John Bell, of the Iona Community 
Friday, 12 June, 2009, 07:34 AM
Rating 3 out of 5 (Fairly platitudinous)

La-la la-la la-la la-la
la-la la-la laaa l-la

With this stirring rendition of Beethoven's Ode to Joy, I decided to add a bit of vocal virtuosity, making today's Thought even more enjoyable than normal.

I like music. Lot's of people like music. Music is so important because it's the next best thing to having an Invisible Magic Friend. The perfect sonata form of Mozart, the primitive dynamic rhythm of Stravinsky, the spiritual, sonorous yearning of gangsta rap; these show that music is undoubtedly supernatural in origin. It was given to us by the Invisible Magic Friend to connect us with many happy, joyous, sad or inspiring memories from the past: things that have happened, places we have been, people we have known.

Imagine my shock, my horror, when a teenager pulled out an MP3 player with hundreds of albums on it that he can listen to any time, anywhere, making no connection between tunes and people or places. How depraved can you get? Jesus, who was forever bursting into song and liked nothing better than a good knees-up sing-a-long, rightly denounces MP3 players as evil. The holy 45 rpm single and 33 1/3 rpm LP are the only righteous forms of music reproduction, although the not-quite-so-holy musicassette is permitted in extenuating circumstances for reasons of portability (provided it includes Dolby noise reduction).

Young people nowadays don't do anything properly - the way things were done a long, long time ago, when I was young. They will never know the joy of fondling a new single, of lovingly caressing a new LP and playing it repeatedly until the needle needs changing. Nostalgia just isn't what it used to be.

17 comments ( 1326 views )   |  permalink   |   ( 3.1 / 273 )

Rev Dr Dr David Wilkinson, Principal of St John's College Durham 
Thursday, 11 June, 2009, 07:38 AM
Rating 4 out of 5 (Highly platitudinous)

Kaka is being transferred to Real Madrid for 56 million, but of course the money is of no consequence to him, or team owner Silvio Berlusconi.

Now I know what you're thinking: is anyone really worth that amount of money, especially during a recession and with millions of poor people still around? I think Jesus, who was famous for courting the rich and famous, would undoubtedly say yes. After all, Kaka wears a Jesus T-shirt, which just goes to show that all that money is being well spent. His Jesus T-shirt protects him against drugs, alcohol and womanising.

I met some poor children in Rio once. They were laughing and smiling and happily being Christian, in return for not being left on the streets of their shanty town. Even poor people are special. This logically follows, not because they are invested with inherent human rights, but because the Invisible Magic Friend made them. One of the senior Olympic chaplains (I wouldn't waste my time with all those hordes of junior Olympic chaplains) agrees with me, so I must be right.

With this large price tag, much will be expected of the young Kaka. He will be required to run up and down a grass pitch and kick a little white ball between some sticks on a regular basis, there'll be more Jesus T-shirts to wear, and of course lucrative merchandising opportunities for both him and his club. As a Rev. Dr. Dr., let me just assure you that Jesus will be counting the dollars appreciatively.

8 comments ( 1163 views )   |  permalink   |   ( 3 / 271 )

Professor Mona Siddiqui, of the University of Glasgow 
Wednesday, 10 June, 2009, 07:26 AM
Rating 4 out of 5 (Highly platitudinous)

President Obama has been saying nice things to Muslims. Isn't that nice? He said "Assalamu Alaikum," which was really nice of him, and he said Al-Azhar University was really nice too. Everything he said was just so warm, and fluffy, and... well... nice. Anyone who doesn't think so is just a nasty, horrible, little cynic - so there.

It's so nice to see him being nice. Politics is usually full of hatred and bigotry, unlike religion, which is universally nice. Religion, and in particular the right religion, was given to us by the Invisible Magic Friend. It's full of nice stories, and prophets saying nice things, like what to do to unbelievers. The Koran is just so beautiful and nice and full of science and wisdom.

But let's not pretend that being nice is all that's needed, or that politics can solve all our problems. As Professor of Islamic Studies and Public Understanding and Director of the Centre for the Study of Islam, University of Glasgow, let me just assure you that angels, invisible magic beings with big flappy wings, have a role to play too. You would know this if you were as scholarly and learned as what I am - that's what comes of a life devoted to the pursuit of knowledge.

And in conclusion, it's time to start being nice to British politicians.

