At the end…

You thought that love’s a bit like gold
Or like the stories you were told,
Or that true love is like the fire
That burns to make the night a liar.

You thought that love is like a thief
Who steals your linen handkerchief–
Or, like the lightening in the skies,
A mere electrical surprise

You thought that love would never come
Or’s gone too soon like pirates’ rum.
You thought that love had cheated you
You thought of love in all you owe.

You saw your love personified
In roses and in girls who cried;
In messages that never came
Or when they did were all the same.

And in the end you came to know
That love is just the to and fro
The rumpled sheets in bed and nest
From girls who loved you, but not best.

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The Poetics of Unbelief

The New Oxonian

riting about not believing is not easy.  We are accustomed to poems about neurotic seizures, personal crisis, lost love and suicidal consequences, but the big questions of belief and religion have more commonly been objects for satire.

Let me call attention to two exceptions.

Philip Larkin (d 1985) was a soft-spoken intellectual, quietly angry young and middle-aged man, who hated the limelight and preferred ridicule and mild eroticism (he was a defender of soft porn) to the intellectual poetry of his era.  He was encouraged in what he liked to do best– jabbing at the hypocrisies of religion, politics and family life–by writers like Kingsley Amis and imitated Yeats and Hardy before developing his own mid-century “symbolist” vocabulary:

They fuck you up, your mum and dad.   
    They may not mean to, but they do.   
They fill you with the faults they had
    And add some extra, just for…

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Muhammad Iqbal: The Mosque of Cordova (1932)*

The New Oxonian

Mosque of Cordoba” (c.1932)

Masjid  e- Qur-tubah

Silsilah-e roz-o-shab

In the flow of light to dark

the jeweller is hard at work.

In the spaces between light and dark,

in birth and death:

Silsilah-e roz-o-shab:

With coloured silken strands,

he works a royal robe.

In the flow of light to dark,

Azal: The pre-eternal sadness,

where the Jeweller speaks

or hisses his decisions,

Weighing you,

dangling me in the balance,

The master assaying

in the shadows, day to night.

If you are wanting–

If I am wanting:

Terii Baraat–

Marii baraat.

Death for the all the worlds

in the kingdom where

there is no day and night.

The works of our hand,

all glister and fashioning

will flash away–

Kaar e jahaa; N be-;  sabaat!

The world comes at last to this!

In the beginning was the end.

Within the form…

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Deep-end Dawkins

The New Oxonian

“Put the kids in the basement Mother, there’s one of them scientist fellers at the door.”

Religion as Child Abuse

Short of saying, “The sun is shining today,” I’m not one to make scientific pronouncements.  I’m too afraid that a physicist who happens to be passing by will say, “Actually, no.  The sun may appear to be shining to you, but it does not shine. It gives off radiant energy in the form of heat and light. In fact using the formula (32 x 106) / (3.46 x 1016) = 9.25 x 10-10 where the area through which the sun’s radiation is pouring = 4 (pi) R2 = 3.46 x 1016 square miles only about  -90.3 dB, or one billionth of the sun’s radiation reaches the earth.  So ‘shining’ is not the word you want.”

Naturally you would not follow a correction…

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A Barely Historical Jesus

From earlier

The New Oxonian

I read a blog written by Ian at Irreducible Complexity a day or so ago that attempts a useful feat: offering a typology of Jesus mythicism ranging from something he calls Jesus minimalism to maximal mythicism, with some shades and positions in between–postive, analogical, and methodological forms of the approach. It’s a nice try (though, oddly, it seems to owe a lot to the Wiki on Jesus Mythicism) to bring some coherence to a process that he cleverly describes as trying to “nail jelly to the wall.”

Typologies are useful things, and there’s no doubt that people have different levels of confidence in the primary artifacts for knowing anything about Jesus.

It’s also true that people will come to these artifacts with different ideas of how they should be handled: with kid gloves, if your approach is overly theological or apologetic, or a sandblaster if you think the whole structure…

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