The spending review is almost upon us and in the words of Nick Clegg:
DON'T PANIC! DON'T PANIC!!
In what might be a comforting figure for the government, 60% of the public approve of cutting the deficit. However, 80% don't want any cuts in healthcare, education, defence or pensions. With these forming the bulk of UK public spending, the only large area left is welfare.
It's easy to blame those on benefits, to use them as scapegoats, but it has to be remembered that many are not there through choice. They have often just lost their jobs or are disabled. We can't expect those on welfare to bear the sole burden of the cuts. We all have to take our share, to carry each other's burdens.
It's simply not fair to expect the cuts to fall entirely on someone else.
Mona Siddiqui, Professor of Islamic Studies and Public Understanding and Director of the Centre for the Study of Islam, University of Glasgow
Last month I told you that honour killings are unislamic. Today, I want to inform you that rioting and killing over the potential burning of the Koran by a lone American nutcase, is also unislamic.
Rev Terry Jones (not to be confused with Terry Jones, who is not at all reverend), wants to burn Korans on the anniversary of 9/11. He thinks Islam is the religion of the Invisible Magic Baddy because it doesn't think Jesus is the Invisible Magic Friend. Well, Jesus is not the Invisible Magic Friend. He is not the messiah, he's a very naughty boy. The Koran was not written by the Invisible Magic Baddy, it was written by the Invisible Magic Friend.
So my message to those misguided Muslims who may be thinking about having a good old unislamic riot, is to remember that it's Eid, the end of Ramadan. Chill out. Relax. Pop along to the mosque to hear some soothing words from your friendly neighbourhood imam.
For some reason, Islam has got this reputation in the west, as a violent, intolerant, fanatical religion. I can't think why. So whatever you do, don't feed this irrational stereotype.
So have a really nice weekend, and remember, whatever you do, please, no rioting.
A trainee doctor has complained that, even once she passes her final exams, she won't be ready. The way the European Working Time Directive has been implemented means that she works shifts, with less access to consultants and fewer opportunities to examine patterns of behaviour. It leaves her lacking the confidence to make the big decisions that doctors need to make.
I can understand her position entirely, it's exactly the same with the clergy. There's much more to being an Anglican vicar than studying complex books on invisible magic stuff and then passing the exams. We talk about the "formation" of the clergy, where trainees act as disciples to master clergy, just as they learned their art from more experienced clergy before them.
Being a vicar is as much an art as a science. There's the art of how to draw inappropriate analogies while sounding completely serious and plausible. You have to learn how to continually extract money from people's pockets for the upkeep of the church roof. The weekly chore of the Sunday sermon is no easy task either, trying to sound superficially enthusiastic and inspirational, without actually saying anything at all. Then there are the big decisions to make: shortcake or hot buttered crumpet for tea? What hymns to sing at the daily service?
Yes, I can really sympathise with the rookie doctor first having to face the rough and tumble of the big bad world. It's so much like being a vicar.
There's a big Jewish festival tonight. Happy Jewish New Year everyone! On this day, 13.75 ± 0.17 billion years ago, the Invisible Magic Friend decided to create the universe.
It always makes me smile when simple, uneducated scientists like Stephen Hawking, say we don't need the Invisible Magic Friend to create the universe. For over 2,000 years we had to contend with the problem that the universe itself might be eternal, a view held by no less an authority than Aristotle himself. It was only in the 1960s that science eventually caught up with my religion. That's when Penzias (Jewish) and Wilson (not Jewish) discovered the cosmic microwave background radiation, which, as I'm sure you don't need to be reminded, is a perfect example of Black Body radiation, and is exactly what you would expect if the entire universe had once been in thermal equilibrium, thus proving that it had to have started out extremely small.
Of course science has a way to go before it will be as well established as religion. Look how long religion has been around and look how much it's achieved! When science can match that then we can start taking it a bit more seriously. I mean, nobody celebrates the day that smallpox was eradicated, or radio waves were first produced, or the day Neil Armstrong set foot on the moon - they're just not important in the way religious festivals are.
