Saint Valentine's day banned 
Sunday, 13 February, 2011, 07:50 AM - Not TFTD
I just want to express my unbounded admiration for Malaysia's Department of Islamic Development. Finally we have a government ready to warn people of that most dangerous of all traditions: the celebration of Saint Valentine's Day. However, Wan Mohamad Sheikh Abdul Aziz, head of the Malaysian Islamic Development Department (JAKIM) was quick to distance himself from any suggestion that this applied to any of Malaysia's non-Muslim minorities.

"We appreciate that this is a deeply felt religious tradition among Christians. In the West in particular, you celebrate free love and indulge in inappropriate vices at the drop of a hat on Saint Valentine's day. We respect these cultural differences and understand perfectly that you don't have the morals that we Muslims have, that is why this advice extends only to Muslims and not to other less enlightened religions."

In 2005 Malaysia's National Fatwa Council [Ed - select English at the top left of the page], after much debate and scholarship, wisely concluded that there is no evidence of a Saint Valentine's day tradition in Islam and that this "Spirit festival has elements of Christianity and the practice is mixed with the contradictory and immoral acts forbidden by Islam."

More general guidance on taking part in Christian festivals is always available from the Department of Islamic Development. They council against various un-Islamic religious rituals such as:

- dressing up as Santa Claus,
- wearing conspicuous clothing,
- anything that involves superstition.

JAKIM officials will carry out a nationwide 'Mind the Valentine's Day Trap' campaign, aimed at preventing Muslims from celebrating the day. Anyone caught sending a Valentine's Day card to their loved one will be severely reprimanded and you don't want to even think about the penalty for being caught in possession of a red rose or a box of Thornton's Classic Chocolate Collection.

Nasrudin Hasan Tantawi, head of the Islamic party PAS's youth wing said Wednesday that authorities will carry out "immorality checks" on February 14. "We are deploying local religious department officials as well as party members to stop such sinful acts."

In recent years, authorities have searched hotel rooms on the night of February 14. Unmarried Muslims who meet in private can be charged with "khalwat," or "close proximity", which carries fines and prison sentences of several months. For as we all know, wherever two people are in close proximity to one another there is the possibility of sin being committed.

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Rev Dr. (hon. Kingston) Dr. (hon. St. Andrews) Joel Edwards, International Director of Micah Challenge, Human Rights Commissioner, Council Member of the Tony Blair Faith Foundation  
Saturday, 12 February, 2011, 08:24 AM - Democracy, Edwards
Rating 4 out of 5 (Highly platitudinous)

The people of Egypt have spoken. A dictator who ruled for life and would probably have passed power to his son, is now gone. At last, the people of Egypt might taste the fruits of democracy.

This is exactly what the people of Israel did when they got rid of the Judges. Fed up with generations of having the best person for the job run the country, they demanded a proper hereditary dictatorship like every other country had.

But the events in Egypt aren't just of religious significance, they're terribly spiritual events too. You have no idea how very spiritual it all is. The Egyptian people are a very spiritual people. I know, I've spoken to all of them and they all said how very spiritual they were [Ed - they have no choice]. In fact, I wouldn't be at all surprised if it wasn't their very spiritualness that caused them to get rid of Mubarak. That's how very useful being spiritual is.

Like you, I am praying for the people of Egypt. Let's pray that they go on being so very spiritual.

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Illustriously Reverend Lord Professor Bishop Baron Reverend Lord Richard Harries, Baron Pentregarth, Gresham Professor of Divinity, Baron, Bishop, Professor, Lord... 
Friday, 11 February, 2011, 09:05 AM - Democracy, Harries
Rating 5 out of 5 (Extraordinarily platitudinous)

The rule of law is a Good Thing. It promotes a stable society where trade can flourish to the general well being of all.

Of course, some think the law is oppressive: Marxists, trade unionists, poor people and other such trouble makers, but the law can generally be used to keep them in their place.

In the good old days, when bishops were not mocked but were properly regarded in high esteem by common people, laws were derived from the law of the Invisible Magic Friend. This is regarded as a rather old fashioned idea nowadays. We like to think that laws are created through the "will of the people" and other such fashionable nonsense. As an Illustriously Reverend Lord Professor Bishop Baron, let me just assure you that such dangerous novelties are deranged, delusional and just plain wrong. You can be certain of this because I am telling you it. On this occasion, there is not even a need to quote from the Big Book of Magic Stuff, save for a trivial poetic reference to the psalms.

The laws of the Invisible Magic Friend are as constant and undeniable as the laws of nature, which were also created by the Invisible Magic Friend. So let's get rid of all this wasteful democracy, with it's parliaments and debates and attempts to find consensus. All the laws we need, good laws, right laws, divine laws, can be given to you by people like me.

