Clifford Longley, a distinguished Catholic gentleman who talks a lot about religion, Platitude of the Year Winner 2010  
Monday, 19 December, 2011, 08:17 AM - Bible, Longley
Rating 4 out of 5 (Highly platitudinous)

Has anyone mentioned the 400th anniversary of the King James Big Book of Magic Stuff yet? Yes of course they have, lots and lots and lots of times. The most recent was the Prime Minister. Speaking to an audience of Christians, the PM said how fantastic being a Christian was. He said how deeply committed he was to Christianity and how, if he could be bothered, he would certainly be in favour of being one himself.

The King James version is of course a Protestant Big Book of Magic Stuff. There's nothing wrong with being Protestant. Some of my best friends are Protestant. The King James Version has contributed all sorts of words and phrases to the English language such as Behold, I am against your pillows and Woe to the women that sew pillows to all armholes, and make kerchiefs upon the head of every stature.

What not many people know is that this fantastic Big Book of Magic Stuff is really a Catholic Big Book of Magic Stuff, and all that wonderful stuff about pillows and kerchiefs was actually invented by us. So really it was us Catholics who invented all this English fantasticness.

Catholics decided to translate the Big Book of Magic Stuff from Latin to English to prove that we weren't against people reading the Big Book of Magic Stuff. It was thought that the previous 1,000 year ban on translating into English and the odd burning at the stake, might have given people a contrary impression. Nothing was further from the truth. The Catholic Church was always in favour of ordinary people reading the Big Book of Magic Stuff. It never, in any way, tried to keep it to itself to protect the power of it's exclusive access and its priesthood. I can't think why anyone would ever think otherwise.

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Clifford Longley, a distinguished Catholic gentleman who talks a lot about religion, Platitude of the Year Winner 2010  
Rating 5 out of 5 (Extraordinarily platitudinous)

David and Goliath is a story from the Old Tasty mint of how the little guy stands up to the giant and goes on to be hereditary, autocratic dictator. It's the perfect metaphor for people standing up to dictator's today in a long list of Arab countries, plus Russia and Congo.

The people who stand up to people like the hereditary, autocratic dictator David, are just like David before he became a hereditary, autocratic dictator. They are showing something that we Catholics call "courage", which is when you stand up to autocratic dictators.

Courage was invented by the Greeks, along with justice, temperance and their sister, Prudence. Together these are the four cardinal ways of being good. They were such good ideas that we Catholics decided to adopt them and keep them alive for the sake of humanity. Has anyone mentioned Saint Augustine or Saint Thomas Aquinas lately? Thought not. Well they thought the four ways of being good were good too, so they decided to pass them on.

Being good took a bit of a dive after the Renaissance and then disappeared completely due to that wretched, secular Enlightenment. But the world hasn't been a complete wreck since then. After the war, philosophers rediscovered being good again. They found out that Catholicism, along with all the great religions, had advocated being good. Even Confucianism advocated being good. Confucius invented being good at about the same time as the Greeks, but he was very far away. It was still mainly religious people who thought being good was a good idea though.

So as autocratic dictators are swept away by people like David before he became an autocratic dictator, being good is surely an idea whose time has come.

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Clifford Longley, a distinguished Catholic gentleman who talks a lot about religion, Platitude of the Year Winner 2010 
Monday, 31 October, 2011, 08:30 AM - Longley
Rating 3 out of 5 (Fairly platitudinous)

Now then, now then, Sir Jimmy Saville is dead. He did a great deal of work for charity. It just so happens that he was a Catholic. He received an OBE, then a knighthood, then a papal knighthood for his charity work. Did I mention that he was a Catholic?

He was a kind of holy fool. As it 'appens, Francis of Assisi was a holy fool too. So was John the Baptist. Dostoevsky wasn't a holy fool, but he did mention holy fools. The Russian Orthodox even have a word for holy fools. They call holy fools Euro-divies, which means "holy fools".

Saint Paul wasn't a holy fool, but goodness gracious he also mentioned holy fools. He said that wisdom was foolish and foolishness was wise. Which I think is very wise and therefore foolish, and therefore wise.

