The politics of secularism

Taming the Gods: religion and democracy on three continents, by Ian Buruma (Princeton University Press, 2010)

Ian Buruma’s short book is a kind of sequel to Death in Amsterdam, his book about the murder of Theo van Gogh and the limits of tolerance. It goes beneath the superficial counterpositions of today’s religion debates – religion versus secularism, multiculturalism versus intolerance – to identify some more interesting dynamics at work. Perhaps most usefully, Buruma shows that ideological disorientation within Western culture is at least as important as tensions between West and East, or even ‘secular liberalism’ and radical Islam. Continue reading “The politics of secularism”

Choosing life

Beat the Booze, by Edmund Tirbutt and Helen Tirbutt

Britain’s apparently pathological relationship with alcohol is an increasingly prominent concern in the media. We are told that far too many people are drinking far too much, leading to antisocial behaviour and lost work days in the short term, and addiction and chronic disease in the long term. Politicians propose everything from better education to steeper prices as a means of weaning us off the bottle.

Continue reading “Choosing life”