A reminder to all 
Sunday, 3 January, 2010, 07:31 AM - Not TFTD
Just a quick reminder to everyone, under no circumstances whatsoever should the cartoon below appear on any of your social networking pages or blogs. It gives the impression that Islam drives some people to become fanatical, violent and intolerant, and it makes some Muslims very unhappy. We all know that in real Islam, proper Islam, which is after all the Religion of Peace, Jihad is about an inner spiritual journey. Islam didn't spread throughout the Middle East, North Africa and Asia by attacking it's neighbours (anyone who says this is clearly ignorant of history). Islam spread because of its internal beauty, consistency and logic. No one, anywhere on Earth, is forced to be a Muslim because, as everyone knows, there is no compulsion in religion. Even today, where Islam lives in peaceful coexistence with its Christian, Jewish, Hindu and Buddhist neighbours throughout the world, Islam is admired by all.

So in the interests of respect, human rights and freedom of speech, I implore you all not to show this cartoon or give it any publicity.

Or else...
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Farhan Nizami CBE, Prince of Wales Fellow in the study of the Islamic World, Director of the Oxford Centre for Islamic Studies.  
Saturday, 2 January, 2010, 08:34 AM - Environment, Materialism
Rating 4 out of 5 (Highly platitudinous)

Happy new decade everyone! It's a time to look at the world afresh, to resolve to make changes, to make life better. We approach the new decade with hope and gladness in our hearts, full of optimism and joy, looking forward to the Spring and Summer of a new life.

Except, we all know that this enthusiasm will soon dissipate. As we're locked into the daily grind once more, our good intentions will waver and finally fail. The cost is simply too high. And when I say "we", I do of course mean "you". You're all so predictable and depressing. Oh gawwwd I'm so depressed. Except we muslims aren't allowed to be depressed, but if we were allowed then I would be. Nothing ever changes, it all just keeps getting worse and worse. Don't you just find the whole thing, life, so utterly pointless? Everything's just so miserable and unremittingly awful.

Look at Copenhagen, while we Muslims tried desperately to take the long term view and save the planet, you lot couldn't think beyond the next change in fashion or the next upgrade to your iPhone. You just don't get that sort of narrow, self interested, short termism in Islam.

A couple of weeks ago we had the real new year, the anniversary of the flight of The One And Only Prophet from Mecca to Medina. Now there's a proper piece of long term thinking. You don't get to found a major new world religion by being self centered and getting everyone to do what you want them to do. You can't deny that starting Islam changed the world. Just imagine what the world might be like if that hadn't happened.

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AND NOW!!! (Fanfare and drumroll...) The final nominations for the...  
Friday, 1 January, 2010, 09:33 AM - Clemmies, TFTD
Platitude of the Year Award 2009

TA! DA!!!

The award will take place at a star studded, glittering ceremony, as part of the Secularist of the Year 2010 event.

There have been over 300 TFTDs in 2009. As you might imagine, competition for this prestigious and much sought after prize has been stiff. Nominating a select handful has been no easy task, but after much thought and deliberation the Holy Spirit has inspired me to choose the following candidates.

Akhandadhi Das for showing that the work of the primatologist Frans de Waal proves that Hinduism is the correct religion.

Lord Jonathon Sacks for explaining that the Invisible Magic Friend allows suffering in the world so that we can feel sorry for the victims.

Anne Atkins who revealed that there is more historical evidence for Jesus than for Julius Caesar.

Anne Atkins for pointing out that people who believe in UFOs are a bunch of loonies.

Shaikh Abdal Hakim Murad for the example of conspiracy theorists, which shows that some people will believe any old rubbish.

Rev Dr Dr David Wilkinson for the work of Galileo and how it demonstrates the lack of conflict between science and religion.

Rev Dr Dr David Wilkinson for his thesis that lack of proof of God's existence is exactly what you would expect, thus proving that he does in fact exist.

Reverend Canon Doctor Alan Billings for showing that the war in Afghanistan is a just war. It is a just war because the enemy are a bunch of religious nutters.

Reverend Canon Doctor Alan Billings for giving us moral comfort in bombing the hell out of Afghanistan, because it is sanctioned by people in authority, moral people, like politicians.

Right Rev James Jones, Lord Bishop of Liverpool and Bishop of Prisons for revealing how it was religion that solved the problems of Northern Ireland.

All of the above candidates are now invited to purchase tickets for the Secularist of the Year gala dinner. There is a real prize (paid for by a member of my congregation, Roger Scotford - thank you Roger). I'm not going to reveal what the prize is but it is genuinely worth winning.

