Rev John Bell of the Iona Community  
Friday, 2 September, 2011, 08:06 AM - Economics, Bell
Rating 3 out of 5 (Fairly platitudinous)

With all the public sector cuts, in the health service, the police and the armed forces, we naturally think of the Big Book of Magic Stuff: for everything there is a season. The government really ought to wait for the proper season to make people redundant.

It's all the fault of the banks. The government wants to split the steady, level headed, retail aspects of banking away from the risky, reckless, casino aspects of investment banking. Some bankers have threatened to take their casinos elsewhere and let some other government insure them against collapse.

The Big Book of Magic Stuff is quite clear on this: thou shalt not use capital from retail savings to invest in futures, derivatives or exotic financial instruments devised by rocket scientists and that no one really understands. If only the banks had followed this simple advice from the Invisible Magic Friend, we wouldn't be in this mess now. Yes, the Big Book of Magic Stuff remains as relevant as ever.

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Mona Siddiqui, Professor of Islamic Studies and Public Understanding and Director of the Centre for the Study of Islam, University of Glasgow 
Thursday, 1 September, 2011, 07:16 AM - Be nice, Think of the children, Siddiqui
Rating 1 out of 5 (Not platitudinous)

Years ago, a Muslim friend who had died, had expressed a wish to be buried in India. This caused some concern among UK friends and relatives. How could they pay their respect?

Yet there are other ways to pay respect to the dead, as we see in the people of Wootton Bassett. Now the military cortèges will no longer pass through the town, one resident remarked that maybe the town will be a little happier.

Individuals and communities are not defined by their deaths or by passed conflicts, but by their willingness to forgive the past and move forward.

I celebrated Eid in Yorkshire with my brothers and sisters, their partners and their children. Old tensions were soon forgotten. In the end it is always better to forgive, we will be happier for it. More important still, it creates a happier future for our children.

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From Norwich, it's the bishop of the week, Staggeringly Reverend Graham James, Lord Bishop of Norwich 
Wednesday, 31 August, 2011, 07:49 AM - Lessons of history, James
Rating 3 out of 5 (Fairly platitudinous)

And in breaking news, we can announce that the Roman Empire has fallen. I repeat, the Roman Empire has fallen.

The great Libyan city of Leptis Magna now lies in ruins. As I'm sure you will all recall, North Africa was the bread basket of the Roman Empire. It was intellectually rich too as it had many Christians even before it became officially Christian. These great Christian intellectuals, intellectualised a great deal about Christianity. It's thanks to them that Christianity is as intellectual as wot it is today.

One citizen of Leptis Magna even went on to become Roman Emperor: Septimius Severus. He died at York. He told his sons, "Get on with each other, be generous to your soldiers and scorn everyone else." Septimius Severus, despite coming from North Africa, which was just packed full of Christian intellectuals, was not himself a Christian intellectual and so can safely be ignored.

Libya shows a shocking lack of Christian intellectuals these days. The new leaders of Libya should take some advice from the New Tasty mint, where Saint Paul wittered on, as ever, about Jesus, the visible bit of the Invisible Magic Friend. Here we have no enduring city, but wait for the city that is to come.

The fall of the Roman Empire reminds us that all things pass. Fortunately, its great Christian intellectual tradition didn't die with it and I am still here to remind you of it.

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A Little Local Issue that's Upset Some Christians 
Tuesday, 30 August, 2011, 03:45 PM - Christian persecution, Not TFTD
Just to show that I don't just watch the great issues of the day, as highlighted by the luminaries on Thought For The Day, I thought I'd mention something that happened recently not too far from Southend and that seems to have got the local Christians on their holier-than-thow high horses.

A couple of weeks ago, councillor Susan McCaffery, a self-confessed Christian, tabled a motion at Billericay town council to introduce prayers at the start of the council meetings.

"When you see the stories about the stock market crash, when you get the riots, the killing, if you have not got God what have you got? I just felt it was so apt," said Ms McCaffery.

The London Stock Exchange must be kicking itself. All those billions knocked off shares. If only Billericay town council had had the foresight to introduce prayers to their meetings, the impending economic collapse could all have been avoided. And what about all those riots in Billericay? Er - there weren't any, despite it's obstinately decadent, secular council.

"If you are contacting God in your deliberations you have His wisdom and guidance in the decisions that you make," she said.

Presumably the council just tosses a coin the rest of the time in order to make decisions.

The chair of the council, John Buchanan, another self-confessed, pointed out that the House of Commons always starts with prayers, and we all know how honourable, upright and careful with taxpayers' money they are .

The council very sensibly defeated the motion by seven votes to three.

