Brian here, in Southampton, an associate lecturer at the London Institute for Contemporary Christianity where we envision and equip Christians, and the leaders, churches and organisations that serve them, with the biblical framework, practical resources and models to engage biblically, relevantly and vigorously with the issues they face in todayís world. Hi.
Has anyone mentioned the World Cup yet?
It can be a frustrating experience being an England supporter. You never quite know what you're going to get. But after, all it's only a game and we know how to lose graciously. After all, we've had plenty of practise. So well done Algeria! (Grrrrrrrr!!!!)
Speaking of football, life never quite gives you what you expect. As the famous Algerian goalkeeper (and incidentally an atheist and Nobel laureate), Albert Camus observed, it can seem positively absurd.
I remember as a young theological student, just setting out on my lifelong study of the important and practical field of theology, one of my classmates' pregnant wife died in a car accident. It all seemed so useless and random and meaningless. A naive, foolish and less theologically trained person might even conclude that there was no loving Invisible Magic Friend, listening to our prayers and helping us through life. But I knew better. I was not weak willed, as some lesser mortals are. I did not lose faith. I knew that if I just kept repeating the profound theological argument, "there is and Invisible Magic Friend - there is, there is, there is!" that I would eventually convince myself.
The Book of Ecclesiastes reminds us that life is pointless, that all our efforts are futile, that we pass through life and are forgotten. What the book is reminding us is that life is not pointless, that all our efforts are not futile, that we pass through life and are not forgotten, because there really is an Invisible Magic Friend whose plan for us just happens to look exactly the same as it would if he weren't there.
So the moral of all this is: relax, enjoy life and remember that there's more to it all than England not winning the World cup (again - grrrrrrrrr!!!).
Mona Siddiqui, Professor of Islamic Studies and Public Understanding and Director of the Centre for the Study of Islam, University of Glasgow
Friday, 18 June, 2010, 08:58 AM - SiddiquiRating 4 out of 5 (Highly platitudinous)
Forget about the World Cup, the oil spillage, Bloody Sunday and spending cuts. The really big news is that my son was stopped and questioned at Luton airport last week. What made it worse was the officer trying to relieve the tension with a smile and a joke. It was only when another police officer realised my son was with me that he was allowed to continue.
We muslims are renowned for our relaxed and easy going attitude, so why on earth would they pick on us? I wasn't even dressed like a Muslim, so how did they know we were Muslims? This kind of thing really makes me angry. Now I haven't got a chip on my shoulder, but stopping Muslims is just being racist. In reality they should be stopping everyone except Muslims. Do you want we Muslims to feel alienated? 'Cos trust me, you won't like us when we feel alienated. This is precisely the kind of unthinking discrimination against decent, hard working professors and their families that causes a breakdown in trust.
Obviously security has to be tight at airports so that me and my son can fly safely, but random checks on passengers shouldn't be made on respectable people like us. It's an outrage that security checks should apply to me our any of my relatives. They should be targeting all those little old white ladies who are always causing trouble, with their elasticated stockings and mobility scooters. And when these other people get stopped by security checks they should bear the delay with patience and fortitude. I'll bet they never, ever stop little old white ladies - the fascists.
As the Koran wisely says, "You have been made as different nations and tribes, so I can have a good laugh when you fail to get along."
In a moving and profound statement to the press yesterday, Wayne Rooney described the rosary beads that he wears round his neck during training "It's my religion," he explained helpfully. Doubtless his sacred talisman bestows blessings not afforded to other, less religious, players.
Speaking the day before their World Cup match against Algeria, the plucky England striker, who was booked for swearing at a referee in the run up practise matches, sought to advertise his devout Catholic faith. But as an exemplary Catholic footballer, Rooney's trip to South Africa has not been without controversy. There was the (alleged) example of his taking a pee on a posh golf course. However, at least it wasn't as bad as the infamous visit to the 52 year old hooker and grandmother, known as the Auld Slapper. This was a youthful aberration at a time when he was a much less holy footballer than he is today.
Rooney's passionate faith is long held. Once, when asked what he would do if he couldn't play football, he explained that he wasn't really much good at anything else, so maybe he'd be a priest. It is a faith that he shares with other great Catholic luminaries, such as Middle East Peace Envoy, His Hollowness Saint Tony of Bliar, and with earnings to match. The cost of his £4.25 million mansion almost covers the amount he's being sued for by his former management firm.
Proudly sporting his tattoo that reads "Just Enough Education to Perform", Rooney, with his deep Catholic faith, is an inspiration and a role model for the youth of today.
