Hurry on along to the Tate Modern where you can see Damien Hirst's exciting new exhibition for the fantastic, value price of only £15.50 (concessions available). You'll be able to buy your very own rolls of Damien Hirst wallpaper for only £250 each. That's right, for only a few thousand pounds, you can turn an ordinary, dull, bedroom into a work of art! Don't forget to keep the off cuttings.
But that's not all, David Hockney has an almost as good exhibition at the Royal Academy, at the equally fantastic, knock down price of only £15.50 (concessions available). In the gift shop you'll find a wide array of David Hockney books, prints, catalogues, mugs, designer bags and serving trays, some for as little as £195.
Even better still, why not round off your day with a large collection of wrinkly, unflattering portraits by Lucian Freud, for the amazing price of only £15.40 (concessions available). Don't forget to visit the National Portrait Gallery shop where you'll find even more limited edition prints, books and souvenirs.
Anyone would think big art had become big industry, but I refuse to be cynical about these things. It's all too easy to be cynical about art, but many of these artists only sell exorbitantly priced trinkets as an ironic statement on modern day, grubby commercialism, which is all most of you seem to think about these days. Big art, like big religion, isn't really about money, but about raising people's awareness, and being able to join in on arty conversations at dinner parties. If you're the kind of person who queues for hours to buy plastic replicas of jewel encrusted skulls, then religion is definitely for you.
Alternatively, you could visit any of hundreds of galleries around the country, where entry is usually free, and buy an original painting that you actually like by a struggling local artist.
I was In Bruges admiring a painting of Jesus when my daughter said, "Oh no, not another painting of Jesus. Didn't they paint anything else then?" I had to smile at the simple boredom of a child. The answer is, no, they didn't.
Anyone who could paint in those days painted who they were told to, and they were told to paint pictures of Jesus: Jesus being born, Jesus being killed and occasionally Jesus doing other things apart from being born or being killed. Of course they were painted in a huge variety of slightly different ways but I have to admit, even I found it all incredibly boring.
Then it hit me. A lot of art and public works were done for money or prestige. How much of it was really done to glorify the visible bit of the Invisible Magic Friend? The more I looked around In Bruge, the more I came to realise that motives of adoration and praise become confused with motives of self aggrandisement. What an original thought this was. As a celebrity, Christian writer I thought to myself, is it possible that anyone has ever questioned religious motives before?
A retired bishop has got so confused about all of this that he's written in his book that he's confused.
Everyone's favourite earliest Christian author, Saint Paul, famously said that Jesus was the invisible image of the Invisible Magic Friend. Even by Saint Paul's standards that seems obscure. Fortunately it all makes sense when you realise that I haven't actually read the Big Book of Magic Stuff and the few bits that I have read I don't remember very well.
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.
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.
I'm delighted that Tracey Emin has been appointed professor of drawing at the RA. Tracey was "thrilled". I'm not thrilled, but I am delighted.
In order to draw things you have to look at them. David Hockney agrees with me. "In order to draw things you have to look at them," he said.
While you are looking at something you use a pencil to sketch lines on paper that creates a representation of the thing you are looking at. That is how to do drawing. Drawing isn't just an arty thing. Architects, engineers and anatomists draw things too. So drawing is important. Although it has to be said that architects and engineers tend not to draw things they are looking at, so Hockney and me were probably lying when we said you had to look at things in order to draw them.
We now come to the important question: are you allowed to draw the Invisible Magic Friend? Fortunately, skilled theologians have investigated this difficult subject, and the answer is, yes, you are. Other religions say you're not, but they're wrong. The reason you are is that there was a visible bit of the Invisible Magic Friend. Nobody drew him at the time, so we don't know what he looked like, but we know he was tall, white, with nicely shampooed hair and had blue eyes, because that's the way everyone imagines he must have looked. You can also draw the other bits of the Invisible Magic Friend even though he's hardly ever been visible except as the occasional burning bush. This was recognisable as the invisible Magic Friend because it was a talking burning bush.
This means that pictures of the baby Jesus on Christmas Cards are theologically orthodox and are therefore permitted.
We look at the world with our eyes. We also use our hands. Other bits of the body come in useful too.
A famous hermit says we must be like angels, who even though they don't have any bits of the body, still look at things.
So Dame Vivienne Westwood has been addressing the anti-capitalist protesters outside Saint Paul's on the emptiness of consumerism. And so I stood around watching the Durham Lumiere Festival. There were lots of bright, happy colours, lighting up the town and especially the cathedral.
And so it begins, the Cathedral was adorned by pictures of the Lindisfarne Gospels. These unique Gospels were produced at enormous expense. Going forward, they were definitely the designer Gospels of their day and highly desirable artefacts in their own right - no hint of abject consumerism or the ostentatious display of wealth there.
