An interview with Johann Hari

“If Jesus comes back, we’ll kill him again”. Johann Hari, award-winning columnist for The Independent, is telling me about a slogan on a t-shirt that got him into a little trouble in a library. He speaks with a kind of schoolboy exhilaration, a mischievous grin on his face and a glint in his eye. Very few people would sport such a provocative item of clothing in a public place, but I soon realise that Hari isn’t one to shy away from controversy. His articles are invariably outspoken and fearless; he has been the subject of numerous death threats from Islamic fundamentalists, had his effigy burned on the streets of India, and been called fat by the Dalai Lama. Yet despite this reputation, he immediately strikes me as a humane and congenial man. As we meet under the red-and-white awning of a Hampstead café, I am greeted by an outstretched arm …

This is our ides of March – we have been warned

As a veil of iridescence casts a forlorn shadow over the undulating waves of the Gulf of Mexico, and Mt. Eyjafjallajokull spews plumes of volcanic ash into the high atmosphere, we are left wondering. Albeit that the latter was unpreventable and not a result of humanity’s destruction of the environment, one thing is certain: these stark, humbling reminders of the fragility and power of Mother Nature should prompt action. We have been confronted by one warning too many. It was one Robin Williams who kindly mentioned to us that using clean coal is a bit like wearing a porous condom – at least the intention was there. The trouble is that when it comes to the environment, good intentions don’t quite cut it. No one hacks down a tree for a laugh, or decapitates an endangered giant panda for a cheap kick, or burns some fossil fuels for a sneaky …

Hatemongering in the name of God

“Viva il Papa!” the crowd cheered rapturously, as Pope Benedict XVI clambered back onto two feet. The pinnacle of the Catholic religion, and one of the most powerful and influential men in the world, had been sent to the ground by a woman dressed in a red sweater just a few hours before delivering his Christmas Day message. Having burst through barriers guarded by stern-faced Vaticanites, Susanna Maiolo had pounced on His Holiness, and was subsequently dispatched to a psychiatric centre to seek help. It’s an astonishing act of iconoclasm, albeit from a mentally unstable woman. But irrespective of Maiolo’s intentions, there is something undeniably powerful about the image of a toppling pontiff. It reminds us that he is a man after all, and not just an icon. Even so, people are still afraid to speak out against his more objectionable ideas. My question is simple: why should Joseph Ratzinger …