of discrimination that affect lesbians, gay men and bisexuals which we would do well to be continually vigilant of, namely conversion and aversion therapies and homophobic bullying.

Bullying continues to remain a problem for many students across the UK – while the figure for lesbian, gay and bisexual students being bullied has fallen in recent years, 55 per cent is still unacceptably high. There are many students in this category who would no doubt appreciate continued support from government officials in spite of the anti-gay attitudes of senior religious leaders. After all, to describe the affirmation of same-sex relationships as a "grotesque subversion" and "meaningless", as Scotland’s leading Catholics have, is nothing more than playground bullying armed with a thesaurus. Free speech is a valuable gift, but we would be wise to use it with compassion and responsibility rather than using it for creating needless hatred and discrimination.

Make no mistake: there is still plenty of work to be done to reduce the often crude stereotypes about us, but the Scottish government's decision to legalise same-sex marriage is a bold and welcome move to many people in the UK and a much-needed antidote to the anti-gay legislation of the past. And I, for one, will gladly raise a glass to what I sincerely hope will be one of many steps on a productive, if lengthy, path towards achieving social equality and maybe someday a place where nobody is shamed by intolerance into growing up “hiding in the closet”.

Emily Band is a freelance journalist and blogger. She is currently studying physics with the Open University

Thursday, 16 August 2012

The case for assisted dying

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Tony Nicklinson
This afternoon, Tony Nicklinson (pictured, right), who is paralysed from the neck down as the result of a stroke in 2005, lost his High Court case to allow doctors to end his life without risk of prosecution. Announcing his intention to appeal against the ruling, Nicklinson said that he is "devastated" and "saddened that the law wants to condemn me to a life of increasing indignity and misery".

Nicklinson's is the latest case in which appeals for the right to die have been rejected by British courts, and comes against the background of a long-running campaign for a change in the law. Writing in the forthcoming September issue of New Humanist, the Professor of Geriatric Medicine Raymond Tallis, who also serves as Chair of Healthcare Professionals for Assisted Dying, makes a compelling case for why a change in the law is badly needed.
"The case for a law to legalise the choice of physician-assisted dying for mentally competent people with terminal illness, who have expressed a settled wish to die, is very easily stated. Unbearable suffering, prolonged by medical care, and inflicted on a dying patient against their will, is an unequivocal evil. What’s more, the right to have your choices supported by others, to determine your own best interest, when you are of sound mind, is sovereign. And this is accepted by a steady 80-plus per cent of the UK population in successive surveys.
Even so, after decades of campaigning, the law has yet to change. How can this be? The answer is simple: there has been a highly organised opposition by individuals and groups, largely with strong religious beliefs that forbid assistance to die."
Tallis goes on to draw on the story of Dr Ann McPherson, his predecessor as Chair of Healthcare Professionals for Assisted Dying, whose excruciating death from pancreatic cancer that would have been unnecessary had she been able to end her life at a time of her choosing. Ultimately, Tallis's conclusion is a stark one – because of the religious objections of a minority, individuals like McPherson are forced to endure needless suffering. It is time for a change in the law, and polls frequently show that such a change would receive widespread public support.

The new issue is out next Thursday, 23 August, but in the meantime we've put Tallis's piece online. It's highly recommended reading.

Wednesday, 15 August 2012

Noah's Ark toys undermine Christianity, says prominent creationist

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With no shortage of creationism controversies raging here in the UK this summer, it would be easy to forget that the best stories from the wacky world of evolution denial usually come from the other side of the pond.

With that in mind, I'm grateful to the Friendly Atheist Hemant Mehta for reminding me that America's leading creationist Ken Ham is still out there, keeping an eye on the facts for all us sinners.

In a post on the website of his organisation Answers in Genesis, Ham has a new gripe – cartoon depictions of Noah's Ark. The problem, he says, is that they are just too unrealistic:
"Many times over the years, I have warned parents about using pictures of what we call “bathtub arks” with their children. Such pictures, usually with giraffes sticking out the top in a small unrealistic boat overloaded with animals, are sadly the norm in many Christian children’s books that deal with the topic of Noah and the Ark."
In case you're wondering what a "bathtub ark" looks like, here's Ham's example:

His post continues:
"I have warned parents that such pictures are 'cute but dangerous'. Why?

The secularists do all they can to mock God’s Word and in an effort to capture the hearts and minds of children so they will not believe the Bible and its saving message of the gospel. The secularists accuse Christians of believing fairy tales if they accept the Genesis account of Creation, Fall, and Flood as written—as true historical records. And really, when we allow children to think Noah’s Ark looked like one of these 'bathtub Arks', we are reinforcing the false idea that the account of the Ark was just a fairy tale.

