A couple of years ago I was driving my son, who was 6 at the time, to a birthday party. It was - once again - a 'pirate' theme, and as I looked at him dressed up in his sawn-off trousers and cardboard cutlass, I began to think: what is it about pirates? How come he's not been invited to any 'aggravated robbery' themed parties?
Pirates, you soon realise, are everywhere. Their 'Jolly Roger' motif is found in the most surprising of places - skulls and crossed bones on baby bottles, skateboards, comforters and executive ties. There are pirate radio stations, pirated DVDs, members of the European Parliament from the Pirate Party - not to mention the swashbuckling, rum-swilling mutineers of the Hollywood franchises, nor their contemporaries who patrol the seas off Somalia.
My new book - Mutiny! Why We Love Pirates and How They Can Save Us - rose out of the question that pressed me: what, if anything, could all of these different pirates have in common? My hunch is this: pirates emerge whenever things that should be held in common are enclosed into private ownership.
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This week, in a special edition of Radio 4's Sunday programme
, we'll explore the many ways the world wide web is changing global religion. From live-steaming communion services to Jewish dating sites, from virtual muslim pilgrimages to online monastic communities, from smart phones that hear confessions to podcasting evangelists.
The web has given a new voice to pro-democracy groups previously silenced by dictatorial regimes. It has allowed separated families to stay in touch. It has democratised education and changed the way we share new knowledge about the world and around the world. But it is also giving a platform to religious and political extremism. It has ushered in a new age of cyber-bullying and cyber-terrorism. And some brain scientists sat social networking sites such as Twitter and Facebook can blunt our sense of morality and make users indifferent to human suffering.
Is the internet good for our souls (if you believe in such a thing) or a danger to our moral health? Tell us what you think.
Can you earn a PhD in molecular genetics while rejecting the theory of biological evolution and believing the world is no more than six thousand years old? Dr Georgia Purdom
did just that, and is now a "research scientist" with Answers in Genesis based at their Creation Museum
in Kentucky. I met her this summer, while visiting the museum. On today's Sunday Sequence, we broadcast my conversation with Dr Purdom. She tells me how she "buried" her creationist views while studying for her PhD at Ohio State University, and explains why she thinks "old earth creationists" are "unbiblical".
You can listen again to that interview here. (Spool through to 62mins.)
On Sunday, we broadcast an interview with the American evangelical writer Jonathan Merritt
. I recorded that interview while travelling in the United States this summer. I met Jonathan (pictured) for breakfast in Washington DC during the Q Conference
, a meeting of "new evangelicals", and we talked about his new book which encourages his fellow evangelicals to move beyond a sometimes toxic debate about culture wars.
A few weeks after the interview was recorded, Jonathan found himself embroiled in a public controversy about his own personal life, when a gay Christian blogger called Azariah Southworth revealed that he'd had a sexual encounter with him. Azariah Southworth's decision to "out" Jonathan Merritt appears to have been prompted by Jonathan's recent public comments on the same-sex marriage debate.
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I don't often post an open thread, but some of you tell me it's a good idea because it lets you get stuff off your chest without throwing the direction of other threads. It also permits you to make suggestions about subjects we might give some more substantial space to on Will & Testament. Let's see. Expatiate at will (sorry about the pun). Keep it legal. The house rules still apply.