The media cynically mocked Jimmy Saville for his eccentricity, his trademark shell-suits and gold medallions. But he gave away most of what he earned to charity in his spiritual, Catholic way. Guys and gals, as a Catholic he helped people in Broadmoor, in Stoke Mandeville, anyone in a wheelchair.

But enough about Jimmy Saville, who incidentally was a Catholic. I'd just like to say that the next thing I say is not about Saint Paul, but Jesus, the visible bit of the Invisible Magic Friend. Jesus said we must be like little children and that will make us really big in the invisible magic afterlife. Saint Paul did not say that. In fact, come to think of it, there were a very large number of things that Saint Paul didn't say.

Jimmy Saville retained many of those childlike qualities of holy foolishness and holiness. He was also a Catholic. How's about that then?

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Clifford Longley, a distinguished Catholic gentleman who talks a lot about religion, Platitude of the Year Winner 2010 
Monday, 3 October, 2011, 10:37 AM - Be nice, Longley
Rating 4 out of 5 (Highly platitudinous)

Happy six months to the 200th anniversary of the birth of Charles Dickens everyone! Has anyone mentioned it yet? No? Good job I got in there first then.

Charles Dickens' books were all about the hypocrisy of Victorian England, which is exactly the same as the book Life and Fate by Vasily Grossman, which is all about Soviet Russia and Nazi Germany. I asked a small girl what she thought about it and she said it was a really good book.

Life and Fate was last week's Book of the Week. OK, it wasn't really, but it was on Radio 4 and it is a book, which is pretty close to the truth by religious standards.

Back to Dickens, whom you'll recall was writing in a different century about different things, but is otherwise absolutely identical to Grossman. Dickens wasn't renowned for his religious fervour, but I think it's fair to say that he was nevertheless a big fan of Christianity. Dickens undoubtedly took his inspiration from the Big Book of Magic Stuff.

Who can forget the fantastic Abraham, who shortly after attempting to sacrifice his son to the Invisible Magic Friend, became famous for his generosity. He was so famous for his generosity that his tent had no sides. Or possibly he was just a bit short on cloth. The Big Book of Magic Stuff is just full of tales of people being generous, except to those who worshipped the wrong Invisible Magic Friend, for whom extermination or enslavement was the appropriate response.

Now I have to admit, Christianity hasn't always been the warm, cuddly, compassionate religion that it is so well known for today. There was a time, before secular authorities took all our power away, when we sometimes abused that power. But that's all in the past, and I think you can rely on religion nowadays to speak about every human being as being equal - except those that the Catholic Church doesn't think should be equal.

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Clifford Longley, a distinguished Catholic gentleman who talks a lot about religion, Platitude of the Year Winner 2010 
Monday, 12 September, 2011, 09:13 AM - Longley
Rating 5 out of 5 (Extraordinarily platitudinous)

Has anyone mentioned 911 yet? Yesterday was the anniversary you know? The people who did 911 had got religion all wrong. True religion, real religion, my religion is there to comfort people, after people who completely misunderstood religion had massacred their loved ones.

That's why yesterday's New York remembrance ceremony was so good. The mayor may have excluded clergy from their rightful place, leading the memorial, but the president still managed to get a few references to the Invisible Magic Friend in. Without the Invisible Magic Friend, it would just have been a hollow, pointless charade, grieving for the lost and honouring the brave.

At times of great sorrow, people need religion to get them back on their feet again. Oh, I'm sure psychologists and councillors do their best, in their limited secular way, but everyone knows you need some religion to do it properly. A few nice psalms and some prayers and the Invisible Magic Friend will make you better again.

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Clifford Longley, a distinguished Catholic gentleman who talks a lot about religion, Platitude of the Year Winner 2010 
Monday, 18 July, 2011, 08:28 AM - Sex, Longley
Rating 5 out of 5 (Extraordinarily platitudinous)

I want to talk to you today about feeling guilty. Except, I won't call it "guilt", because Catholics having feelings of guilt are a bit of a cliché, and we don't go in for clichés here on Thought for the Day. Instead, let's call it shame.

There's lots of lovely shame about at the moment. Shame is a wonderful thing. Of course, in the good old days, we had many more things that we could be ashamed about. You used to be able to be ashamed about getting divorced, or having a child outside wedlock, or being a homosexual. Sex used to be so much dirtier and satisfyingly shameful in the past. Fortunately, if you're a Catholic, you can still feel shame at all these things.

