Brian Micklethwait's Blog

In which I continue to seek part time employment as the ruler of the world.

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Category archive: Religion

Tuesday April 30 2019

In that chat that me and Patrick had yesterday, about Christianity and its influence, I mentioned, for some reason, how part of the reason the Shard is shaped like the Shard is that it is also shaped like the steeple of a typical sort of London church.

The church in these photos, that I photoed the same day I photoed these photos of the Optic Cloak, is Christ Church Isle of Dogs:

imageimageimageimageimage

The little game I played there with the two spires, as I walked back towards the middle of London from the Greenwich Peninsula, is exactly the sort of thing Renzo Piano had in mind when he designed his spire.

This is not the first time I’ve played now you see it now you don’t with a church and the Shard, aligned.

The trick is for the church to be very near, compared to the Shard.

Monday April 29 2019

Earlier today, Patrick Crozier and I recorded another of our recorded conversations (by and by it will appear here).  Patrick laid out the agenda which was Christianity, and how, although he could never believe in it, henevertheless regrets the diminution of its influence on our world.

He mentioned the way the Western Roman Empire fell apart after it had been conquered by Christianity (echoing Gibbon, although I didn’t say that; he mentioned ecclesiastical architecture; he mentioned the intimate relationship between Christianity and secular power; and at one point we rather digressed, into the matter of French domestic architecture.

Here are four photos I photoed in Quimper, Brittany, exactly one year ago to the day, which illustrate these various talking points:

imageimageimage
imageimageimage

Photo 1.1 a history lesson inside Qumper Cathedral which covers the ground Patrick alluded to about the Roman Empire (protected by glass, hence the reflection of the stained glass window)..  Photo 1.2 is a view of one of the towers of Quimper Cathedral, as seen from the other tower.  Photo 2.1 is of an equestrian statue, from the same spot.  And finally, 2.2, also from the same spot, is a photo looking out over the city of Quimper.

The weather could have been a lot brighter, but you are only allowed to the top of Quimper Cathedral on the one day each year, and April 29th 2018 was the day that it was

I will greatly miss Quimper and its Cathedral, now that my friends in France no longer live there.  I won’t be going back on my own, just to see it but not them.

Friday April 19 2019

A week ago now, I photoed this photo in the graveyard of a little village up in the mountains of southern France called Taulis (already mentioned here).  Today being Good Friday, I thought I’d do a little nod towards Christianity by showing a few crucified Christs, France being very full of these rather gruesome sorts of sculpture.  Everywhere you go in France, or so it seems to me, you see these, and not just in graveyards:

image

Even more striking, however, in that photo, are the dead body storage units in the background.  Do we have those in England?  Not that I recall seeing.

They remind me of the dead body storage units that you see in TV police dramas.  Every so often there’s a scene where a grieving relative is asked to identify a cadaver, and a drawer is opened, and closed.  We see grief enacted.

Are police dramas on the telly replacing graveyards and crucified Christs as the main means that we now use to contemplate death?

As I get nearer to death, I think about it more and more.  What will it be like?  Will I know I’m dead?  Will I still be “alive” when I am incinerated?  Will there by bright lights in the distance?  Will it hurt?  Will I be reunited with the enemies of my schooldays?  Will I still be able to write about it here, but in a way that is unpublished?  What, historically speaking, will I miss by a whisker?  Or by decades and centuries?

Maybe France is not so full of crucified Christs.  Maybe it’s just that when I now see them, I notice them.

Friday March 29 2019
Tuesday March 12 2019

Well, I sat down to do a blog posting for here after a hard day doing this and that, but, while I was doing that blog posting, I was also half telly-watching, and I chanced, on my television, upon the classic episode of Porridge in which Fletcher keeps on being disturbed and ends up pushing the padre off the balcony (into a safety net).  Fletcher gets punished with three days in solitary, and the final line is him asking the governor if he couldn’t make it a fortnight.

