Sunday, 20 November, 2011, 05:41 AM - Not TFTDAlright, as protests go it's probably not right up there at the top of most people's priorities, but if you feel like letting off a little bit of steam today, there's a petition to close the UK's embassy to the Vatican (or the Holy See, or whatever it's an embassy to). Last time I checked, the petition only had 261 signatures, so don't hold your breath about it becoming a nationwide movement.
Earlier this month, Ireland closed it's Vatican embassy, much to the annoyance of the Catholic hierarchy. (The Cardinal Brady who is so 'profoundly disappointed' by the cost-cutting move is the same Cardinal Brady who made vulnerable children swear a solemn oath never to reveal they had been sexually abused by a Catholic priest. He said he would resign if he was ever discovered to have done anything that endangered children but in the end, decided not to. Unfortunately the Vatican can't sack Cardinal Brady, you need to do something really awful, like suggesting priests by allowed to get married to incur the wrath of Rome.)
Ireland said having two embassies in Rome was a luxury that it could no longer afford and that the Vatican one was basically a waste of money. Apparently the Vatican gets into quite a huff when countries try to present their Italian ambassadors as their Vatican ambassador, which would seem to be reason enough to do it.
While we're talking about the Catholic Church (and by "we" I do of course mean "you" ), Protect the Pope continues to provide a never ending source of vital information. Did you know, for example, that in addition to the various experiments being carried by the International Space Station, there is also an icon of the Virgin Mary in orbit above our heads at this very moment.
Now in answer to Russell and his disciple Dawkins[*] we can say there’s no invisible teapot in orbit around the Sun but there is a beautiful icon of the Mother of God,who once lived on our planet 2,000 years ago,and who reigns in heaven since her Assumption.
When the night skies are clear it’s possible to see the ISS moving fast from one horizon to the other. Now when we look up and see it we can offer up a prayer of thanks to Mary,the Mother of God,God who created the stars and planet on which we stand.
There you go, Russell's teapot definitely doesn't exist, but the Virgin Mary in Heaven definitely does. The author of that blog likes to tell people that you really do need to do a basic course in philosophy if you want to engage in some of these debates.
Maybe someone could pray to Mary and ask her whether neutrinos really can travel faster than light? After all, Catholic revelation is so much more reliable than mere evidence.
p.s. Happy Interfaith Week everyone! I wonder if anyone will mention it on TFTD?
[* Actually, I wouldn't mind being accredited as a disciple of Bertrand Russell.]
Saturday, 19 November, 2011, 08:43 AM - JenkinsRating 3 out of 5 (Fairly platitudinous)
Sometimes journalists do bad things. Then again sometimes papers do good things: exposing corruption, reporting on politics, advertising local events. Unfortunately, many local and regional newspapers are struggling to survive. It's said that social media will take their place but there seems to be little evidence of this.
What I've said so far may seem perfectly sensible. It highlights an important problem. Just to make it really relevant to most listeners, I think it's time I mentioned the Invisible Magic Friend and his close links to regional journalism. Saint Paul, whose wisdom we all so admire, said we should rejoice when others rejoice and weeps when others weep. But how are we to know when to rejoice or weep without the same flourishing local press that we had in Saint Paul's time?
When the Invisible Magic Friends* said "Let there be light," what they actually meant was "Let there be local and regional newspapers to advertise the village fete, with the top prize this year being a bottle of Mrs Temperance's home made, alcohol free, elderflower cordial."
When Jesus said, "The truth will set you free," he was evidently referring to the Daily Mail.
(*For they were feeling distinctly plural at the time.)
Friday, 18 November, 2011, 08:36 AM - PepinsterRating 4 out of 5 (Highly platitudinous)
The new government of Italy contains no elected politicians. It is entirely dominated by boring bankers, awful accountants and other yawn inspiring grey suits. But they are nor all such dreary technocrats. One of them is a Catholic. Hurrah!
The Catholic Andrea Riccardi, the new, Catholic, Minister for International Cooperation, founded a Catholic organisation called the Community of Sant'Egidio. This is a Catholic community based around the Catholic church of Sant'Egidio. They look after the sick, the poor and the elderly and once they've got hold of them, explain to them that Catholicism is the only true religion.
