Arts and Entertainment David Neilson and Julie Hesmondhalgh in Monday's episode

Actress Julie Hesmondhalgh was only meant to work on Coronation Street for two months. Her character was intended as little more than a gimmick to help the Manchester-based soap opera compete in the ratings battle with then-dominant EastEnders. Fifteen years later, her character’s story has finally come to a close, and with it, one of soap’s most enduring and touching romances: that of oddball Roy and his kind-hearted wife, Hayley.

Observations: The artist and the atheist ad

Unless you've been living under a rock, you can't have missed the furore surrounding the atheist ad campaign cooked up by the comedian Ariane Sherine and supported by Richard Dawkins and the British Humanist Association, which has seen London buses plastered with the statement, "There's probably no God. Now stop worrying and enjoy your life". They brought to mind the work of one S Mark Gubb, who had the idea of subverting the Church's proselytising posters a long time ago – and to far more striking and amusing effect.

Hermione Eyre: Thought for the day: get us thinking, BBC

How much longer can "Thought for the Day" continue on Radio 4's Today programme? That little slot of sanctimony before the 8am news bulletin – only two minutes and 45 second in duration but always seeming so very much longer – is again being targeted by secularists, who politely suggest it should either widen its remit to include non-religious contributors, or shut up shop altogether.

Credo: Anne Rice

Author, 67

<a href="http://blogs.independent.co.uk/openhouse/2008/10/by-john-rento-7.html">John Rentoul: The Godbotherer vote</a>

Alarming stuff for us heathens in a ComRes opinion poll for Theos, the "public theology think tank". It would seem that 20 per cent of the Great British public would not vote for an atheist as prime minister.

Howard Jacobson: So God 'probably' doesn't exist. Don't these atheists have any conviction?

This is a cowardly opposition to religious sentiment

A 21st century exorcist

Martin Shaw is back on TV &ndash; but how will he fare against an adversary with supernatural power?

Religion vs science: can the divide between God and rationality be reconciled?

“A clergyman in charge of education for the country’s leading scientific organisation – it’s a Monty Python sketch,” pronounced Britain’s top atheist, Richard Dawkins, recently. How the world turns. In the days of Galileo it was the church which went around persecuting scientists. Now the boot appears to be on the scientific foot. That is how it must feel, at any rate, to Professor Michael Reiss who last month was hounded out of his job as the Royal Society’s director of education by a group of Nobel Prize winners who were outraged not by what he said but by what people might think he had said.

Why There Almost Certainly Is a God, By Keith Ward

There is a running joke in the forums at RichardDawkins.net about "fleas", which is what the site's contributors call the spreading rash of books that have been published in refutation of Dawkins' bestseller The God Delusion. It isn't an officially endorsed term, but was inspired by a comment that Dawkins made about two books with his name in the title by the Oxford theologian Alister McGrath: "It is tempting to quote Yeats ('Was there ever a dog that praised its fleas?') and leave it at that..." While poorly argued and badly written books undeniably number among these "fleas", there are others containing nimble logic and thoughtful prose which even hard-line atheists should still find it rewarding to engage with – if only they would. One such is the latest missive in the Oxford God debate, Why There Almost Certainly Is a God (named, with one small change of wording, after chapter four of The God Delusion), by the university's former Regius Professor of Divinity, Keith Ward.

Mariinsky / Gergiev, De Doelen, Rotterdam

Dostoevsky's obsession with physical and mental pain, coupled with his relentlessly emphatic style, means that The Brothers Karamazov is not the ideal book to curl up with. Nor is this 900-page emotional odyssey ideal fodder for opera: two operas have been drawn from it, but neither has stood the test of time.

Dom Joly: It's 50p a swear word... and the pot stands at &#163;75

Idon't know where she got the idea, but Parker, my daughter, suddenly produced a fully decorated swear box and announced that there were new rules for us all to follow. It was going to be 50p per swear word, and she and Jackson would split the proceeds at the end of each month. It was all very entrepreneurial and there was no way we could refuse without setting a pretty bad example.