Instead of a regular blog posting, let this be a recommendation.

Monday December 17 2018

I am now listening to this conversation between Roger Scruton and Jordan Peterson, about transcendence.  While so listening, I found myself thinking back to this morning, when I listened to the first half of Bach’s Mass in B Minor, as recorded by Sir John Eliot Gardiner.  I found listening to this recording to be an unsatisfying experience, which was why I did not also listen to the second half of it.  For me (and I emphasise that this is only my personal take on this recording), what this recording lacks is … transcendence.  To me, it sounds too brisk, too lively, too mundane, too earthly, too humdrum, too fussy.  Too businesslike.  Too lacking in legato.  Not enough grandeur.

To repeat the point in brackets above: many, listening to this same recording, will hear exactly the virtues which, for my ear, it lacks.  Gardiner himself was certainly aiming at transcendance:

image

That is the cover of this Gardiner recording, which is put out by Gardiner’s own label, Soli Deo Gloria, and Gardiner will definitely have approved that cover.

Neverthless, tomorrow, I think I will search in my CD collection for a different and older recording of this work, a less “authentic” one, the one conducted by Eugen Jochum.  This one.

Pause.

During that pause, I conducted that search, so that tomorrow morning I won’t have to search, or to remember that I must so search.  The CDs will be there, next to my CD player.

I also encountered, in one of the Amazon reviews of Jochum’s Bach B Minor Mass, praise for his recording of the Bach Christmas Oratorio.  I also placed this next to my CD player.

Christmas is, after all, coming.

And, what do you know?  The B Minor Mass gets an explicit mention in the Scruton/Peterson conversation.  I hour 18 minutes in.

Sunday December 09 2018

Just came across this, photoed by me in Piccadilly, on June 4th of this year:

image

So, right around now.

Sunday September 16 2018

I am currently reading The Closing of the Muslim Mind, by Robert R. Reilly, with a view to reviewing it for Samizdata.  Brilliant.  For as long as I’ve been reading this book, finishing reading it has been my number one concern.  Shoving up brilliant stuff here has … not.  Some Facebook friends of mine have been choosing the books that have most influenced their thinking, and this book looks like it will be added to my list.

Here is a typically illuminating paragraph from this book (on page 144 of my paperback edition – which I am happy to note is towards the end of it):

The enormous influence of Saudi Arabia today in the Muslim world is often thought by Westerners to be almost completely due to its oil wealth - petro-Islam. However, this discounts the fact that many Muslims, including in countries like Egypt, which are traditionally opposed to Saudi Arabia, see this wealth as a direct gift from Allah. Can it be only an accident that these treasures are under the sands of this particular country? No, they must be there as a reward to the Saudis for following the true path. Why else would the oil be there? - a question that has to be answered not by geologists, but within the understanding that God has directly placed the oil there as He directly does all things. The presence of petroleum gives credence to the Saudi claim that its Wahhabi form of Islam is the legitimate one. It is because of the oil that other Muslims are willing to give this claim consideration. This is why Wahhabism has spread so significantly, even in parts of the world like Indonesia that would seem, from their cultural backgrounds, to have little sympathy with its radical literalism. Therefore, it is not only through Saudi oil largess but also because of where the oil is that Wahhabism enjoys such prominence.

For the sort of Muslim Reilly is writing about (and that’s a hell of a lot of them), what we in the West refer to as “reality” is continuously created by Allah, in a succession of miraculous whims.  Even to study the laws of nature is to presume to place limits on what Allah might choose to do, and is accordingly a blasphemy.  Whatever happens was done by Allah, and is accordingly right.  Might is right.

And if the Saudis have most of the financial clout in the Muslim world, that means Allah must be on their side.