Has anyone mentioned Bloody Sunday yet?
People who were shot dead unjustly and grieving relatives who pressed for justice following that day, have had to wait 38 years for the truth to be told. Not a lot of people know this, but learning the truth is a jolly good thing. It says so in the Big Book of Magic Stuff, so it must be true, which as you know is a jolly good thing because I've just told you it is. I can quote you several places where truth is mentioned as being a jolly good thing.
"I am the light of the world, the son of the Invisible Magic Friend and I'm always right," Jesus said modestly. "If you believe this truth then it will set you free."
There's another bit where it says Jesus wants justice. Justice is a jolly good thing too, no matter how long it takes, and is very similar to truth, which as we've already discovered is also a jolly good thing.
And if all that hasn't convinced you that truth and justice are jolly good things, then just read on in the above passage. You might think that truth and justice demands that those who commit crimes should face prosecution, but Jesus agrees with the amnesty for terrorists in Northern Ireland and thinks that in fairness this should be extended to the soldiers on Bloody Sunday as well.
So there you have it: truth, justice and mercy are all jolly good things. Jesus approves of the Northern Ireland peace process and the Saville Enquiry findings. All in all, £195 million well spent.
Wednesday, 16 June, 2010, 08:54 AM - Invisible magic stuff, Science, Vedas, Puranas, Bhagavad Gita..., Akhandadhi DasRating 4 out of 5 (Highly platitudinous)
Yesterday's Reith Lecture by Prof Martin Rees, ponders the question of what we'll never know. Will we ever fully understand consciousness? Or will we ever have a complete unified theory of physics? Maybe there are some things that are just too mysteriously mysterious for us to understand. In fact, this actually is the case. The human brain, for all its complexity, is made of matter and isn't really built to handle the ultimate truth about the universe, much less about invisible magic stuff. To understand the true nature of the universe we need some outside assistance, from invisible magic beings. Throughout history, revelations from invisible magic beings have been so much more useful and productive than mere science alone.
As it says in the fourth book of Star Wars, "Don't be too proud of this technological terror you've constructed. The ability to destroy a planet is insignificant next to the power of the Force." Still, you should continue to deploy your limited brain power to try and understand something of the universe. As it says in the second book of Harry Potter "Hearing voices no one else can hear isn't a good sign, even in the wizarding world."
It's all so big and incomprehensible and mysterious and mystical and really, really full of deeply meaningful stuff that we can't understand.
The Saville Enquiry, which has provided gainful employment to numerous lawyers over the past twelve years, is due to report today. 1972 was a time when pop music was real pop music and nostalgia was real nostalgia. Happy, happy days, apart from the thirteen people shot dead on Bloody Sunday.
This is exactly like the book of Revelation, the holy trip of Saint John the magic mushroom eater. You see there's this scroll with seven seals, although why the scroll should have seven aquatic mammals on it is never fully explained. The magic mushroom eater weeps, for no one can open the scroll. Then the lamb that was slain (who's really the second lump and the visible bit of the Invisible Magic Friend) opens the scroll and unleashes the four horsemen of the apocalypse, which is really nice of him.
In order to understand this, you either need to consume some seriously hallucinogenic drugs, or alternatively consult a theologian. What this passage clearly shows is that the Invisible Magic Friend is present throughout time, simultaneously in past present and future (you probably won't see this unless you're as highly theologically trained as what I am). Don't worry that the theory of relativity suggests that there is no such thing as simultaneity and therefore no such thing as a universal "now" - this is a theological "now" and is not defined by inertial frames of reference.
So in conclusion, the Saville Enquiry is about something in the past, will be reported today and will be read in the future, just like the book of Revelation says.
Has anyone mentioned the World Cup yet?
Personally I can't stand football but I'm going to talk about the England vs. USA match on Saturday night anyway. Many of you ordinary people probably get quite excited by the whole thing, so I'll use it as today's excuse to talk about religion, which I will cunningly switch to when appropriate aspects of human emotion and failings are touched upon.
Poor Robert Green. He had the ball safely in his hands, then let it go again as it went into the net. We all make mistakes. Robert Green's sole purpose in life is to hold onto balls. This time, the ball slipped through his fingers like a slippery ball. Not only that, but he lost the slippery ball in front of millions of people. How dreadfully embarrassing.
Other players sympathised, which is what makes football exactly the same as religion. Yes we have a few beliefs, like the existence of an ever present, all knowing, all powerful, all loving, unprovable supernatural intelligence that is responsible for the whole universe and a good deal more besides, who listens to prayers, performs miracles, has three distinct lumps, one of which came to earth, born of a virgin, performed some more miracles, got tortured and executed and rose from the dead two days later according to the prophecy that he'd rise three days later, appeared to his disciples, went up into the sky on a cloud and will return on the day of judgement, but there's much more to Christianity than that.