I will be attending the ceremony myself, dressed in appropriate garb for a Rev Dr. After a short sermon, I will present the prize to the most platitudinous person of 2009. In the unlikely event that the winner doesn't turn up, the prize will go to the NSS to be sold or raffled at their discretion.

Even I don't know who the winner is yet, but I am willing to be further moved by the Spirit should He choose to add any comments below in favour of one candidate or another.

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The last Clemmie of 2009 
Friday, 1 January, 2010, 08:58 AM - Clemmies
First of all, let me wish my flock a very Happy New Year. I'm sure you will all join me in praying for all the cast and crew at the BBC's Thought For The Day. Long may it continue to be the most consistently entertaining highlight of the Today Programme.

It hasn't been a bad month, platitudinousness wise. Only the other day, we had Rev Roy Jenkins comparing atheists to the Bali bomber. Then on Christmas Eve, we had the Padre of 11 Light Brigade telling us all how much he loved children. Let's hope the brigade doesn't accidentally blow any of them to pieces. As always, Anne Atkins is represented, complaining about people enjoying singing Christmas carols. Anne will lose some credibility this month since she made several quite sensible and largely unobjectionable contributions. I hope and pray that this sad state of affairs will be remedied in the new year.

Although not a popular choice according to platitudinometer ratings, I think we really do have to include Lord Jonathan Sacks. Thanks to him we now know how to solve that age old ethical dilemma: what to do if you only have one candle but you have two holy days to celebrate? I really don't know how I managed to get through life so far without Lord Sacks' helpful moral advice.

A special guest contribution was made by the creationist scientist Dr. Kent Hovind, whose Ph.D. thesis is now available online. One instinctively recognises the scholarly calibre of his work when it opens with the line, "Hello, my name is Kent Hovind."

I'm going to leave it 'till Monday before announcing the winner, so you've got all weekend to recover from your hangover and click on the little yellow dots of your favourite contribution.

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Spectacularly Reverend Tom Butler, Lord Bishop of Southwark 
Friday, 1 January, 2010, 08:09 AM - Gibberish, Lessons of history, Butler
Rating 3 out of 5 (Fairly platitudinous)

S'aul about hishtory (hic!). Y'know, I ush'd to fink Shaint Paul wash a load a ol' rubbish (hic!). I mean, he jusht drones on an' on an' (hic!) on an' on 'bout Jeshus. Jeshus Chrisht! I fought he wash jusht a biggoted twat. Then th'other day (hic!), th'other day, hoshtage Peter Moore go re-leashed an' I fought (hic!), "Wait a minute", that'sh what Shaint Paul was on about. S'obvious! S'about (hic!) s'about freedom and shtuff. Ye shee, Paul wash a dirty, rotten shinner. Then 'ee got shum Jeshus and he wash free, jusht like Peter Moore! S'mazin! An' y'know what elsh? A'll tell ye 'cos yer ma very besht friend y'are. Shumbd'y paid a price. Yeah, y'know what I mean? Eh? Eh? Fur Shaint Paul wash Jeshus! I really wish I'd undershtood 'at before I got made a bishop (hic!).

Anyway. 2009. 2009 (hic!). Sh'istory now. All in the pasht. Sho raise your glash an'ave a wee glash o' sherry to wish ye all a Happy New Year (hic!).

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Kevin Franz, a Quaker 
Thursday, 31 December, 2009, 09:19 AM - Health
Rating 2 out of 5 (A little platitudinous)

The execution of Akmal Shaikh reminds me of Samuel Butler's book Erewhon, where ill people are classified as criminals. The Chinese authorities make no allowance for illnesses like Bipolar Disorder, pointing instead to the need to deter drug dealers.

Quakers were among the first to recognise the needs of the mentally ill, with the opening of The Retreat in York. I have spent much of my working life helping those recovering from mental illness. It is a task compounded by the attitude of others and the stigma connected with it.

We do this work because we want to find the Invisible Magic Friend. The Invisible Magic Friend spends more of his time in ill people, especially the mentally ill.

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Reverend Michael Sanders, Tony Adams' local vicar and priest for nine Cotswold country churches 
Wednesday, 30 December, 2009, 07:59 AM - Be nice
Rating 4 out of 5 (Highly platitudinous)

Today I want to talk about second chances. I had a second chance after my heart attack in church last year. I prayed to my Invisible Magic Friend to save me, because I didn't want to die and go to heaven, and lo, an ambulance appeared and took me to the coronary care unit where the Invisible Magic Friend gave me a second chance.

