Wednesday, 17 February, 2010, 08:09 AM - WinkettRating 4 out of 5 (Highly platitudinous)
Happy Ash Wednesday everyone! It's the beginning of Lent. Last year's palms have been cooked in olive oil, not to make an interesting pasta sauce with a little garlic and oregano, but to reduce them to ash. Today, we all trundle down to church and are reminded that "you are dust and back to dust you shall return". For there's only one life you see (apart from the infinitely longer and more fulfilling after life of course) and it's really important that you live life to the full (although none of that will matter in the infinitely longer and more fulfilling after life which definitely exists, because I believe it does).
Lent means the arrival of Spring and so, in the Christian calendar it is a time to be miserable. We're all getting ready to tighten our belts: to cut down on deserts, alcohol, smoking. However I would like to propose a new penitence: silence. Let us all cut down on talking. So much of the speech we hear today is entirely pointless, doing nothing more than filling the airwaves. Think how much more time we would all have for reading, for contemplation, if only we didn't waste so much of it listening to nonsense on the radio. Have you noticed the absence of content in almost everything that is said on radio?
Then there's the repetition. People don't just make their point once, they repeat it with variations in phraseology. They might use different words, but the meaning is the same. There's no new information being conveyed, it's just the same point they mad ages ago. It's irritating when someone dwells on something that you understood perfectly clearly but they insist on emphasising over and over again.
So I recommend a bit more silence for Lent. Think of a programme on radio that tells you nothing and just keep it switched o...
Tuesday, 16 February, 2010, 08:17 AM - ButlerRating 3 out of 5 (Fairly platitudinous)
D'you know what we need? (Hic!) I'll tell you what we need, we need (hic!), we need more black prieshts. We've got loads a them in the pews but hardly any a them want to be prieshts. I mean, what'sh wrong wif bein a priesht? Eh? Tell me that. (Hic!) I mean, you get to wear a nice black frock, 'n a dog collar, 'n if yer a really, really, (hic!) really good priesht then one day you get to wear a nice big pointy hat, 'n everybody calls ye yer grace 'n stuff. Sh'brilliant!
So we've been goin around schools full 'o black kids and tellin them all how much fun it ish bein prieshts. You don't wanna be a footballer or a pop shtar or any a that rubbish. Naaaaa! Bein a priesht ish a good sholid (hic!) 'scuse me, sholid career. I mean look at me! I'm doin all right, 'aint I? Who wouldn't wann be me. And if, 'nd if, if ye get to be the boss (hic!), like me, ye get to throw out all the cuddly toysh any time you like. 'N people give ye loads a glasses a sherry, for free! I'm the Bishup of Shuffrock. 'Shwat I do. (Hic!)
Happy birthday YouTube! And happy nearly-birthday to Facebook. Here at St. Johns College Durham we're really into all this cool techno wizardry. Because we're the modern church. We're hip, we're with it, we're where it's really happening dude.
As a Rev Dr Dr, let me just assure you that YouTube and Facebook are about relationships and Christianity invented relationships. As Lent begins this week, Christians, who are just one big happy family, will be coming together to rejoice in their shared love of Jesus. Of course there are still some old fuddy-duddy, stick-in-the-muds, who aren't as up to date as we are here at St. Johns College Durham, conveniently located between the A1(M) and the A167. St. Johns College Durham, the coolest, the hippest of all the ancient, traditional theological colleges.
Saturday, 13 February, 2010, 08:36 AM - Clemmies...today's the big day. The winner of Platitude Of The Year 2009 will be announced this afternoon.
And the winner is:
Right Reverend James Jones Lord Bishop of Liverpool and Bishop of Prisons for reminding us all how Christianity solved the problems of Northern Ireland.
Unfortunately, by failing to collect his award, the prize has now been forfeit. This consists of five books by Richard Dawkins:
Climbing Mount Improbable
Unweaving the Rainbow
The God Delusion
The Greatest Show on Earth...
The Ancestor's Tale
Each book is signed by Richard Dawkins and contains the dedication "To the Platitude of the Year 2009 winner". As a set, these five books are therefore unique. They will be auctioned shortly on eBay (details to follow) with the proceeds going to the National Secular Society.
Also unfortunately, I didn't win the Secularist of the Year award (I knew this as soon as I arrived and realised I didn't have one of the reserved seats on the posh tables at the front). On the plus side, the prize went to a very worthy cause, the Southall Black Sisters who provide support for women in violent relationships. These are very often relationships where the subservience of women is mandated by their religion and where all other forms of community support are unavailable. I have nothing but unbounded admiration for its founder, Pragna Patel, who accepted the prize on their behalf.
As she said in her acceptance speech, "If you had asked me 20 years ago what one of the biggest struggles would be in 2010, I would not have said the struggle for a secular society. Yet here we are today."
Saturday, 13 February, 2010, 08:30 AM - WinterRating 2 out of 5 (A little platitudinous)
Everybody's at it. Tennis players do it, footballers certainly do it, the X-Factor does it. Even politicians have started doing it. As Alistair Campbell said "I've been through a lot (blub). I think Tony is a very honourable man (blub). Honestly, we didn't spin the intelligence to manufacture a case for war and kill hundreds of thousands of people in Iraq (blub). Why is everybody being so horrible to me (blub)?" Even Mr. Prudence himself is at it. And by "at it", I do of course mean "crying".