You see, some people don't have any family or friends to sympathise with them. Without church they'd be lonely and no one would be nice to them. Provided they profess to believe what we believe, the friendless continue to be welcome at our church. Of course, if they commit heresy we'll just have to boot them out and they'll remain friendless, which is exactly what they deserve if you ask me.
This is called being moral.
Sunday, 13 June, 2010, 09:20 AM - Not TFTDRating 5 out of 5 (Extraordinarily platitudinous)
These New Atheists, and one in particular who I won't mention by name but is undoubtedly worse than Hitler, keep saying that evolution proves God does not exist. I can give you hundreds of references where he says precisely that but unfortunately I don't have sufficient space in my article.
I was busy moral philosophising the other day, when it suddenly occurred to me "That's not true. Evolution doesn't disprove the existence of God!" Quick as I could, I headed straight to the Guardian to publish my ideas. This was news that the Guardian readership needed to know at once. This abuse of science, this rape of evolution, this perversion of natural history had to be stopped and I was just the person to stop it.
Next time someone uninvited asks on your doorstep, "Look around you, where did the wonders of life come from? How do we know right from wrong?" don't you dare reply that evolution can explain much of it! That would be a corruption of the fine ideals of the great Darwin. Don't you understand that having an Invisible Magic Friend is a world view and therefore not to be criticised? They like believing that their Invisible Magic Friend causes thunderstorms, earthquakes, plagues, is the source of the origin of species and the root of human morality. Just who do you think you are, suggesting it's probably not true?
All evolution disproves is biblical literalism, but as usual, the so-called "New" Atheists oversimplify everything in their naive, arrogant, militant, verbal way, thinking that all Christians and Muslims are creationists. In fact, very few practising Christians or Muslims are creationists these days. They're a fringe group, with no access to power. Besides, creationism is a relatively recent phenomenon and therefore not something that you need bother your pretty little heads with.
Belief in an Invisible Magic Friend is an emotional comfort to people. I therefore demand that you, Richard Dawkins (who is worse than Hitler and Stalin combined), stop asking for some evidence. I, Mary Midgley, have spoken!
Saturday, 12 June, 2010, 08:23 AM - Not TFTDOh, come on! As if being a pop star, a physicist and a TV presenter wasn't enough, now he's gone and got a bl***y OBE.
I must say, having bravely failed to secure Secularist of the Year in February, I was rather expecting to receive some sort of recognition from Her Majesty in the birthday honours list - "For services taking the micky out of Thought For The Day", or something like that. But, no, not a peep from the palace. Once again, it's just stuffed full of talented, worthy individuals. When, I ask myself, will people with a train wreck full of mediocre, unspectacular careers get the rewards that we so richly think we deserve?
I'm beginning to think the head of the Church of England doesn't read this blog as regularly as I may have previously thought. If that's so then I'd appreciate it if any lords, minor royals, privy counsellors, footmen or butlers who do read it would bring it the monarch's attention. And be sure to reprimand her for her scandalous failure to do so.
Brian bl***y Cox!
Urban foxes are in the news.
While we're on the subject of foxes, let's talk about snakes, which brings us neatly to the Big Book of Magic Stuff. Snakes are mentioned in the first book of the Big Book of Magic Stuff. In particular, the Invisible Magic Baddie, cunningly disguised as a magic talking serpent, tempted Eve to eat from the tree of knowledge. Eve, who at this stage hadn't been around for very long, having just been created from one of Adam's ribs, wasn't aware that snakes don't generally have conversations with people and that this whole situation was a little odd. The moral of this story is clearly clear: don't take advice from talking snakes.
There's another part of the Big Book of Magic Stuff that doesn't talk about foxes. In the Book of Matthew the visible bit of the Invisible Magic Friend tells his disciples to be "as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves." This means we have to be both as shrewd as snakes AND as innocent as doves. If we're as shrewd as snakes but not as innocent as doves then we won't be as innocent as doves. On the other hand, if we're as innocent as doves but not as shrewd as snakes then we won't be as shrewd as snakes.
Whatever you do, don't be as innocent as a snake and as shrewd as a dove, because then you won't be either as shrewd as a snake or as innocent as a dove when the the visible bit of the Invisible Magic Friend clearly advises that you should be as shrewd as a snake and as innocent as a dove.
I think that summarises what you need to know about foxes quite neatly.