You too can have a second chance if you accept Jesus into your life. Jesus gave David a second chance after murder and adultery and made him King of Israel. He gave Peter a second chance after denying him and made him the founder of a long line of Popes. Then there was Paul who, after not believing in him, believed in him. So why not believe in him and you too will be King of Israel, founder of a long line of Popes, or a believer.

People who accept Jesus become good people who teach in schools and work for the elderly. So if you're a selfish, thieving, hedonistic, murdering rotter, as I know so many of you Today Programme listeners are, why not believe in Jesus and become a nice person?

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Rev. Roy Jenkins 
Wednesday, 30 December, 2009, 07:26 AM - TFTD
I just want to make a comment about yesterday's TFTD, but I'm arrogant enough to think the point is quite important and deserves to be out here as an entry in it's own right. The thing that most annoyed me about yesterday's TFTD was the reference to the atrocities of "godless secular regimes". Why are they never called totalitarian communist regimes? Why is it relevant that they were "godless" and "secular"? Why do they never point out that they too had a doctrine based on a set of unquestionable writings that gives them far more in common with religion than with liberal secular humanists?

This is part of a widespread pattern among preachers to sully the word "secular", to associate secularism with totalitarianism and with the mass murder of the Gulags and the Killing Fields. It's part of the spin that they want to spread that secularism is a negative thing, a bad thing. Guilt by association - the foundation of many a lie by politicians, with whom preachers have so much in common. They're even hypocritical enough to continue to spin such lies while lamenting the lack of honesty in virtually everyone else. The fact that this type of spin goes unchallenged is one of the more insidious aspects of TFTD.

The irony is that religion flourishes under secular government - look at the United States. It's secularism that guarantees freedom of religion as well as freedom from religion. The alternative to secularism is not the dominance of a vaguely compatible pastiche of nice religions, it's a theocracy, and if we ever get one of those then the Rev. Jenkins had better watch out, it might not be the theocracy he was hoping for.

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Reverend Roy Jenkins, a Baptist Minister in Cardiff 
Tuesday, 29 December, 2009, 08:18 AM - Dont do bad things, Jenkins
Rating 5 out of 5 (Extraordinarily platitudinous)

What could cause a loving father like Abdul Aziz to become the leader of the Bali Bombers? I really can't think what it could be. Must be some sort of mental problem brought on by something or other. You have to wonder how an otherwise normal human being can be turned into a murderous fanatic. And then there's Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, a quiet, well educated young man who tried to blow up a US airliner. I really can't think what could possibly have caused him to behave so strangely.

But it isn't just Muslims that go around blowing people up - yes, dirty, rotten atheists do it too. All atheists are amoral at core and will kill anyone at the drop of a hat. Atheists killed millions of people last century. We don't have to distinguish between atheists and communists - they're the same thing. All atheists have an almost religious devotion to the works of Marx and Lenin and consequently believe in a totalitarian society where religion is completely banned. You see, because they don't have an Invisible Magic Friend they think you can do whatever you like and so it's OK to go around killing millions of people when they feel like it.

Some Christians have been a bit bad in the past but that's because they weren't proper Christians. Proper Christians, like me, are like Jesus and never cause offence or hurt anybody. We would certainly never dream of telling other people how to run their lives like atheists do.

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Reverend Dr Michael Banner, Dean at Trinity College, Cambridge 
Monday, 28 December, 2009, 09:39 AM - Gibberish, Science
Rating 4 out of 5 (Highly platitudinous)

Two famous philosophers met after the war: Russell, a silly atheist who didn't understand mysticism, and Wittgenstein, a genius and former pupil of Russell, who understood mysticism and could therefore think of things that the more limited Russell could not. Thinking mystically allows you to think about things like ethics and morality. People who don't think mystically can't really think about ethics and morality. That's why Russell was so terrible at ethics and morality.

Tolstoy was almost as clever as Wittgenstein and he thought being mystical was a good idea too. So that's two clever people on the side of thinking mystically and only one second rate philosopher against it. Don't you want to be right and think mystically like we clever people do?

Thinking mystically allows you to understand things like "sin". Sin is something that is wrong because my Big Book of Magic Stuff says so. This does not mean we abandon reason. It just means we have to invent tortuous arguments to either twist the words of the Big Book of Magic Stuff or find ways to make its copious list of sins seem reasonable. This is what it means to be ethical.

This is why the so called argument between science and religion is so wearisome. Science is not mystical at all, which is why science is so useless. There is no conflict between science and religion as we can see from areas like family planning, stem cell research and the extent to which we should go forth and multiply. Religion has never interfered with science and it really would be nice if science stopped poking it's nose into mystical things like morality.

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