"I was a little disappointed, it is something that is part of our tradition," said Mr Buchanan, even though it isn't part of their tradition and never has been.

Wishing to offer a compromise to the poor persecuted Christians, Councillor Edgar Guest suggested that those who wanted to pray could arrive at the meeting early to do so. A perfectly sensible solution you might think, but local Christians don't seem to think so.

One Christian commented that Britain was "like a despotic communist country" for not forcing people to pray to the Christian god.

Another wrote that he was "disgusted", and that "These sorts of attitudes only create cultural divides and alienate the Christian population of this country and those who uphold our time-honoured traditions."

So apparently Christians are feeling disgusted and alienated because they can't force everyone else to pray. But even feeling disgusted and alienated was not enough. A letter in today's local newspaper, expresses "dismay at Billericay council's decision to abandon prayers at council meetings," which of course they haven't - they've simply voted not to introduce them. "One of the ideas behind prayer is to subvert one's own petty bigotries," said the dismayed, disgusted, alienated Christian, "and self-seeking ambitions to a superior will known as God. In my experience politicians are not very good at doing that."

I think the writer may be confusing the debauched Billericay town councillors with its former MP, Harvey Proctor, a notoriously right wing Tory until he was forced to resign in disgrace after his S&M sessions with teenage boys. He was on the Executive Council of the Conservative Monday Club, one of whose values is "The embracing of Christian teaching and morals."
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Rev Angela Tilby, Vicar of St Bene't's Church, Cambridge 
Tuesday, 30 August, 2011, 07:19 AM - Environment, Tilby
Rating 2 out of 5 (A little platitudinous)

Pay no attention to that man yesterday who said you were never closer to the Invisible Magic Friend than when you are with a beggar. In fact you are never closer to the Invisible Magic Friend than when you are in the countryside, with or without beggars. The countryside is where people are the most spiritual, which makes you wonder why we bother having churches.

There's a big fuss just now about building more electricity pylons in the countryside. The countryside isn't really the countryside, it's more a sort of agricultural industrial landscape. Hedged fields and thatched cottages are not what nature originally intended. They were created by humans and must be tended by humans in our efforts to tame nature and feed ourselves.

I may not be a fully paid up member of the Pylon Appreciation Society, but I like pylons: great big brooding metal giants bringing heat and light into our homes. Many of you may even by listening to Thought For The Day thanks to the power provided by a nearby pylon, and if that isn't an argument in their favour then I don't know what is.

I'd just like to finish an otherwise mostly sensible piece by talking about "communion", the City of the Invisible Magic Friend and the Garden of Eden.

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Rabbi Lionel Blue 
Monday, 29 August, 2011, 07:31 AM - Be nice, Rabbi Lionel Blue
Rating 2 out of 5 (A little platitudinous)

Good morning Justin, good morning John and good morning to you all.

Well, back in the good old days of World War II, I was evacuated from my cosy East End flat to the countryside. The countryside was horrible. It had all these big wide open, spaces covered in green stuff and it was full of animals. I can't tell you what a relief it was to get back home to The Blitz.

I learned all I need to know in the University of Life, on Whitechapel High Street. Have I ever mentioned that it feels better to give than to receive? I don't think I have, so I'll mention it now: it feels better to give than to receive. You don't believe me? Honestly it does. If you've never given anything before, give it a go, you'll be amazed how good it feels.

In the good old days, when hot buttered scones could be bought at a dozen for a farthing, my granny used to tell me that you're never closer to the Invisible Magic Friend than when you meet a beggar. Who would have thought that the Invisible Magic Friend would be accompanied by such a distinctive aroma? In the good old days there were rather a lot of beggars on Whitechapel High Street. I believe they still have them in the more godly parts of eastern Europe.

You should never pass a beggar without giving them a penny. In the good old days this consumed all my pocket money, but I felt better for giving it away. Have I ever mentioned that it feels better to give than to receive?

Anyway, let's end with a little joke. A woman meets a beggar and the beggar tells her he hasn't eaten in three days. "Force yourself," she tells him. "Force yourself."

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Canon David Winter, former BBC head of Religious Propaganda  
Saturday, 27 August, 2011, 07:11 AM - Gibberish, Winter
Rating 4 out of 5 (Highly platitudinous)

Most of the time we like to play safe, but sometimes we like to take risks.
Sometimes we prefer the familiar, sometimes we're more daring.
Sometimes we prefer caution, sometimes we try to be brave.
Sometimes we prefer certainty, sometimes we prefer uncertainty.
Sometimes we prefer to be guarded, sometimes we prefer to be adventurous.
Sometimes we prefer what is sound, sometimes we prefer what is dangerous.
Sometimes we prefer what is dependable, sometimes we prefer what is hazardous.

