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Last week New Zealand, this week France.

C’est à vous Julia or Tony

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The unchanging meaning of marriage?

A fascinating reflection on what marriage has meant throughout history, and how expanding the definition to include same sex couples, is (in historical terms) a minor change.

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Where the rules of a specific religion are given precedence over the rule of law, where religious custom supersedes morality, common sense, or even decency, there is the likelihood of this happening.

History has shown, theocracy does not work, especially for the benefit of the wider populace. It does not matter the religion, if a religion rules, it does not tolerate opposition, it does not tolerate scrutiny, it does not tolerate anything different from itself..

Though it may tolerate this – http://www.rawstory.com/rs/2013/02/02/saudi-preacher-spared-after-raping-killing-daughter/

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In the wake of the conditional Lance Armstrong confessions to Oprah Winfrey , My question is, why is this such a big story?

How can one interview with a cyclist who is a (now confessed) drug cheat, be virtually the number one news item right across the world.

He is not the first professional cyclist (or other sports-person) to have been found to be using performance enhancing drugs, that has become almost commonplace. So why is Lance Armstrong any different?

Is it the magnitude of his victories that make this such an important story? Winning the Cycling’s biggest event on seven times, and not being tested positive for performance enhancement substances. But not everyone is into Road Cycling…. but people like a good story to believe in.

In the late 1990s an American road cyclist named Lance Armstrong (who by this time had won two stages of the Tour De France – one in 1993 and one in ’95) was diagnosed with testicular cancer which had spread to the lungs and brain. He overcame the cancer to return to competition in 1998. this would be a wonderful and inspiring story in itself, but Armstrong then won the Tour De France in 1999… It appeared almost ‘miraculous’.

He was placed on a pedestal by those who wanted to believe that Armstrong was something special, that he was different to those other riders who had been discovered to be drug cheats… and Armstrong kept winning the Tour De France, and kept passing drug tests… and from that pedestal, he could do little wrong… so it seemed. Started  charities (i.e. Livestrong), attacked and sued those who accused him of being a drug cheat, confirming the belief many held in him… after all, he was passing test after test – there was no proof.

If something looks too good to be true, it probably is.

And now the façade is removed, the pedestal smashed, and Armstrong is exposed, shamed, discredited, and may yet be convicted. The world is upset and angry at Armstrong’s behaviour and deceit, and his actions deserve condemnation… but let us not forget that he did not assume the pedestal he was on by himself. He was (to a point) placed there because so many believed in him, and wanted to believe in something that logic, common sense, and experience said was not so… and behind that façade of belief others had in him, he could lie, deceive, cheat, purger.

Armstrong performed those acts that he has confessed to, but the unconditional belief many had in him and their suspension of logic, helped build the stage for the performance.

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The silly season is upon us once again, transforming regular grocery shopping trips into enduring the gauntlet of Christmas shoppers (often with young children in tow) en-mass in shopping centres, filling usually available parking – simply exacerbating the ordeal.

But this is just an accepted part of what is advertised as the most wonderful time of the year.

Christmas, as it has become, is now more an annoying distraction. Yes it is nice to use this time to remember the year that has past, to reflect on the human condition, and how each of us adds or subtracts from those around us, but the rapacious gluttony that captures the population as December passes is breathtaking when juxtaposed against what the season is supposed to be about. “Good will to all”…. Just as long as there is plenty for me.

What is it that we get at Christmas?

At a tactile level, the food will be eaten, that which is not, will be discarded. The presents that are given will either be spent, used up, put away, or be broken and forgotten, or they will be returned for refund, or discarded, and only sometimes will a present have greater relevance and longevity for the receiver. In other words, one Christmas’ presents will often have no level of meaning by the next Christmas, if they still exist at all.

I use the word ‘present’ to describe that, which is bought and given at Christmas, rather than ‘gift’, which is simply given of the person to another. Such a gift is usually intangible, often ephemeral (or lasting just a moment) but its memory and meaning can remain pristine and clear for a lifetime. It may be an act of kindness, a smile, or just memories of different (or happier) times. A present is given for the present. A gift is just given – anywhere, anytime, from (and to) anyone.

Last week would have been my sister’s 50th birthday. Tomorrow will have been my younger brother’s 44th birthday, and Australia Day next month will have been my older brother’s 52nd birthday. I cannot remember how long it has been since any of us exchanged Christmas presents, but over the last (almost) eight years since the first of my siblings passed, I have become increasingly aware of the gifts they had given me. They had not bought me any Christmas or birthday presents for many years, but had given a lifetime of gifts, of which I am deeply grateful.

It is especially at Christmas that I reflect on the gifts that I have been given, and I hold tight to those precious yet indestructible gifts, lest I forget those who gave. These gifts are both from them and are them, for it is in these gifts that lives the very essence of who they were, and through their gifts, who they remain.

I wish you peace and happiness at Christmas. May you reflect well on what you have, what you have been given, and the gifts you give others every day.

MERRY CHRISTMAS!

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While I am a strong adherent of the sentiments that are central to this season, good will to all, giving freely of oneself without expectation of return. etc. and that I see the season as the most human of times, separate and exclusive of any religious observance; As a religious skeptic I have issues about the Christmas story, specifically as it relates to the Christian story. In fact I find the story itself rather problematic.

Mary, supposedly a virgin, is visited by an angel who tells her she is pregnant by god, news which surprises Mary.
This in itself is a problem, for clearly the insemination appears to have been non-consensual. Mary is therefore a victim of an assault, that may actually be construed as rape.

Christians invoke god by saying things like god the father, god the son… this clearly suggests incest. If Jesus is god, then Jesus as god may have raped Mary for god as Jesus to be born –
send that one to the DNA lab!!

If a son marries his mother, does he become his own step-father?

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http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/europe/germany/8029948/First-World-War-officially-ends.html

Every day the world turns, history follows its course, countries and governments rise and fall, and our eyes are focussed on what is happening in the here and now.

Suddenly echoes of momentous events long ago can be heard within the din of the contemporary, and the ghosts of those times tap us on the shoulder to point to what they did.

Versailles, and all what it may have stood for, is finally fulfilled on Sunday. The bill the allied powers imposed on Germany in 1919 will have been paid… and the dead can finally rest…. but can we?

What lessons have we learned from the newly fulfilled treaty?

What mistakes do we, to this day, repeat?

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