Personal


Quite a stirring God debate over at GUBU today.  Follow the comment thread down for the real sparks!

As always Sarah’s excellent site is well worth a visit.

http://www.sarahcarey.ie/2008/04/21/greetings-from-the-pope/

Taoiseach, Bertie Ahern, has announced that he is to step down as leader of Fianna Fáil and Taoiseach on Tuesday 6th May 2008 when he returns from Washington, where he will address the joint houses of congress.

Now the process of rehabilitating Ahern’s reputation will begin in earnest.  As I write Eamonn Ryan is saying on RTE 1 television that he does not believe that Bertie ever took a corrupt payment.  This can only conclude with roads all over north Dublin being closed for the dozens of people who will turn out for his state funeral in twenty or thirty years time a la Haughey.

Eoghan Harris is now on RTE comparing the hounding of Ahern to the treatment of Charles Stewart Parnell.  God help us.

Update – According to Michael Kennedy Bertie Ahern is responsible for the creation 4 million jobs in Ireland. When he came to office we had 2 million unemployed, now we have two million jobs, according to Mr. Kennedy.  Get your face on the telly and say something.  Say anything. Just be seen to be first out of the blocks to support the great leader.

e·van·ge·lise

1. to preach the gospel to.

2. to convert to Christianity.

Gerry Thornley observed, after Ireland’s defeat by Wales recently, that Eddie O’Sullivan seemed offended that the Welsh had the cheek to score tries off Irish turnover ball, ‘as if this was somehow cheating’. This despite the fact that Ireland had scored a good couple of tries against Scotland a fortnight earlier from Scottish turnover ball.

John Gray, writing in the Irish Times yesterday, rails against what he terms ‘evangelical atheists’ and their campaigns against organised religion. Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens and Philip Pullman appear to be Gray’s least favourite of these campaigners with their hundreds of thousands selling books, The God Delusion, God is Not Great and Northern Lights, the latter made as a movie titled The Golden Compass.

Gray finds great offence in the fact that these and others are engaged in proletising for atheism as if this was somehow a bit of an underhand tactic. Organised churches would never resort to these black arts, surely.

We learned this week that the Archbishop of Dublin has decided that every home in the Archdiocese will receive a visit from representatives of the Catholic Church sometime next year as part of a programme of evangelisation.

(I’m thinking of those sneaky Welsh again.)

I suppose I should lay my own cards on the table.

I don’t believe in God. In fact, I am more certain that God does not exist than I am of anything else that I believe. God is a fiction, Santa Claus for grown-ups. God and Gods were invented in human ignorance to explain that which we did not and could not understand. The leaders of organised churches then usurped God as a source of fantastic power, a power which they have maintained to this day.

So, no misunderstandings there, then.

This week we also learned that weekly attendance at religious services in Ireland has dropped from a high of 91% in 1981 to less than 50% today. You might think that this would reflect a similar fall in levels of religious belief, however the same nine yearly survey shows that over 80% of Irish people do still believe in God and do still believe in heaven.

Why?

Why, when we live in such an enlightened age, an age in which we are now, slowly learning the secrets of the origins of the universe in which we live, do so many otherwise rational and intelligent people put such faith in something which so completely defies the known physical laws of the universe? Something for which they can see no proof of any kind. Something which they must surely know that they believe simply because it is what they have been told by people in authority since childhood. As I say in my bio page on this site, this is something that completely baffles me. I can fully understand how children can be inculcated into religious belief and how that belief will stay with them into and through their teenage years. If one pays even the slightest of attention to modern scientific thought then one can only conclude that the basis for most organised religions is completely preposterous.

People will say that Christianity is a wonderful way to live ones life, and they are quite correct. I have two small children, one of whom is making first holy communion next month, and they are being raised to know and respect what most of us would consider to be Christian values. Christian values are essentially very decent, human values. However, I will ensure that my children are also exposed to the truth that lies outside of religion, the truth which science has been revealing to us ever since Gallileo and Newton and Einstein and Hubble, the truth of Darwinian evolution, which reveals the unbelievable arrogance of mankind in believing ourselves to be special, the arrogance of believing in our status as the chosen ones. I said recently that socialism was a wonderful way to order human society but it didn’t and couldn’t work. I doubt that many readers of this page are clamouring for the establishment of a socialist republic along the lines of the USSR or the Peoples Republic of China. Similarly, while Christian values are a valuable tool in the ordering of society those of a zealous religious mind are I find often very intolerant of any opposing view and are therefore wholly unsuited to positions of authority and influence.

Yes there are many, many good and decent people within organised churches and they do many wonderful things, but the doing of good acts is not confined to those with faith, and without faith good people would still be good people and would still act for the betterment of human society. Human goodness does not stem from religious faith.

