Sunday, 4 September, 2011, 07:33 AM - Clemmies
Not a lot to choose from this month. Must be the holiday season
Shaikh Abdal Hakim Murad went on about Ramadan and how holy it made Muslims.
Rev Rob Marshall managed to squeeze in three separate points.
1. Young people wouldn't go rioting if they were Christian.
2. Isn't Pope Benedict just fantastic?
3. Russell Brand thinks things should be more spiritual.
Any one of these would normally rate a 5 out of 5. To include all three really is a special work of genius.
Rev Roy Jenkins told us how dangerously delusional Anders Breivik was, before explaining the importance of the Invisible Magic Friend.
Respectable efforts by Murad and Jenkins, but Marshall was in a class of his own this month. He walks nonchalantly away with this month's Clemmie.
Sunday, 31 July, 2011, 09:02 AM - ClemmiesLet us begin this month by giving thanks unto the Invisible Magic Friend, who sourceth all platitudes, for the wondrous bounty that he hath bestowed upon us. May we be worthy of the wisdom that thy Holy Department of Religion hath seen fit to deliver unto us.
Ah - men.
Thanks also to you, my faithful flock, for your many comments and for your prayers to sustain me as I attempt the arduous task of selecting this month's winner. In a department store filled with the most exquisite crockery, it is my unenviable task to choose the Holy Grail.
Given the quantity and unusually high quality of this month's offerings, I have decided it will be necessary to apply strict criteria. Each will be marked out of five on originality, profundity, wit, style and the presenter's delivery in evening dress. I want to stress to all the participants that although there can only be one winner, all can stand proud and erect in this orgy of platitudes.
We begin the month with the superb Clifford Longley and his plea, "Won't somebody please think of the children's children's children's children." The Vatican, it appears, is concerned about how the planet will cope with a never ending, exponentially rising population.
A relatively rare contender, Rev Lucy Winkett just wanted to point out that the scandal at News Corporation is all your fault.
In his second contribution this month, Clifford Longley wanted us to know what a nice guy Rupert Murdoch is and how well he gets on with the Pope. News International - nearly as nice as the Catholic Church.
All of our daily platitudes contain a healthy dollop of gibberish, but it takes a special talent to make the entire thing gibberish. Akhandadhi Das began with a short mention of the famine in Africa, before launching into the most splendidly unintelligible gibberish I think I've ever heard. Every sentence was perfectly coherent and beautifully crafted, yet intensely soporific and meaningless in a way that only the eastern mystical tradition can achieve.
In his first contribution this month, Rhidian Brook revealed that all power comes from... oh, let me see where does it come from... I wonder where... oh, yes, I remember, all power comes from the Invisible Magic Friend.
Clifford Longley just kept on going this month. As a Catholic, he just wanted to remind us that guilt works.
In his first contribution this month Joel Edwards pointed out that all morals come from the Invisible Magic Friend. It's an old theme, but when it's expressed in such unembarrassed starkness, I think it deserves a mention.
Rhidian Brook wasn't content in praying to the Invisible Magic Friend for power, he also wants us to pray for "discernment". You see, once you have some discernment you'll have some discernment and then you'll be able to discern things. So there. It's a rather nice example of a particular type of logical fallacy, where someone thinks that knowing the word for something somehow imparts knowledge about the something over and above the word for the something - or something.
Despite fellow Catholic Clifford Longley's three stabs at the prize this month Catherine Pepinster wasn't going to throw in the towel. If it's a choice between a priest revealing child abuse to the police and breaking the seal of the confessional, the priest will never reveal the child abuse (in the finest tradition of the Catholic Church it must be said). On the one hand, we have a young, innocent, human being, at risk from protracted physical and mental harm, and on the other you have a rule of the Catholic Church. I mean, it's a no brainer, isn't it?
Joel Edwards popped in at the end to tell us that the famine isn't the Invisible Magic Friend's fault. It isn't. Nope. It's not his fault. No.