This used to be regarded as being a bit sissy. Men weren't supposed to cry in public. We British were supposed to keep it stiff. But for those who feel uncomfortable with men of all professions blubbing in front of the cameras, I just want to reassure you that it's perfectly OK. It's OK because Jesus, the visible bit of the Invisible Magic Friend, cried once. He did this because he was human (although in an immensely divine way of course). He was showing empathy with others, who also happened to be human (but without the divine bit). This shows that it is OK to empathise with others - something that you may not previously have been aware of. Not only is it OK for politicians to reach for the sympathy vote ahead of elections, but Jesus even promises to wipe away the tears and make everything better after they've been committed to their electoral graves. Ahhhhhh.
Abundantly Reverend Lord Professor Bishop Baron Reverend Lord Richard Harries, Baron Pentregarth, Gresham Professor of Divinity, Baron, Bishop, Professor, Lord...
Should we torture suspected terrorists or not? How do we know they are terrorists. One way to find out is to tie them down, inflict ever increasing levels of fear and pain, and keep shouting "YOU'RE A TERRORIST. CONFESS!!!".
Some people, people who don't have a religion, think this is OK. These are people with no moral fibre, no character. They think the utilitarian argument is always right and apply it blindly without regard to the rights of the suspect. People who are Christians, such as Tony Blair and George W. Bush, for example, or even people of some other religions, Osama Bin Laden for instance, are people of character and would never consider infringing the rights of suspects under any circumstances. This is called being ethical. Clifford Longley said something similar, which just goes to show I must be right.
Hospitals in Bristol are to introduce new wrap around gowns. Yes, after decades of use and millions of patients, someone has finally realised that people in hospital would rather not wander the wards with their bottom hanging out.
This is part of the ever changing climate in the NHS, where we migrate from being mere patients to fully fledged customers, and customers generally aren't made to walk around with their bottoms hanging out. It's all about trust. We trust the hospital to cure us and they trust us to put our gowns on correctly.
No one knows whether Jesus' cures of the sick were miracles or not. I'd say there's a 50/50 chance, although personally I'm intensely sceptical about all that sort of stuff. That's why I'm a vicar. But seeing as all that curing definitely happened then obviously everyone was placing a great deal of trust in him. I mean they were trusting him that he wouldn't just take one disease away and give them something worse - these gods can be sneaky about this sort of thing.
We need to show similar trust in our doctors. We trust them to help us and they trust us to get sick.
Wednesday, 10 February, 2010, 09:32 AM - Dont do bad things, Vedas, Puranas, Bhagavad Gita..., Akhandadhi DasRating 2 out of 5 (A little platitudinous)
Toyota are doing a big car recall. As Krishna said to Arjuna in the Bhagavad Gita, "Be strong and true to yourself and tolerate not defective computerised breaking systems."
This recall is a fine, noble, honourable thing. It is the first step to rebuilding the good name of Toyota and is not to be sneered at by cynics and those who would mock virtue. This is the way Gandhi would run a car company. It puts honesty above profit, human lives above reputation. This glorious corporation, this beacon in a sea of commercial revenue, this jewelled island, this blessed plot, this earth, this realm, this car company.
Happy Church of England shinod everyone. (Hic!) Sh'all about... 'bout... gaysh 'n wimmin 'n shtuff as usual. (Hic!) I mean whatever. Who cares? I know I don't. I jusht wish (hic!), I jusht wish they'd all jusht shtop droning on 'n on 'n on 'n on about gaysh and (hic!) wimmin. Sh'all the Americans' fault. Nice blokes though Americans (hic!) and nice wimmin. But shum people at shinod, shum people (hic!), shum people want to throw out all the cuddly toysh, they do.
D'you know what some physics bloke shaid. I'll tell you what he shaid. (Hic!) He shaid "it'sh really, really, really, (hic!) really big out there." That'sh faith for you. Ye see? Eh? We're all like a big herd of wild animals we are. Sherching for green 'n fertile land (hic!) acrosh the plains 'f 'frica. Ye see?
So I don't feel mighty shtrongly 'bout any'fin. I'm the Bishup of Shuffrock. 'Shwat I do. (Hic!)
Deontology is what happens when you stop being a Catholic and think morality comes from a book of rules. Catholics' very limited set of rules, based on the catechism, centuries of canon law and the pope being infallible, is why Catholicism is so flexible on changing ethical perceptions.
MPs have mostly stopped being Catholics. That is why they don't understand that being allowed to fiddle your expenses is not the same as actually doing it. You would understand this if you had read Plato, Aristotle, the Old Testament, the New Testament and Thomas Aquinas, but as you probably haven't read Plato, Aristotle, the Old Testament, the New Testament and Thomas Aquinas, you probably haven't realised that just because something is allowed doesn't mean you can do it.
Ever since people stopped being Catholic it has become very unfashionable to talk about virtue, but virtue ethics is making a comeback. In his famous book After Virtue, the famous philosopher Alasdair MacIntyre argued that it's about time virtue ethics made a comeback. He did this after reading Plato, Aristotle, the Old Testament, the New Testament and Thomas Aquinas.
If you want to become a good, moral, person, like Catholics, then all you have to do is practise. However, this presupposes that you have some moral character in the first place. It presupposes that some external agent has imposed our morality upon us, because it's quite impossible that it evolved naturally as it did in all other social animals. And this is my clinching argument. The only other possible source for our morality is my Invisible Magic Friend. This is the kind of incisive, conclusive argument that comes from a life of reading Plato, Aristotle, the Old Testament, the New Testament and Thomas Aquinas.