Staggeringly Reverend James Jones, Lord Bishop of Liverpool and Bishop of Prisons 
Tuesday, 3 April, 2012, 08:32 AM - Morality, James Jones
Rating 3 out of 5 (Fairly platitudinous)

There are lots of new Titanic exhibitions and museums for people to go and see. For those of you who haven't heard, Titanic was the largest ship in the world in her time, but sank on her maiden voyage.

There were three classes of passenger, first class paid 79 per ticket, second class 13, and third class 8. You certainly got what you paid for in those days, with survival rates in the three classes of 60%, 40% and 24% respectively.

An inquiry concluded that excessive speed was to blame. It didn't feel the need to call any second or third class passengers to give evidence.

That seems shocking to us today and is an indicator of how our moral sense has improved in the last century. We are not less moral than we were. We are far more aware of issues like bullying, racism, poverty and corruption than we were in the past, when people worshipped the Invisible Magic Friend more.

As the Titanic sank, the bandsmen played the hymn, "Nearer my God to Thee." People found great comfort in drawing near to the Invisible Magic Friend in those days, especially if they were travelling third class.

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Rev Canon Dr Alan Billings, an Anglican priest in Sheffield 
Monday, 19 March, 2012, 08:16 AM - Morality, Billings
Rating 4 out of 5 (Highly platitudinous)

The right to die and gay marriage: what does the Church have to say?

Well, mostly it says "No" but I don't want to go into that. The question I want to ask is, why doesn't anyone pay any attention to what we say? It's almost as if people think the Big Book of Magic Stuff is irrelevant. I know, shocking, isn't it? The question is, given that the Big Book of Magic Stuff has nothing to say on many modern moral dilemmas, how can we twist its meaning to make it sound relevant?

In the good old days, people used to ask church leaders if something was moral or not. Church leaders said "No" and everyone dutifully persecuted the sinners. Nowadays people want reasons, which is so very unreasonable of them. It's almost as if people don't like us telling them how to run their lives.

Many people who give up on religion give up on morality as well. They have it surgically removed so that they can run around being as amoral as they like. I think people giving up on morality is a very bad thing. You'll come to regret it you know. In the end you'll wish you'd listened to the arbitrary assertions of church leaders.

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Lord Richard Harries 
Friday, 27 January, 2012, 09:21 AM - Morality, Harries
Rating 1 out of 5 (Not platitudinous)

Would you have done any better than the captain of the Costa Concordia? How would you fair, if, as in the Lord's prayer, you were "put to the test"?

The Novel "Lord Jim" begins in a similar vein, when the novel's title character abandons a ship in distress. He spends the rest of his life trying to restore his belief in himself. He never accepts that he, like many of us, can simply be afraid.

Even those who demonstrate great physical bravery, risking their lives to save others, might not have the moral courage to stand up to dishonesty, or the kind of widespread cultural evil spread by extremism. That kind of bravery is exceptional, like the farm boy from the Sudetenland who wrote.

"Dear parents: I must give you bad news - I have been condemned to death. I and Gustave G. We did not sign up for the SS, and so they condemned us to death.. Both of us would rather die than stain our consciences with such deeds of horror. I know what the SS have to do."

We can only hope that all of us, on this Holocaust Memorial Day, and faced with a similar choice, could search deep within us and draw upon such strength.

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Rev Dr Giles Fraser - Ex Canon Chancellor of St Paul's Cathedral  
Friday, 13 January, 2012, 08:30 AM - Art, Lessons of history, Morality, Fraser
Rating 5 out of 5 (Extraordinarily platitudinous)

I want to start with the architectural theorist Charles Jencks. I know what you're thinking: is there in fact an academic discipline called Architectural Theory? The answer is yes, and Charles Jencks is one of them.

He said modernism ended.

Modernism was rubbish. It didn't produce any great art like religion used to. After Modernism came Post-modernism. It was rubbish too and didn't produce any great art like religion used to either. You can go to the V & A at the moment and you'll see what I mean. All the modern stuff is rubbish and all the old stuff, when there was lots more religion, is really good.

What this proves is that people need to belong to a tribe. How can you say that my tribe's better than your tribe (in a totally non-chauvinistic and multicultural way of course) if you don't have a tribe. Modern art doesn't have a tribe, whereas good art, the stuff we used to do in the past, is part of the Christian Tribe.

Scottish Nationalists, good fine, noble, tribal people, understand this and are looking forward to the tremendous fun we're all going to have sorting out who owns the oil and the debts of RBS and HBOS.

