It's the big religious news story of the week. According to Stephen Hawking, the universe doesn't need the Invisible Magic Friend. And I thought he was one of the nice scientists.
Professor Hawking is, of course, a very intelligent person. Very intelligent indeed, no doubt about that. Far be it from me to pour scorn on such an intelligent person's theory, but he doesn't really answer the fundamental question, why does the universe exist? Obviously there has to be a reason. I mean it stands to reason, doesn't it? Why something rather than nothing? Eh? Eh? Obviously nothing is much more likely than something. Answer me that Mr. clever clogs physicist.
Anyway, I'm not bothered about all that stuff. I don't really care how the Invisible Magic Friend created everything, I just know that he exists because I have a relationship with him. It's all very well being rational and demanding logical explanations for things, but I have the Invisible Magic Friend in my head and that's real enough for me.
Friday, 3 September, 2010, 08:18 AM - Not TFTDThere is what seems to be a very fair and balanced review of the Protest The Pope Debate in Conway Hall a few days ago over at the New Humanist blog. By all accounts it was a pretty rowdy affair.
One little phrase in that posting particularly caught my attention. According to Paul Sims, Austen Ivereigh claimed that the Catholic Church stood up for gay rights around the world.
What? What?? WHAT??? Run that past me again?
Friday, 3 September, 2010, 07:45 AM - JenkinsRating 4 out of 5 (Highly platitudinous)
The trapped Chilean miners enjoyed their first hot meal the other day. Welcome as I'm sure it was, they will need more than just bodily sustenance to keep them alive: they will need hope.
Obviously, I don't waste my time listening to Thought For The Day myself, which is why I'm completely unaware whether anyone else has already said exactly the same thing. Fortunately, the miners are likely to remain trapped for months to come, giving many more presenters ample opportunity to repeat the message. Who knows what joys and tragedies lie ahead - a heaven sent opportunity to dwell on metaphors surrounding faith, hope, companionship, love and the human spirit.
The miners' spirits have been further lifted by the arrival of 33 miniature bibles, complete with magnifying glasses, bolstering their faith that the Invisible Magic Friend will eventually release them unharmed (not that it was the Invisible Magic Friend who put them there in the first place). They'll be hoping that the Invisible Magic Friend will be working hard at the surface to drill their escape holes, hoping that his drill bits don't break too often and that he'll continue to pass down food and fresh water to them.
Isn't the Invisible Magic Friend just great!
Thursday, 2 September, 2010, 08:02 AM - FraserRating 2 out of 5 (A little platitudinous)
Did you know Tony Blair's autobiography came out yesterday?
Speaking of autobiographies, let's talk about Christianity. Christians invented autobiographies with the Confessions of Saint Augustine. So it's a good job we were around, otherwise we wouldn't have had the 700+ pages of sizzling revelations from Tony. In his confessions, Augustine confessed that, unusually for a young man, he had been addicted to sex, but then he became a saint and got cured.
Nowadays, daytime TV is full of spicy stories, like "I raised your son for 2 years and now your saying another man is the dad!" or "Ex, Prove your son is mine, then stop texting me for sex!" Not that I spend my time watching daytime TV. I'm far too busy Canon Chancelloring for that. Just think, if it hadn't been for Christianity, you might never have had daytime TV!
Rousseau did an autobiography too, but Freud didn't. One day you'll all have to, in front of Jesus, confessing all your little foibles to the great chat show host in the sky. Just think, several billion Jeremy Kyle shows back to back, then you might get sent to hell.
Wallopingly Reverend James Jones, Lord Bishop of Liverpool and Bishop of Prisons, Platitude of the Year Winner 2009
A few weeks ago, you'll recall how I commemorated the Battle of Britain by explaining the crucial role that the Church of England played in defeating the Nazi menace. Today, I want to illustrate how the pen is mightier than the sword, by explaining the crucial role that words played in defeating the Nazi menace.
Saint John's gospel, one of the very best gospels, even says the Word is the Invisible Magic Friend and if that isn't a ringing endorsement of words then I don't know what is.
Hitler and Churchill both knew the power of words. As panzer tanks pushed their way through the Ardennes, they fired volley after volley of postcards containing the phrase "Ein Volk, ein Reich, ein Führer." But the allies would have their revenge. As the tide of the war turned, bomber command mercilessly carpet bombed Hamburg with witty aphorisms by Oscar Wilde. Berlin was worn down by the pithy epithets of Somerset Maugham, and in perhaps the most shameful episode of the war, Noel Coward and C.S. Lewis were both unleashed against Dresden.
Meanwhile, the French underground secretly read copies of Proust's "À la recherche du temps perdu" in bistros throughout the country. Never one for the subtle approach, the Soviet Union dropped millions of single volume copies of War and Peace, which, falling from a height of several thousand feet, proved deadly.
So you see, in the battle to crush the monstrous tyranny of Nazism, it was the words wot won it.
Tuesday, 31 August, 2010, 07:09 AM - SinghRating 3 out of 5 (Fairly platitudinous)
Eric Pickles wants to reduce unneccessary street clutter.
Which brings me onto the subject of religion. Sometimes religions get all cluttered up by rituals, forms of dress, irrelevant ceremonies and all sorts of useless, pointless ceremonial. Indeed some people seem to think that's all there is to a religion, as if, when you strip it all away, there'd be nothing of any significance left.
You'll probably be very surprised to discover that a Sikh Guru had something to say about this. "We've got to get rid of all this religious clutter," said Guru Arjan Dev. "What we need is a Sikh holy book. I'm sure there's enough Sikh writings by now to fill one up. Pad it out with some Hindu and Muslim stuff if you have to, but only the nice bits."