Islam, we are constantly told is a religion of peace, a religion where everyone is treated with decency and respect and yet wherever Islam is practised we find the most despicable intolerance and inequality and discrimination. The treatment of women within most Islamic societies is nothing short of barbaric. Being gay in most western societies is difficult enough but is a picnic compared to homosexuality in places like Iran or Saudi Arabia. When do the leaders of Islam ever deafen us with their condemnation and their disowning of those who commit unspeakable acts in the name of Islam? How deafening was the silence here in Ireland when Catholic priest were raping and buggering children in their care? The good and decent people in the church who knew of these acts were shamefully silent because of the power invested in the institution of the church by ordinary lay people. Even now the disgust at what was done by Michael Woods in protecting the assets of the church before considering the rights of victims is unseen and unheard.

So, my Easter message to you this weekend is this. If you live in Dublin, when the man from the church calls to your door in 2009, take him gently by the hand, offer him a cup of tea and do some evangelising of your own. Give him a copy of Professor Dawkins’ The Ancestor’s Tale or The Blind Watchmaker; read him a few passages from The Fabric Of The Cosmos, by Brian Greene; tell him about the reaction of the church authorities in medieval Italy when Copernicus presented his helio-centric view of the world, probably the most significant scientific discovery in human history, and then ask him to come back in 2010 so you can see if he is still a Christian. If he is then he is an idiot.

Happy Easter.

PS. None of the above precludes me from believing that a large bunny rabbit is going to leave a delicious chocolate egg at the end of my bed tonight. In our house he comes down the chimney, just like Santa Claus.

I originally posted this last year.  In light of the US candidate selection I thought it worth a re-run.  

 

Morrissey once wrote a song called ’America, you are not the world.’ I never heard him sing it, but I did hear Christy Moore perform it a few times and I didn’t think much of it. The song opens with – “America your head is so big/America your belly is so big/I LOVE you/ But I wish you’d stay where you live.”
This is a sentiment often expressed by people when they complain about America. America, they say, should just keep out of other peoples business. America should look after Americans in America and not be interfering in Israel/Palestine/Iraq/Iran/Vietnam/Korea. All of these places, and a few more besides, have seen American involvement – or interference, depending on which side of the fence you view it from.
Right now there are over 100,000 US soldiers in Iraq. This evening I listened to Boston radio show host Michael Graham say on the Right Hook radio show, that these troops are in Iraq because America cares. America cares about the people of Iraq. America also, presumably, cared about the peoples of Vietnam and Korea. America, Graham would tell us, cares about the people of Palestine and Israel. Americans, it would seem, are just about the most caring people on the planet. Maybe they are. I’ve never been to America but the Americans I have met here in Ireland seemed, for the most part, to be pleasant enough. Admittedly they were often a little overbearing, sometimes very excited to be here in Ayerlaaand! Sometimes they were indisputably naive or just plain stupid but they never quite struck me as uncaring.
The problem, however, is that these nice citizens are not running the United States of America. That would be the job of the American government, and a more uncaring bunch of people you could not hope to meet.
For political purposes the American government IS America, and I have to tell you that America does not care about anything except America.
Now, you’re probably thinking ‘this guy really doesn’t like America.’ You would be wrong. I hope very much to visit the US at some point when finances and work commitments allow. I very much admire many aspects of American culture – Jazz, Rock & Roll, Hollywood movies. Writers such as John Steinbeck, Tennessee Williams, Edgar Allen Poe and many many more have entertained the world. Steven Spielberg, John Ford, Martin Scorcese – say no more.
America is fine. The American government is fine – except for one thing. Honesty.
America (the government) cares about nothing but America and American interests. This is a stick often used to beat America, but why should America care about anything else. the US government is elected by the citizens of the the US to represent the interests of those very US citizens. They are not mandated to care about anyone else. They are not mandated to worry about the starving people of Africa. They are not mandated to be concerned for the downtrodden of Iraq.
So, why then are there currently over 100,000 US troops in Iraq?
These troops are protecting the interests of the American people.
American people have a great interest in oil. The US is addicted to the stuff. Without oil America grinds to a halt. The same is true of most western nations. My own country, Ireland, is over 90% dependant on oil for energy. We’re even more addicted to the stuff than the US. The difference, however, between them and us is that they have the power and the military might to do something about it. Ireland was never going to overthrow Saddam with 14,000 men and a few dozen lightly armoured personnel carriers! The US, however, has a standing army of over one million soldiers, and so it could and did invade Iraq, overthrow Saddam, and take over another sovereign nation.
Why did the US do this?
Was it because the American government cares so much about the people of Iraq?
No. It was because the American government cares so much about the people of America.
As I stated earlier, the American government is elected to protect the interests of the American people. When they invaded and conquered Iraq they were doing just that. I often wonder if those who berate and belittle America for doing this expect that the American government should act contrary to the best interest of America and Americans.
America needs oil.
Saudi Arabia doesn’t need any more oil, they’ve got lots of that. Saudi, it would seem doesn’t need democracy either. Not as long as they have all the oil. But they don’t have all the oil – just an awful lot of it. Now Iraq has lots of oil and until 2003 they had a dictatorship that was almost as repressive as Saudi’s monarchy. The house of Saud has not been looking as healthy lately as it did in times past and so the guys in Washington get to thinking about what would happen if someone else took over the US oil reserves – sorry, the Saudi Oil reserves. What if that someone wasn’t of Washington’s choosing? What if that someone didn’t want to do business with the American infidels?
The solution is so simple as to be laughable. Washington simply moves America’s oil reserve from Saudi to Iraq. That would be in the best interest of the American people. It wouldn’t cost much. Just three or four or five thousand American boys and girls, several trillion dollars and all of the worldwide goodwill America has built up over the last 100 years. Oh, and I nearly forgot, sixty or seventy or eighty thousand Iraqis, but hey, the US government is not mandated to worry about them.
Anyway the American oil reserves in Iraq are secure, and happy days, things in Saudi are not looking too bad either so America now has two sets of oil reserves in the middle east. Now, I ask you, how could that not be in the best interest of the American people?
One thing still bugs me, though. Remember I spoke about honesty?
What was all that bullshit about weapons of mass destruction? 45 minute warnings to attack the UK? Links to Al Qaida?
Just be honest about these things, America. I still won’t agree with you but it would be nice.
That way the people of the UK could know exactly what Mr. Blair has dragged them into.
That way the people of Madrid and London could know for what their friends and neighbours died.
That way the people of Ireland could know exactly why our government is allowing Shannon airport to be used to transport prisoners who are beyond the protection of any court or government to torture centres in the middle east.
That way the people of America could know the calibre of their political leaders and could make an informed choice in 2008.
That would be nice.
Unlikely.
Probably impossible, but nice all the same.
America, you are not the world – but you think you are.