As ex-Canon Chancellor of St Paul's Cathedral, I sense that people are searching for something bigger than themselves, like St Paul's Cathedral perhaps. They want a society where there was ethics, and morals, and no greed, or pain, or suffering. They want the good old days (in a totally non-nostalgic sense) when everything was just hunky-dory, and Christianity was in charge and produced art that wasn't rubbish.

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Vishvapani (a much nicer name than Simon Blomfield) - I'm ordained you know!  
Tuesday, 3 January, 2012, 08:27 AM - Art, Be nice, Morality, Vishvapani
Rating 4 out of 5 (Highly platitudinous)

Has anyone mentioned the Olympics or the Golden Jubilee yet? No? Well I'm not going to either.

Did anyone see Great Expectations on the telly over Christmas? It was really good!

Dickens was a really good writer and this year sees the bicentenary of something or other connected with him. As well as being really, really popular, Dickens' works are also very strong on morality. No honestly, they are. If you want to be moral, you could do a lot worse than read Dickens. And the great thing is, even if you don't have an Invisible Magic Friend, you can read Dickens to learn how to be moral.

The central character of Great Expectations is Pip, who wants to be a gentleman, but he learns that personal virtue is more important and then the book ends. I just want to throw in the word "didactic" at this point. That should get even a few Radio 4 listeners searching for their dictionaries.

Another character is Miss Haversham. She's an elderly spinster in a wedding dress, who we associate with decay an putrefaction. Putrefaction's not a very nice word to associate with anyone, even Miss Haversham, but I'll use it anyway.

This is all very moral. It's also Art.

It's also Karma, which is the belief that things affect other things, but you can read Dickens and learn to be moral even if you're not a Buddhist. In fact, you don't have to have any religion at all to read Dickens and learn to be moral. Even secular people can read Dickens and learn to be moral.

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Rev Dr. (hon. Kingston) Dr. (hon. St. Andrews) Joel Edwards, International Director of Micah Challenge, Council Member of the Tony Blair Faith Foundation  
Saturday, 23 July, 2011, 08:29 AM - Democracy, Lessons of history, Morality, Edwards
Rating 5 out of 5 (Extraordinarily platitudinous)

One of my more knowledgeable American Christian friends asked me if Britain still had an empire. I explained that we have things that are even better than that. We have a Commonwealth, that every four years has some games that nobody pays any attention to. We have the monarchy that is universally loved and will some day enjoy King Charles III. Oh, yes and we've got democracy and stuff. He congratulated me on our success at the Battle of Trafalgar and asked me to convey his regards to that nice Mr. Dickens.

Back when we still had an empire, part of that empire was in Kenya. Now some of the people who were in that part of the empire are being allowed to sue Britain for their brutal treatment back then. This is a moral as well as a legal argument, and where do all morals come from? They come from the invisible Magic Friend of course!

In the good old days, when nations had proper absolute hereditary monarchies and none of all that democracy rubbish, the Invisible Magic Friend made King David king. King David was the bestest, most brilliant king there ever was (although there was that little sleeping with one of his soldiers wives, then having him killed and the Invisible Magic Friend killing his baby son in revenge incident - but apart from that he was just fantastic).

It's because of the Invisible Magic Friend and his brilliant morals that he gave us that we're all so shocked by the atrocities in Norway. The Invisible Magic Friend is just great isn't he? And that's why there needs to be justice for Kenyans.

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Staggeringly Reverend Lord Professor Bishop Baron Reverend Lord Richard Harries, Baron Pentregarth, Gresham Professor of Divinity, Baron, Bishop, Professor, Lord...  
Friday, 17 June, 2011, 08:03 AM - Morality, Harries
Rating 5 out of 5 (Extraordinarily platitudinous)



Ibsen's Emperor and Galilean is on at the National Theatre and you really should go and see it. This is a very good play about the crazy Roman Emperor, Julian, who decided to stop being a Christian and worshipped all those silly false gods instead. I mean, how mad is that?

This is exactly what's going on today. People are turning away from the perfectly sensible religion of Christianity and becoming pagans. Except, now many aren't even worshipping false gods!

Where are you going to get all your morality from, eh? Tell me that. Without a Christian book to tell you how to be moral you'll all just run around naked doing whatever you like. As Saint Paul famously said, "It's just brilliant being a Christian. We're so much more moral than everyone else."

In centuries to come our grandchildren, and our grandchildren's grandchildren, won't have any morality left at all. I mean, do you think morality just happens naturally or something? Without a holy book, without a Christian holy book, they're all doomed. DOOMED I TELL YOU!