8 comments ( 1306 views )   |  permalink   |   ( 3 / 287 )

Incandescently Reverend Tom Butler, Lord Bishop of Southwark 
Tuesday, 9 June, 2009, 07:13 AM
Rating 4 out of 5 (Highly platitudinous)

My nobly Lord,... ... Lord Falcon-(hic!)-er, ish going to pash a bill... ('scuse me)... a bill for ashishted shooside. Thish ish jusht terrible (hic!). It'sh enuff to make you turn to the sherry bottle. Old people'll jusht shtart popping their clogsh all over the plaish. I mean, even the Cafolics are againsht it (hic!). That'sh the good ol' C of E and them bloody Cafolics. I mean jusht how mush more convinshing do ya need? Eh? Eh? I mean what'sh wrong wiv fret'ning to prosh... ...prosh (hic!) ...prosh'cute them whats jusht had to go wiv... their dearly beloved, we are ass... no... that'sh not right. Where was I? I mean there's loads 'a drugsh now. They don't shuffer or an'fing (hic!). I mean God'sh shaid they've jusht got to lie there - what'sh it gotta do wiv 'em when 'ere gonna die? Eh? Eh? Tell me that? Eh? (hic!). They've gotta all jusht die when we tell'em to (hic!). What'sh people like me... profeshnal comforters, gonna do? I'm the bishop of Shoffark, it'sh what I do. Sh'ust not shivilished (hic!).

20 comments ( 702 views )   |  permalink   |   ( 3.1 / 294 )

Get your copy fast 
Tuesday, 9 June, 2009, 06:06 AM
Yippee! I'm famous! My first chapter in an academic textbook!!! (You can never have too many exclamation marks on a religious blog!!!!)

Artificial Intelligence Applications for Improved Software Engineering Development: New Prospects

I know you're all just desperate to learn about using Bayesian nets in software project management and cost estimation but do try to control your excitement. This is bound to go right to the top of the bestsellers list, so get in there fast to secure your copy. It's a snip at only $285 each and as a Rev. Dr. I can assure you that the text written by me is infallible. (Any bits that turn out to be wrong were obviously not meant to be taken literally.)

I can just sit back now and wait for all those big fat royalty cheques to come rolling in. Now where did I put my swimming trunks and my snorkel? Oh, b**ger - the editors get all the royalties...
10 comments ( 801 views )   |  permalink   |   ( 2.9 / 268 )

Rev Dr Colin Morris, a Methodist Minister and (coincidentally) former head of religious broadcasting and BBC controller in Northern Ireland 
Monday, 8 June, 2009, 07:31 AM
Rating 3 out of 5 (Fairly platitudinous)

It's been another record low turnout in the European elections. This is a reminder that one of the great privileges of living in a democracy is our ability to not vote. It is a recognition that there's more to life than politics. Politics after all, is only about grubby, materialist things like, jobs and health and education. But what do we do when we're not engaging in politics? What gives us answers to all the questions that politicians can't answer? The answer is, of course, religion. As Jesus famously remarked, "I think my new religion is really brilliant and certainly much more important than voting in the European elections. I'm God, Follow ME!!!"

Yes, the 57% of voters who had more important things to do, were just all too busy being religious. There was all that praying to do, then there's going to church and singing hymns, and listening to sermons, and saying "Amen". I don't think many people realise that being holy doesn't just miraculously happen, it takes a lot of work to be this holy. Holy people, like us, know all about things like love and goodness and how to deal with death, whereas people who spend all their time just voting, don't. We simply don't have time to bother about things like, should the fascists be given more power in Europe, or should separatist parties take control?

1 comment ( 810 views )   |  permalink   |   ( 3 / 240 )

I get email 
Sunday, 7 June, 2009, 07:23 AM
This wasn't addressed to me personally, so I presume it was simply cut and pasted into a bunch of atheist blogs found by following website links, with no real attention paid to the nature or purpose of those sites. I expect some poor fools with nothing better to do on a Sunday morning, like me, will rise to the bait.

The demand for Muslim schools comes from parents who want their children a safe environment with an Islamic ethos.Parents see Muslim schools where children can develop their Islamic Identity where they won't feel stigmatised for being Muslims and they can feel confident about their faith.

You seem to have me confused with someone else. I have no power or influence over anything to do with children's schooling in our country. The man you want is this man, Rt Hon Ed Balls MP, Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families - well at least he was this morning.

However as soon as I'm put in charge of the nation's schools, I assure you I will take all points of view, including your own, into account. I should warn you however that the present education secretary is probably considerably more convinced by your arguments than I am.

Funnily enough, almost identical arguments were made in my home country, Scotland, about a century ago. We Irish Catholic immigrants needed our own schools so that we could retain our own distinctive culture, free from the repression of the majority religion. Of course there was no real evidence that any such repression existed. What they, the Catholic bishops, and now you, really mean is that you want your children to be segregated so that you can freely brainwash them about the rules of your Invisible Magic Friend cult. You know that if they mix freely with other children and learn about other belief systems, yours will more than likely not stand up to objective scrutiny. They may find another religion, or even none at all, a more appealing prospect. You are basically insecure and afraid and you need to be given state money and power so that you can protect your own vested interests.