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The Reverend Angela Tilby, Vicar of St Bene't's Church in Cambridge 
Thursday, 10 February, 2011, 08:08 AM - Gibberish, Tilby
Rating 4 out of 5 (Highly platitudinous)

And the big news today is, the Church of England wanting to change the words of the Baptism ceremony. We heard about it yesterday on this very programme, shortly after TFTD, the only 3 minutes of religion in an otherwise totally secular programme.

There's furious debate about this at all levels of society. You can hardly go into a pub or a restaurant these days without hearing raised voices shouting, "Baptism is a gift of grace that wipes away the stain of original sin and I'll punch the nose of anyone who says otherwise." Different theological camps have developed, with everyone from plumbers to brain surgeons passionately defending their favourite team.

It all stems from the decline in the number of babies being baptised. Of course, if you choose not to have your baby baptised that's up to you. It's your own free choice if you choose not to have your child baptised into the Christian Church. It's no skin off my nose if you choose to leave them as unsaved heathens with no connection to their Lord and Saviour. Why should I care if you can't get them into one of the better schools in four or five years time?

Some people choose to take baptism a bit more seriously. Sayed Musa is now languishing in an Afghan jail because he was baptised. That's just the way we Christians have always suffered of course. Still, if you want to betray the sacrifice and courage of Sayed Musa by not getting your children baptised, then that's up to you.

As Saint Paul so wittily remarked, "You've all been baptised into the death of Christ." That's the kind of cheery, funny bloke that Saint Paul was. Baptism is all about sacrifice and death. Precisely the sort of thing you should be thinking about when a new baby is born.

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JP II webcam 
Wednesday, 9 February, 2011, 02:43 PM - Not TFTD
Great news! Following on from yesterday's exciting revelation of the Holy iPhone app that helps you out with your confession, you can now watch the tomb of Pope John Paul II live!

It really is a riveting good watch. Just think, you can now spend hour after happy hour, watching JPII remain dead. But there's even more. This is all part of the campaign to make JPII a saint. So if you keep watching really hard, you might even spot the miracle that propels the ex-Pope to saintliness.

I must say I'm really loving this new hi-tech Catholic Church. It just goes to show how relevant it still is in the modern world.
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Akhandadhi Das, a Vaishnav Hindu teacher and theologian 
Wednesday, 9 February, 2011, 09:07 AM - Be nice, Akhandadhi Das
Rating 3 out of 5 (Fairly platitudinous)

Quote: "I pass the test. I will diminish, and go into the West."

You may think these are the words of of a rail passenger at Paddington station, but they are in fact the words of Galadriel in the The Fellowship of the Ring. As we wave goodbye to many government services, that must now diminish, we welcome the Big Society, where unemployed public servants now do their old jobs for nothing.

Society is like the human body. There must be an armpit, where all the smelly bits of fluff accumulate. Then there is the nose, where we sniff the state of social cohesion. The bowel removes the unwanted parts and the whole body is supported by the big toe. All must act in unison if the body is to support and sustain itself.

As it says in Alice in Wonderland, "I quite agree with you," said the Duchess; "and the moral of that is--'Be what you would seem to be'--or if you'd like it put more simply--'Never imagine yourself not to be otherwise than what it might appear to others that what you were or might have been was not otherwise than what you had been would have appeared to them to be otherwise.'"

And so we see the kindness and importance of the voluntary sector, working with the big toe and all the parts of the body.

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Bewilderingly Reverend Graham James, Bishop of Norwich 
Tuesday, 8 February, 2011, 08:23 AM - James
Rating 0 out of 5 (Not platitudinous)

The book What's Mine is Yours describes the internet phenomenon of hiring out goods that are otherwise being unused: renting a room, hiring a bicycle or a car from someone else.

We all have such unused goods. The average power drill gets used for just 12 minutes in its lifetime, so it makes sense to share what we've got. ebay alone trade £1,800 every second. We buy goods we've never seen from people we've never met and send them the money first. The internet has built trust in a world where it's been diminishing in almost every other way.

Having exclusive access to our own goods used to be seen as a sign of our independence. As the population rises, with much of the world's wealth concentrated in the hands of a few, collaborative consumption makes sense. Of course, religious communities invented collaborative consumption long before the internet arrived. It makes everyone equal before the Invisible Magic Friend. The first Christians all did this, until Christianity went mainstream, when most Christians decided they weren't going to share any more.

The vast majority of ebay users have discovered that you really can put your faith in other human beings.

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Rabbi Lionel Blue 
Monday, 7 February, 2011, 08:33 AM - Rabbi Lionel Blue
Rating 4 out of 5 (Highly platitudinous)

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

Isn't the news, whatever it is, just terrible? There are all these people out demonstrating, trying to change the world. Long, long ago, when the earth had not yet cooled, I used to demonstrate, trying to change the world, but we never succeeded. No one ever does. It's all so depressing.