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Reverend Rosemary Lain-Priestley, Dean of Women's Ministry in central London  
Thursday, 17 March, 2011, 08:56 AM - Morality, War, Priestley
Rating 2 out of 5 (A little platitudinous)

Should we interfere in Libya or not? Should we establish a no fly zone, with our non-existent aircraft carriers, to prevent Colonel Gaddafi from bombing his own people? Gaddafi himself has challenged the British government, "Are you our guardian? By what right?"

The West's policy on intervention is inconsistent, to say the least. Afghanistan and Iraq have hardly been shining triumphs, while the West did virtually nothing to prevent the horrors of the Rwandan genocide.

Thomas Aquinas set out the conditions he thought must be met for a "just war". It must protect people from unnecessary suffering. Civilian casualties must be minimised. There must be a just cause - greed, revenge or self interest don't count. There must be a strategy for post war reconstruction.

The moral and ethical implications are complex and profound, but on the whole, I say, yeah, let's bomb the hell out of them!

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Rev Angela Tilby, Vicar of St Bene't's Church, Cambridge 
Thursday, 3 February, 2011, 08:16 AM - Democracy, Freedom of speech, Materialism, Morality, Tilby
Rating 5 out of 5 (Extraordinarily platitudinous)

Has anyone mentioned Egypt yet? Vast crowds of people are meeting in the streets, calling with one voice for jobs, fuel, hope, fairness, free speech.

Something similar happened to me recently. There was a power cut when I was shopping in Waitrose and everyone left the shop to meet in the streets. We met people who had left Marks & Spencer's for the same reason. We were all anxious and afraid, confronted by uncertainty. What was the meaning of this sudden break in the electricity supply? Fortunately the lights came back on an hour later. The crowds dispersed and I was able to finish my shopping list in Waitrose. This frightening, potentially life changing event, was over.

Not so for the demonstrators in Egypt. Their protests continue. As we see Egyptians demand democracy like we have, an impartial justice system like we have, freedom of speech like we have, healthcare for all like we have, we are reminded that there is more to life than the western obsession with comfort, safety and security. We, and by we I mean you, sleepwalk through life, with no ambition other than to enjoy yourselves. You have no conception of anything beyond your own selfish, pointless little lives, thinking about nothing other than your own material satisfaction.

The only thing you can aspire to, beyond the purely material, is to have an Invisible Magic Friend. Having an Invisible Magic Friend who is infinitely everything, allows you to put the finiteness of your own life into perspective. The Invisible Magic Friend lays down absolute rules about what is good, like stoning to death someone who collects firewood on the day reserved for worshipping him.

Without the Invisible Magic Friend you can't have any standards of goodness and you think about nothing other than your own appetites and egos. If you have any morals at all they're very loose morals.

That's why the demonstrators in Egypt are so inspirational. They're thinking beyond the mundane and fighting for spiritual abstractions like food, justice and democracy.

Would you get out onto the streets to demand all the things that you already have?

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Shaikh Abdal Hakim Murad, Muslim Chaplain at the University of Cambridge  
Wednesday, 19 January, 2011, 08:13 AM - Lessons of history, Morality, Murad
Rating 0 out of 5 (Not platitudinous - first 2 mins)
Rating 5 out of 5 (Extraordinarily platitudinous - final minute)

The campaign group Better History says we need some better history. Hardly any kids study history any more and those that do tend only to get disconnected studies of more recent history. There are no grand narratives to tell a national story.

It's partly the fault of History faculties that want to research serious history instead of focusing on popular history. So teachers don't focus on kings and queens any more. They say that kids can't relate to kings and queens, whereas 20th century totalitarian dictators are much easier to relate to.

As a result 10% think that Stonehenge was built by Queen Victoria and half think that Hadrian's wall was built to separate the English from the Scots.

It's nonsense to say that children can't relate to kings and queens. We only have to look at the success of the TV series Merlin or the Lord of the Rings films to see how popular these subjects are. There's similar political correctness gone mad when teaching British history to ethnic minorities.

The real problem is that people don't want to think about big ideas, like morality, any more. They just want to wallow around being immoral all over the place. Morality is the same as history, so there's no problem changing the subject. And where do we get morality from: religion.

Religion has got hundreds of fantastic stories of patriarchs and prophets, which are just like kings and queens, only without the queens, and most of the queens that there are are evil, seductive baddies. Yes, by studying the ancient history of the Middle East and the Arabian peninsula, children can get a real sense of feeling for how Britain got to where it is today.

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