Most people think the Church is sound, dependable, reliable, traditional, familiar and all and all a jolly good thing. In actual fact, if you look at the Big Book of Magic Stuff, the Invisible Magic Friend is a great innovator, constantly coming up with new ways to tell you how to run your life based on authority and revelation. Jesus said to change the world, which is why the Church has always been so socially progressive and doesn't spend all its time hob-nobbing with the rich and powerful.

The Christian Church is just so radical.

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Rev Dr Michael Banner, Dean and Fellow of Trinity College, Cambridge  
Friday, 26 August, 2011, 07:35 AM - Education, Banner
Rating 4 out of 5 (Highly platitudinous)

We asked 100 people about something associated with university. You said "fun". Let's see, how many people in our survey, when asked to mention something about university, said "fun".

X - The top answer was in fact "expense", followed by "fees" and "cost" and trailing way behind was "love of the subject being studied".

In actual fact love of the subject should be the single most important reason for going to university, or at least Cambridge University. We don't want people doing a degree in hospitality management for fun. We want people who woke up as youngsters and said, "YES - when I grow up I want to run a hotel!" These must be people who delight in stock control, whose one ambition in life is to ensure that every pillow has a complimentary mint, people who really know how to grovel to a dissatisfied guest.

When a young person studies accountancy, we want people who love accountancy. They will have started off with a simple hobby, perhaps purchasing a book like "100 Ways to Have Fun with Double Entry Bookkeeping". At university they can develop their interest and progress to such fascinating subjects as corporate tax law, or fixed interest securities pricing.

We don't teach any of these wonderful subjects for the rather vulgar aim of making money. We do it to open up a wide new world to young people, to satisfy their sense of wonder.

And for reasons that are not entirely clear, I would just like to mention the Invisible Magic Friend.

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Right Awful Anne Atkins - Agonising Aunt and Vicar's Wife  
Thursday, 25 August, 2011, 07:17 AM - Gibberish, Atkins
Rating 4 out of 5 (Highly platitudinous)

It's madness! Madness, I tell you! It's Health and Safety gone mad! Absolute madness! Everywhere you go there are petty officials enforcing even pettier rules about Health and Safety! It's absolute madness I tell you! Madness!

Do you know what everyone needs? I'll tell you what everyone needs: Common Sense, like Jesus had. Jesus didn't worry about rules about the Sabbath. Rules about the Sabbath are precisely the kind of arbitrary rules that people make up about Health and Safety. You can be pretty sure that Jesus wouldn't bother about Health and Safety, which is absolute madness gone mad! No, Jesus, with the kind of Common Sense that you would expect from the Invisible Magic Friend in disguise, went straight ahead and healed people on the Sabbath - completely ignoring the rules about the Sabbath or Health and Safety.

What must you do to get into heaven? I'll tell you what you must do to get into heaven. You must love the Invisible Magic Friend, and praise him and worship him, and tell him how really, really super he is. Common Sense. Oh, yeah, and be nice to people as well.

King David never hesitated to eat consecrated bread on the Sabbath. He had Common Sense - none of that Health and Safety gone mad nonsense for him! He just threw caution to the wind and tucked right into that consecrated bread. The Big Book of Magic Stuff is just full of Common Sense.

Everything else is just Health and Safety gone mad!

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Rev Roy Jenkins, Baptist Minister in Cardiff 
Wednesday, 24 August, 2011, 07:22 AM - Lessons of history, Jenkins
Rating 5 out of 5 (Extraordinarily platitudinous)

Anders Breivik shows no remorse for his killings, believing that history will judge his actions as fair and reasonable. This is what happens when a delusional mind, obsessed with a dangerous ideology, decides that the end justifies the means.

Other delusional megalomaniacs have made similar statements about the judgement of history: Stalin, Nixon, Gaddafi. Those who hold to such bizarre fantasies often do so in defiance of all the facts. They seem completely separated from reality.

None of this bothered Saint Paul. Unlike the various megalomaniacs whom I have previously discussed, Saint Paul wrote about Jesus, who told everyone he was really the Invisible Magic Friend in disguise. Saint Paul didn't care about the judgement of history. In his view there wasn't going to be any as Jesus was due to return any month now - a year or two tops. Saint Paul knew all about reality and what really mattered was Jesus' opinion of you.

If only psychotic fantasists like Anders Breivik would accept reality and realise that it wasn't the judgement of history that mattered, but what the Invisible Magic Friend thought about you.

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