Thursday, 16 September, 2010, 08:33 AMRating 4 out of 5 (Highly platitudinous)
Has anyone mentioned the Pope's visit yet? Some bloke, from something that's not really a religion, dressed as a priest, was on about it earlier but he doesn't count. Good job I was around then.
So just to fill you in about a few details. Today the Pope will meet the Queen. This is a historic occasion because it is the first time the Pope has met the Queen. It's also a historic occasion because we've had a lot of history in the past.
It all started in the 4th century when the Roman Empire, including Britain, became Christian. Then things went down hill a bit after that but started to pick up again in the 7th century. Out of politeness we won't mention the 16th century, when all those not really religions got started.
Then came the 19th century, when a Catholic came here and made the country much better. He turned John Henry Newman from being a follower of the not really a religion into a proper person by making him a Catholic. Newman realised that the Pope was the holiest person on the planet, and not the Archbishop of Canterbury as he had previously, mistakenly, thought.
But what exactly is it about religious people, and by that I mean the whole Catholic Church, that makes us so much better than everyone else? Well, we have friends and family and a sense of community. This is what people who go around asking for rational arguments and evidence of the immaculate conception just don't understand. Unlike them, we have a heart.
Has anyone mentioned the Pope's visit yet? I'll be getting to meet him you know? In order to understand how tremendously important this is for the Pope and me, I'll need to delve into a little bit of history.
First of all there was the Jewish faith, the original, and some would say best of the Abrahamic religions. Then came a kind of spin off, call "Christianity". It had three people who were all the same Invisible Magic Friend. The Christians thought their faith was a lot better than the Jewish one and couldn't understand why we didn't want to join it, so they decided to persecute us for a couple of millennia to see if they could change our minds.
Then came another spin off: Islam. They went back to just having one person as the Invisible Magic Friend. They thought their faith was a lot better than either Christianity or Judaism. They called themselves the religion of peace and invaded anyone who didn't agree with them.
Then there was the Holocaust. That hasn't been mentioned for a while, so I thought I better just bring that up. During the holocaust, one of the really nice Catholics helped a lot of Jews. He went on to become Pope John XXIII. You mustn't confuse him with the previous Pope John XXIII, who wasn't a nice man at all. Although the previous Pope John XXIII was really only Pope John XXII, since there had been no Pope John XX due to Pope John XIV also selfishly becoming Pope John XV.
Pope John XXIII (the nice one) decided to have a big meeting of bishops who came to the conclusion that the Catholic Church should be a bit more modern and nice. And so, after 2,000 years of persecuting the Jews, the Catholic Church concluded that Jews probably weren't going to change their minds after all and maybe it'd be best just to leave them alone.
There's a big Jewish festival coming up. Yon Kipper is the Jewish Day of Atonement and it starts just when myself and other important faith leaders get to meet the Pope. Isn't that Just great? We're all friends now, which just goes to show how fantastic and really, really relevant, religion is today.
Shaunton Harold Church, built by Baronet (hic!) Sherbert, hash got thish plaque: "It wash the besht of times, it wash the worsht of times."
Iran ish shertainly going through the worsht of (hic!) times. S'jusht terrible! There'sh shtoning, 'n hanging, 'n no laughing 'n no weird hair dos. Thish ish what happensh when you've got a bunch o' religious nuttersh in charge.
Sho why ish the British Museum loaning them the Shyrush shilinder? S'only the shecond time we've loaned it to them shince we took it from them. It'sh because of it'sh massage of hop: "Me, Cyrus, I'm brilliant and the last guy was rubbish."
Shyrus was a really great guy, 'cos he let the Jewsh go back and rebuild their temple. Sho maybe today'sh Iranian ruler'sh 'll do the shame. (hic!)
Has anybody mentioned the Pope's visit to Britain yet? No? Well it's about time somebody did.
Whether his visit will be a success or not is not currently known. For some unknown reason, the British public have yet to realise what a wonderful, warm, charismatic man Pope Benedict XVI actually is.
This is all the fault of the British people. British people have a deep psychological problem that can be seen in their irrational distrust and fear of Catholicism. We Catholics are used to this persecution of course. It's just another cross that we poor Catholics have to bear. Quite why the British people are so distrustful of a male only, strictly hierarchical, undemocratic, homophobic, misogynistic, secretive organisation that breeds a fanatical devotion to its leader so strong that its clergy would rather cover up child abuse than admit scandal, is beyond me.
Then there's Islam. What have people got against Islam, the religion of peace? It's exactly the same as the hysterical, prejudice and bigotry that we Catholics have to suffer. No wonder the Catholic Church so often sides with the Organisation of Islamic Countries at the UN.
Why can't people just judge us by the evidence?
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?