Argument is multi-disciplinary and cross-political student magazine by and for students in Oslo that’s been around for about 6 years and has a circulation of around 6000. The launch of the fourth issue of 2012 took place in Sound of Mu on Wednesday and caught my eye because it took god as its central theme, and the speaker at the launch was Didrik Søderlind, a fellow humanist for whom I have a lot of time and respect.
With accessible articles, in both English and Norwegian, the latest edition of the magazine covered, amongst many other diverse and interesting non-religious topics, the Goddamn Particle and the LHC, Evolution, crying Madonna statues, a dissection of where god got his name, and a round of god-themed pop (including gems like Joan Osborne’s Christian Rock classic One of Us and Faithless’ God is a DJ (“God is a DJ. Han setter steminga, pisker oss ut på gulvet og bestemmer når natta er over og det er på tid å gå hjem”; Translation: “ He sets the mood, whip us out on the floor and decides when the night is over and it's time to go home”).
Also in the science section is Marit Simonsen,the out-going science editor and allround sceptical/humanist/science-whizz (whom I’ve clung to like a barnacle since moving to Norway), interviewing one of my heroes Ben Goldacre about Bad Science and his upcoming book The Drug Pushers, and beautiful bit of photojournalism on animals braving the arctic climes of Svalbard. I got talking to the new science editor over a beer during the course of the evening and wangled myself the chance to write about neurosciencey stuff for them, which is pretty exciting!
The event itself kicked off with Something Waits Band who had the crowd singing along to some Tom Waits classics, took the time to ask god to bless the atheists and had me nearly peeing with excitement with a truly excellent cover of, the aptly religious, Way Down in the Hole.
Diderik’s quick and quick-fire talk included a plea to study and take religion and the religious seriously ‘given that god is one of the most important people in history’ and that religion is responsible for inspiring so much wonderful art, music, poetry and architecture. His talk was also laced with irony (which I hope I didn't misinterpret, given that my Norwegian still isn’t great and I’d had a few ales by then), for example, taking atheists to task for their pernickety insistence spelling and talking about 'god with a little g', and voicing the charge that there is no less evidence that Jesus, Mohamed or Buddha were real historical persons than say Aristotle, whom atheists have no problem believing wondered around imparting wisdom.
Didrik has spent nearly a year traveling around Norway talking to Christians about their beliefs and experiences in preparation for a book, which I’m really looking forward to reading. I highly recommend The Lord Bassington-Bassington Chronicles for his whimsical commentary on society weaved with matters sartorial; “If we can't have same-sex marriages, how else are we going to get weddings where both parties wear bowler hats?”
Smiltrio finished the evening’s festivities with some more great music, including some impressive double bass and electric guitar solos. Their catchy rhythms were still swilling around my beer-infused brain as I devoured the rest of Argument on the bus home, already excited about the next issue and with a head buzzing with ideas about what I could contribute to it.