Arts and Entertainment

Towards the end of this illuminating book, Larry Siedentop describes a fourteenth century battle between two Christian monastic orders. The Dominicans and the Franciscans were mendicant orders, begging monks who had abandoned the comforts of the cloisters to preach among the poor.

Red Tory, By Phillip Blond

According to Phillip Blond, there has been "a wholesale collapse of British culture, virtue and belief". It has led to " increasing fear, lack of trust and abundance of suspicion, long-term increase in violent crime, loneliness, recession, depression, private and public debt, family break-up, divorce, infidelity, bureaucratic and unresponsive public services, dirty hospitals, powerlessness, the rise of racism, excessive paperwork, longer and longer working hours, children who have no parents... seemingly immovable poverty, the permanence of inequality, teenagers with knives, teenagers being knifed, the decline of politeness, aggressive youths, the erosion of our civil liberties and the increase of obsessive surveillance, public authoritarianism, private libertarianism, general pointlessness, political cynicism and a pervading lack of daily joy". It is a dire litany, but in this book about "how the Left and Right have broken Britain and how we can fix it", Blond is confident that nearly everyone will accept this calamitous diagnosis: "When I say that British culture has collapsed, we - whatever our political beliefs - almost immediately recognise the truth of it." He is no less confident that the calamity can be reversed, if only his analysis is understood and acted on.

Great Debates: When politics gets gladiatorial

As the leaders of Britain's political parties limber up to take part in an unprecedented series of TV discussions, John Walsh explores the history of oratorial combat, from the deadly logic of Socrates to the killer charms of JFK

Letters: Televised political debates

Election debates? A real clash would be more honest

Islamic scholar says suicide bombers will 'go to hell'

A respected Islamic scholar will publish a seminal fatwa tomorrow that unequivocally condemns terrorism and warns suicide bombers that they will “go to hell” for their attacks.

After Lives: a guide to heaven, hell and purgatory, By John Casey

The after-life is a pretty well-explored destination, both in the sense that, if most of the world's great faiths are to be believed, all of us end up there, and in that it has been the subject of some of the most enduring works of literature known to humankind. They include Dante's Divine Comedy, Milton's Paradise Lost, the Book of Job, Swedenborg's New Jerusalem and, juxtaposing traditional Christians evocations of heaven and hell with the modern era, James Joyce's A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man.

Reverend Peter Thomson: Anglican minister who was a crucial early influence on Tony Blair

Peter Thomson, Anglican minister and social activist, was noted for being a key influence on the young Tony Blair, a committed Christian socialist and a particularly irreverent reverend.

Leader signals end of Methodism

Reverend surprises general synod by suggesting that his Church should consider merger with Anglicans

Grand Ayatollah Hussein Ali Montazeri: Ayatollah Khomeini's designated successor who fell out of favour with Iran's revolutionary leader

The most important turning point in the life of Grand Ayatollah Hussein Ali Montazeri came in the late 1980s, when the authorities in Iran brusquely ordered his picture taken down from mosques and government offices.

Leading article: Happy Christmas

Take Christ out of Christmas and all you are left with is M&S, some wag quipped this week. It is not, of course, true. Even for people with no religious faith there is something about this traditional festival that transcends the consumerist frenzy.

Dominic Lawson: It's no wonder some Christians forget that Jesus was Jewish

Jews do not come knocking on your door at an unlikely hour like some Christian evangelicals

Oral Roberts: Evangelist who pioneered the charismatic style that came to dominate American Christianity

Oral Roberts was one of the most remarkable religious figures to have appeared in North America in the 20th century. A faith healer and pioneer of a new, informal style of religious broadcasting that became fashionable in the 1970s, he was at the forefront of the charismatic movement that became a powerful, even dominant, force in mainstream Christianity during the 1980s and 1990s. The founder of Oral Roberts University and Faith City, a medical school and hospital complex at Tulsa, Oklahoma, he will be remembered as one of America's most enterprising and colourful religious entrepreneurs.

Pope to address MPs in Westminster during state visit

Pope Benedict XVI will preach to MPs and peers in Westminster Hall when he visits England next September, Vatican sources said today.

Speaker's wife admits to 'ladette' past

Speaker John Bercow's wife confessed today that she used to be an "argumentative, stroppy drunk" who had a series of flings and put herself in danger through making bad judgments.

One Minute With: Ian Blair

Where are you now and what can you see?

In my study, looking out at a very sodden garden. It is, however, brightened up by a winter-flowering cherry, which has suddenly broken out into intense white blossom.

Bishop Werner Krusche: Bishop who played a crucial role in reconciling the two halves of Germany

Werner Krusche was a bishop in the East German Protestant Church who clashed with the ruling SED, Communists as he sought to gain concessions for Christians in the German Democratic Republic, but was eventually credited for his part in advancing Germany's re-unification.

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War with Isis: The West needs more than a White Knight

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Despite billions spent on weapons, the US has not been able to counter Isis's gruesome tactics, says Patrick Cockburn
Return to Helmand: Private Davey Graham recalls the day he was shot by the Taliban

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Private Davey Graham was shot five times during an ambush in 2007 - it was the first, controversial photograph to show the dangers our soldiers faced in Helmand province
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