April Clemmies 
Sunday, 8 May, 2011, 08:58 AM - Clemmies
The award of the Clemmies is a time of the month that I always feel is particularly spiritual. I know that all my fellow people of faith out there will join me in praising (in a strictly non-idolatrous fashion) the many valiant contributors to Thought For The Day, who inadvertently do so much to make us laugh until our sides ache every morning.

Clifford Longley continues to excel himself, making an early shot at another Platitude of the Year. This time, he hoped that the revolutions in the Arab world would be inspired by the open, transparent, liberal attitude of the Catholic Church and its role in creating the European Enlightenment.

Lord Sacks quite shamelessly invited everyone to a place of worship, since, as most other routes to social mobility were now closed off, this was the one way you could get to meet and ingratiate yourself with your betters.

Rev Canon Dr Alan Billings gave us the most appalling mish mash of Martin Rees accepting the 1 million Templeton Prize, the importance of sectarian schools, and how of course atheists can be moral but...

Catherine Pepinster revealed that Kate Middleton has suddenly discovered the importance of her Anglican Faith by being confirmed shortly before marrying the future head of said church.

John Bell explained that people need to identify more with their religion in order to eliminate Scottish sectarianism. He forgot to add that we need more guns to eliminate the threat of armed robbery, more politicians to eliminate nepotism and more alcohol to eliminate drunkenness.

Shaikh Abdal Hakim Murad pointed out that science can't explain everything, therefore god exists. This is called "theology".

Lord Sacks expressed the overwhelming joy that we all felt over the Royal Wedding, the completeness that it brought to our lives and how everything in the world is now just perfect.

Shaikh Abdal Hakim Murad's effort, although fully meriting its extraordinarily platitudinousness rating, seemed to me to be such an old god-of-the-gaps argument that it couldn't possibly qualify for something as sacred as a Clemmie. Must try harder Shaikh.

Lord Sacks' Royal Wedding celebration was a fairly typical, "I'm going to the Royal Wedding, isn't it wonderful," type contribution. His "come and worship" to meet your betters entry was certainly original and, if it weren't for some stiff competition this month, would have had a serious chance of winning.


Catherine Pepinster tries hard to emulate her fellow Catholic, but I'm afraid she just wasn't in the same league as Clifford Longley this month. Clifford continues to ably demonstrate why he is the reigning champion. I feel that Clifford was only just pipped at the post this month by John Bell and his recipe to cure sectarianism in Scotland: more religion. Congratulations to Rev John Bell, the winner of this month's holy Clemmie. This is precisely the kind of eye rolling, head revolving, lateral thinking that makes the world what it is today.
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Canon David Winter, former BBC head of Religious Propaganda  
Saturday, 7 May, 2011, 09:11 AM - Justice and mercy, Winter
Rating 3 out of 5 (Fairly platitudinous)

It's been a week of closure: closure for the thousands of relatives of those killed in the twin towers, buried under tons of masonry with no due process or religious ceremony; closure after the London bombings verdict; the beginning of closure on the death of Ian Tomlinson.

Closure is all about drawing a line, closing the door, creating a sense of finality, putting the past aside, moving on, putting things in perspective, seeing everything in context, finding a sense of justice, having a judgement made. Oh, did I mention judgement? Oh, yes, judgement! This reminds me of the final judgement when all you sinners will finally get what you so undoubtedly deserve. Coincidentally, I've spent the last two years reading the book of Revelation - well, I'm a slow reader, and you do need to smoke quite a lot of dope for it to make any kind of sense.

The visible bit of the Invisible Magic Friend said that you can avoid any further judgement by passing judgement on yourself. [Ed - Er, where exactly?]. For everyone else, there's the final judgement, just like it says in the Revelation of Saint John the Totally-Out-Of-It. For them their certainly will be a sense of closure, of finality, of closing the door. The number of modern euphemisms for burning in hell for all eternity are really endless.

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The Chief Rabbi, Lord Jonathan Sacks, Baron Aldgate  
Friday, 6 May, 2011, 08:43 AM - Bible, Sacks
Rating 4 out of 5 (Highly platitudinous)

There's a big Anglican festival just past. Happy four-days-after-the-anniversary-of-the King James Big Book of Magic Stuff everybody!