Naturally, it has caused me great strife and tribulation to be forced to choose among these many fine platitudes. Clifford Longley came first in the evening dress category, with three stylish designs that I'm sure that nice Mr. Murdoch would have appreciated. Joel Edwards managed some respectable scores but lost out on originality. Akhandadhi Das sounded the most profound and therefore I'm sure he was, but there was a complete lack of wit and his evening dress was particularly uninspiring. Rhidian Brook was exactly the opposite, charming us with his wit and his style, but failing in the profundity category, due in part to pretty much everything he says being a non-sequitur. Lucy Winkett did well in all categories but somehow was missing that vital spark that makes a truly awful platitude.
That leaves only one other contributor. Yes, the Catholics have done it again. Catherine Pepinster, with her complete callous disregard for the harm to innocents, has shown us once again why the Catholic Church has the position of moral leadership that it has today.
Dare I tempt fate by suggesting that this might be our Platitude Of The Year (POTY). Or is there a TFTD presenter out there who can do better?
Sunday, 3 July, 2011, 12:37 PM - ClemmiesIt's a pretty poor crop this month.
Akhandadhi Das pointed out that there was no scientific explanation for why humans wanted to be free, therefore Hinduism had to be correct.
Roy Jenkins reminded us that beauty is only skin deep and that it's true beauty, real beauty, spiritual beauty that matters.
Richard Harries told us that we're all like the emperor Julian for turning away from Christianity, and like him we're all heading for a bad end because of it.
Anne Atkins thought that care home abuse and the last flight of the space shuttle endeavour both reminded her of Jesus, who was far to busy saving us all to go around healing sick people.
Akhandadhi Das seems to think that just by telling us straight about the sheer fruitloopy wackiness of his religion, that he's going to get the Clemmie automatically. Well I'm sorry, but that's just not good enough. You don't get the Catholics going on about transubstantiation, or the Muslims mentioning Mohammed's magic flight to Jerusalem. I'm not going to devalue the Clemmies by giving it to people who tell us how crazy their religion is. They're all crazy. That sort of thing is too easy. It's laziness and I'm not having it.
Roy Jenkins is only barely a 5, which brings it down to either Anne Atkins or Richard Harries. Of the two, I think Anne's contribution was the more original. Having the sheer gall to say that the space shuttle reminded her of Jesus just goes to show what a really committed religious loony can do. So, I'm sure not for the last time, this month's award goes Old Faithful herself, Anne Atkins.
Sunday, 5 June, 2011, 08:37 AM - Clemmies
Before announcing the May Clemmies, here are a few words from our sponsor, Pope Benedict XVI.
On the forthcoming accession of Croatia to the EU, he said he understood "a fear of an overly strong centralised bureaucracy."
On how women can't be priests but that otherwise there is absolutely no discrimination against women in the Church, "In Rome, for example, there is even a Church where not a single man can be seen in any of the altarpieces." (Light of the World, p.150-151)
With commitments to localism and sexual equality such as these, we once again see the liberal, reforming tendencies of this remarkable Pope. And now onto the main business of the day.
Rhidian Brook got things started by telling us all what a splendid Royal Wedding street party they had and how the Invisible Magic Friend popped in to make it a very solemn occasion.
Abdal Hakim Murad complained bitterly that Osama Bin Laden, a man so well known for respecting others' religious rites, wasn't given a proper Islamic burial.
Giles Fraser revealed what a subversive, radical, dangerous, revolutionary organisation the Church of England is.
Joel Edwards had a bit of a laugh at silly old Harold Camping for trying to predict the date of the second coming using scripture. Scripture quite clearly says that the second coming is going to be a surprise.
Anne Atkins explained how the private lives of doctors who want to preach to people in their surgeries should be respected and how this is yet another example of Christian persecution.
Rob Marshall makes a rare bid for the Clemmies by pointing out how faith sustained people throughout the Balkan conflicts, not to mention causing them.
Anne Atkins on why Jesus is exactly like the Space Shuttle: about to be grounded because we can't afford it any more.
