Thursday, 17 July, 2008, 08:16 AMRating 0 out of 5 (Not platitudinous - completely irrelevant)
It's really, really, REALLY important that the Anglican Church doesn't split. All sorts of devastation and turmoil would result. There would be calamity in the financial markets. Crops would fail. Hospitals would crumble to dust. Mass unemployment, poverty and destitution would result, and all because we failed to keep the misogynists and homophobes within the Anglican Communion. A split would of course be in keeping with that fine Christian tradition of setting up different places of worship from anyone who disagrees with you about the exact length of God the Father's beard. Fortunately, we had the Roman Empire to persecute and suppress heretics for over a century, but by 452, it was too weak to stop the Coptic Church splitting when the council of Chalcedon decreed that Jesus had both human and divine natures. Then, when those evil, inhuman bastards in the east refused to accept the word "filioque" in the creed, the Orthodox churches split from the Roman Catholic. Then we had the Reformation, when everybody could have their own church and could set off to found American states where they could have a turn at persecuting people. As Baron Pentregarth, former bishop of Oxford, and honorary Professor of Theology at King’s College, London, let all of us just assure you that, as the Lambeth Conference teeters on the precipice, we must look to the gynormous brain of the Archbishop of Canterbury and hope that he can deliver a speech, so intellectual, so intense, so theologically intricate, so confusing, that no one knows what he's talking about and can't figure out whether they disagree or not any more.
Wednesday, 16 July, 2008, 09:15 AMRating 3 out of 5 (Fairly platitudinous)
There's something pretty vulgar about newspapers splashing out $11m for pictures of Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie's twins, especially when you're being forced to eek out a humble existence on a Professor of Islamic Studies' salary. Back in the sixties, a human life was worth 69 cents - the cost of its components. But we know that the real cost of a human life is much more than this, what with inflation and everything. You were given life by my Invisible Magic Friend, so your life belongs to him. When you're being judged he's going to want to know all about you. Even your limbs tell a story. 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 if the IMF counts your limbs and there are any missing, you're going to have to answer some pretty tough questions.
Tuesday, 15 July, 2008, 09:28 AMRating 5 out of 5 (Extraordinarily platitudinous)
All the advances in liberalism and toleration have come about through religion, specifically my religion. Sir Jonathon Sacks, the Paramount Rabbi, remarked that when he grew up he never experienced anti-semitism. Now we get lots of anti-semitism. This isn't because he went to a nice, polite, middle class school, but because we used to be a Christian country. The rise in anti-semitism is nothing to do with a particular religion that routinely describes Jews as monkeys and pigs, and that until recently wouldn't even attend Holocaust Memorial Day. Oh no, it's all to do with all you militant secularists who want to ban and oppress we poor believers in the Invisible Magic Friend.
Take that poor defenceless registrar, Lillian Ladele, who's devout faith in the IMF forced her to hate homosexuals. She Liberally and tolerantly refused to perform civil partnership ceremonies. Her militant secularist oppressors very unliberally and intolerantly refused to reorganise their rotas and put in extra hours to work arround her refusal to perform parts of her job. Militant secularists are always being illiberal and intolerant, challenging our right to take charge of all the schools and not letting us control the hospitals and social services. We, pious, devout Christians are illiberally and intolerantly deprived of our undoubted right to speak without opposition. Militant secularists have even been known to demand access to Thought For The Day so that they can pretend that most people can have morality and ethics without us. That's how oppressed we are!
Stop been so bloody illiberal and intolerant and let us get back to telling you how to run your lives.
Monday, 14 July, 2008, 08:15 AMRating 5 out of 5 (Extraordinarily platitudinous)
Pope Obersturmführer Ratzinger thinks global warming is important, therefore it is. But are religious leaders simply jumping on the bandwagon years after everyone else, desperately trying to carve out a moral enclave in what is essentially a scientific and secular issue? No, of course not and here is why. Only those with an Invisible Magic Friend can give any rational motive for providing for the future. Unbelievers may have some vague recourse to utilitarian arguments to justify being nice to this generation or possibly one or two generations of our immediate descendants, but only the religious can think to the long term future. Evolutionary instinct and a desire to contribute to the long term benefit of the Human Project couldn't possibly provide an alternative motive. Of course our debate must include those without an Invisible Magic Friend. Even though they don't know why they're doing it, we'll have to persuade them to look after the Invisible Magic Friend's planet. And it has to be said, some of them do possess a certain amount of scientific knowledge that we have so far been unable to discern through revelation and prayer. Now that the whole area has been commandeered by religious leaders, I think we can expect the quality of debate to improve significantly. Once again, we can thank religion for providing the only real hope for future generations.
