Lack of Intelligent Religious Humour 
Sunday, 26 June, 2011, 08:54 AM - Not TFTD
It has been brought to my attention that there is a serious lack of intelligent religious humour these days. Comedians have been failing in their sacred duty to challenge suppositions and de-construct prejudices, resorting to ridicule of the same tired old stereotypes of religion. When will we see an end to this silly schoolboy humour that talks about "imaginary friends" and "sky pixies." Where are the jokes about how hilarious it would be if their really wasn't an Invisible Magic Friend?

This is a topic that requires much investigation. All I can say is, thank the Invisible Magic Friend someone is doing serious research on the topic. Who knows where this constant ridicule of religion will lead? It is entirely possible that if clerics and religious bodies are laughed at every time they open their mouths, that religion itself might stop being taken seriously, and then where will we be?

Why can't these so-called "comedians" take a leaf out of religion's book? Take Pope Benedict's vastly amusing UK tour last year. Observe the subtlety of his puns, the lack of sweeping generalisations in his wit, the accuracy and infallibility of his social observations. Even Muslim youths could teach contemporary comics a thing or two about how to tell a good joke. Oh, I laughed until I cried!

Thankfully, no one on this site ever unjustifiably portrays religion as self serving, intolerant or just plain stupid. I know I can rely on you all to continue to give religion the level of respect that it truly deserves.
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Brian Draper, Associate lecturer at the London Institute for Contemporary Christianity  
Saturday, 25 June, 2011, 09:38 AM - Be nice, Gibberish, Draper
Rating 4 out of 5 (Highly platitudinous)

Brian here, in Southampton, an associate lecturer at the London Institute for Contemporary Christianity where we envision and equip Christians and their churches for whole-life missionary discipleship in the world, seek to serve them with biblical frameworks, practical resources, training and models so that they flourish as followers of Jesus and grow as whole-life disciplemaking communities. Hi.

The think tank, Google Ideas, is bringing together gangsters, religious extremists and Nazis to discuss what they all have in common. Well, I could have told them that - they want the same as all of us, a good fight. Let's face it, deep down, aren't we all insane religious fundamentalists? Who of us, in an idle moment, hasn't felt like flying a plane into a skyscraper, or blowing up an underground train? Which of you can honestly say, that you haven't wanted to capture a rival gang member, beat them to a pulp and slash their face with a razor blade? I certainly know I have.

Perhaps though, we have forgotten exactly what it is that we want to be violently psychopathic for? Some people give up and just don't bother fighting anyone. They despicably and lazily spend their time watching telly, not bothering anyone - the swine. This is where the Big Book of Magic Stuff is so useful. In Saint John's Gospel (in my opinion one of the very finest Gospels) Jesus says, "Don't be a violent psychopath, think about ME!"

In this way, most Christians avoid being violent psychopaths most of the time. And since Mother Teresa, whom we all admire so much, hasn't been quoted for a while, let's end with her words, "I'll give you a good fight."

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Devastatingly Reverend Lord Professor Bishop Baron Reverend Lord Richard Harries, Baron Pentregarth, Gresham Professor of Divinity, Baron, Bishop, Professor, Lord...  
Friday, 24 June, 2011, 08:14 AM - Art, Harries
Rating 4 out of 5 (Highly platitudinous)

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.

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Reverend Lucy Winkett, Rector of St James Piccadilly, just down from Fortnum and Mason  
Thursday, 23 June, 2011, 09:05 AM - Lessons of history, Winkett
Rating 4 out of 5 (Highly platitudinous)

Something amazing is being uncovered in South East Turkey. Ancient temples, that pre-date Stonehenge and the pyramids by thousands of years, have been excavated. Huge, carved stone pillars, built without the use of wheels, metal, or agriculture, lie in concentric circles.

Organised religion, in the sense of proper modern religion with bishops and priests and other important people, was once thought to have been established only after humanity had given up their hunter-gatherer existence. Bishops chasing after antelopes wouldn't be terribly useful, would they? These temples suggest that organised religion did arise while humans were still largely nomadic - so the picture of bishops chasing antelopes isn't that silly after all.

