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Hot Topic: Atheism

When Time magazine published their infamous "Is God dead?" cover story in 1966, editors across the continent learned a valuable lesson: God sells. And controversial stories about God sell more. Just ask Dan Brown. Or Richard Dawkins.

With his atheist manifesto, The God Delusion, dominating bestseller lists since it was first published in September, Dawkins has been at the centre of nearly every God (or rather, anti-God) story recently published.The articles all seem to tell us the same thing: Science and religion are at odds. The Intelligent Design debacle made a lot of people angry. Religion and God are bearing the brunt of their anger. Atheism is hot and Richard Dawkins is the man who lit the flame. (Here, to prove that this subject is newsworthy, some other prominent atheists are mentioned, usually philosopher Daniel Dennett, author of Breaking the Spell: Religion as a Natural Phenomenon, and neuroscience grad student Sam Harris, author of The End of Faith and Letter to a Christian Nation. Aspiring freelancers take note: three=trend.) Religion is the cause of most of the world's violence, the Atheists say. Stalin and Hitler were Atheists, the religionists say. Hmmm, the writer says.

In Novemeber, Wired published "The New Atheism." That same month, Time ran "God vs. Science," featuring a debate between Dawkins and faith-defending scientist Francis Collins, author of The Language of God: A Scientist Presents Evidence for Belief, another bestseller. Maclean's recently published "Is God Poison?". The New Yorker just chimed in with a lengthy essay, Christopher Hitchens replacing Dawkins as the focus (new famous Atheist=fresh idea!). Nearly every newspaper in North America and Britain has published something on the subject (book review or otherwise).

If God doesn't exist, someone needs to explain how he manages to sell so many magazines and newspapers.

While what's already out there is generally thoughtful and well-written, I think we've heard enough from the Dawkins's, the Dennett's and the Harris's. We've also heard enough from the writers and scientists and religionists who disagree with them. What's missing, at least from what I've seen, are stories that explore Atheism from the ground level. Who is buying these books? Why? Are these people finding alternative ways to fill the "spiritual void" in their lives? What about non-religious people who still believe in a "higher power" of some sort? Who are they and what are they up to? The coverage has been all top-down. Let's try a different angle.

So far J. J. Abrams and Rian Johnson resemble children at play, remaking the films they fell in love with. As an audience, however, we desire a fuller experience.

As recently as the lackluster episodes I-III of the Star Wars saga, the embossed gold logo followed by scrolling prologue text was cause for excitement. In the approach to the release of any of the then new prequel installments, the Twentieth Century Fox fanfare, followed by the Lucas Film logo, teased one's impulsive excitement at a glimpse into the next installment's narrative. Then sat in the movie theatre on the anticipated day of release, the sight and sound of the Twentieth Century Fox fanfare signalled the end of fevered anticipation. Whatever happened to those times? For some of us, is it a product of youth in which age now denies us the ability to lose ourselves within such adolescent pleasure? There's no answer to this question -- only the realisation that this sensation is missing and it has been since the summer of 2005. Star Wars is now a movie to tick off your to-watch list, no longer a spark in the dreary reality of the everyday. The magic has disappeared… Star Wars is spiritually dead.

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This has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it.

It hardly needs to be said that the last 12 months haven't been everyone's favorite, but it does deserve to be noted that 2017 has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it. Other longtime dreamers either reappeared or kept up their recent hot streaks, and a number of relative newcomers established their place in what has become one of the more robust rock subgenre subcultures out there.

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Theatre

​'The Ferryman': Ephemeral Ideas, Eternal Tragedies

The current cast of The Ferryman in London's West End. Photo by Johan Persson. (Courtesy of The Corner Shop)

Staggeringly multi-layered, dangerously fast-paced and rich in characterizations, dialogue and context, Jez Butterworth's new hit about a family during the time of Ireland's the Troubles leaves the audience breathless, sweaty and tearful, in a nightmarish, dry-heaving haze.

"Vanishing. It's a powerful word, that"

Northern Ireland, Rural Derry, 1981, nighttime. The local ringleader of the Irish Republican Army gun-toting comrades ambushes a priest and tells him that the body of one Seamus Carney has been recovered. It is said that the man had spent a full ten years rotting in a bog. The IRA gunslinger, Muldoon, orders the priest to arrange for the Carney family not to utter a word of what had happened to the wretched man.

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10

Aaron Sorkin's real-life twister about Molly Bloom, an Olympic skier turned high-stakes poker wrangler, is scorchingly fun but never takes its heroine as seriously as the men.

Chances are, we will never see a heartwarming Aaron Sorkin movie about somebody with a learning disability or severe handicap they had to overcome. This is for the best. The most caffeinated major American screenwriter, Sorkin only seems to find his voice when inhabiting a frantically energetic persona whose thoughts outrun their ability to verbalize and emote them. The start of his latest movie, Molly's Game, is so resolutely Sorkin-esque that it's almost a self-parody. Only this time, like most of his better work, it's based on a true story.

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7

There's something characteristically English about the Royal Society, whereby strangers gather under the aegis of some shared interest to read, study, and form friendships and in which they are implicitly agreed to exist insulated and apart from political differences.

There is an amusing detail in The Curious World of Samuel Pepys and John Evelyn that is emblematic of the kind of intellectual passions that animated the educated elite of late 17th-century England. We learn that Henry Oldenburg, the first secretary of the Royal Society, had for many years carried on a bitter dispute with Robert Hooke, one of the great polymaths of the era whose name still appears to students of physics and biology. Was the root of their quarrel a personality clash, was it over money or property, over love, ego, values? Something simple and recognizable? The precise source of their conflict was none of the above exactly but is nevertheless revealing of a specific early modern English context: They were in dispute, Margaret Willes writes, "over the development of the balance-spring regulator watch mechanism."

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