Over the years, I’ve found many churches have “bathtub arks” depicted on the walls of their kindergarten area, in their children’s Sunday school classrooms, etc. In my writings, I plead with leaders in the church to remove these—what I consider to be dangerous to the spiritual well-being of children."
So what's the solution? How do we avoid creating a false impression as to the veracity of Noah's Ark:
"We need instead to show children that Noah’s Ark was a real ship—a great ship—with plenty of room to fit the land animal kinds, and seaworthy to survive a global Flood. That’s why at Answers in Genesis and in our materials, we show Noah’s Ark according to the dimensions in the Bible and as a real seaworthy ship. Let’s make an effort to “sink” the “bathtub arks” and make sure we use it as an illustration of a real ship of biblical dimensions."
 To avoid future confusion, Ham has provided an accurate representation of the ship:

So there you have it – let's put a stop to all those lubberly and un-navy-like depictions of Noah's Ark once and for all, and portray her as the fine seafaring vessel she really was!

(PS - and with this in mind, I wonder if Russell Crowe's forthcoming depiction of Noah will prove realistic enough for Ken Ham?)

Back to school with New Humanist: September issue out 23 August

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If it's seemed a little quiet on the blog lately, that's because we've been hard at work producing the September/October issue of the magazine, which hits the streets next Thursday, 23 August. Thanks to a combination of grit, determination and people doing their jobs, it was signed off last night, so I thought I'd give you a preview of what's in store.

With summer sadly nearing its end, one of the themes of the new issue is education: as universities prepare to open their doors for the new year, we talk to the Master of an establishment that will – controversially – be enrolling students for the very first time.

When the prominent humanist philosopher AC Grayling announced his plan to open a private, £18,000-a-year university – the New College of the Humanities – in June 2011, he quickly became the target of protests by student activists who were already outraged by the government's decision to raise public university fees to as much as £9,000 per year. Grayling was slammed in the media for betraying public education, and he took the decision to step aside as the British Humanist Association's incoming president due to the distraction of the protests.

Fast forward one year, and the New College project is very much on track, with academic staff on board (supplemented by some star names like Niall Ferguson, Linda Colley and Steven Pinker) and  students due to arrive at its Bloomsbury home in the autumn. Having been critical of Grayling's project last year, we decided to speak to the philosopher to put some of the tough questions and hear his side of the story – editor Caspar Melville went to meet him, and found Grayling in combative mood, ready to take on accusations that his college will help to entrench privilege in the British education system.

Is Grayling saving our universities, or killing them? Read the September issue of New Humanist to see what he has to say.

Elsewhere in the new issue, another theme that has emerged concerns religion and human rights. Where should we draw the line when religious freedom appears to tread on the rights of individuals? One open-and-shut case is forced marriage. The Home Office deals with more than 100 such cases per month and, as Sarah Ditum highlights in her excellent and shocking investigation, forcing someone to marry against their will is a form of domestic violence, and it must be stopped.

An issue that's less clear is circumcision – is it a dangerous abuse, or a harmless cultural signifier? We have a great piece on the debate by Toby Lichtig, who draws on the experience of discussing it within his own secular Jewish family to ask whether it's time the practice was outlawed.

And to complete our look at the clash between rights and religion, the Chair of Healthcare Professionals for Assisted Dying, Raymond Tallis, puts forward a powerful argument for why a small but vocal minority must no longer be allowed to inflict untold suffering on the terminally ill in the name of their religion.

Also in the September issue, James Gray goes through the wardrobe and pays a visit to the New Age enclave of Totnes, where amid the healers and homeopaths he meets the sceptics mounting a rational fightback.

Plus, if everything so far sounds like it's too firmly on the side of atheism and reason, we invite Francis Spufford, author of the forthcoming book Unapologetic: Why, Despite Everything, Christianity Can Still Make Surprising Emotional Sense, to tell the godless why they need to admit that they might just be wrong. (We look forward to throwing this one open to online debate in a couple of weeks!)

Oh, and if all this great content isn't enough, we've prepared you all a gift – a free double-sided back-to-college poster. On one side we have advice from some of our friends, including Philip Pullman, AL Kennedy, Ben Goldacre and Iain Banks, on what they learnt at university, while on the other Martin Rowson depicts the moment a fresher unpacks her belongings, and receives her first visits from the various student faith groups.

The magazine hits the newsstands next Thursday, 23 August, but to make life easier why not subscribe for just £27 per year?

Alternatively, you could subscribe to our fantastic iPad/iPhone app via Exact editions - you can download the app and preview it for free, then subscribe for just £1.99 a month or £9.99 a year if you like what you see. For non-Apple users, there's also our web subscription, which includes access to an Android app.