Journalists are experts in shame. They know how to name and shame celebrities, politicians and occasionally even clerics! They feel no shame whatsoever in shaming some celebrity's two timing on page two, right opposite a picture on page three, designed to make every man go, "Corrrrrr! Would you have a look at those!" (Except the ashamed, confused, Catholic homosexual ones - who give a very half hearted "Yeah, cor." )

Revolutionaries often have no shame. Having removed their rightful rulers, they immediately start fornicating. France, Russia, America and North Africa, have all been famous for their post revolutionary dirtiness. So you see how lack of shame about sex leads immediately to complete anarchy. Shame keeps people in line. Shame stops people doing dirty things. Shame works.

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Clifford Longley, a distinguished Catholic gentleman who talks a lot about religion, Platitude of the Year Winner 2010 
Monday, 11 July, 2011, 08:46 AM - Be nice, Money, Longley
Rating 5 out of 5 (Extraordinarily platitudinous)

Rupert Murdoch gets treated very unfairly by some people. This generous, cuddly, grandfatherly figure, who regularly dispenses Werther's Original toffees to destitute children, is surely to be spoken kindly of, admired, worshipped even.

He and the Pope get on very well together. For some reason, he sees in the Pope a kindred spirit: an old white guy in charge of a huge organisation, that does exactly what he tells it to and knows how to cover up its crimes when needed. I myself have been employed by Rupert Murdoch, and who knows, perhaps in some dim and distant future, might once again be employed by this fine, wonderful, decent individual.

Dear, dear Rupert, is not the only press baron to see such fine qualities in the Pope. Conrad Black, from the security of his jail cell, expressed similar sentiments.

As if Rupert Murdoch admiring the Catholic Church weren't recommendation enough, Lord Griffiths thinks the Pope's economic solutions are absolutely fab. Lord Griffiths is a very famous economist, advisor to Margaret Thatcher, vice-chairman of Goldman Sacks and a great believer in bankers' bonuses. It's people like Lord Griffiths that got the economy where it is today, and made himself very rich in the process, so he knows what he's talking about. If someone as successful as Lord Griffths, who just happens to be a director of the Conservative Christian Fellowship, says the Pope's great, shouldn't you just believe him?

The Pope's formula for economic reform is utterly stunning, mind blowing and completely unexpected. He says that, as well as making profit and generating a return for their shareholders, corporations should consider being nice to people. If only corporations had decided to be nice to people, Lehman Brothers would never have collapsed and the News of the World would not have closed. These two closures are almost identical: Lehman because it went bust leaving hundreds of billions of dollars of transactions outstanding, and the other because it was closed by the nice people of News International who wanted to sack them anyway but got to pretend that it was actually a moral act to root out illegal activity.

I know for a fact, that if word were to come down from their owners, that tabloid journalists would be delighted to spread heart warming stories of friendship, fidelity and love. Deep down, all they want to do is spread a little happiness in this world.

News International, nearly as nice and holy and friendly as the Catholic Church.

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Clifford Longley, a distinguished Catholic gentleman who talks a lot about religion, Platitude of the Year Winner 2010  
Monday, 23 May, 2011, 08:52 AM - Dont do bad things, Sex, Longley
Rating 4 out of 5 (Highly platitudinous)

What does the Big Book of Magic Stuff have to say about privacy laws? I want to refer to the Old Tasty mint, known by those who are informed about these things as the Hebrew Big Book of Magic Stuff. To make my example a little bit more entertaining, I'm going to quote it in the style of a snappy tabloid headline.

"Dirty King David covets his neighbour's wife, then does a bit more than coveting, then breaks yet another commandment and sends her husband to be killed in action. Cover up by book of Chronicles. Super injunction trashed by book of Samuel!!!"

Nothing remains secret long in Magicland. The Invisible Magic Friend soon found out, but it turns out the Invisible Magic Friend had already invested quite a bit of time and effort in building David up to start a royal line that his visible bit could eventually not be born into. So he made a deal with David.