It's very difficult to choose this month. I'm excluding Anne Atkins. If we gave her a Clemmie every time she got 5 out of 5 no one else would ever get a look in. I think she does it deliberately. I'm very tempted to give it to Giles Fraser for the sheer rib tickling hilarity of a subversive Church of England. Similarly, Joel Edwards deserves a mention for his scriptural proof that Harold Camping is a loony. In the end, mainly because we so rarely see him at the Clemmies, I'm awarding this month's prize to Rob Marshall. Well done Rob! I hope I don't need to remind you that James Jones won the 2009 Platitude Of The Year with a very similar thought about how Christianity brought peace to Northern Ireland. So Rob Marshall could very well be in with a chance thanks to this month's contribution.
Sunday, 8 May, 2011, 08:58 AM - ClemmiesThe award of the Clemmies is a time of the month that I always feel is particularly spiritual. I know that all my fellow people of faith out there will join me in praising (in a strictly non-idolatrous fashion) the many valiant contributors to Thought For The Day, who inadvertently do so much to make us laugh until our sides ache every morning.
Clifford Longley continues to excel himself, making an early shot at another Platitude of the Year. This time, he hoped that the revolutions in the Arab world would be inspired by the open, transparent, liberal attitude of the Catholic Church and its role in creating the European Enlightenment.
Lord Sacks quite shamelessly invited everyone to a place of worship, since, as most other routes to social mobility were now closed off, this was the one way you could get to meet and ingratiate yourself with your betters.
Rev Canon Dr Alan Billings gave us the most appalling mish mash of Martin Rees accepting the £1 million Templeton Prize, the importance of sectarian schools, and how of course atheists can be moral but...
Catherine Pepinster revealed that Kate Middleton has suddenly discovered the importance of her Anglican Faith by being confirmed shortly before marrying the future head of said church.
John Bell explained that people need to identify more with their religion in order to eliminate Scottish sectarianism. He forgot to add that we need more guns to eliminate the threat of armed robbery, more politicians to eliminate nepotism and more alcohol to eliminate drunkenness.
Shaikh Abdal Hakim Murad pointed out that science can't explain everything, therefore god exists. This is called "theology".
Lord Sacks expressed the overwhelming joy that we all felt over the Royal Wedding, the completeness that it brought to our lives and how everything in the world is now just perfect.
Shaikh Abdal Hakim Murad's effort, although fully meriting its extraordinarily platitudinousness rating, seemed to me to be such an old god-of-the-gaps argument that it couldn't possibly qualify for something as sacred as a Clemmie. Must try harder Shaikh.
Lord Sacks' Royal Wedding celebration was a fairly typical, "I'm going to the Royal Wedding, isn't it wonderful," type contribution. His "come and worship" to meet your betters entry was certainly original and, if it weren't for some stiff competition this month, would have had a serious chance of winning.
Catherine Pepinster tries hard to emulate her fellow Catholic, but I'm afraid she just wasn't in the same league as Clifford Longley this month. Clifford continues to ably demonstrate why he is the reigning champion. I feel that Clifford was only just pipped at the post this month by John Bell and his recipe to cure sectarianism in Scotland: more religion. Congratulations to Rev John Bell, the winner of this month's holy Clemmie. This is precisely the kind of eye rolling, head revolving, lateral thinking that makes the world what it is today.
Sunday, 3 April, 2011, 10:21 AM - ClemmiesThis has to be one of the most platitudinous months ever. It tailed off a little bit towards the end, but even the BBC's Holy Department of Religion and More Religion can't be expected to maintain the pace of platitudinousness set at the beginning of the month.
Everyone's favourite vicar's wife, Anne Atkins, started the ball rolling with yet another rant about poor persecuted Christians, how the Catholics had to turf all the orphans out into the streets in case they came in contact with a homosexual, and how it was Christians that invented gay rights anyway.
Rev Dr Dr Prof David Wilkinson, the man who gave up astrophysics for theology, claimed that science is a gift from the Invisible Magic Friend.
Rev Grumpy Canon Dr Giles Fraser made the astonishing admission that there is no life after death - something that I'm sure will come as quite a surprise to many Christians. Which made it all the more puzzlingly that he seemed to enjoy watching people die so much.