This morning, I asked my Invisible Magic Friend to make all this disturbance and hullabaloo go away. But if he didn't save millions from the gas chambers why should he act to make me feel better? It all seems so hopeless, so pointless, doesn't it?

There's a lot of religion about, much of it bizarre, and that's pretty depressing too. The Invisible Magic Friend really seems to have made a complete mess of everything. The reason why this is, is a mystery, a depressing mystery, but never forget, the Invisible Magic Friend is your friend, always there to help you, unless you're faced with a gas chamber that is. He created us to straighten out the mess that he created, which makes a lot of sense if you think about it, so it's not really a mystery after all.

You're probably all as depressed and disillusioned as I am, what with all these terrible things happening. Isn't the world just awful? Never mind, cheer up. A bit of hard work to try and change things will soon lift you out of these terrible doldrums that you seem to have gotten into, even if you'll never actually succeed in changing anything. Think about all the excellent recipes you can conjure up from the leftovers in your fridge. There, that cheered you up a bit, didn't it? Put a coin in a collection box and whistle "Always look on the bright side of life." You'll soon forget about what a dreary, abysmal place the world really is.

John Bunyan's pilgrim hymn is a good song to sing, the one with the hobgoblins and foul fiends in it. Of course, I don't believe in hobgoblins and foul fiends, that would be just silly. What sort of silly person believes in hobgoblins and foul fiends? So say something nice to the Invisible Magic Friend and have a happy day, no matter how dreadful the news is.

Well, I must be going, it's time for bed. Good night Invisible Magic Friend.

GOOD NIGHT LIONEL.

Begone foul hobgoblin!

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Brian Draper, Associate lecturer at the London Institute for Contemporary Christianity 
Saturday, 5 February, 2011, 09:13 AM - Environment, Materialism, Draper
Rating 3 out of 5 (Fairly platitudinous)

Brian here, in Southampton, an associate lecturer at the London Institute for Contemporary Christianity where we envision and equip Christians, and the leaders, churches and organisations that serve them, with the biblical framework, practical resources and models to engage biblically, relevantly and vigorously with the issues they face in today’s world. Hi.

Ed Milliband says we now face the prospect, that for the first time in a hundred years, the next generation will be worse off than their parents.

At this point I'm supposed to wax lyrical about the benefits of a more spiritual lifestyle, how a nice walk in the woods is so much better than more material possessions, how it is better to store up treasure in heaven and all that. It would be such a cliché to do so that obviously I want to avoid doing that at all costs.

But what if we could teach our children to live better lives with fewer resources, which they'll have to now that we've consumed them all. In a way, we'd be leaving them a great legacy.

"My son, I leave you a world with less oil, less fresh water and food per person and a dearth of other non renewable resources. Everything for you will be more expensive and there are many things you will never have at all. What a great opportunity this is for you to learn to be frugal, to consume more responsibly and lead a simpler, yet spiritually more fulfilling life."

What is the point of accumulating wealth in this life, when we should be storing up treasure in heaven? As Ecclesiastes (one of the nice books of the Big Book of Magic Stuff that we do so like to quote here on Thought For The Day) says, in the end you're all going to rot.

You can't take your vast accumulation of possessions or your hard earned fortune with you. Be contented with what you have accumulated in the next life, which will be so much better than this one.

Rejoice, oh next generation, for you will be able to live better for less.

(Thank the Invisible Magic Friend I managed to avoid all those tiresome clichés.)

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Resplendently Reverend Lord Professor Bishop Baron Reverend Lord Richard Harries, Baron Pentregarth, Gresham Professor of Divinity, Baron, Bishop, Professor, Lord... 
Friday, 4 February, 2011, 08:43 AM - Be nice, Harries
Rating 2 out of 5 (A little platitudinous)

Has anyone mentioned Egypt yet? Yes, I know about no morals without God, Hindu advice to move on, the relevance of the 10 commandments and how very ordinary the Egyptians are. I mean someone talking about something really relevant to the news?

Where does real power lie? At the barrel of a gun said Mao, but Hanna Arendt thought otherwise. She pointed out that without the consent, at the very least of those holding the guns, military power cannot be exercised.

Thus, we see the idea of "free consent", an idea invented by Christianity. For example, Theodosius freely consented to ban paganism. And entire Latin American civilisations were freely consented to become Catholics. Acceptance of Jesus has always been by such free consent.

Despite all this free consent that's been going on, some level of coercion is still required. Ever since the Garden of Eden incident, we've needed police forces and jails to prevent people recklessly running around eating the fruit of the tree of knowledge and spoiling it all for the rest of us.

Jesus, while he was the visible bit of the Invisible Magic Friend, gave us the parable about what happens when he scatters his seed in various places, a parable that I think is particularly relevant to free consent, coercion, and events taking place in Egypt today.

Let us hope that we can all maximise such free consent with the very minimum of beating each other over the head.

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