Unfortunately, Guru Arjan created a book that was so holy, that Sikhs started inventing all sorts of rules about it.
If only we could strip away all this clutter and get back to the bare ethical minimum, just like Eric Pickles.
Are we a religious or a secular country? The two are of course mutually exclusive because "secular" means "atheist" and we all know how awful atheism is. As a test, let me ask you if your joy at the birth of David and Samantha Cameron's new baby daughter is religious joy or secular joy? Some may think that that's a totally meaningless question, but the two are clearly distinguishable from one another. People who are religiously joyful are just so much better than those who are secularly joyful.
The Mostly Irrelevant and Imminently Eminent Archbishop of Westminster, Vincent Nichols, thinks the country is a lot less secular than it seems. "There's still an awful lot of faith about," he said. As we all know "secular" means "banning all faith so that nobody has any or is allowed to practise it any more". I just wish to emphasise this over and over again, faith = good, secular = BAD. All other TFTD presenters agree with me on this, so it must be true.
An official in the Roman Catholic Church told me that, from Rome, Britain looks like a very secular place. Brits very rarely seem to do what the Pope tells them to. Sometimes they even criticise what the Holy Father says - the cheek of it! Yes, definitely very secular looking and therefore BAD.
I mean, just look what England's got for an established Church? Far be it from me to have a laugh at another Christian denomination, but come on, the C of E is just a joke. It's worse than their football team.
It's a good job the Reichsführer will be coming personally to sort us all out in a few weeks time. He'll soon point out how secular and BAD we are and what we really need is for him to take charge. After all, look what a wonderful job he's done in charge of the Catholic Church?
A poet in Victorian England lamented the dreadful secularism of his age. Just think how awful it would be if no one had a religious faith amy more, i.e. we lived in a secular society. Remember, secular = BAD.
Saturday, 28 August, 2010, 07:45 AM - MarshallRating 3 out of 5 (Fairly platitudinous)
Happy Bank Holiday weekend everybody! Yes, it's time to have a break, enjoy the Bank Holiday traffic jams and the traditional Bank Holiday weather. Time to put up the cassock and take some time off from my hectic schedule of Anglican Priesting.
Prior to 1834, British Banks observed 33 saints days and religious festivals. But then it was decided that the British worker might not actually be celebrating religion and might just be using the time off as an excuse to be lazy and not generate the profits that their industrial masters so richly deserved - so the number of holidays was reduced from 33 to 4.
Henry Youngman once remarked that he gave up any thought of becoming an atheist because they didn't have any holidays. Then there's the well known joke that Jesus was born on a Bank Holiday, died on a Bank Holiday and is therefore likely to return on a Bank Holiday - so keep a lookout this Monday.
On the more serious side though, has anyone ever pointed out that it was Judaism (a kind of not quite right Christianity) that invented holidays? It says so, right there in the Big Book of Magic Stuff Part 1. The Invisible Magic Friend is always telling people to have some time off work and spend a bit of time worshipping him instead. This usually involved sacrificing some flour, wine or animals that the priests would make good use of. We know this because the priests told us that the LORD said so.
If the LORD hadn't told us this it would just be work, work, work all the time and no one would ever have thought to have regular breaks. No one would have realised that a healthy work-life balance was important in life. So it's a jolly good job we were around.
Today's subject is: fraternity. We are all brothers, not just the Millibands but all of us. We see this in the high moral stance taken by the Pope against the French Roma expulsion.
"We are all brothers," he said morally, "except queers, they're an inherent moral evil and a greater threat to the planet than global warming. You boy, bring me my nice shiny red shoes and that lovely white cassock with the gold thread embroidery."
Yes that is the message of Christianity, all are equal, whatever race or gender. Of course women can't have magic powers like men can, so they can't be priests, or bishops or vote for who can become pope, but apart from that we're all totally equal. The early Christians shared all their goods and rejected personal possessions. Obviously we don't do that nowadays. People who do that are called communists and they're very bad. The last pope repeatedly warned us about their badness.
So in conclusion we are all brothers, even those who are sisters.
And no, I'm not going to mention the cover up of the priest who was in the IRA.
Thursday, 26 August, 2010, 07:41 AM - FraserRating 3 out of 5 (Fairly platitudinous)
It's the Dark Side of theology. A side by which, in my younger and more foolish days, I was almost seduced. Like many naive young people, I was attracted to the idea of Christianity seeking to promote equality and eliminate poverty. Now that I've matured, am a Rev Dr Canon Chancellor at one the world's great cathedrals, regularly hobnobbing with the biggest nobs in the establishment, I clearly see the dangers of Liberation Theology. Funny how you get more right wing as you get older.
Did Liberation Theology influence Father James Chesney, a priest from a different version of Christianity than mine? No one knows but let's just proceed on the assumption that it did. At least one Catholic was taken in by this Marxist Theology, so it's quite possible they all were. The wicked deeds of Father Chesney were suitably punished by Cardinal William Conway, by the traditional sanction of hushing it all up and moving him to a different parish.
The founders of Liberation Theology would've been horrified by the idea of car bombs being used against innocent civilians. They were fighting against fascist dictatorships, so the Vatican soon put a stop to that.
I'm shaken by just how close I came to being a revolutionary communist firebrand, driven by a, wrong, Catholic theology. If I'd followed that path I might never have got to hobnob with anyone.
This just goes to show the awesome responsibility that lies in the hands of theologians. Such power must be wielded carefully.