Saturday, 12 July, 2008, 07:21 AMI was reading yesterday's Newsline, the NSS' weekly collection of jaw-droppingly stupid religious absurdities, when one of its stories made me sit up and think "Oh, no - here comes trouble".
The Biologist PZ Myers has a superb blog on science and religion. A few days ago he posted an entry on the great cracker controversy. For those who haven't heard about this particular piece of pious insanity, a Florida student went to a Roman Catholic mass at the university. During communion, a priest places a consecrated host, a small flat piece of bread about the size of a penny, in each worshipper's hand. They're then supposed to put the host in their mouth and return to their seats. This student wanted to take his host back to his seat first and show it to a friend who was curious about Catholicism. Others present thought the student had more nefarious plans, presumably intending to kidnap and abuse the terrified host. At this point a scuffle ensued, and in a fit of pique, the student took the host from the church and held it "hostage" in a ziplock bag for a week before returning it to the church.
But this wasn't the end of the matter. Charges were filed with the university authorities by the student, claiming he had been assaulted. The church filed counter charges of causing a disturbance. In the meantime the news had leaked. The student was accused of anti-Catholic hate crime. The usual collection of loving believers' death threats began to arrive.
Into this minor local maelstrom, steps Prof.
Myers. I got progressively more worried as I read his blog entry, hoping against hope that he wasn't going where I thought he was going. In the end he did it - he offered to take a consecrated host and commit cracker-abuse, live on the internet.
Any rational person would, at this point, be curling up in laughter at the shear lunacy of all this, but trust me on this one, this is no laughing matter. When news of this starts to spread, and it will, Prof. Myers could find himself in serious trouble. To understand what all the fuss is about you have to understand Roman Catholic beliefs about the Eucharist. They believe that before the priest consecrates the wafer, it's just a bit of unleavened bread. You can do what you like with it; cover it in jam and feed it to the dog if you like. After a priest has consecrated it, it's no longer bread. It's God. Not a symbol of God, not a memorial of God, not some slightly holier bit of bread in some way connected to God, but the physical incarnation of the omnipresent deity himself. No physical, chemical or biological test will tell you that it's anything other than a bit of bread, but to Catholics, it's Jesus in the flesh. Stealing the host and taking it home to put in a ziplock bag is one of the worst crimes imaginable to a Catholic, far worse than munching it in your mouth, digesting it and excreting it in the usual fashion. After all, what is a defenceless omnipotent bit of bread to do when held captive in a ziplock bag?
Predictably, Myers himself is now receiving death threats. Armed police have been ordered to protect the church where the host was stolen. Increased security has been ordered so that Catholic Republicans at a nearby convention can be protected from the terrors that a middle aged biology professor might inflict upon them. And of course, there are campaigns for Myers' dismissal. It's all getting seriously out of hand very quickly.
Worried as I am about Prof. Myers' safety, what really worried me about his blog entry was what it taught me about me. I was brought up a Catholic, went to a junior seminary, did the daily mass thing, couldn't wait to get to confession after a jack-off to say a few Hail Mary's and become pure again. Yet here I am 30 years later, completely cured of my Catholicism - or so I thought. You see, while reading Myers' blog, I realised that, deep down in my reptile brain, there were neurons firing, screaming "SACRILEGE! SACRILEGE!". Years of worshipping that little bit of bread has left something hardwired in my head that tells me it's holy - sacred, it must be revered and worshipped. My brain is still seriously messed up by whatever mind-virus they implanted when I was a kid. The closest analogy I can think of is alcoholism. You can have 30 years of sobriety, but the pathways laid down when you were young are always there - "Go on, what possible harm could one little drinky do?", except mine are muttering "go on, get on your knees - you know you want to."
That's why I fear for Myers' safety. If I can go 30 years free of my invisible magic friend and still experience a shudder at the thought of desecrating a host, just imagine what the true believers could do.