They used to brutally execute you for translating the Big Book of Magic Stuff into English, but after England decided not to be Catholic any more, the authorities' views on an English Big Book of Magic Stuff changed a bit. King James decided he wanted his very own Big Book of Magic Stuff. Then, thanks to the printing press, everyone who mattered could have a copy. People started to read the Big Book of Magic Stuff and immediately concluded that we needed wars, revolutions, a decapitated king, the Restoration and the Bill of Rights. After that, things began to settle down a bit.

Something similar is happening today in the Arab Spring. Has anyone mentioned the Arab Spring lately? No? Good job I was here then. Thanks to the benefits of Facebook and Twitter, revolutions are taking place in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Bahrain and Syria. This is exactly the same as the Big Book of Magic Stuff being translated into English. So the Arab world can now look forward to a century or so of wars, revolutions, a decapitated king, the Restoration and a Bill of Rights, before things begin to settle down a bit.

In the beginning was Facebook and Twitter, but shortly afterwards was the Invisible Magic Friend. For as we all know, where the Invisible Magic Friend is put in charge, liberty, freedom and democratic accountability soon follow.

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Rev Angela Tilby, Vicar of St Bene't's Church, Cambridge  
Thursday, 5 May, 2011, 08:48 AM - Tilby
Rating 2 out of 5 (A little platitudinous)

Hamas and Fatah have decided to be friends again. This seems to be inspired by the Arab Spring, where democracy and open government are breaking out all over the Arab world, except in Libya, Syria, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and everywhere else except Tunisia and Egypt, and even there we aren't sure.

This could be the start of a comprehensive Middle East peace solution, even though the Israeli Prime Minister has condemned the move as a victory for terrorism. It illustrates that to attain peace you need people who want peace and people who don't. The people who want peace keep failing to have peace, but it's the people who don't want peace who eventually deliver peace by changing their minds and wanting some peace.

This is what happened in Northern Ireland and shows why we should ignore people who say, "why can't we all just get along?" When people who really hate each other make peace like that, it gives us something that we theologians refer to as "hope."

As well as the people who don't want peace making peace, we also get people who want peace asking for peace. Daniel Barenboim makes peace by playing Mozart. Mozart's music is divine and I leave it to you to decide whether the word "divine" is meant in a literal or metaphorical sense, or whether I'm just being deliberately ambiguous so that I can squeeze the Invisible Magic Friend in at the end.

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Shaikh Abdal Hakim Murad, Muslim Chaplain Cambridge University (the Shaikh formerly known as Tim Winter) 
Wednesday, 4 May, 2011, 08:38 AM - Murad
Rating 5 out of 5 (Extraordinarily platitudinous)

Already people are talking about him: Osama Bin Laden - the Dark Lord. There are quite a few problems about the manner of his demise which are starting to lead to conspiracy theories, even amongst those not normally inclined to believe in conspiracies.

After World War II, the Nazis got a trial before their execution. It was one of the ways that America proved it was civilised. One of the nice bits of the Koran says that justice is important. So I think the Dark Lord should also have got a trial before his execution. That way we can see that he was executed properly.

Next there's this burial at sea thing. Crack theologians from Al-Azhar University, probably some of the very best theologians in the world, pronounced that the burial was not done properly and that he cannot be considered to be properly buried. The correct procedures for the burial of the world's most wanted terrorist, as laid out in the Koran's chapter, "Procedures for the Burial of the World's Most Wanted Terrorist" should have been followed. The dead have rights, including having a religiously valid burial.

It's possible that all the world's oceans may now be regarded as a shrine, as bits of the Dark Lord get bitten off, digested and dispersed throughout the world. Groups of ardent, but not really proper, Muslims are already kneeling on the seafront along Southend beach in pilgrimage to the Dark Lord. The Prophet himself, having killed his enemies, saw to it that they were properly buried. That's how kind and merciful he was. When he returned to Mecca, he even allowed the hitherto non-believers, but who had now converted in time, to remain alive. How's that for mercy!

I'm sure that all people of faith, but obviously not atheists, would agree with me on this.

