Friday, 23 January 2009

My imaginary friend just got off the bus

IT’S been one of the big questions – arguably THE big question – wracking the best brains of philosophers for centuries. Now it’s come down to the Advertising Standards Authority to settle the matter: Is there a god?
Some Christians, including an uppity bus-driver from Southampton, have got all hot under the collar about a British Humanist Association ad that proclaims: “There’s probably no God. Now stop worrying and enjoy your life.”
Which seems like very sound advice to me. But that hasn’t prevented the posters being referred to the ASA.
On what grounds, I wonder?
The authority’s brief is to ensure that advertisements are “legal, decent, honest and true”. Which of those requirements does the BHA ad fail?
It’s certainly decent. It’s undoubtedly honest. If it’s true it must surely be legal. And that little word “probably” must make it true.
In my opinion it’d be true even without the “probably”.
Yup. It’s an opinion. Just as those who say there is a god – or fairies, or unicorns, or little green men on Mars – are only expressing their opinion.
Anyone who invokes the law, or the ASA, against the proposition that there is no god (probably or otherwise) had better watch out. You’re living in a glass house and shouldn’t throw stones.
Not far from my home is a poster that proclaims: “Jesus Lives!” I wouldn’t have to go far to find others claiming he’s saved me (what from?) or that he’s offering me eternal life.
Decent? I suppose so. Honest? Maybe. Probably.
But true? Go ahead and prove it.
There is just one other point I want to make about all this god-or-no-god stuff, though. And it applies to god-bashing atheists such as Richard Dawkins at least as much as it does to bible-bashing Christians or Koran-waving Muslims.
I don’t believe in Noddy, Humpty-Dumpty, the tooth fairy or Santa Claus either. I gave up my imaginary friend decades ago. But I don’t see why that non-belief should define who I am – or even be particularly important in my life.
So can we please just get on to the bit about stopping worrying?

Man City owe it all to Jesus

IT’S probably just as well Kaka turned down a record-smashing move to Manchester City. For several reasons.
OK, it might have been nice for all of us armchair sports fans to be able to watch a world-class footballer at work in the Premier League. But what effect would it have had on his team-mates to know that one among them was collecting half-a-million quid a week in wages while they had to make do with perhaps a mere tenth of that?
And what of next season after the destabilised City are relegated?
What would it do to the economics of the Championship to have one player picking up roughly the equivalent of Doncaster Rovers’ annual turnover every time he trots on to the field?
In these times when the average fan, even the average club director, is facing worries over money and jobs, how can we identify with young men whose pocket-money would fund a small hospital?
But perhaps more serious is the question of the horrendous paperwork – and potential major scandal – City have narrowly avoided.
Across the city at United, another highly talented South American forward is still, after two years, at the centre of a complicated controversy. One that could yet have dire consequences for his former club, West Ham. And has arguably already had a devastating effect on a club he is never likely to play for, Sheffield United.
(If you’re not following this, don’t worry. The Carlos Tevez affair has already baffled more football and legal brains than he’s had hot dinners or scored goals.)
The nub of the matter is that Tevez is “owned” not by any club but by an Iranian businessman, Kia Joorabchian.
Now consider Kaka. Who would City have paid that reported £103million transfer fee?
If a T-shirt can be considered a legal document, Kaka belongs to Jesus…

No more beating about the Bush

AT the time we thought Tricky Dick Nixon was the biggest scoundrel ever to have held the American presidency.
When he died in 1994 his funeral was attended by the serving president and four other ex-presidents. Even the candidate he cheated and beat in the infamous Watergate election of 1972, George McGovern, later said: “I think… Nixon will get high marks in history.”
Now, with the release of the film Frost/Nixon, his reputation is set for a cuddly makeover.
At the time we thought Ronald Reagan was the stupidest and most aggressive president. Remember The President’s Brain is Missing?
History seems to have decided (rather generously, I think) that he was a shrewd operator who brought the Cold War to a peaceful end.
So what will history make of George W Bush?
Even as Barack Obama takes over on a wave of high hopes, the Wall Street Journal is already trying to rehabilitate the reputation of his predecessor.
So let’s just have a reality check. Bigger scoundrel than Nixon. Stupider and more aggressive than Reagan.
Goodbye George. And good riddance.

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