Category: Blog

Was there really a star of Bethlehem? Yes

A Christmas piece, originally published by The Idler. It’s the time of year when newspapers ask whether there really was a star of Bethlehem. “We have seen his star in the East”, the wise men report in the Bible. So

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This is not a Christmas sermon

A piece from the Idler… Do you think you might venture to church this Christmas, for a midnight mass or Christingle? Many will, the otherwise secular folk who traverse the lychgate to sing a carol. It’s the vicar’s “busy period”,

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New! A History of Christianity in Eleven Short Chapters

Embedded Video Player For good and ill, Christianity has profoundly shaped western civilisation, our lives, and even the workings of our minds. You don’t have to believe for that to be so. Even in post-Christian times, the preaching of Jesus

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Time for death

It feels as if death is being discussed all over the place right now, what with Oliver Burkeman, Joan Bakewell and Advent. Made me want to think about how death is realised as a gateway to life, in religious and

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So what if we're all self-obsessed?

I’ve written a new BBC iWonder guide, online here.

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The soul of classical civilisation, or what the old gods can teach us.

The abandonment of the A-level in classical civilisation is tragic in a strict and precise sense, not least as the axing comes in the week after the disposal of archeology and art history too. It’s a tragedy that speaks clearly

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Why Socrates believed that sexual desire is the first step towards enlightenment

This piece first appeared in The Idler Magazine. The wisest person he ever met – during a long life encircling luminaries such as Pericles and Sophocles, Aspasia and Protagoras – was a humble temple prostitute. Diotima of Mantinea showed Socrates

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Why's the church so sniffy about personal development?

This piece was originally published in the Church Times. Researching a radio programme on the Sunday Assembly, the remarkably successful “atheist church” that in 3 years has grown to more than 70 congregations, highlighted a trick that the Church of

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Brangelina: the risks of living the lives of others

This piece was published by Newsweek. In his great letter from Reading Gaol, De Profundis, Oscar Wilde bitterly chastises Lord Alfred Douglas, his former lover, with a terrible accusation. Douglas has not lived his own life, Wilde writes. Douglas has

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Ayahuasca, Plato, and this summer of drugs

A Sunday Sermon for The Idler I feel as if this is a summer of drugs – though not of legal highs or familiar recreationals. It’s more interesting than that. The drugs many seem drawn to are substances of a

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