The faithful are playing with reference to a different set of rules when arguing for the merits of religion based on faith alone. Faith, by definition, requires no tangible evidence. But claims from the faithful about human history can be countered by the inquisitive atheist. We all have access to a plethora of terrestrial historical accounts which were not gleaned from divine revelation. In this edition of the podcast, Aidan explores the classic argument of the faithful against atheism when discussing human history. This argument – especially prevalent whenever the issue of violence or hatred is discussed – is that Adolf Hitler was an atheist. The inferred claim is that this godlessness demonstrates the danger of turning away from the moral teachings of the church. Another aspect of the argument which is often thrown in as an addendum is a charge that the Third Reich was a secular movement. How much merit is there in these claims? Did Hitler reject God, and if he did, did this make a difference to human history? And how secular was Hitler’s Nazi regime? Aidan delves into the argument to provide grounded insight and analysis. Indeed, as with the claims of the holy books, the introduction of earthly evidence is crucial when one desires to separate fact from fiction. Selected bibliography: J. Cornwell, Hitler’s Pope: The Secret History of Pius XII A. Hitler (ed. N. Baynes), The Speeches of Adolf Hitler A. Hitler, Mein Kampf C. Hitchens, God Is Not Great G. Orwell, Literature and Totalitarianism
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The River Orwell is a small river which runs through East Anglia. The Atlantic Ocean is a foreboding sea which separates Albion from America. Across the latter, a surprise election result led to the inauguration on 20 January 2017 of Donald Trump as President of the United States. Eric Blair was born far from either of these waters in Motihari, India in 1903, but his novel, Nineteen Eighty-Four, released in 1949, has once again dashed to the top of the literary bestsellers. The novel has been widely cited for uncanny comparisons with the new order across the Atlantic. Blair, who took the pen name ‘George Orwell’, was not right about everything, but he was right about all too much.
The question as to why Blair chose his famous nom de plume has never been settled to complete satisfaction. It has been speculated that the choice of forename was inspired by the patron Saint of England, St. George, but perhaps too much is made of this. Orwell, although often regarded as a quintessential Englishman, was a man of many contradictions, including those of national identity. Too many contradictions, indeed, to be certain of this link. Moreover, Orwell, though he distrusted intellectuals, was one himself, and would have known that St. George was no Englishman.
Much less spurious is the surname. To understand this, we need not venture out of Suffolk. Orwell’s connections to East Anglia were an important part of his private life, and it is all but certain that his famous surname flowed from the River Orwell. To explore the alias further, considering how combative Orwell was in his attacks on totalitarianism, one could regard ‘George Orwell’ less as a pseudonym, more of a nom de guerre.
When Orwell’s father retired from colonial service in India in 1921, Richard and Ida Mabel Blair settled in Southwold, Suffolk. Their son followed in Richard’s footsteps to serve the Empire abroad, having passed a training course in the town. But Orwell returned to Suffolk five years later; disillusioned, despairing Imperialism, and seeking a new direction.
Through his many challenges, not least the poor health that ultimately led to his death in 1950, he would often return to Southwold. With fish and chips, sea air and no fear of Big Brother, Orwell could take a gentle stroll along the pier, or a quick dip into the sea, and consider his next move. A Clergyman’s Daughter, published in 1935, was kindled by his time in Southwold, which is substituted for the invented Suffolk proxy of Knype Hill.
Orwell cared little for the novel and rather disowned Knype Hill, but never did he disown Southwold. Likewise, Southwold embraced Orwell. A tribute to a man so passionate about defending what he believed in (he even took a fascist bullet to the throat in Spain) takes pride of place on Southwold’s pier wall. And quite right, too. For Orwell, perhaps all English coastal towns were equal, but some English coastal towns were more equal than others.
In this edition of the Aidan Project Podcast, Aidan is joined by Richard Keeble, who is none other than the Chairman of the Orwell Society. Richard is a retired Professor of Journalism at the University of Lincoln and has written extensively about Orwell, including a critical assessment of Orwell’s war reporting, and also wrote a chapter in the 2012 book, Orwell Today, which he also edited, looking at Orwell’s complex relationship with the intelligence services. Richard and Aidan look at Orwell’s two most famous works, Animal Farm and Nineteen Eighty-Four (and the latter’s huge spike in sales), and discuss what Orwell would have made of “alternative facts” in the new media age. Would Orwell be blogging online, attacking Kellyanne Conway and Sean Spicer for their doublethink with his unique command of language? We also discuss Orwell’s life, his schooling, the shooting of an elephant in Burma, being wounded in Spain, his tremendous wit and his untimely death, in addition to discussing separating fact from fiction in his work, and much more besides. He (or she) who listens to this podcast will know the future. But you might not be able to control the past. For more information on The Orwell Society, please visit http://www.orwellsociety.com/
With a very special guest, Dave McCall, The Aidan Project Podcast looks at the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939). Taking the nomme de plume of David Ebsworth, Dave is an acclaimed historical fiction author, and a member of the Historical Novel Society, the International Brigades Memorial Trust, the Anglo-Zulu War Historical Society, New Writers UK, and the Alliance of Independent Authors. For many historians, the Spanish Civil War marks the real start of World War 2. What is the merit of this argument? What type of man was Franco? Can he be compared with the leaders of the Axis powers? What were the typical experiences of the many men and women from across the world who volunteered to fight for either side? What can be made of British policy during the war not to intervene? George Orwell wrote that he traveled to Spain to fight for ‘common decency’. The Aidan Project explains why, despite Orwell’s best efforts to defend the Republic, it was a losing battle.
This episode of The Aidan Project tackles the moral confusion of the liberal argument, and the intellectual self-harm being conducted by the left. The rise of Trump, and the Brexit result can surely, at least in part, be explained by the inner fighting on the left, which has moved many to the centre, and on some issues, to the right, in the search for a measure of much-needed honesty. The left has a lot of work to do; Aidan is aghast that the left is not willing to defend basic constructs of liberalism by not being honest about its unpalatable challenges. This episode also looks at Trump’s conduct thus far in 2017. Thank you for listening. Please do take a moment to subscribe, be it via WordPress, iTunes, YouTube or Stitcher et al, as this truly assists in getting this argument out there. This is a wake-up call.