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From Norwich, it's the bishop of the week, Flamboyantly Reverend Graham James, Lord Bishop of Norwich  
Tuesday, 3 May, 2011, 08:40 AM - Evil, James
Rating 3 out of 5 (Fairly platitudinous)

After 10 years, several hundred thousand lives lost, several trillion dollars spent, Osama Bin Laden is finally dead. Many people have been out partying and generally having a good time celebrating his death, something which I find in very poor taste.

It's not very fashionable to talk about "sin" these days, so I won't. The last thing I want to do is appear unfashionable. So let's talk about "evil" instead. It seems to be perfectly acceptable to describe people as evil these days and not at all unfashionable. Newspapers often refer to murderers or paedophiles as "pure evil." This is a theological claim, so I presume these headlines are drawn up by the papers' resident theologians, illustrating once again the vital importance of theology in everyday life.

This brings us to the important question: was Osama Bin Laden the personification of pure evil? Note that being the personification of pure evil is more than just being bad. On the scale of badness, being the personification of pure evil is as bad as you can get. This is more than forgetting your anniversary bad. It's more than not going to church on Sunday bad. It really is very bad indeed. It's so bad, that as soon as you get out of bed in the morning, you start looking for evil things to do, because you're just so bad.

To answer this question we turn to Saint Augustine, everyone's favourite 5th century Carthaginian theologian. Through his detailed theological investigations, Saint Augustine was able to discover that evil is caused by people being free to be evil. It's not a tangible thing. You can't go down to the shops and ask for half a pound of the best pure evil. Evil is caused by people doing evil things. That's what evil is.

If Osama Bin Laden was the personification of pure evil, then he just couldn't help doing evil things. So we shouldn't think of Osama Bin Laden as being the personification of pure evil. He was secretly a little bit good, but occasionally decided to do something that was pure evil.

Let us not gloat over Osama Bin Laden's death. Instead, let us pray to the Invisible Magic Friend, that some good will come from the death of this occasionally pure evil man.

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Rhidian Brook, writer, celebrity and Christian  
Monday, 2 May, 2011, 08:14 AM - Gibberish, Brook
Rating 5 out of 5 (Extraordinarily platitudinous)

Has anyone mentioned the Royal Wedding yet? Happy day-after the-day-after the-day-after the Royal Wedding everyone! Did you all enjoy your street parties? I certainly enjoyed ours. As you all know, as a celebrity Christian writer, no one is more sceptical about these sort of events than me. I certainly started off very cynical indeed, but as I got drunker and drunker I began to appreciate all the pomp and ceremony, time to "stop being pompous about the pomp." (That's just a little celebrity Christian writer soundbite that I thought I'd throw in there.)

My daughter certainly loved all the pageantry. It was like a really good reality TV show - the kind of thing we normally recommend so highly here on Thought For The Day. There are differences though. Unlike a really good reality TV show, the whole thing isn't at all trivial and escapist. That's because it involves the Invisible Magic Friend. The Invisible Magic Friend got mentioned quite a lot on Friday, which just goes to show what a serious and important occasion it was. Kate only has to hang on in there for a few decades and one day she'll be the Invisible Magic Friend's anointed queen.

It's soooo... good not to be discussing reform of the voting system, who we're bombing and killing today or all the public sector cutbacks. They're all rather tedious and generally happen to other people. So as a celebrity Christian writer, my advice is to just lay back and enjoy the sunshine and rejoice that you live in a country that really knows how to put on a show. I'm sure it's what Jesus would have done.

It's a bit like Christmas. You can enjoy it even if you're a heathen, but the Royal Wedding is best appreciated if you understand the true meaning of the Royal Wedding.

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Catherine Pepinster, editor of the Catholic newspaper, The Tablet 
Saturday, 30 April, 2011, 08:11 AM - Gibberish, Pepinster
Rating 3 out of 5 (Fairly platitudinous)

Has anyone mentioned the Royal Wedding yet? Happy "day after the Royal Wedding" everyone!

Yesterday's service included lots of blessings. The ring was blessed, the royal couple were blessed, the congregation were blessed, the 2 billion viewers on the telly were blessed. Like I said, a lot of blessings. Fortunately, blessings don't cost very much, so there's no real problem in handing out billions of them.

