Friday, 11 May, 2012, 08:39 AM - BellRating 1 out of 5 (Not platitudinous)
Many of the greatest human evils arise when gangs of men, specifically men, not women, act as a group. Whether it's the groupthink that led to the current financial crisis, wage slavery in factories, setting up concentration camps, declaring war, or running terrorist or paedophile networks, in a patriarchal society, it is almost always gangs of men who are the ringleaders. Men will even slaughter one another in the name of the Invisible Magic Friend.
Any group of people can be capable of great evil. A famous theologian said so, so I must be right. You can see this in something as simple as a youth group, where regulars, including those who are normally well behaved, gang up on a new member.
The Rochdale paedophile gang would never have wanted their own daughters to be abused, yet were capable of unspeakable crimes against others' daughters.
It's what men are capable of collectively that we need to be most afraid of.
Here's some ancient wisdom for you: be nice to the rich and powerful. Laugh at their jokes. Tell them how immensely rich and powerful they're looking today.
The rich and powerful are in the news at the moment. Their money can be tremendously useful for helping poor people. This is a good thing. But there is a down side to having vast amounts of cash. The rich often believe that they should be able to buy dinner with the Prime Minister, where they will be treated to a delicious Cornish Pasty from a shop that closed two years ago, with side helpings of baked beans and mash.
I met a poor person once. It wasn't in Argentina or the United States but was in Paraguay. He was desperately poor. I couldn't help thinking how very not rich and powerful he was.
I don't want it to seem like I'm demonising money. I'm a great fan of money. Jesus himself talked a great deal about money and how important it was for rich people to be charitable to poor, holy people like himself and his followers. It's what rich people do with their money that's important. They should definitely not use it to enjoy a delicious Cornish Pasty with the Prime Minister.
Monday, 9 April, 2012, 07:59 AM - BellRating 3 out of 5 (Fairly platitudinous)
Is it easier to celebrate a tragedy or a victory? This is the question I asked myself this weekend: Is it easier to celebrate a tragedy or a victory?
I'm going to give you a few examples where it seems to be easier to celebrate a tragedy than a victory, but given that it's Easter and I'm mentioning the words "tragedy" and "victory", you probably already know where I'm going with this.
The Titanic was a tragedy, having to restart the boat race was a tragedy, an over ripe banana is a tragedy, but the greatest tragedy of all is seeing an innocent person persecuted. And so we finally come to where you all knew I was going all along, the visible bit of the Invisible Magic Friend being tortured to death for our sins was a tragedy. But he came back to life again, which is a victory. Hurrah!
I am now going to end with an insight that was really worth getting out of bed early for on a damp Bank Holiday Monday morning.
Jesus loves you.
And in Argentinian sports news, River Plate beat Boca Juniors 6-5 in their Superclįsico match three weeks ago. I was there and the Boca Juniors were stunned that they did not win when they thought they had the right to win.
The John Bell American tour then moved on to the United States, where a lot of the "Grand Old Party" as the Republicans think of themselves, are looking forward to winning the presidential election later this year. They too think they have a right to win. With such leading candidates as Mitt Romney, a man with admirably flexible opinions, and Rick Santorum, a man with no flexibility whatsoever, who can blame them.
But it's not just sports fans and politicians that think they have the right to be heard without criticism, religious leaders do too. Some even think they should have a reserved slot on the radio where they can talk, uninterrupted, every morning at just after 7.45 in the morning.
They're precisely the sort of people who had Jesus executed. They think they know all there is to know about the Invisible Magic Friend. When the visible bit of the Invisible Magic Friend comes along and tells them the truth, they can't handle the truth. He's not the genocidal, Jewish maniac god that the Chief Rabbi told you about last week. He's actually the god of peace and love and all things cuddly.
You can trust me on this, I know all about the Invisible Magic Friend.
Noo it widney be right fur me tae come own here makin political or nationilistic points, but the Inveesible Magic Freend waants Scotland tae be independint. It's in the Big Book ae Magic Stuff
D'ye know thirs folks oot there that take the mickey oot a a Glesgy accent? Wid ye credit it? Well we've goat oor pride ye know. Wir no aw like Rab C. Nesbitt. 'N we've goat religion anaw - plenty ae it.
Thirs awe sorts ae stuff that we dae diffrintly fae yoo. Wir no as brazenly money grubbin as you lot ur. Wiv goat a bit ae a social conscience up here. In ye know wit? It's a HOLY thing this struggle tae be independint ae yoo English. Wir gonnae be liberated at last. Wir gonnae be at one wae muther irth.
So ye can take yer Rule Brittania and stuff it up yer nuclear deterent.
News, news, news. The news is just full of news these days. However, a lot of news is not news at all. It is in fact, old news, news that has been announced before it was news and that by the time it became news was no longer news.
There, no one can accuse me of only tangentially mentioning the news today. I've done nothing but talk about news, future news and past news.
