In the annual survey of MPs' holiday reading, released today by the bookshop chain Waterstone's, first place was taken by William Hague's biography of William Wilberforce, which was published to coincide with the bicentenary of the abolition of the slave trade. It came well ahead of books that received more hype at the time of publication, such as the latest Harry Potter fantasy, or the diaries of Alastair Campbell.
It is perhaps not surprising that Mr Hague should be the top seller among Conservative MPs, but what is less predictable is that the survey showed the same book to be the Liberal Democrat's top summer read.
A new mood of religious scepticism seems to have taken hold of Labour MPs, who have made The God Delusion, by Richard Dawkins, their main choice.
You don't surprise me at all.
Also in the Indie ... (via)
We have nothing to fear from al-Qa'ida. Christian fundamentalists are the real extremist threat. That's the message from the writers of a new play being shown at the Edinburgh International Fringe Festival. Cash in Christ, a sing-along play satirising the modern capitalist "mega- church", is arguably one of the most controversial productions in a Fringe with the largest satirical content in living memory.
The 50-minute show, written by Van Badham and Jonny Berliner, which premieres this weekend, comprises sermons from Christian literature, television programmes and church services. The authors conducted extensive research in America, Australia and online, and also spent three months attending services at London churches, including the Hillsong Church and Holy Trinity Brompton.
The writers said that, while there is public discussion about the dangers of radical Islamic groups, the influence of the Christian far right is underestimated. "I've been very sensitive to extremists in other religions, particularly Islam, being demonised," said Badham. "I find the Christian right groups that are enormously powerful in our own culture a larger numerical threat than extreme Islam. They are somehow removed from public criticism, and that is one of the reasons we did the show.
"Bush is from the religious right and he has the bomb; that terrifies me far more than the potential of other extremists to get their hands on nuclear weapons. In the religious right it is the self-appointed moral majority that sets its own rules, and anybody opposing them is labelled unpatriotic and shouted down."
Badham said the Wisepart/Jews and Communists co-production is entirely fictitious, but reflects wider political concerns. "It terrifies me that a few religious groups were able to cause a furore around Jerry Springer – The Opera in Britain. What I find frightening about the war in Iraq is that Bush and the people around him speak about it as if it's the crusades again."
She said that although people they met at church services were kind, she felt their attitudes might foster religious intolerance. "The propaganda is intense. We have been going to these megachurches to be told: 'Christianity is not a religion. It is the work of God to rescue all of humanity.' So everybody else can basically get stuffed."
I think that Messrs Bad Ham und Berliner can basically get stuffed. But if they fancy getting their play put on at Stratford, they need to get on the phone to Dominic Cooke.