The New Humanist has announced and posted the cover story for their next issue of the magazine: a celebration of Iain M. Banks. What does a science fiction writer have to do with humanism? All is explained:
…Banks also engaged, with the creation of the Culture, in a piece of sly, prolonged and magnificent anti-theism. I don’t so much mean because, here and there, he used his wide screen for explicit attack on elements of religion, as in Surface Detail’s Hieronymus Bosch-worthy demonstration of the repulsiveness of the idea of hell. I mean that the Culture itself represents an elegant absorption of, and therefore displacement of, one whole department of religious yearning. It offers, in effect, a completely secular version of heaven. With its sentient ships as omniscient as any pantheon of gods, and a lot more obliging and benign, and its vision of human nature uncramped from disease and hunger and oppression, and its rationalised equivalent to transcendence, it gives its inhabitants (and you as you read the books) all the pie in the sky they could possibly want; but transformed by being made wholly material, by being brought within the reach of human aspiration. Where religion, on the Marxist reading of it, is a kind of comprehensible counsel of despair, the heart of the heartless world, Banks supplies a counsel of optimism.