The result in Scotland has been a century of sectarianism, violence, discrimination and community hatred that even now cannot be freely discussed in polite Scottish society. Of course we didn't have the added benefit of being a different skin colour from our fellow citizens. I'm sure that will make things much better.

Muslim schools are working to try to create a bridge between communities.

Clearly segregating children from one another, teaching them that one set of beliefs is superior to all others and not allowing them to freely explore the culture and beliefs of other children will be very helpful in that regard.

There is a belief among ethnic minority parens that the British schooling does not adequatly address their cultural needs. Failing to meet this need could result in feeling resentment among a group who already feel excluded. Setting up Muslim school is a defensive response.

Yep - that's almost word for word what the Catholic bishops said. It's a defensive response all right, defensive by you, afraid to let your children mix with other children in case they discover that your Invisible Magic Friend isn't all he's cracked up to be. Defensive in case your children seek out other forms of learning beyond the gibberish in the Koran. Defensive by you, in case the children discover art, philosophy, science, history and all the other far more fulfilling sources of wisdom than your religion.

State schools with monolingual teachers are not capable to teach English to bilingual Muslim children. Bilingual teachers are needed to teach English to such children along with their mother tongue. According to a number of studies, a child will not learn a second language if his first language is ignored.

Bilingual Muslim children need state funded Muslim schools with bilingual Muslim teachers as role models during their developmental periods.

Children for whom English is a second language are clearly at a disadvantage when they enter a predominantly English speaking school system and a predominantly English curriculum. Their English speaking skills need improvement so that they can take part fully in the school system and extra resources need to be provided where this is necessary. Personally, I'd be happy if most of the children leaving school these days could write and speak English, let alone a second language.

Muslims have the right to educate their children in an environment that suits their culture. This notion of "integration", actually means "assimilation", by which people generally really mean "be more like me". That is not multiculturalism.

Of course everyone has the right, within reason, to bring their children up the way they wish, but children have rights too. They have the right to be taught that there is a wider world out there, beyond what their parents know. They have the right to talk and make friends with children from other traditions and beliefs, to sample the best that other cultures have to offer. Nor is this a one way exchange, everyone learns from everyone else's traditions and cultures. This is true multiculturalism, not your hellhole vision of segregated ghettoes, where separate communities speak different languages, worship different gods, eat different foods and have no friends or relationships with anyone who is a different colour. Because you are afraid of what other cultures have to offer you seek to deny them to your children.

In Sydney, Muslims were refused to build a Muslim school, because of a protest by the residents. Yet a year later, permission was given for the building of a Catholic school and no protests from the residents. This clrearly shows the blatant hypocrisy, double standards and racism. Christians oppose Muslim schools in western countries yet build their own religious schools.

I agree - the solution is to open up all sectarian schools and allow children of all faiths to mix freely with one another. Sectarian schooling is an affront, peddled by those who know that, without the power to force their religious beliefs on their children, their beliefs will die out and be condemned to the dustbin of history where they belong.

British schooling and the British society is the home of institutional racism. The result is that Muslim children are unable to develop self-confidence and self-esteem, therefore, majority of them leave schools with low grades.

I've met a great many young muslims with excellent qualifications and brimming with self confidence. Far from suffering the problems you describe they seem to have positively thrived in community schools. Perhaps this is what you fear most.

Racism is deeply rooted in British society. Every native child is born with a gene or virus of racism, therefore, no law could change the attitudes of racism towards those who are different.

Try looking up the word "irony" in a dictionary - I'm sure there's an equivalent in every language.

It is not only the common man, even member of the royal family is involved in racism. The father of a Pakistani office cadet who was called a "***" by Prince Harry has profoundly condemned his actions. He had felt proud when he met the Queen and the Prince of Wales at his son's passing out parade at Sandhurst in 2006 but now felt upset after learning about the Prince's comments. Queen Victoria invited an Imam from India to teach her Urdu language. He was highly respected by the Queen but other members of the royal family had no respect for him. He was forced to go back to India. His protrait is still in one of the royal places.

Ah yes, the Royal Family, the best, the wisest, the most noble of us all. Like all "native" children of our land, I do of course worship the Royal Family. I have portraits of them in every room. Sadly, due to a lack of space, His Royal Highness Prince Harry has found himself in the upstairs toilet, above the cistern. This has the unfortunate consequence that every uncontrolled expulsion of gas finds itself directed towards his royal likeness.

There are hundreds of state schools where Muslim pupils are in majority. In my opinion, all such schools may be designated as Muslim community schools with bilingual Muslim teachers. There is no place for a non-Muslim child or a teacher in a Muslim school.

Fear, hatred, racism, xenophobia: you really are a very small minded person who desperately wants the next generation to grow up as small minded as yourself. I have a great deal of confidence in today's Muslim youth. Despite the stereotypes portrayed in the right wing press, many of them are well educated, liberal and open minded. I can understand your fear.