Friday, 11 July, 2008, 08:01 AMRating 2 out of 5 (A little platitudinous)
Everyone wants to go somewhere hot and sunny for the summer. If you lived in Scotland, wouldn't you? Everyone except my family, who for some bizarre reason have started taking to cricket. This must be part of their Asian ancestry, because no one could accuse the Scots of being the world's greatest cricket fans. Trouble is, I'd rather go on the lazy summer holiday. So as Professor of Islamic Studies and Public Understanding and Director of the Centre for the Study of Islam, University of Glasgow, I've started reminding them that the Koran, like all religious texts, advises compromise and toleration between different creeds, and doesn't say anything at all about killing unbelievers or anything like that. This means they should all compromise by forgoing cricket for a two week summer holiday in the sun with me.
Thursday, 10 July, 2008, 09:35 AMRating 4 out of 5 (Highly platitudinous)
Those pesky scientists are at it again. Now they can make mice produce human sperm. Haven't they seen the movie: The Fly? It's not natural I tell you. Look what happens when scientists go around discovering things - we get global warming. 'Nuff said. If my Invisible Magic Friend had wanted us to learn things he would have given us some intelligence.
It's all women's fault. If Eve hadn't listened to that talking snake and eaten the fruit of the tree of knowledge, we could all be lounging around happily in the Garden of Eden right now. Now we're going to have people running around with giant Mickey Mouse ears and who knows what else. Have these people gone mad? Nature, left to itself, allows all people to live happy, healthy, productive lives, free from disease, hunger or predation. It's time scientists stopped meddling in things I don't understand.
Wednesday, 9 July, 2008, 08:11 AMRating 2 out of 5 (A little platitudinous)
The Church of England is going to let women become bishops. This may seem like a strange and bizarre idea to many, but Jesus, who was the son of my Invisible Magic Friend was a big fan of women. It turns out they were everywhere. Not only that, but whenever there was any work to be done, it was the women that did it. This allowed the men to concentrate on being full time disciples and not have to worry about messy things like preparing food, or cleaning up, or burying messiahs. Until now, the church has largely stuck with this tradition - letting women clean the churches so that men could concentrate on speaking wisely and tending their flock of sheep. Now women are going to be allowed to tend sheep, and clean the churches, prepare the food and do all the generally messy things.
Tuesday, 8 July, 2008, 08:46 AMRating 4 out of 5 (Highly platitudinous)
The Church of England synod has voted by a margin of 2 to 1 to allow bishops to wear stiletto heels. This is a cause of great pain to we, mainly Anglo-Catholic, traditionalists. Our deeply held convictions, based on thoroughly researched theological grounds, holds that Our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ, chose only disciples who wore sandles. He himself only wore sandals. Nowhere in holy scripture is there any depiction of the Godhead, or any of his ordained priesthood, wearing stilettos. It is an established fact that God the Father is a loving father who never wears any form of footwear that has a large pointed heal. How can we remain relevant to the modern world unless we do things exactly the same way as they were done 2,000 years ago, and wearing clothes that were fashionable in the later Roman Empire?
Only by following in the footsteps of Our Lord, and wearing holy, Jesus approved sandals, can we uphold the integrity of the Apostolic Succession. Stiletto wearing clergy have no sacramental legitimacy in our eyes. We have, of course, striven to work in a loving and inclusive way with our brethren of a stiletto persuasion, but to ask orthodox sandal wearers to serve under stilettos is totally unacceptable.
The unwillingness of synod to make any provision for those, who in good conscience, are unable to accept stiletto bishops, to allow roving, super-sandal wearers, is a source of great pain and anguish to us. It is the start of a slippery slope that will lead to bishops wearing Wellington boots, slippers and cross-dressing bishops wearing all sorts of bizarre apparel. We are not making any threats, nor do we wish to behave like close minded, petulant children who get in a humph when they don't get their own way over some ridiculous, medieval, patriarchal tradition. It is a simple matter of fact that many of us feel driven from the church which we love so much, into the hands of the Roman Catholic church which has been steadfast in its opposition to stilettos in any form.
Tuesday, 8 July, 2008, 07:55 AMRating 4 out of 5 (Highly platitudinous)
In one of my many important TV appearances, I pointed out that my Invisible Magic Friend would be angry with all the badness in the world. All over the world there are good people doing good things and bad people doing bad things. To make a bad person do good things takes religion.*
(* Ed. Contrast with Steven Weinberg: "Religion is an insult to human dignity. With or without it you would have good people doing good things and evil people doing evil things. But for good people to do evil things, that takes religion." )