In her second entry this month, Anne Atkins produced one of her now standard unintelligible mixes of Shakespeare and the Bible. This time it was something about royalty being like Jesus, or something. I think I prefer her when she's just obnoxious.
Catherine Pepinster delivered her pre-prepared musings on the significance of Ash Wednesday, only slightly modified to mention the earthquake and tsunami in Japan, which after all has so much in common with Ash Wednesday.
With his second entry this month Rev Dr Dr Prof David Wilkinson informed us that what the people of Japan really needed after an earthquake, tsunami and nuclear melt down, was a good dose of Christianity.
Then we had Rhidian Brook's remarkable claim that Jesus was the greatest stand up comic of all time and really he was just having a bit of a laugh. Ironically, Brook delivered the whole thing in the kind of dreary monotone that would have made Clement Freud proud.
Brook's contribution has strong competition from Fraser's admission that when we die, we die, and Wilkinson's recipe for restoring disaster ridden Japan, but on the whole, out of this holy trinity, I think Brook just manages to grab the "God the Father" slot and claim this month's Clemmie.
Sunday, 6 March, 2011, 09:08 AM - ClemmiesHas anyone mentioned it's nearly Lent yet? The Mostly Irrelevant and Imminently Eminent Archbishop Vincent Nichols has. He says we, and by we he means you, should return to giving up something for Lent. I have thought hard about this and after much prayer and reflection have decided to follow the good archbishop's advice. I am therefore announcing that, as of Weds 9th March, and for all of the days that follow, until Easter Sunday itself, I will give up listening to Pause For Thought on Radio 2. This shouldn't be too hard as I never listen to it any way. Who knows, this might even become a lifetime habit.
We have three strong contenders for February's Clemmie. I could mention a whole bunch of potential runners up, but I'm not going to as this would have to include Rabbi Lionel Blue and certain people get a bit uppity when I hint at the merest suggestion of a possibility that everyone's favourite Rabbi has been in any way platitudinous.
First out with a 5/5 was Rev Angela Tilby, Vicar of St Bene't's Church, Cambridge. Rev Angela explained that she knew exactly how the protesters in Egypt felt because she suffered a power cut at her local Waitrose. They've got an Invisible Magic Friend which is why they're prepared to get out onto the streets and demand something spiritual.
Next we had the Illustriously Reverend Lord Professor Bishop Baron Reverend Lord Richard Harries, Baron Pentregarth, Gresham Professor of Divinity, Baron, Bishop, Professor, Lord...
God's laws are always the best laws. You may think human laws are OK, but in the end they're just rubbish compared to God's laws.
And finally, Rev Dr Dr Prof David Wilkinson, Principal of St John's College Durham. People of faith have hope, community and health, they flourish in life, are open to change and are so much less selfish than everyone else.
These are all virtues ascribed to people of faith in previous TFTDs. I really don't think just shovelling them all together so blatantly is particularly clever. It certainly shouldn't be encouraged and on this ground I'm going to disqualifying him from this month's award. Besides, he forgot to mention how modest they were.
Lord Professor Bishop Baron Reverend Richard Harries was a fair effort, but really nothing more than average from an academic of such distinction.
So as compensation for the trauma suffered at Waitrose, and in recognition of the fact that she manages to soldier on despite having a church with two apostrophes in its name, this month's Clemmie goes to Rev Angela Tilby, Vicar of St Bene't's Church, Cambridge.
Sunday, 6 March, 2011, 08:59 AM - ClemmiesWe, and by we I mean you, forgot all about last month's Clemmie. Naturally I didn't forget and was just waiting to see if one of you would remind me, which you didn't. I expect you were all just caught up in the excitement of the Platitude of the Year award, which is understandable. I want you all to know that I forgive you.
Rev Dr Giles Fraser, Canon Chancellor of St Paul's Cathedral started things off splendidly. Where do Africans get these bizarre, irrational, superstitious beliefs about witches from? I mean it's like something from the Dark Ages. It's not as if the Big Book of Magic Stuff tells you that you shall not suffer a witch to live or anything. If only people would adopt a sensible religion, like Christianity.