Do you know who all this reminds me of? Go on, have a guess. No, I knew you wouldn't get it. OK, I'll put you out of your misery, it was Jesus! Yes, that's right, Jesus, the visible bit of the Invisible Magic Friend! Jesus is like light, a great big multi-coloured neon display of tubular light, who now reigns supreme in the great fluorescent bulb showroom in the sky.
So science and religion don't have all the answers. (I put them together because they don't have all the answers in roughly equal amounts.) And so there's no art any more, For Art stopped short in the cultivated court of the Empress Josephine, except in Durham, where we have 1,300 year old Gospels projected onto the Cathedral walls - that's art.
Shaikh Abdal Hakim Murad, Muslim Chaplain Cambridge University (the Shaikh formerly known as Tim Winter)
Two Poussin paintings have been vandalised at the National Gallery. Both are religious scenes: the Israelites idolatrously idolising the golden calf, and the shepherds idolatrously idolising the second best prophet in Islam. Perhaps this was some kind of religious nutter. There's a lot of them out there you know. I don't know where they get their wacko ideas from.
Great art certainly seems to command its share of idolatry, which is why in Islam we prefer not to have much of it. Some of it seems to command crazy prices. Perhaps we should have to do some kind of "ritual purification" before being allowed to see it. I don't mean the kind of really useful ritual purification like we do before entering a mosque, no, I mean the usual bag search, pat down and weapons scanner that we seem to get all the time nowadays. I can't think why we have to have all these security searches all over the place. Can you?
The Koran tells us that we shouldn't have security checks at art galleries, even in cultures where art galleries full of pictures with people in them are allowed. I hope the authorities at the National Gallery are paying attention to what I'm telling them.
Devastatingly Reverend Lord Professor Bishop Baron Reverend Lord Richard Harries, Baron Pentregarth, Gresham Professor of Divinity, Baron, Bishop, Professor, Lord...
I saw a young man the other day with a toolbox and an absolutely massive spirit level, of which he was justly proud. I had to admire such a long, straight tool. Compared to my own, somewhat less impressive tool, his was indeed very desirable. I couldn't help wondering what feats he had achieved with such a tool, the many customers satisfied by this young carpenter's strenuous erections.
Stanley Spencer painted a picture of Christ carrying his cross, surrounded by carpenters carrying ladders. Christ was a carpenter too, like the other carpenters carrying their ladders, the tools of their trade. Christ's cross was his tool, long and hard like the young man's tool, which he used to proudly save us all from being condemned by him.
But not everyone has a useful trade like a carpenter, or a bishop, or a messiah. Some people don't have any trade or useful employment of any kind. This does not mean that their tools lie unused. Many unemployed or retired people use their tools freely, to the delight of others. As Philip Larkin once said, as soon as you arise in the morning, reach straight for your tool. Saint Paul was quite explicit too, make your tool available to all.
The carpenter's erections, no matter how proud, are merely functional. Using your tool to freely benefit others is an art.
I want to talk to you today about the art of Ai Weiwei. Which brings me on to religion. Religion is very much like art. It is subversive, not at all part of the establishment. It asks all the difficult questions and even makes up some answers.
Believe it or not, there are control freaks out there who want to tell you what to think. That is why they are so afraid of religion. When you have a religion you are free to think what you like. Free, FREE, FREE I tell you! You are free to have an Invisible Magic Friend. Free to ask, what if there is more than this world? Eh? Eh? What if? Eh? Makes you think, eh? A famous poet asked that, so there. What a disappointment it would be if this dull, uninteresting universe was all there was.
I am free to have random thoughts rattling around in my Rev Dr brain. That's what makes me so dangerous. That's why "they" want to suppress me, to prevent me from coming on Thought For The Day. But they will not succeed. Every day, in every way, I'm getting better and better.
And in conclusion, that's what the art of Ai Weiwei is all about.
Shaunton Harold Church, built by Baronet (hic!) Sherbert, hash got thish plaque: "It wash the besht of times, it wash the worsht of times."
Iran ish shertainly going through the worsht of (hic!) times. S'jusht terrible! There'sh shtoning, 'n hanging, 'n no laughing 'n no weird hair dos. Thish ish what happensh when you've got a bunch o' religious nuttersh in charge.
Sho why ish the British Museum loaning them the Shyrush shilinder? S'only the shecond time we've loaned it to them shince we took it from them. It'sh because of it'sh massage of hop: "Me, Cyrus, I'm brilliant and the last guy was rubbish."
Shyrus was a really great guy, 'cos he let the Jewsh go back and rebuild their temple. Sho maybe today'sh Iranian ruler'sh 'll do the shame. (hic!)