Around a quarter of the world’s two billion Christians now sign up to the Pentecostalist or neo-Pentecostalist belief that God talks to them. That includes some educated people like, say, the Archbishop of Canterbury. How is this possible, in an era of rising education and living standards? Is the world going mental? One social scientist Read more…

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I’ve just re-read William James’ Varieties of Religious Experience, which he gave as a series of lectures in 1902. It is a marvelous book, in which James attempts to take a pragmatic and empirical approach to religious experiences, remaining open to the question of where such experiences come from, and evaluating them by looking at Read more…

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A few weeks ago, I woke up at 3am, for no particular reason, and lay in my bed listening to the city sleeping. My middle-class street in Tufnell Park was placid and at rest. Then I heard a woman sobbing, as she walked down the street. It was such a strange, piercing sound:  in the Read more…

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At the moment I’m researching the cultural practices of ecstasy in the 20th century, which has given me the excuse to read some fine books on the history of pop music. The latest is Matthew Collin’s Altered State: The Story of Ecstasy Culture and Acid House, first published way back in 1997 and since updated. Read more…

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While I was writing Philosophy for Life, I lived with three friends in a church in North London. We discovered that our land-lady, who we never met, was Sister Bliss, the DJ and one third of the dance supergroup Faithless. This year, when I found myself researching the idea of music as a form of Read more…

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