Saturday, November 3, 2007

Ok, major gripe here. ( Or maybe a major grape!)

Lidl are pretty good. My good lady and I shop there about twice a month. Aldi I know nothing about as I’ve never been there but Lidl offers some exceptional value on the basics like cleaning products, rice, cooking oils, really good biscuits among others.

Lidl also do a good range of wines. Whether they do a range of good wines is debatable. I tried their wine a couple of times last year and was very unimpressed.

A couple of months ago my brother in law and his family borrowed my wife’s car to travel to France and as a thank you brought us back a few bottles of wine among which was a bottle of TARRAGONA BATURRICA RESERVA 2000 from Spain.

It was very nice.

Last week the good lady and I went to Lidl in Mullingar and there it was, TARRAGONA BATURRICA RESERVA, only this time a 2001 vintage priced at €6.99.

As I was savouring the last of my glass this evening I did a google search on it which led me to a Belgian wine site which had reviewed the Tarragona, pronounced it pretty good. They quoted a price as of Nov 1 2007 of €2.39 in Lidl!

That’s almost three times more expensive from the same retailer here in Ireland. Even allowing for the governments €2.00 per bottle tax it is still €2.60 more expensive here.

Isn’t it a great little country.

Having said all that I must confess my rampant capitalist belief that the price (as opposed to the value) of any good is what someone is willing to pay for it. The Tarragona is good value at €6.99.

Another gripe.

Last Sunday four of us, (wife, me and two kids aged four and eight) stayed for one night at the Hotel Kilkenny in (you guessed it) Kilkenny.

After checking in at about 3.30pm we decided to take the kids down to the pool for a while. Before leaving the room I rang reception to book a table for dinner at 8.00pm.

‘How many people, sir?’
‘Four.’
‘All adults?’
‘No, two adults and two children.’
‘I’m sorry, sir, but we do not allow children in the restaurant after 8.00pm.’

After which followed a conversation during which I was told that we could eat in the bar, with our children up to 9.30pm, that she (the lady at reception) did not make the rules and that a kids club was provided where we could deposit our kids while we had dinner without them.

Any time I have taken my kids to a restaurant in Spain or France the welcome afforded them has been superb. A team of waiters descended on us in Fuertaventura a couple of years back and folded the buggy, produced lollipops and, without being asked, appeared with a baby chair which was clamped to the table so that my son (then just 10 months old) could sit at the table with us.

The Hotel Kilkenny reacted as if we wanted to bring a couple of untamed tigers into their eatery.

We did eat in the restaurant. We were accompanied by our kids who were impeccably behaved and we did enjoy a rather fine meal (final bill €137.00). As I checked out next morning I told the manager that I would not be returning.

I can only wonder what European tourists must think of the anti-family ideals at our four star**** hotels!

About five years ago I began writing what I imagined was the next great Irish crime novel. I got about 24,000 words down and then got busy at work, having babies, being married and lots of other stuff, and the world was left bereft of the next great Irish crime novel!
Today I am publishing the first 9,241 unedited words of that ‘great Irish crime novel’. I would love to know what you think.
Follow this link
http://adublinnovel.blogs.ie