Rev Dr Michael Banner, Dean and Fellow of Trinity College, Cambridge 
Friday, 28 January, 2011, 08:28 AM - Life after death, Banner
Rating 3 out of 5 (Fairly platitudinous)

Redditch Borough Council wants to use the excess heat from the crematorium to heat the local swimming pool. What should we Christians think of this proposal? Let's ask Saint Augustine.

Well, obviously we can't ask Saint Augustine. That is to say, we could ask him, but being dead it's very unlikely that he would reply. Although he could reply if he wanted to, due to him being a saint. But what might Saint Augustine have thought, had he still been alive?

We don't know Saint Augustine's actual opinion on using crematoriums to heat swimming pools but we do know what he thought of grand tombs and solemn rights for the dead. He says these are for the comfort of the living and make no difference to the dead, them being dead. Even those torn to shreds by lions, have no need to worry - the Invisible Magic Friend still loves them and will take care of them.

I think therefore we can see that Saint Augustine broadly agrees with my opinion on the matter of crematoriums and swimming pools, or at least he would broadly agree were he able to articulate his views, namely that this is a good thing.

But what of the dead people themselves? What do they think of being used to heat swimming pools, thus lowering costs and reducing the council's carbon footprint? Well we can't know what the dead people themselves think, but I think if we could ask them, they would broadly agree with Saint Augustine and myself.

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Rev Dr Michael Banner, Dean and Fellow of Trinity College, Cambridge 
Thursday, 6 January, 2011, 08:36 AM - Banner
Rating 4 out of 5 (Highly platitudinous)

Happy Epiphany everyone! It's the day when we celebrate the three kings coming to adore the birth of the Invisible Magic Friend, which definitely happened shortly before the massacre of the innocents, which also definitely happened and was necessary so that the prophesy could be fulfilled and which, for some reason, the other three Gospels thought was so important that they forgot to include it.

There's a very good painting of the epiphany by Bruegel. In it, some pretty ugly looking kings, present their gifts to an almost as ugly Mary, Joseph and baby Jesus. They don't look at all like the beautiful people we normally expect to see in biblical depictions.

What was Bruegel trying to say in this picture? Was it that true beauty lies beneath the skin? That we shouldn't judge by appearances? Maybe he just wasn't a very good painter? No, what Bruegel was saying was the Invisible Magic Friend was being born into a world of ugliness and violence. Even though everything became much better after the arrival of Jesus, the world remains a violent place.

In Egypt we have Muslims killing Christians for not being Muslims. In Pakistan, we have Muslims killing Muslims for not being Muslim enough. What this goes to show is that people are naturally violent and hateful - even some religious people.

Bruegel's Epiphany shows that what we need is more religion in order to make people peaceful.

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Rev Dr Michael Banner, Dean and Fellow of Trinity College, Cambridge 
Tuesday, 17 August, 2010, 08:55 AM - Science, Banner
Rating 4 out of 5 (Highly platitudinous)

Today I want to talk about one of the favourite children's stories from the Big Book of Magic Stuff, the story of Noah and the ark. As you all know, Noah got two of every creature and put them in an enormous ark, or possibly seven of some, depending on what chapter you read. So that'll be two kangaroos from Australia, two sloths from South America, two polars bears, two staphylococcus aureus and so on.

This just shows how much the Invisible Magic Friend cared about animals, shortly before obliterating the vast majority of them. Then, when all the mass culling of the animal kingdom was over, Noah celebrated by killing some of the remainder.

This just goes to show how varied and nuanced the Big Book of Magic Stuff is in relation to the treatment of animals. Modern science will no doubt be delighted to learn that this biblical attention to animal husbandry, confirms the discovery of significant genetic similarities between humans, who are special and have souls, and animals, who don't have any magic bits and are here for us to eat and keep as pets because the Invisible Magic Friend put us in charge.

This also goes to explain why we have a conscience about animals. On the one hand, they can be ever so cute and cuddly with great big wide eyes, but on the other, they taste ever so good in a casserole or with a nice Hollandaise sauce. They also tend to be quite useful to perform experiments upon.

So does the Big Book of Magic Stuff provide us with clear ethical guidelines on how to treat animals? No, not really.

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Rev Dr Michael Banner, Dean and Fellow of Trinity College, Cambridge 
Tuesday, 10 August, 2010, 08:10 AM - Health, Banner
Rating 2 out of 5 (A little platitudinous)

Tony Judt passed away on 6th Aug. His writings are warm and affectionate and well worth reading. In a short passage in his memoirs, he mentions, almost in passing, that he was suffering from a degenerative motor neuron disease.

It's often said that Christians think suffering is good for you. I can't think why, it's not as if we always go on about it, or have ever promoted mortification of the flesh through self flagellation, or sack cloth and ashes as penance, or anything like that. Suffering is rarely good for us. When asked to say something uplifting about his own suffering, Tony Judt refused, so let me say something uplifting about it on his behalf. Tony Judt showed us, and by "us" I mean "you", how to keep on doing something interesting while suffering. If you find yourself suffering, don't just lounge around on the couch all day in agony, pull your socks up and get on with life.

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Rev Dr Michael Banner, Dean and Fellow of Trinity College Cambridge 
Tuesday, 3 August, 2010, 08:32 AM - Materialism, Money, Banner
Rating 4 out of 5 (Highly platitudinous)

The banks are back in profit again. Hurrah! Loans are being made, dividends and bonuses paid and champagne corks are popping in The City once again. But every silver lining has a dark cloud. It's back to business as usual, the very same business that caused the financial crisis in the first place.

I've never actually worked in the financial services industry, but as a moral philosopher and theologian I can tell you that something needs to change. Somebody ought to do something and that somebody is YOU. It's time to employ a bit of that great Christian virtue that we call "confession", or self examination. As I watch you self-examine yourself, I have to say I don't like what you see. With your irresponsible borrowing and fat cat bonuses it is you, YOU, Today Programme listeners that are putting young people out of jobs and denying them their opportunity to go to university. Don't you feel ashamed of yourselves? I'm not trying to to make you feel guilty about your past wickedness and excessive lifestyle but you must repent and make the banks run themselves more responsibly in future.

Won't somebody please think of the children, and the children's children, and the children's children's children.

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