The Catholic Community of Sant'Egidio has had notable successes acting as a mediator in various conflicts. I wasn't actually involved in any of these conflicts myself, but I think this shows just how brilliant being a Catholic is.
Catholics are always welcoming to strangers. We have to be, the visible bit of the Invisible Magic Friend told us to be welcoming to strangers, thus making it part of the Catholic rule book. If the visible bit of the Invisible Magic Friend hadn't told us to be welcoming to strangers then we probably wouldn't have bothered, but he did, so we do, and that makes Catholics the best there is.
With a Catholic in amongst all that boring bunch of non-entitites in the Italian government, the new government is just bound to succeed in saving Italy's economy.
As far as I know, there are no Catholics in the new Greek government, so they're doomed.
Thursday, 17 November, 2011, 08:55 AM - Not TFTDI just want to make it absolutely clear that I will never be showing this image on this blog.
It shows a complete lack of respect for the Holy Father. Pope Benedict does not go around kissing Imams. He may kiss the odd crucifix, or snuggle up to the Bible now and again, but the one thing he most definitely does not do is express his love for leaders of other world religions.
I hope this image remains banned forever and is never seen by anybody. The Catholic Church is well known for it's sense of humour but it simply will not tolerate its leader being shown expressing love for another human being, certainly not a man (even if he is wearing a condom) and certainly not an Imam.
Aren't the unemployment figures just terrible! One million young people out of work. Tut, tut, tut. Now, just because you're unemployed, there's no need to go out rioting, although I'm sure we'll all understand if you do. In these difficult economic times, jobs come and go, they come and go.
Somebody ought to do something about this. As a Vaishnav Hindu teacher and theologian, let me just assure you that young people need to feel wanted and appreciated. They need to feel loved, to feel like lovers, not like rivals. They need to feel productive and useful, do something important like being a theologian.
How do we sell the contradiction, of fat cats on huge bonuses that can't employ a young person, even on minimum wage. For the young unemployed, every day is like survival. They string along, they string along.
Gandhi, a nice, wise Hindu that everybody's heard of and likes, thought it would be wise to have some native industry and not just import everything. No wonder he is regarded as so wise. That way people will have jobs, and through having jobs will be able to worship the Invisible Magic Friend. Otherwise they'll be like a man without conviction. We can even make things in different colours: red, gold and green, red gold and green.
Hindus call this: karma karma karma karma, karma chameleon.
Shaikh Abdal Hakim Murad, Muslim Chaplain Cambridge University (the Shaikh formerly known as Tim Winter)
Well, I don't really understand what's happening, but something is clearly happening. As someone who has no expertise whatsoever in economics, banking or financial trading, I think I'm the ideal person to come on to the BBC's flagship news programme and give you an uninterrupted three minutes, no questions asked lecture on the morality of these things I don't understand.
I don't understand government debt for example, but I do know that Greece has got far more of it than is good for it. This makes Greek government debt a bad thing. Italy also appears to have too much government debt. This makes Italian government debt a bad thing too.
We people of faith don't like to say we told you so, but if you'd all spent your time being hungry all the time, like a certain well known Prophet, and lived a more ascetic lifestyle, then we wouldn't be in this mess. We, and by "we" I do of course mean "you", have all gotten rather used to borrowing money to finance our increasingly lavish and decadent lifestyles, merrily frittering away money you don't have, until the bailiff comes knocking at your door. I take no pleasure at all in watching you suffer the consequences of your irresponsible and immoral lifestyle.
When the certain well known Prophet prayed to our version of the Invisible Magic Friend (a version with no visible bits whatsoever), he prayed to save us from debt. So it's not just Greek or Italian government debt that is a bad thing, all government debt is a bad thing, as is all personal debt. Everyone should pay back all their debts immediately, thus making the world a more stable, happier place.
Next time I'll be telling you all about something else that I don't understand.
Isn't what's happening in Syria just terrible? All this brutal dictatorship and gunning down of people. Tut tut.
In this brutal dictatorship there will be some people who are brutal and dictators. We call these people "wicked" people. But it is important to realise that not all the people of Syria are wicked. Some are not wicked at all. They are mostly being shot. Most people are only slightly wicked, going along with the regime for fear of being shot.
