Happy Climate Change Conference everyone! This is really, really, really important. As Gordon Brown said, "Please let me have a sound-bite that doesn't make me sound like a dour Scottish Presbyterian." But some things don't change. Wealthy nations won't be giving up their gas guzzlers or opening their doors to global warming refugees. The haves and the have nots will remain as they are.
For once, you can't go around blaming religion for this. I'm not even going to blame atheists for it. The division now is between we humble people, going around being humble and being nice to the planet, and nasty arrogant people, going around being nasty to the planet. Thankfully, all religions are full of humble people. People really don't come much more humble than us. With all the authority of a Muslim Shaikh, let me just assure you that in the global humbleness stakes, we're the humblest you can possibly be. Not only are we outstandingly humble, we're also 100% correct because we have the literal words of the Invisible Magic Friend written down in the Koran. One of the nice bits of the Koran says, "We humble believers really are brilliant!"
Massively Reverend Lord Professor Bishop Baron Reverend Lord Richard Harries, Baron Pentregarth, Gresham Professor of Divinity, Baron, Bishop, Professor, Lord...
Thursday, 17 December, 2009, 08:40 AM - HarriesRating 3 out of 5 (Fairly platitudinous)
Fed up with all the talk of Advent and Christmas? You almost certainly are, so let me just mention that today, 17th December, is a day in Advent, the preparation for Christmas. And the big news is that the Church of England Calendar has an antiphon for today. I know you're all just dying to know what it is. So here it is, the Church of England antiphon for today, the 17th December, in Advent. This is what it is. It is this.
It is an ancient antiphon. It dates back to really early times. We had it in the 10th century, in the 11th century, in the 12th century, in the 13th century and in all the other centuries since. We had it before the Reformation. We had it during the Reformation. We had it after the Reformation. Are you ready for this antiphon that is so ancient and that we had in all those previous centuries? It was in the Book of Common Prayer, just as it had been in lots of previous prayer books before and has been in many prayer books since. Of course, it was in Latin before - a piece of information which I'm sure is of no particular interest to any of you, but it is in English now.
Isn't it wonderful that natural laws are so beautiful? I know this because the Invisible Magic Friend said so somewhere in the Old Testament.
Which brings me neatly onto the climate change talks in Copenhagen. What we really need all the leaders to do is make the right decision. In almost every case I can think of, the right decision is often to be preferred to the wrong decision.
This is not exciting to teenagers.
As a massively Reverend Lord Professor Bishop Baron, let me just assure you that deciding to wear a left and a right shoe, rather than two left shoes, or indeed two right shoes, is the right decision. Other examples include deciding to have white wine with fish, rather than with steak, or listening to me for three minutes rather than doing something completely unproductive. Making the right decisions instead of the wrong decision is so important. We need to make the right decisions at home, at work, in the garden, on public transport, on the playing field, in business, in government, at the theatre and in the shops.
Making the right decisions instead of the wrong decisions is the true meaning of Advent. Which brings me back to the Church of England antiphon for today.
Rev Dr. (hon. Kingston) Dr. (hon. St. Andrews) Joel Edwards, the international director of Micah Challenge
Wednesday, 16 December, 2009, 09:18 AM - EdwardsRating 3 out of 5 (Fairly platitudinous)
Was justice done when the Hussain brothers beat a man with a cricket bat who had robbed and threatened their family? I want to point out something that may not have previously occurred to you: the law is not perfect. I know this may come as a shock, but as a Rev Dr Dr, let me just assure you that it simply isn't possible to have a book of rules that, when followed exactly, guarantee justice in all possible circumstance. The one exception is my Big Book of Magic Rules, which is full of enlightened and liberal means of securing justice.
Forget what everyone else has told you about the true meaning of Advent. As International Director of Micah Challenge, a global organisation that prays and campaigns for poor people, and as a Human Rights Commissioner, defending the rights of all, black or white, Christian or some other religion, straight or straight, and as a council member of His Hollowness St. Tony of Bliars' Faith Foundation, with its modest aims of eliminating poverty, ending war, and bringing all religions together in peace and harmony under St. Tony's benevolent leadership, let me just assure you that the true meaning of Advent is that it's all about justice. As Mary said in her beautiful song of thanks, "Yippee! I've just been made pregnant by the third lump of the Invisible Magic Friend. There's gonna be a lot more justice from now on."