19 comments ( 576 views )   |  permalink   |   ( 2.9 / 239 )

Rev Dr. (hon. Kingston) Dr. (hon. St. Andrews) Joel Edwards, the international director of Micah Challenge  
Saturday, 6 June, 2009, 08:45 AM
Rating 4 out of 5 (Highly platitudinous)

Today we mark the 65th Anniversary of the D-Day landings. I never took part in these, nor have I taken part in any armed conflict, nor have I ever been in the armed forces, or come close to anything remotely resembling military action. In fact, I've never even been anywhere within hearing distance of a gun being fired. But I have seen some corking good films about them. I just love watching films where people get stabbed, or shot, or blown to bits. It's just terrific watching people's houses getting blown up, losing all they've worked for, their children being orphaned and people being crippled and maimed. I think war films are brilliant and I am a Rev. Dr. Dr., so I think that makes me the natural person to come on here and talk about war.

As International Director of Micah Challenge, a global organisation that prays and campaigns for poor people, and as a Human Rights Commissioner, defending the rights of all, black or white, Christian or some other religion, straight or straight, and as a council member of His Hollowness St. Tony of Bliars' Faith Foundation, with its modest aims of eliminating poverty, ending war, and bringing all religions together in peace and harmony under St. Tony's benevolent leadership, I can confidently tell you that whether the decision to go to war is made democratically or not is unimportant. What is important is whether the Invisible Magic Friend thinks we should go to war or not. Ultimately, it's the imaginary voices in our heads we should listen to, not reason or the will of the people.

The Invisible Magic Friend has, of course been completely silent on the subject of war, except when confiding in his holy politicians and holy generals, but I just want to tell all the soldiers and veterans out there, who probably haven't thought all that much about war, that the Invisible Magic Friend definitely approves of just wars. You can trust me on this, I'm a Rev. Dr. Dr.

3 comments ( 396 views )   |  permalink   |   ( 3.1 / 260 )

Catholic Church Demands Opt-out 
Friday, 5 June, 2009, 09:04 AM
After the successful hatching of a healthy chick to two gay penguins, the Roman Catholic church has demanded urgent talks with ministers.

"We must ensure that Catholic zoos are not required to provide eggs to homosexual penguins," said the most irrelevant and imminently eminent Vincent Nichols, Archbigot of Westminster. "If the good work of Catholic zoos around the world is to be continued then it is vital that Catholics be allowed to allocate eggs to penguins in keeping with their conscience. We will do all we can to work within the rules, but we must think of the chicks here. Male and female He created them. Catholics cannot be required to endorse unnatural relationships among penguins. If all else fails then we will have no choice but to close all the zoos and sell the animals to abattoirs."

The leader of the Catholic Hierarchy in Scotland, Cardinal Keith O'Brien was quick to concur. "This is what comes of a society that has lost its moral compass and can no longer distinguish between good and evil. The Church has consistently warned that a full consideration of penguin ecology must include care for the spiritual well-being of penguins. What would happen to penguin-kind if all penguins chose to adopt immoral lifestyles? I fear this is the beginning of the end. It is no exaggeration to state that this is the penguin holocaust."

1 comment ( 1035 views )   |  permalink   |   ( 3.1 / 297 )

Chief Rabbit Sir Jonathan Sacks  
Friday, 5 June, 2009, 07:22 AM
Rating 1 out of 5 (Hardly platitudinous at all)

Pick almost any day in the year and you'll find the anniversary of some battles or wars nearby. History is full of examples where relationships between communities have completely broken down and everyone says there's no option left but to fight. Some people on this programme might start wittering on about what their Invisible Magic Friend thinks about war, or even how their Invisible Magic Friend is better than everyone else's Invisible Magic Friend, which is why you have to kill them all, but I'm not even going to mention my Invisible Magic Friend today. Instead, I'm going to mention that neuro-scientists say our rational brain is often overcome by our more basic animal instincts when we feel threatened, and we simply have to learn not to give in to these instincts.

Christians and Jews have finally managed to live peacefully with one another, despite having different flavours of the same Invisible Magic Friend. All it took was 2,000 years of emnity and persecution, a genocidal holocaust and a couple of world wars. Even Europe has managed to stay mostly peaceful for the last 60 years. All we need now is respect between Islam's version of the Invisible Magic Friend and the West's version of the Invisible Magic Friend and, voila, no more Invisible Magic Friend wars!

As President Obama said, wouldn't it be nice if we could all just get along with the Wahhabist regime in Saudi Arabia, or the theocracy in Iran, or the dictatorships in Egypt and Syria?

7 comments ( 1155 views )   |  permalink   |   ( 3 / 296 )

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