Which brings me onto past and future tense and the true meaning of Christmas. The true meaning of Christmas is that we haven't had it yet. You're not supposed to be jolly yet. You're supposed to be miserable. There's lots of death, suffering, injustice and wealth disparity to dwell upon. Believer and unbeliever alike, ask why does the Invisible Magic Friend not do something? Simplistic answers like, he doesn't exist, are automatically excluded because it would make religion look silly.
The birth of the Invisible Magic Friend is something that happens NOW, that is to say, in several weeks time. It wasn't announced in advance, except by the prophets who announced it in advance. That is why Christmas is real news, or at least it will be when it happens. When it does actually happen, which is NOW, in several weeks time, we'll all be jolly grateful that it's already happened in the past, unannounced and NOW.
And in the big news today, I was speaking at an important medical conference at the weekend. Famous authors, poets, lawyers and philosophers gathered to discuss medicine in front of an audience of health professionals. Modesty forbids me from mentioning that I was speaking too, but I was, which is how I know so much about it.
I must say it was very refreshing to see doctors willing to listen to me, and other lawyers, poets, authors and philosophers, telling them how to do their jobs. If only more professions were so open to being told how to do their jobs by me, and other philosophers, poets, authors and lawyers.
You see, patient care isn't just about administering medicines, it's about whole patient care. This is where Christianity is so very relevant to modern medical practise. In the New Tasty mint of the Big Book of Magic Stuff, Jesus, the visible bit of the Invisible Magic Friend, was always going around healing people. His techniques, of touching them, spitting on them, casting out demons and demanding ritual sacrifice, were somewhat unorthodox by today's standards. It's also not entirely clear how his techniques work, although being the visible bit of the Invisible Magic Friend suggests that magic may have been involved.
Jesus clearly believed in this holistic approach to medicine. In at least several cases he told the patient to go home and rest, although in many others he had done such a great job curing them that he let them keep on following him instead.
There's a bit of a <some-Scottish-word-that-even-though-I'm-from-Glasgow-I-have-never-heard-of-but-which-I-infer-from-the-context-may-mean-a-bit-of-an-uproar> in Scotland at the moment. The Bishop of Paisley has come out strongly against gay marriage. This will shock many of you, I know, as the Catholic Church is renowned for its support for gay rights.
The Bishop has threatened to get all 800,000 Catholics in Scotland to vote against the SNP, although as the Scottish Lib Dems and the national Conservative Party have both come out in favour of gay marriage, it would seem that the number of Catholic approved political parties is diminishing rather rapidly.
The few biblical texts prohibiting same sex relationships have been argued over ad nauseam. Psychiatrists long ago stopped classifying homosexuality as a disease. There is increasing scientific evidence to suggest that sexual preference is genetic. It is no more than nature doing what it always does, producing variation.
Civil partnership takes care of the legal side of things. Marriage is a public declaration of fidelity and love.
Wednesday, 14 September, 2011, 08:27 AM - BellRating 2 out of 5 (A little platitudinous)
We all enjoy a good sing song. It's such an innocent pastime.
Or is it?
Only last Saturday we had the Last Night of the Proms, where people waved Union Jacks and sang patriotic songs. Well, call me mister picky, but it may interest you to know that there is no theological justification whatsoever for Britain to rule the waves. Remarkable, isn't it? Someone just completely made it up!
Then there are the sectarian songs that Catholics and Protestants like to sing to annoy one another. Anyone would think that the two beliefs, that the Pope is the Invisible Magic Friend's top boss man on earth, and that the Pope isn't the Invisible Magic Friend's top boss man on earth, are in some way mutually exclusive.
And now we have Julius Malema's jolly little ditty Shoot the Boer, which invites poor black South Africans to cheer themselves up by getting a gun and go shoot a white South African.
At this point, for no obvious reason, I'd just like to mention Satan, the Invisible Magic Baddy, and Jesus, the visible bit of the Invisible Magic Friend.
South Africa doesn't need this. It introduces division between black and white South Africans to a generation that never knew apartheid, and does so for the most cynical of reasons, to disguise the failure of political leadership in South Africa.
With all the public sector cuts, in the health service, the police and the armed forces, we naturally think of the Big Book of Magic Stuff: for everything there is a season. The government really ought to wait for the proper season to make people redundant.
It's all the fault of the banks. The government wants to split the steady, level headed, retail aspects of banking away from the risky, reckless, casino aspects of investment banking. Some bankers have threatened to take their casinos elsewhere and let some other government insure them against collapse.
The Big Book of Magic Stuff is quite clear on this: thou shalt not use capital from retail savings to invest in futures, derivatives or exotic financial instruments devised by rocket scientists and that no one really understands. If only the banks had followed this simple advice from the Invisible Magic Friend, we wouldn't be in this mess now. Yes, the Big Book of Magic Stuff remains as relevant as ever.