How many times recently have you heard people talking about a carol "concert" rather than a carol "service"? People singing carols in order to enjoy themselves - I really can't think of anything more wicked. You're not supposed to be having a good time, that's not the true meaning of Christmas. You're supposed to be on your knees, worshipping my Invisible Magic Friend. I've even heard people applauding in church - showing their appreciation to performers. It's disgusting I tell you, absolutely disgusting!
When you're singing, or acting, or taking part in any kind of performance, you should be doing it to the glory of the Invisible Magic Friend. That's called being an "amateur" and it's much better than being a professional. In my well rounded education, I was taught piano, art, tennis, all the things that I would need to be an important member of society. Doing things "professionally", in order to make a living out of it, would be so working class. It would be like going into trade.
That's what's wrong with the Western world today, everyone's going around doing things for a living, and when they're not they're enjoying themselves. Poorer countries, with less money, less hope, fewer educational opportunities and less access to good quality healthcare, still have the wisdom to spend most of their time worshipping the Invisible Magic Friend, which is what makes them so much better than you.
Rev Dr Colin Morris, a Methodist Minister and (coincidentally) former head of religious broadcasting and BBC controller in Northern Ireland
Monday, 14 December, 2009, 08:05 AM - MorrisRating 2 out of 5 (A little platitudinous)
There's an awful lot of cynicism about these days. There's cynicism about climate change, cynicism about Tiger Woods whom everyone is having such a good time laughing at, at the moment. There's cynicism, bordering on hatred, for bankers. Then there's cynicism that all MPs are fiddling their expenses. I won't mention that some people are cynical about what we faith leaders tell them, but it's kind of implied. Thanks to religion, we know that this is really a good world and it's good to be alive. so stop being such a bunch of cynics and give thanks for scientists, sports stars, MPs and Methodist Ministers.
His Holiness, Pope Benedict XVI, Bishop of Rome, Vicar of Jesus Christ, Successor of the Prince of the Apostles, Supreme Pontiff of the Universal Church, Primate of Italy, Archbishop and Metropolitan of the Roman Province, Sovereign of the State of Vatican City, Servant of the Servants of God
Sunday, 13 December, 2009, 07:49 AM - Not TFTDI just wanted to say I'm most terribly upset about all the abuse of children in the Archdiocese of Dublin. There are always a few bad apples that spoil things for everyone else. The contents of the Murphy Report, whose questions we consistently refused to answer, really is most shocking. Truly shocking. Sexual abuse enquiries really must learn to use proper diplomatic channels when contacting important people - I'm very busy you know. I'm also terribly sorry that we tried to prevent access to Church documents. I'm sure you'll understand that the rights of children who have been abused cannot override confidentiality agreements made with the perpetrators.
Who'd have thought that Catholic priests, with no church sanctioned sexual outlet, would turn to abusing children trusted to their care? I mean, tut, tut. And who'd have thought that bishops in Dublin would systematically prioritise the reputation and assets of the Church over and above the welfare of children, just like they did in Boston, Oregon, Los Angeles, Sydney, Newfoundland and Brighton. It really is the most remarkable coincidence, that bishops and cardinals around the world, including myself should all have behaved identically as if they had been instructed to do so by some sort of hierarchy within the Church.
Of course a lot of this is just the normal media campaign against the Catholic Church, but I suppose that's just another cross that we poor, persecuted, victims have to bear. After all, we're no worse than many other churches.
So what exactly is the Catholic Church going to do about all this? Well first of all we're going to have a jolly good pray for all the victims. That should make them all feel much better. Next, I'm personally going to write a nice pastoral letter to all the people of Ireland telling them all how terribly, terribly upset I am. Can't you feel my pain?
Oh, don't bother trying to get me prosecuted though, I have diplomatic immunity.
Has anyone mentioned sport recently? It's been at least a week since I was last on and talked about Handel and his relationship to football. This week we have Tiger Woods discovered being naughty and now on the path to redemption. Tomorrow we have the BBC Sports Personality of the Year, an unmissable televisual feast if ever there was one. Andre Agassi was also doing some confessing this week. "Yes, I confess, I confess! I took drugs. I lied to an independent tribunal to save my career. Now that I've maxed out my earnings and it no longer matters, I confess. You can learn more about my repentance in my autobiography, available from all good booksellers - it's the perfect Christmas gift."