Robert R. Reilly on the nature of Saudi power
More Surrey cricket photos
BMdotcom typo of the day
BMdotcom and email problems – now sorted
Nothing here today
I need a link dump
Islam can’t be made nice
Ladies in Quimper Cathedral
But they didn’t mean this thing to look like a penis
Southwark Cathedral from the train
Adriana Lucas tells Libertarian Home about the experience of communism
How computer dating erodes racism and strengthens marriage (and rearranges tribes)
Frollicking outside the Abbey (a decade ago)
Cathedral dwarfed by modernity
How the West defeats its enemies
Our Sea (and the trade we did in it)
Barcelona Big Things (and Barcelona Big Thing graphics)
Lincoln Paine: A ship in the desert
Stabat Mater at St Stephen’s Gloucester Road
Scaffoldage
Roof clutter on my roof and from my roof
Rod Green on Boys and Men at the time of Magna Carta
I want to write more here about music
Trump’s incompetence – Cruz’s Bible thumping – Hartley on criticising Islam
Sports thorts
Bach’s development of the most intense musical vision from a straitened environment
Matt Ridley on Epicurus and Lucretius
Peter Foster on Robert Owen
Antoine Clarke on herding drunk cats
Antony Flew on the Terrors of Islam
Steven Pinker on the (im)moral message of the Old Testament
Sorry!  No Photo’s!
Church not dwarfed by anything
Big Thing alignments from the top of Westminster Cathedral
Sum
January newspaper pages
A feline Friday at Guido
Charlie Hebdo demo in Trafalgar Square
Old Quimper Cathedral
Christmas Day photos
The Magic Flute at the RCM
On not letting either God or (the other) God do everything
Confirming my String prejudices
A Sunday ramble
Sacred architecture and profane roof clutter - a speculation
Church really dwarfed by modernity
Popography
Conquer the Pillars of Islam
Craig Willy on Emmanuel Todd
Wedding photography (6): The Wedding and the Reception
Steven Pinker’s description of The Enlightenment
Are Christian social conservatives using the Tea Party to impose social conservatism?
Don’t vote Democrat!
Malta Day procession
Natalie Solent at Biased BBC
Emmanuel Todd’s latest book - in English
Another pub
Richard Dawkins on university debating games
The Monolith?
More redirection
Giant Jesuses
Scientology enthusiast is now Climate Change Minister
Defeating Islam (2): Conversion to Christianity will trump higher birth rates in Islamic countries
St Matthew reinterpreted
Christianity defined
Links to this and that
Everyone?
Everybody draw Mohammed every day!
God is not One
Gaddafi looking rather like Alan Rickman
How building St Peter’s Rome split the Catholic Church and how marzipan was invented in Luebeck
God is killing cinemas!
Quotes dump
Inappropriate?
Signs of the times in Belfast
God moves in mysterious ways
Truth is true
The impossibility of God but the possibility of Michael Flatley’s cure and of super-super-flees
Jesus above the keyboard instead of beyond it
“I will cause a boy that driveth a plough to know more of the scriptures than thou dost.”
“It’s only a parable!”
Modernity dwarfed by church
Crackers
Stuff God Hates
I’ve been busy today so here’s a nice picture of the tower of Westminster Cathedral
The Lord is watching
Fifty million Bible bombs
God explained
Underground art
Hear ye hear ye
Mark Holland on believing in something and believing in nothing
Personal choice
Richard Dawkins on the Muhammad cartoons affair
Islam was peaceful and tolerant until the Christians attacked it
Lost Bach
Glenn Gould on the hereafter
Emmanuel Todd (1): Anthropology explains ideology
Islam is evil - and that’s me carrying on normally
Top tips from Viz
Theodore Dalrymple is an Islamic Fundamentalist and so am I
A car called Jesus
Wafa Sultan
I won’t be doing any television myself in the near future but in the meantime have a watch of this
Those cartoons
A Happy Christmas to all my readers
Riotous assemblies
I am an atheist but I often prefer the Christians
iPods From Space
How can intelligent decent people be so badly mistaken?  And did 9/11 make you more opinionated?