Category: Atheism

THE NARROW ROAD TO THE DEEP NORTH by Richard Flanagan (Chatto & Windus, 2014)

flanagan2Richard Flanagan’s brilliant Booker prize-winning novel is a big book in every sense.

On one level it is an account of the horrors surrounding the construction of the Burma railway line near the end of the second world war. At the same time, it documents an ill-fated romance between a successful surgeon, Dorrigo Evans, and his Uncle’s young wife, Amy. Yet to describe this book as a historical romance would be well wide of the mark.

The Tasmanian author spent 12 years working on a novel he was clearly born to write. It is dedicated to his father who died the day it was completed. Continue reading



THE THEORY OF EVERYTHING directed by James Marsh (UK, 2014)

The doctors who told Stephen Hawking that he only had around two years to live must be feeling pretty silly. They obviously weren’t counting on the man’s superhuman willpower or what the love and dedication of a good woman can do.

In some ways Hawking’s story is like one of those Sci-Fi movies where a brain is alive when the rest of the body is dead. In Cold Lazarus, for example, Dennis Potter’s final play for television, a preserved head is tapped for the brain waves it generates.

In the recent movie, Transcendence (a turkey by all accounts) starring Johnny Depp, there is a similar theme of a scientist’s brain surviving the death of his body.

Hawking’s case is different in one crucial respect, however. The fact that he has still been able to father three children is proof that his ‘muscle of life’ is unaffected by the motor neuron disease. Bizarre tabloid reports of him attending sex clubs and enjoying the attention of lap dancers also shows that his sex drive remains high. Continue reading

KubrickPlayboy magazine isn’t the most likely place to find words of wisdom about the meaning of life. However, Movies.Com have unearthed a 1968 interview with Stanley Kubrick  in which the great director was asked why life was worth living if he felt it was purposeless.

His answer was that we have to find our own meaning rather than put faith in the highly unlikely possibility that there is a God overseeing all we say and do.

Let’s face it, if there is a deity, the history of mankind provides ample proof that S/He is not a benevolent being.

Rather than this giving cause for despondency, Kubrick argues that we must accept our mortality and draw strength from it. He said:

“The most terrifying fact about the universe is not that it is hostile but that it is indifferent; but if we can come to terms with this indifference and accept the challenges of life within the boundaries of death — however mutable man may be able to make them — our existence as a species can have genuine meaning and fulfillment. However vast the darkness, we must supply our own light”.

The late, lamented Frank Zappa preached about the need for constant vigilance against the repressive, self-righteous, bigoted forces who censor what we can see, hear and read.

Zappa was an articulate and outspoken critic of religious fundamentalists who seek to restrict our freedom claiming they are saving us from the devil’s work.

He explained his views during an interview with Larry King which you can see below.

As a way to counteract the Parental Advisory stickers on rock albums, Zappa wrote his own ‘Warning Label’ for a Mothers of Invention album.

Above - Steve Coogan and Judi Dench  Below - the real Martin Sixsmith & Philomena Lee

Above – Steve Coogan and Judi Dench
Below – the real Martin Sixsmith & Philomena Lee

PHILOMENA – directed by Stephen Frears (UK, 2013)

There’s one reference to the clitoris and a few ‘fucks’ but otherwise this is the kind of film you could watch with your mom without fear of embarrassment.

The presence of Dame Judi Dench in the title role adds a further weight of respectability to proceedings.

Peter Mullen’s The Magdalene Sisters touches on similar themes of vindictive nuns doing bad things to  ‘fallen’ women in Ireland but that movie was much fiercer.

The rage in Philomena comes not from the wronged woman but from Alex Sixsmith (Steve Coogan), the BBC journalist who helps her trace the long lost son who was sold to a wealthy American couple 50 years before.

The human interest story of   Sixsmith (Steve Coogan) and Philomena means that is not simply a rant against religious hypocrisy although we are left in no doubt about Sixsmith’s views on Catholicism! The film is based on a true story but since Philomena never actually travelled to the U.S. with Sixsmith many parts have obviously been made up for dramatic effect.

Ultimately, it’s a cosy buddy movie with a message and, paradoxically, the gentle, warm-hearted tone is probably more effective than Mullen’s film in highlighting the injustice done to Philomena and many other women like her.

Related link:

The real story of Philomena Lee (Daily Mail)

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