"LOOK, I CAN'T GET RID OF YOU AFTER I HAND PICKED YOU MYSELF BUT I CAN'T HAVE YOU RUNNING AROUND COVETING AND MURDERING. SO I WON'T KILL YOU, I'LL KILL YOUR SON INSTEAD. I THINK THAT'S PRETTY FAIR DON'T YOU?"

There's no getting away from the truth. The Big Book of Magic Stuff tells all. That's how we know Jesus never had sex or went to the toilet, because it doesn't get mentioned anywhere and it mentions all the other bad bits, like him being arrested and the first pope and all the other apostles running away.

What this means is that the public have a right to know about the sex lives of footballers. The truth will set us free, or at the very least provide ten minutes of voyeuristic gossip.

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Clifford Longley, a distinguished Catholic gentleman who talks a lot about religion, Platitude of the Year Winner 2010 
Monday, 4 April, 2011, 08:34 AM - Democracy, Longley
Rating 5 out of 5 (Extraordinarily platitudinous)

All of a sudden, we see uprisings in the Arab world in support of such Western values as democracy and human rights. This has left us all to re-examine our prejudices, and by "our" prejudices, I do of course mean "your" prejudices. Most of you thought that Islam was anti- democratic. In fact, many young Muslim men tell me, the Koran is just packed full of useful hints and tips on achieving and maintaining democratic accountability - so many that I don't have time to quote any of them.

And even some women are in favour of Islam too.

Interesting as the struggle for democracy throughout North Africa, the Gulf states and the Middle East is, let's talk about something even more important: the Catholic Church. Fifty years ago you wouldn't have recognised the Catholic Church - a secretive, male dominated, authoritarian, hierarchical, conservative, dogmatic institution, the Catholic Church of those days was light years away from the open, transparent, liberal, democratic organisation that we all know and love today.

It took a mere decades after the second Vatican council, for the Catholic Church to single handedly bring down the various fascist dictators that for some reason it seems to have been associated with throughout the 20th century.

Perhaps what we see today is the start of an Islamic enlightenment, very much like the European enlightenment that the Catholic Church so welcomed and was such an integral part of. Let us hope that the recent, staggering transformation of the Catholic Church, which has so amazed the world, will act as an inspiration for the enlightenment of the Arab peoples.

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Clifford Longley, a distinguished Catholic gentleman who talks a lot about religion, Platitude of the Year Winner 2010  
Monday, 28 March, 2011, 08:52 AM - Longley
Rating 4 out of 5 (Highly platitudinous)

Saint John's Gospel says that Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be made of the whole world. Or was it Saint Luke's. No, I think I'll go for Saint John's, with its particularly fine and detailed account of Jesus' early life.

The great thing about this is that we can date Jesus' birth to 6 CE when Quirinius was governor of Syria. Except that means he couldn't have been born in the time of Herod, as it says in Matthew, because he died in 4 BCE. Not to worry, I'm still going for Luke's version... er... I mean John's. It's such a shame the Romans never kept their census data, then we could have the exact details.

Name: Jesus Christ (aka The Messiah)
Mother: Mary, Mother of the Invisible Magic Friend
Father: The particularly invisible bit of The Invisible Magic Friend (foster father one Joseph of Nazareth)
City of Birth: Bethlehem
Date: 4BCE, or possibly 6 CE
Witnesses: three wise men, some shepherds and assorted choirs of angels

The really important thing about this census is that everyone had to return to the city of their birth, no matter where they were in the Roman Empire at the time - a policy that was widely welcomed by inn keepers and the donkey hire trade, but led to almost complete economic collapse everywhere else. Unfortunately, this wise policy has not been followed by the current government census. How are we to learn about community, society, without everyone returning to the city of their birth?

That's not the only problem. Take the "Religion" question. I had to put Christian, as if Catholic and Church of England were even remotely similar. How are we going to find out really important information, like who the top church is? How are we going to claim loads more government cash, on the off chance that the Catholic Church would have come out top?

Being part of a community is so important. The Invisible Magic Friend, or alternatively "evolution" for all those literal minded bloggers out there, made us as a social species. Although let's not forget the Nazis were social too, so we still need churches, like mine, to reign in such hierarchical, dogmatic, irrational, fascist tendencies.

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