Thursday, 9 August 2012

View from America: Secular fowl play

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To coincide with the publication of his new book How to Be Secular: A Call to Arms for Religious Freedom (Houghton-Mifflin) we areposting a series of short films and blog posts by Jacques Berlinerblau, one of the most perceptive commentators on America’s religious and irreligious landscape.

In his fifth dispatch, he looks at how a dispute over gay marriage has led to some fowl play by US mayors.
The Secular Centre, Episode 5: The Chick-fil-A Affair in Secular Perspective

My best guess is that in the United Kingdom roiling national debates about the role of religion in public life are not usually triggered by Bible-thumpin’ men who own fast-food joints. Stateside, however, this is the odd reality we are currently enduring. Let me bring you up to speed.

For years the Cathy family, wealthy Southern Baptists who own the restaurant chain Chick-fil-A, has advocated against same-sex marriage by funding like-minded organisations. Just a few weeks back the president of the company, Dan Cathy, went on record as saying: “We are very much supportive of the family – the biblical definition of the family unit. We are a family-owned business, a family-led business, and we are married to our first wives. We give God thanks for that.”

He then added, helpfully: “I think we are inviting God’s judgement on our nation when we shake our fist at Him and say, ‘We know better than you as to what constitutes a marriage,’ and I pray God’s mercy on our generation that has such a prideful, arrogant attitude to think that we have the audacity to try to redefine what marriage is about.”

To use an Americanism, it was “game on!”. Mayors and public officials in Boston, Washington DC, Chicago and San Francisco all pushed back by indicating that the restaurant chain was not welcome in their cities.

Gay and lesbian activists called for a nationwide boycott of the company. Meanwhile conservative Faith and Values icons such as Mike Huckabee and Sarah Palin voiced support for the Evangelical-owned company and even scarfed down some bird for reporters and appreciative onlookers. (Interestingly, neither presidential campaign has said much about L’affaire Chick-fil-A. This is consistent with the Obama and Romney teams’ decision to lay off religious themes so far in this year’s election.)

In any case, insofar as the company’s views on homosexuality have been known for years, I don’t fully understand why Cathy’s provocations set off so many ructions in the past few weeks. Yet one thing I am at sure of – and at pains to point out in the video above – is that the aforementioned mayors are betraying the secular vision.

True, they may be well-intentioned; the scourge of homophobia must be combated.

But we should recall that the secular state, in its best theoretical reading, doesn’t punish beliefs. It grants its citizens complete psychic sovereignty. Secular states do, however, punish unlawful acts. And to this point Chick-fil-A has not engaged in actionable behaviours. Annoying and antiquated worldviews it has given us a plenty. But to this point, no behaviours that contravene the laws of the land.

It was New York’s Mayor Michael Bloomberg who clarified this for all and sundry. Although a proponent of same-sex marriage, Bloomberg understood his secular theory well enough to note that that it was wrong "to look at somebody's political views and decide whether or not they can live in the city, or operate a business in the city, or work for somebody in the city."

Wednesday, 1 August 2012

New Humanist Podcast August 2012: Transhumanists, Robin Ince and the Cult of Will Self

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Length: 29:06

In the August 2012 edition of the New Humanist podcast, editor Caspar Melville talks to two of the contributors from the July/August issue of the magazine, and look forward to the return of our annual seasonal jamboree Nine Lessons and Carols for Godless People.

First up (1:08), Caspar speaks to Adam Smith, author of our guide to the strange world of living together. He discusses the different groups – singularitarians, transhumanists, cryonicists – who aim to cheat death, as well as the sceptics who suggest their aspirations amount to little more than science fiction.

Next (13:46) Caspar talks to the novelist Sam Mills, who has spent the past few years building up a cult dedicated to the worship of the author Will Self. What exactly are they doing when they don bizarre robes and engage in "literary orgies"? What's the point of it all? Sam reveals all in the podcast.

Finally (23:55), in a look ahead to Nine Lessons and Carols for Godless People, which returns to London's Bloomsbury Theatre this December (16th-20th, 22nd, 23rd), we play a clip of stand-up from the man behind the annual phenomenon, Robin Ince. Keep your eye on our Twitter feed and blog, where we'll be announcing ticket details soons.

Podcast music by Andrea Rocca.

To listen to the podcast, which is just over 35 minutes long, use the player below, subscribe via RSS or email, or download the full file via our podcast page, where you can also find the full archive of the podcasts we published during 2008-9. We're also on iTunes - just search for "New Humanist" in the store and select the podcast subtitled "The podcast for godless people".