The reason is that, while science is awfully clever at figuring out how things work, it is religion that gives life meaning. Epicurus, Nietzsche and Weinberg didn't think so but they were of course wrong. I mean, without religion, what's the point of it all? I like to think that the Invisible Magic Friend made it all, therefore he did. I can't prove this, but I don't care.
And before you all go on about how that isn't a very constructive attitude, I'd just like to remind you that every great empire has been and gone (except China) and the Jewish faith is still going strong. We're the Duracell battery of religion.
France has been demonstrating against the expulsion of Roma from within its borders. The EU, UN and the Vatican have all expressed concern. And France is not alone, Italy and Germany have similar plans.
It's in our genes to be wary of those who look or behave differently from ourselves, but in our modern world we have to be wary of such knee jerk reactions. At a Warsaw airport, one sikh businessman was actually told to remove his turban to have it examined. The ignorant Poles clearly did not understand that Sikhs are not Muslims and do not wear exploding turbans. The irony is, that wearing the turban is a symbol of how tolerant we are to both Hindus and Muslims, without actually being either.
When people from across the Commonwealth began to arrive in Britain in the 50s and 60s, there was hostility in many quarters, but traditional British fair play, and laws banning racial discrimination, soon won over the doubters.
As the tenth guru commented, Hindus and Muslims are people too, and do you know, when we looked at them closely, we realised he was right!
Today it is the Roma who are being vilified and expelled. who will it be tomorrow?
The Catholic Church has always been on the side of the poor. You won't find Catholic bishops, cardinals and popes living in fancy palaces, hobnobbing with the rich and powerful, enjoying all the trappings of wealth and status. It has always sided with the people against the state and would never sign concordats with dictators like Mussolini, Hitler or Franco.
In fact, there are a great many things that people would agree with the church about. The trouble is, it has a bit of an image problem. When asked the following questions, people always replied yes.
- Do you think everyone should have a job?
- Do you think people should have the right to join a union and the right to strike?
- Do you think everyone should have food?
- Do you think everyone should have water?
- Do you think everyone should have a roof over their head?
- Do you think investment should be done ethically rather than unethically?
All policies of the Catholic Church! So you see, you really agree with the pope on just about everything. So why does everyone hate the Catholic Church so much? Why are we so persecuted?
Sunday, 5 September, 2010, 10:19 AM - ClemmiesIt's been a splendidly silly Silly Season among our contributors this month. Standards have been exceptionally high. The downside of this superb effort is that thoughts that would normally have sailed home as winning entries find themselves up against some stiff competition.
The Catholics, perhaps in anticipation of the Holy Father's imminent visit to these shores, have put on a particularly fine show. Clifford Longley explained how very secular, and therefore bad, Britain is. Catherine Pepinster was keen to point out that Catholic education is not about indoctrination, but about broadening the mind. Ms. Pepinster had a second go when she lamented all that prehistoric sinfulness.
But the Catholics didn't have the field to themselves by any means. Rev Dr Dr David Wilkinson reminded us all of the pointlessness of existence for non-Christians, and science proves it, so there. Meanwhile, Rt Rev James Jones revealed a little known historical fact about how it was the Church of England that won the Battle of Britain. Not to be outdone, Rev John Bell explained how someone texting during one of the Proms is a sure sign of our civilisation's decline into hedonism, decadence and self absorption.
Then there was our resident, grumpy, middle aged man, Rev Dr Giles Fraser going on about how he hates weddings.
It's a very difficult choice this month, but I think Catherine Pepinster just wins by a gnat's whisker for her enthralling presentation on how open minded and analytical Catholic education is. I'm sure His Holiness will be very proud.
It is my fervent wish that the Protect the Pope website will appreciate this singular honour being awarded to a Catholic this month. It is so important that we people of faith stand together in solidarity at times such as these.
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!