Doubtless the people of Syria will recall the words of the visible bit of the Invisible Magic Friend, as given to us by the real Big Book of Magic Stuff, "Father forgive them, for they know not what they do." To everyone in Syria who is listening to the Today Programme, do not be confused by the latter part of this saying from Jesus. As a Rev Canon Dr and an Anglican priest, let me just assure you that what it means is this. The people who thought they knew what they were doing when they crucified Jesus, didn't really know what they were doing. If they had known that they were crucifying Jesus then they would have known what they were doing and there would have been no need for Jesus to tell the other bits of the Invisible Magic Friend that they didn't know what they were doing.
Let us not be too hard on the people of Syria who are a little bit wicked, but not a lot. Haven't we all gone along with a brutal dictatorship from time to time? It's just human nature to shrug our shoulders and say, "Well it's only a little bit brutal and not all the time. There's no need to get all revolutionary and shot at, is there?"
Aren't interfaith groups just fantastic? It all started during World War II when the Archbishop of Canterbury suddenly had this incredible revelation: why don't we stop killing Jews? Killing Jews, or simply just exiling them, torturing them or forcing them to become Christians, had been a bit of a Christian pastime for the previous 2,000 years. Now that the Nazis were killing Jews in their millions, the Archbishop and a previous Big Chief Rabbi decided enough was enough.
Since then there have been no end of interfaith groups, as people of different faiths try to overcome the religious differences that set them apart from one another in the first place. There are literally thousands of interfaith groups, interfaith meetings (with some very pleasant buffet lunches) and interfaith initiatives. Believe me, I know, I'm being invited to enough of them. They have been so enormously successful that they continue to be needed, thus ensuring a secure supply of buffet lunches for Chief Rabbis and other faith leaders well into the future.
Let me give you an example. A Synagogue in Swansea was vandalised and desecrated. I can't imagine who would want to do such a thing. I mean it's not as if there are any religions left, after all these interfaith meetings, who've still got a grudge against the Jews. Anyway, some people from one of the other nice religions helped us fix it all up again, so that I could reconsecrate it to our particular version of the Invisible Magic Friend.
The interfaith industry: one sector of our economy that looks set to endure for a very long time to come.
Saturday, 12 November, 2011, 08:13 AM - JenkinsRating 3 out of 5 (Fairly platitudinous)
London 2012 has apologised for airbrushing HMS Belfast from its posters. "It was entirely accidental," said an official. "We accidentally opened Photoshop, then accidentally removed HMS Belfast, accidentally replacing it with a perfect image of the background buildings and the waterfront. This was then accidentally blown up to poster size and accidentally posted all around London. It's the kind of accident that could accidentally happen to anyone."
But, aren't we all capable of airbrushing out groups of people? Haven't we all, from time to time, purged our politburo of inconvenient voices so that we could rule as sole dictator? Immoral as it may be to ignore or eliminate our enemies, what's really important here is that what we do them, we do to the Invisible Magic Friend. That's right, you're being rotten to the Invisible Magic Friend! Now, don't you feel bad?
I'd just like to end with Oliver Cromwell, to complete that whole, HMS Belfast, Stalin, Invisible Magic Friend, Cromwell thing.
From Norwich, it's the bishop of the week, Bombastically Reverend Graham James, Lord Bishop of Norwich
It's Armistice day today. Lots of people will observe the two minutes silence at 11 o'clock: at home, in the office, at the supermarket, on the train, in cafés, shops and restaurants, in car parks, at airports, in police and fire stations, in hospitals, in libraries, in bowling alleys, at sports grounds and many, many other places too.
The two minutes silence was invented by Edward Honey, except he called it a five minutes silence. It was reinvented by Percy Fitzpatrick, who decided that a two minutes silence would be better if it was called a two minutes silence. George V, who was the head of the British Empire at the time, thought this was a really good idea.
Quiet people are usually very nice people. Monks are quiet and they're really nice. Who ever heard of a monk doing anything bad? Jesus was really nice too and I can't recall him ever saying anything at all.
So, wherever you may be when you observe the two minutes silence today, just think how much nicer it could have been if we'd had a five minutes silence.