Blessings were invented by the Jews in the Big Book of Magic Stuff. They're present in both the Old Tasty Mint and the New Tasty Mint. It's a way of making things more holy than they otherwise would be. So billions of people and a ring are now much holier than they previously were.

It all started when the Invisible Magic Friend blessed Abraham. I BLESS YOU, said the Invisible Magic Friend to Abraham, and everything has been just hunky dory for the Jews ever since. Just like Abraham, you can pass blessings on to other people. so if you've got any old blessings that you don't want any more, why not pass them on on Freecycle or auction them on a well known internet auction site.

Some translations of the Sermon on the Mount begin "Happy are the whatevers." But this veers perilously close to "happiness" - a most un-Christian concept. I prefer the word "blessed" as there are no connotations of anything as vulgar as happiness involved.

Richard Chartres handed out some blessings yesterday as well, making the royal wedding more holy than it would have been if they'd just done it at a registry office. This means they'll have the support of the Invisible Magic Friend, just like Charles and Diana, and Andrew and Sarah Ferguson, and Princess Anne and Mark Philips.

Without the Invisible Magic Friend's blessing it could all go horribly wrong.

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The Chief Rabbi, Lord Jonathan Sacks, Baron Aldgate  
Friday, 29 April, 2011, 08:18 AM - Sacks
Rating 5 out of 5 (Extraordinarily platitudinous)

And now, a brief interlude on The Today Royal Wedding Programme to look at the Royal Wedding from a faith perspective. The Royal Wedding is finally here, the day we've all been waiting for. I know that all of you will be as excited by the Royal Wedding as I am. Of course, I'm actually going to the Royal Wedding and you are not, but never fear, you'll be able to see me on your lowly television sets at the Royal Wedding, along with many other highly important and significant people.

People all over the world will be watching the Royal Wedding. In Libya and Afghanistan, both sides are expected to lay aside their arms and huddle around the TV to see William and Kate kiss on the palace balcony. In Syria and Bahrain, protesters are expected to join government forces to watch the carriage go down The Mall. Hamas and Hezbollah have decreed that they love all Jews everywhere and sure, why not have a state of Israel? In North Korea and Burma, the totalitarian regimes have announced that all people are to celebrate and rejoice, for this is undoubtedly the happiest day, ever.

Investment bankers have revealed that they're going to give all the money back, the government has decreed that we don't have to slash public services, students will get a free education once again, the sick will be cured, prisoners reformed and released, the oppressed will see justice, the hopeless given hope and the meek will finally inherit the earth.

Black holes will stop consuming stars, galaxies will cease to rotate, choirs of angels will descend upon Westminster Abbey, the gates of purgatory will be opened and in heaven itself the Invisible Magic Friend will declare that the summit of his creation has finally been achieved.

Such joy and happiness has never been known before, for this is Britain at it's best

God bless Prince William and Catherine. Thanks to them, everything is now perfect.

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Rev Angela Tilby, Vicar of St Bene't's Church, Cambridge  
Thursday, 28 April, 2011, 08:29 AM - Gibberish, Tilby
Rating 3 out of 5 (Fairly platitudinous)

Yesterday was the funeral of the Indian holy man Sathya Sai Baba. We know he was a holy man because he wore orange, the colour of holiness and he could conjure up Rolex watches, which I think you'll agree, could only be done if he was particularly holy. As if this evidence weren't enough, there were allegations of sexual abuse and if that doesn't make him holy then I don't know what does.

Some think he was a god, which is obviously wrong because there's only one Invisible Magic Friend. He was surrounded by imagery from Hinduism, Islam and Christianity - a "let's not be making any enemies here" sort of religion.

One woman said he had changed her life. He had given her life meaning. Without him and his Rolex watches, life just seemed so pointless. She needed someone to idolise, to revere, to look up to, many people did, and Sathya Sai Baba was happy to oblige.

Some people need that. It's called being "spiritual". They long for a living god who can make Rolex watches appear. Why it is that some seek out the mysterious is a mystery.

And now to end on one of those phrases that at first leaves one scratching one's head, but invites speculation as to its layers of hidden meaning, evoking wisdom that inspires on so many levels, whose profundity is so cleverly disguised that only the truly intelligent and enlightened will grasp its depth.

"The death of the guru is potentially the growth of the disciple."

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