But what does all this have to do with being holy? Jesus was a big sports fan. Who can forget his unforgettable parables drawn from athletics, horse racing and wrestling? Which brings us back to the true meaning of Advent: it's all about sport!
Barack Obama has just received his Nobel peace prize for making the world so peaceful. Nobel instituted the prizes after reading his own mistaken obituary and realising that he would only be remembered as an explosives magnate. He decided he wanted to be remembered for peace.
By complete coincidence, there's a big Jewish festival just starting. This is a celebration of peace when the Maccabees peacefully revolted against the evil Greeks. The Greeks had erected a statue of Zeus in the Temple - can you believe such wickedness? Zeus is not a real god, like our god is, so there was only one possible outcome: war (done in a very peaceful way of course). When we'd expelled the evil statue from our holy Temple, we lit a special peace candle to celebrate the return of peace after we'd won the war.
Today we have to light two holy candles, one for our peaceful expulsion of Zeus pretending to be a proper god, and one for the Sabbath, because the Sabbath means peace. But what if you only have one candle? Is it a Hanukkah candle or a Sabbath candle? These are the kind of profound moral dilemmas that we people of faith must confront and make a decision about. There can be no fudging on such a serious issue as this. When religious protocols of this magnitude come into conflict, the law must provide a clear and unambiguous choice and the choice is this, it is a Sabbath candle. For no matter how peaceful and well intentioned our expulsion of the evil Zeus-worshippers was, the Sabbath, which means peace, is even more important.
It's about time you non-Jews started thinking about being peaceful like us.
Devastatingly Reverend Lord Professor Bishop Baron Reverend Lord Richard Harries, Baron Pentregarth, Gresham Professor of Divinity, Baron, Bishop, Professor, Lord...
Everyone's going bonkers about conkers. But seriously though, life is a risky business. The big question is, why did the all loving, all knowing, all powerful Invisible Magic Friend make the world so hazardous and cruel? Some who are less reverend than me might just say that there are no easy answers, but being the Devastatingly Reverend Lord Professor Bishop Baron that I am, I will quote Dostoyevsky's "The Brothers Karamazov", a book read by clever people like me. "It's not God that I don't accept, Alyosha, only I most respectfully return him the ticket," says Ivan the sullen and depressed atheist who eventually goes mad. I think the relevance is clear.
You cannot possibly understand the ways of the Invisible Magic Friend, snivelling, ignorant worm that you are, but I shall endeavour to explain it to you. The Invisible Magic Friend allows cruelty, injustice and random disaster to afflict you because he is a loving father who must allow you to go your own way. Like the mountain climber, you are an adult and have chosen to expose yourself to risk by being alive. So there.
Thursday, 10 December, 2009, 06:33 AM - Not TFTDSomeone has done the world of comedy a tremendous service. They've scanned in Kent Hovind's Ph.D. thesis. You know you're in for some fun when it starts:
"Hello, my name is Kent Hovind."
There's no table of contents, but then it wouldn't be much use anyway since there are no page numbers. There's also no list of references, but just quickly looking through it I saw mention of Karl Marx, Charles Lyell, Charles Darwin, Stalin (who amongst other failings, was also one of those nasty evolutionists apparently) and an awful, awful lot of quotes from the Bible.
Just pick a page at random and start reading. It's hilarious stuff. Here's Kent on some other religions.
"Zoroaster was the religion of the Persians that developed about 600 B.C. Darius and Cyrus, who were both mentioned in the Bible were followers of Zoroaster. It is quite possible that the wise men who came to Bethlehem were of this cult. There is no way to prove this for certain. This religion believed that Satan and God were equally powerful, thereby limiting God. This shows that they did not have the right view of God in their theology. This Eastern religion is still prominent today."
So there you go, that's Zoroastrianism for you. On p.82 (according to my PDF viewer) we get this wonderful little gem.
"As I was thinking on this subject, I wrote a poem to try and explain this, comparing blind men and atheists.
Two blind men argued well into the night
about the great question, 'Is there really sight?'
I'll spare you the rest. Suffice to say Dr. Hovind is as great a poet as he is a scholar. This is wonderful stuff. Anytime I'm feeling bored I know exactly where to turn in the next few weeks for a bit of light relief.