In the Göbekli Tepe temples, we see the very beginnings of civilisation, the long road that would eventually lead to cities, nations, cathedrals and Fortnum and Mason. We see that humans have always had the desire to build what would fill people with awe, making them awful. It is human instinct to seek invisible magic stuff, which would be pretty silly if there weren't invisible magic stuff.

And yet, there are some who mock invisible magic stuff, even though we have these vast stone pillars from 11,000 years ago. Even at the very earliest stages of human civilisation, people travelled hundreds of miles to see these great carved monuments. It all goes to show, that from the very earliest of times, humans really knew how to build a tourist attraction.

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Rev Roy Jenkins Baptist Minister in Cardiff 
Wednesday, 22 June, 2011, 08:36 AM - Jenkins
Rating 5 out of 5 (Extraordinarily platitudinous)

Oh, how we all laughed. The vain and the not-quite-so-beautiful being kicked off the beautiful people's dating site. Those of us who aren't at all vain thought it the biggest joke of the week.

But there's a serious point to all this. Don't we all avoid old, ugly, disabled or stupid people? I know I certainly do, so I expect you must as well. You see, what all you superficial Radio 4 listeners don't seem to recognise is that beauty is only skin deep, it doesn't last forever, youth passes, beauty fades, it's what inside that counts, true beauty is found in God alone. You must stop seeing things in terms of clichés.

Saint Peter didn't write much, but he did take a keen interest in women's cosmetics. He thought beauty was only skin deep too. Oh, and by the way, they should submit themselves to their husbands, who usually know best when it's time to be beautiful.

Take Mother Teresa. She wasn't beautiful on the outside. No one looked at Mother Teresa and said, "Wow, where have you been all my life?" No, let us be honest, Mother Teresa was old and ugly and not at all attractive to we hot blooded males. But she had lots of inner beauty. She realised that suffering was good for you. It brought you closer to the Invisible Magic Friend that she'd long ago stopped believing in.

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Animal Aid 
Wednesday, 22 June, 2011, 07:27 AM - Not TFTD
I don't make many regular charity contributions because I have no income at the moment. However, when one prominent charity advocates boycotting others then I feel I have to make it clear that I don't support their tactics.

I'm all in favour of minimising animal suffering and minimising their use in medical research wherever possible - who wouldn't be? I'm all in favour of banning Halal and Kosher slaughter. But some research has no choice. Animal Aids's call to boycott various worthy charities will anger many who have lost loved ones to cancer or had to look after those suffering Alzheimer's or Parkinson's.

So in defiance of their call for a boycott. I've made small donations to the following.

Cancer Research UK
Britsh Heart Foundation
Alzheimer's Society
Parkinson's UK

I won't be donating to Animal Aid.
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From Norwich, it's the bishop of the week, Swashbucklingly Reverend Graham James, Lord Bishop of Norwich  
Tuesday, 21 June, 2011, 08:16 AM - Money, James
Rating 3 out of 5 (Fairly platitudinous)

A recent study suggests that women need to speak more forthrightly in the testosterone filled environment of British board rooms. There is also evidence to suggest that women are less risky investors.

It's not so much this alleged male/female divide that should concern us. As a Swashbucklingly Reverend Lord Bishop, what bothers me is that aggressive, spontaneous style of leadership is regarded as decisive and strong, when more thoughtful, questioning management is thought of as weak and dithering.

Jesus, the visible bit of the Invisible Magic Friend, sometimes chose a male style of leadership and sometimes a female style. It all depended what sort a mood he was in really. "I'm God, so you just do what I tell you to," he would sometimes say. At other times he preferred to maintain his air of mystery and ineffableness by answering a question with a question and not really saying anything. Then there was his famous self deprecating style. "I'm such a lousy visible bit of the Invisible Magic Friend," he would say. "I'm not at all sure I'm going to be any good at dying to save the world."

We need more leaders like Jesus in our investment banks.

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Rev Dr Dr Prof David Wilkinson, Principal of St John's College Durham  
Monday, 20 June, 2011, 09:04 AM - Be nice, Wilkinson
Rating 3 out of 5 (Fairly platitudinous)

It's World Refugee Day today. Across the world, tens of millions of people remain displaced from their homeland. Whether, it's Syria, Palestine, Somalia or Afghanistan, refugees often live in appalling conditions, threatening their health and their lives.