Rupert Cornwell: Campaign 2008... the year of the church

It's not just Bible Belters and Republicans who feel obliged to advertise their faith

Léger, Fernand: Leaves and Shell (1927)

Is this it? asks the spiritual seeker. This material universe, this mortal span, this natural stuff, is this really it? And the atheist answers yes, there is nothing more, no eternal life, no supernatural powers, no god who made the world, no providence, no destiny. This world, this life, is all there is. And if you feel that's not enough - get over it.

How God works in litigious ways

There is a fascinating case going on in the High Court in which God may possibly be called as a witness. Like to know more? I know I would. Here is an extract from the opening proceedings.

BOOKS: The sea of faith and violence

The End of Faith By Sam Harris FREE PRESS pounds 12.99 (336pp) pounds 11.99 (free p&p) from 0870 079 8897

BOOKS: When love of truth meets the truth of love

Carol Birch The Evangelist By Clare George SCEPTRE pounds 16.99 (391pp) pounds 15.99 (free p&p) from 0870 079 8897
Career Services

Day In a Page

Independent Travel
Burgundy
Pompeii, Capri & the Bay of Naples
Lake Garda
Lake Como
Bruges
Paris
Prices correct as of 28 November 2014
Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: ‘We give them hope. They come to us when no one else can help’

Christmas Appeal

Meet the charity giving homeless veterans hope – and who they turn to when no one else can help
Should doctors and patients learn to plan humane, happier endings rather than trying to prolong life?

Is it always right to try to prolong life?

Most of us would prefer to die in our own beds, with our families beside us. But, as a GP, Margaret McCartney sees too many end their days in a medicalised battle
Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night - is that what it takes for women to get to the top?

What does it take for women to get to the top?

Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night and told women they had to do more if they wanted to get on
Christmas jumper craze: Inside the UK factory behind this year's multicultural must-have

Knitting pretty: British Christmas Jumpers

Simmy Richman visits Jack Masters, the company behind this year's multicultural must-have
French chefs have launched a campaign to end violence in kitchens - should British restaurants follow suit?

French chefs campaign against bullying

A group of top chefs signed a manifesto against violence in kitchens following the sacking of a chef at a Paris restaurant for scalding his kitchen assistant with a white-hot spoon
Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour War and Peace on New Year's Day as Controller warns of cuts

Just what you need on a New Year hangover...

Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour adaptation of War and Peace on first day of 2015
Cuba set to stage its first US musical in 50 years

Cuba to stage first US musical in 50 years

Claire Allfree finds out if the new production of Rent will hit the right note in Havana
Christmas 2014: 10 best educational toys

Learn and play: 10 best educational toys

Of course you want them to have fun, but even better if they can learn at the same time
Paul Scholes column: I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season

Paul Scholes column

I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season
Lewis Moody column: Stuart Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

Lewis Moody: Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

So what must the red-rose do differently? They have to take the points on offer 
Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

It's in all our interests to look after servicemen and women who fall on hard times, say party leaders
Millionaire Sol Campbell wades into wealthy backlash against Labour's mansion tax

Sol Campbell cries foul at Labour's mansion tax

The former England defender joins Myleene Klass, Griff Rhys Jones and Melvyn Bragg in criticising proposals
Nicolas Sarkozy returns: The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?

Sarkozy returns

The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?
Is the criticism of Ed Miliband a coded form of anti-Semitism?

Is the criticism of Miliband anti-Semitic?

Attacks on the Labour leader have coalesced around a sense that he is different, weird, a man apart. But is the criticism more sinister?
Ouija boards are the must-have gift this Christmas, fuelled by a schlock horror film

Ouija boards are the must-have festive gift

Simon Usborne explores the appeal - and mysteries - of a century-old parlour game