Thursday, 22 November 2007

Euro 2008 without England

I don't blame Scott Carson (left), Wayne Bridge, Luis Medina Cantalejo, the NFL, the rain or even Steve McClaren (although the FA were right to sack him) for the England football team's failure to qualify for next summer's European Championships in Austria and Switzerland. The simple fact is that over 12 matches they weren't good enough. Which doesn't make me any the less gutted about it, of course.

The thing is, without England, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland or Eire (whom I supported in USA '94, the last time England failed to qualify for a major tournament) in the championship, I don't know who to support come next June. Any suggestions?

The teams which will be competing are Austria, Croatia, Czech Republic, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Turkey, Romania, Russia, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland.

I've lived in France and Germany, so maybe it should be one of those, although those teams (along with world champions Italy) are probably the favourites for the tournament already, and I have something of an English urge to back the underdog.

Thursday, 15 November 2007

I found this poem on a piece of paper folded up inside a second-hand book I just bought

Already now my life has run its course,
And, like a fragile boat on a rough sea,
I reach the place where everyone must cross
And give account of life’s activity.

Now I know well it was a fantasy
That made me think art could be made into
And idol or a king
. Though all men do
This, they do it half-unwillingly.

The loving thoughts, so happy and so vain,
Are finished now. A double death comes near
The one is sure, the other is a threat.

Painting and sculpture cannot any more
Quieten the soul that turns to God again,
To God who, on the cross, for us was set
- Michelangelo Buonarotti (1475 – 1564)
Yes, that's the Michelangelo, the Renaissance artist par excellence. He knew better than anyone the limits of the reach of art. Neat, eh? The bits I've italicised had been underlined by the previous owner. Memento mori, guys, memento mori. God bless you all.

Wednesday, 14 November 2007

A German joke

Q: According to Freud, what comes between fear and sex?
A: Fünf!


Tuesday, 13 November 2007

Is religion superstitious wishful thinking? Is atheism entirely free of these vices?

Not necessarily and no, according to this excellent riposte to the angry neo-atheist A.C. Grayling by "Maverick Philsopher" William Vallicella. I have nothing really to add to Vallicella's argument but I thought I would just note in my own words some thoughts on these kinds of accusations.

The fact that I want something to be true doens't make it true, but it doesn't make it untrue either. When I hear philosophical naturalists arguing either explicitly or implicitly that their opinions must be right because they have to be so much braver to hold them I am reminded of the tactics of the demon in the first of C.S. Lewis' Screwtape Letters:
Jargon, not argument, is your best ally in keeping him from the Church. Don't waste time trying to make him think that materialism is true! Make him think it is strong or stark or courageous -- that it is the philosophy of the future. That's the sort of thing he cares about.
The section in Vallicella's post about naturalist superstition regarding the mental realm reminds me of David Berlinski's article about evolutionary psychology, which he ends up comparing to astrology. The first comment on the post is also very relevant in this respect. Those theologians who compare some modern atheists to pagans are not that wide of the mark, it seems.

Vallicella is taking Grayling's anti-theistic rants to pieces in a series of posts which I invite you to peruse for your edification and amusement. There are a couple of sentences which keep recurring:
The conclusion [of Grayling's argument] does not follow from the premises. Indeed, it is hard to see how the conclusion is so much as relevant to the premises.

Saturday, 3 November 2007

Archaeology confirms OT historical record, again

Dr. Marjo Korpel of the University of Utrecht has established that a seal (right) discovered in Israel dating from the the 9th century B.C. and engraved with the letters YZBL belonged to the infamous Queen Jezebel, wife of King Ahab, who "reigned in Samaria over Israel for 22 years" and "did more evil in the eyes of the LORD than any of those before him" (1 Kings 16:29-31), including rampant idol worship, into which he was apparently led by his wife. The story of Ahab and Jezebel in the Bible begins towards the end of 1 Kings chapter 16.

I'll say the same thing this time as I did the last time a similar discovery was made: by itself, it's not a huge deal, but, given the über-scepticism with which the Old Testament is treated in some quarters, it must count for something.

HT: Rich Deem

Thursday, 1 November 2007

Party of Light

In the midst of all the general ghoulishness, egg-throwing, irresponsible use of fireworks, demanding money with menaces, forcing people to pretend not to be at home and other unnerving fixation on the darkness going on in my home town last night, the church decided to do something to offer an alternative and hosted the "Party of Light". When I said alternative I suppose I meant opposite, seeing as there is no peace between light and darkness, and the counter-cultural nature of the event extended to a dress code (optional) of wearing as much white as possible. A good thirty-or-so 11-18 year-olds showed up -- about half of which we knew from youth group and half we didn't -- and were treated to some light-themed activities, food and a live performance by Mike Skills 4 Christ.

It seems that many, many churches are at a bit of a loss about how to deal with Hallowe'en. Do we ignore it, condemn it, try to assimilate it... or what? As far as I could tell the evening was a moderate success, but I wonder if you think this kind of thing is a good idea in general?
This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what he has done has been done through God.
- John 3:19-21