The Big Book of Magic Stuff tells us to be nice to foreigners. Obviously you can't marry them, eat their food, or worship their gods, and if they happen to be currently occupying your promised land, well they'll clearly have to be exterminated, but otherwise you should be nice to foreigners.

We're reading one of the nice books of the Big Book of Magic Stuff, where an Israelite goes abroad and does marry a foreigner, but she's OK as she decides to worship the Jewish Invisible Magic Friend. When her husband dies, she returns to Israel where she has to find a male relative of her husband in order to retain his land as ordained by the Invisible Magic Friend's real estate law. So you see, she's a kind of refugee, isn't she, and the people in the Big Book of Magic Stuff were nice to her, so you should be too.

I met some refugees once. It was 30 years ago and two families of Vietnamese boat people were given houses by the local council. It was very controversial. As Christians, we welcomed them anyway, although that didn't go so far as eating all their foreign food.

So there you go. The Big Book of Magic Stuff says be (mostly) nice to refugees and some Christians I knew (mostly) were once. It's probably a good thing to be (mostly) nice to refugees.

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Brian Draper, Associate lecturer at the London Institute for Contemporary Christianity 
Saturday, 18 June, 2011, 08:31 AM - Health, Draper
Rating 2 out of 5 (A little platitudinous)

Brian here, in Southampton, an associate lecturer at the London Institute for Contemporary Christianity where we envision and equip Christians and their churches for whole-life missionary discipleship in the world, seek to serve them with biblical frameworks, practical resources, training and models so that they flourish as followers of Jesus and grow as whole-life disciplemaking communities. Hi.

Teenagers who see their parent's drunk are twice as likely to binge drink. This illustrates nicely that the adage, "Do as I say, not as I do," is all but useless. Children follow their parents' example. And it's not just poor people you know. You might think it's just poor, stupid people that do this. Actually, some quite respectable, middle class Radio 4 listeners do this too. Yes, I know, shocking isn't it?

As any alcoholic will tell you, the first step towards recovery is to recognise that you have a problem. If you wake up on the floor at 2 o'clock in the morning every night then it might just be time to re-assess your drinking habits. In my case, the motivation was getting tiddly at a christening party, giving some champagne to my 4 year old daughter and then hastily having to leave. Naturally there's some danger involved in giving alcohol to a 4 year old, but much worse than that, it was ever so socially embarrassing.

So, my name is Brian, and I've been off the booze now for nine months. Only another three months to go and then I can get plastered again, but in the mean time I feel great. I just want to make it absolutely clear that I'm not passing judgement on those of you too weak willed to do as I've done. I'm not trying to impress you with my virtue or my strength of character or anything like that.

Not only is my health and well being improving, so is the example I'm setting my daughter. God, I can't wait until she's grown up and I can get pissed again.

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Staggeringly Reverend Lord Professor Bishop Baron Reverend Lord Richard Harries, Baron Pentregarth, Gresham Professor of Divinity, Baron, Bishop, Professor, Lord...  
Friday, 17 June, 2011, 08:03 AM - Morality, Harries
Rating 5 out of 5 (Extraordinarily platitudinous)



Ibsen's Emperor and Galilean is on at the National Theatre and you really should go and see it. This is a very good play about the crazy Roman Emperor, Julian, who decided to stop being a Christian and worshipped all those silly false gods instead. I mean, how mad is that?

This is exactly what's going on today. People are turning away from the perfectly sensible religion of Christianity and becoming pagans. Except, now many aren't even worshipping false gods!

Where are you going to get all your morality from, eh? Tell me that. Without a Christian book to tell you how to be moral you'll all just run around naked doing whatever you like. As Saint Paul famously said, "It's just brilliant being a Christian. We're so much more moral than everyone else."

In centuries to come our grandchildren, and our grandchildren's grandchildren, won't have any morality left at all. I mean, do you think morality just happens naturally or something? Without a holy book, without a Christian holy book, they're all doomed. DOOMED I TELL YOU!

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