Radical Atheism and Human Suffering

kevin-carter-vulture Further to last month’s introductory bit on Radical Atheism, the rubbish new secular belief system we recently made up – a post on Radical Atheism and human suffering.

There’s probably not a god. Life has no big, grand, capitalise-able ‘Meaning’. It’s just physics and biology. Humans are just sacks of chemical reactions. But there’s still right and wrong. And it’s intimately linked to our millennia-spanning pedigree as social animals.

It’s bad to hurt others. It’s good to help others. And it’s bad not to help others when you can help others. Without those basic moral precepts, humanity wouldn’t have survived anywhere near this long. For prehistoric hunter-gatherer societies, hyper-individualism wasn’t an option. You helped each other out, played fairly, shared the spoils equally. Or you died. For 90% of human history, nearly two hundred thousand years, that’s how we lived – millions of years if you count the earlier hominids we evolved from. And it was that social, co-operative lifestyle that the species uniquely adapted to suit. It fundamentally shaped what we are, and what humans need to life emotionally healthy, fulfilling lives.

Radical Atheism is about taking that basic morality – and the implications of atheism more generally – to radical conclusions. If it’s got a central, overriding belief, it’s this: that in an incalculably vast, godless, meaningless universe, the only thing left that really matters is human suffering. Continue reading

You Can’t Win: Charlotte Church and The Logical Gymnastics of the Sociopath Right

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Russell Brand at Saturday’s demo

Those text-on-picture memes that clog up the internet and mean nobody has to think of anything themselves any more are generally very annoying, but a few manage to be quite good. One currently doing the rounds quotes dead Canadian economist J.K. Galbraith: “the modern conservative is engaged in one of man’s oldest exercises in moral philosophy – the search for a superior moral justification for selfishness”.

After last Saturday’s End Austerity Now demo in London, the Right did an excellent job of proving Galbraith’s observation still applies. Taking to their computers in droves, irate right-wingers condemned any and everyone who took part in the event – but saved particular disdain for Charlotte Church and other celebrity leftists who turned up.

In doing so, they demonstrated their usual logical flexibility when it comes to attacking egalitarians. If you’re poor and you complain about a politics scandalously tilted in favour of the richest, you’re jealous – engaging in divisive class warfare, being anti-enterprise, threatening Britain’s future prosperity. If you’re rich, and you do the same, you’re a hypocritical champagne socialist – the implication being that you can only complain about capitalism if you’re poor. Except you can’t, because then you’re engaging in divisive class warfare, being anti-enterprise, and threatening Britain’s future prosperity. Continue reading

Corbyn In

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Tony Benn and his ‘favourite’ MP

Jeremy Corbyn managed to get on the Labour leadership ballot. He probably won’t win. But he might do. It’d be an amusing irony if a one member one vote election process designed to prove Labour isn’t unduly influenced by the unions ended up delivering the most left-wing leader in party history.

With the three mainstream candidates pitching themselves to the editorial board of the Daily Express rather than people actually in the Labour Party, Corbyn is proving startlingly popular with the grassroots – far more so than even unrepentant Bennites who write rubbish internet blogs and have supported him for years would’ve expected.

Corbyn vs the Burnham-Cooper-Kendall axis doesn’t just represent a clash of wildly different political perspectives, but starkly opposing ideas of what Labour fundamentally is. Is Labour just the regional-accented wing of the neoliberal establishment? Or is a democratic membership organisation, aspiring to be a social movement? Continue reading

Osborne, Budget ‘Responsibility’ and the Hall of Mirrors Society

Prime Minister David Cameron Visits Manchester

George Osborne has announced his intention to make budget deficits illegal. The government is going to ban itself from spending more than it receives in taxes. Its ultimate aim is a permanent budget surplus – government always spending less than it brings in each year, and therefore turning a profit.

If you’ve done A Level politics, you’ll appreciate how transparently meaningless and PR-motivated a measure that is. No parliament can pass a law that a future parliament can’t change or reverse. So, in essence, what the Tories are doing is making it a legal requirement to do something they’re ideologically committed to doing anyway – by passing a law that can be immediately repealed by the first government that wants to get rid of it.

And if, unlike George Osborne, you’ve studied A Level economics, you’ll appreciate how earth-shatteringly stupid the fixation with balancing budgets is in the first place. Continue reading

Do You Love Me Like You Say You Do (Lee Fields)

Brooklyn-based Truth and Soul records lovingly curate neo-traditionalist funk and soul. El Michels Affair, Cosmic Force, Bronx River Parkway and the bevy of other funk aficionados it’s shepherded to cult success make music you’d swear fell straight out of 1973. Most of them are well-heeled young white boys, borderline-autistic in their reverence for Isaac Hayes and the sounds of ‘70s Blaxploitation. But Lee Fields, vocally and physically a ringer for the late great Mr James Brown, has been at it since the late ‘60s. Prolific but never huge throughout the ‘70s, Fields was airlifted from obscurity in late middle age when T and S teamed him up with label house band The Expressions and exposed him and his elephant-flooring vocal heft to a new generation. “Do You Love Me (Like You Say You Do)” marries the braying horns and keys of a Curtis Mayfield record with hip-hop hi-hats and nonchalant guitar skanks. Over the top, Fields hollers so-so love lyrics with gasket-blowing sincerity.

Corbyn For Leader

Jeremy Corbyn After the cataclysmic shitstorm that was GE2015, The Bemolution was very content to take an extended/permanent sabbatical from talking about mainstream parliamentary politics. In fact, we spent June 3rd having a long lie down in a darkened room, although that was as much to do with a nuclear-grade migraine as the seemingly insurmountable shitness of the Murdoch-mediated, corporate-pandering, learned-nothing-from-the-crash neoliberal consensus.

Then veteran left-winger Jeremy Corbyn announced he was standing in Labour’s leadership election. And it was fantastic, because so far the contest has been disgustingly, disgustingly bad.

Even after Blair, Labour still contains everyone from Simon Danczuk MP to people left of Lenin. But the leadership contest doesn’t reflect that at all. Instead, Labour members and supporters have been offered a dismal selection of centre-right drones built out of spare bits of Peter Mandelson. It’s looked more like a dull fringe meeting by Progress, the Lord Sainsbury-funded ultra-Blairite pressure group, than anything approaching a democratic election.

Liz Kendall, Mary Creagh, Yvette Cooper and Andy Burnham have heroically trundled out to say how much they’d secretly disliked Ed Miliband’s politics all along (a man even they now portray as an enterprise-hating communist), and that Labour lost because it was too left-wing. Various analyses of how Britain voted, from Labour MP Jon Trickett’s to exit pollster John Curtice’s, show that’s just plain wrong. But Labour’s rising stars won’t let mere fact get in the way of parroting corporate media narratives in an attempt to get a leg-up from The Sun. Continue reading