Then there's Shaikh Abdal Hakim Murad, Muslim Chaplain at the University of Cambridge. I'm not sure if Shaikh Abdal Hakim Murad is eligible to be included or not. The first two minutes were an entirely sensible reflection on the teaching of history in our schools. Then in the last minute he completely lost it, telling us that it's all because of the lack of morality and if only people read more from their various Middle Eastern Big Books of Magic Stuff they'd understand a lot more about British history. I'm not entirely sure that he was even being serious. But then I find that with most TFTDs.
Akhandadhi Das, a Vaishnav Hindu teacher and theologian abandoned all attempts at subtlety or moderation. Normally TFTD presenters do their best to hide the more embarrassingly silly bits of their beliefs. Akhandadhi Das was having none of it. The universe is actually a great cosmic computer that adds up all the good and bad Karma, ready for the next life. And if that seems unlikely then just remember that Tesco can add up all your rewards from your grocery bill.
For perhaps the most egregious display of totally ga-ga wooiness ever heard on TFTD, Akhandadhi Das is far and away the worthy winner of the January Clemmie.
Sunday, 23 January, 2011, 09:40 AM - ClemmiesWell, it appears my attempts to introduce a little bit of exotic European excitement into the Platitude of the Year award have failed miserably. There was overwhelming opposition to this uniquely British institution being given to a foreigner. So, sorry Pope Benedict, despite your labelling all atheists as fascists (as we all know, Franco's Spain, Mussolini's Italy, Salazar's Portugal and Hitler's Austria, were all almost entirely populated by atheists), and your attempt to blame virtually everyone in the entire world for the Irish child abuse scandals, we've decided to abide by the norms of Platitude Law on this matter.
In order to maintain the excitement, I shall announce the results in reverse order. In third place, with his theology is beautiful but meaningless contribution, is Rev Dr Giles Fraser, Canon Chancellor of Saint Paul's Cathedral. On a purely personal note, I'd just like to add how much I enjoy Giles Fraser's generally entertaining grumpiness and I hope the therapy is going well.
Second place goes to Bishop Baron Professor Lord Richard Harries. With two Clemmies in 2010, one for the Chilean miners and another pointing out that Christians aren't prejudiced any longer, Bishop Baron Professor Lord Richard Harries shows what can be done when an academic of such distinction is allowed on Thought for the Day.
But there really can be no doubt who this year's winner is. With his gay friendly Catholic Church he was already one of the strongest contenders in the field, but his admiring quote from Cardinal Newman dealt a crushing blow to all other contenders' hopes. Such ruthless deflation of the aspirations of fellow presenters is rarely witnessed on Thought for the Day, but he really has proven himself the master of the art.
With three well deserved Clemmies in 2010, I have no hesitation in announcing that: Clifford Longley, a distinguished Catholic gentleman who talks a lot about religion is our Platitude of the Year winner for 2010.
I hope Mr. Longley will cherish this tasteful and carefully crafted certificate as evidence of our esteem for all his hard work in 2010. He really has set the bar at a very high standard. Surely no one in 2011 can match such supreme skill, such admirable accomplishment, such professional prowess? With over 200 Thoughts for the Day still to come, we can only wait in eager anticipation.
Sunday, 16 January, 2011, 09:24 AM - ClemmiesIt's coming close to the time when a successor will have to be chosen to Right Rev James Jones, Lord Bishop of Liverpool and Bishop of Prisons. As the excitement mounts, the airwaves are ablaze with frenzied, celebrity speculation on who will be deemed worthy to uphold the standard set by the Platitude of the Year 2009 winner.
Unlike last year, there is no physical prize to be awarded. It is a purely spiritual occasion this year, but the award is no less prestigious nonetheless. Indeed, given the frequency with which TFTD presenters admonish our base materialism and uphold the bright, shining, light of spiritual virtue, one could argue that not having a prize is in fact a better prize than having a prize. The things of this world wither and decay, whereas the honour of being Platitude of the Year winner is eternal.
And so, it is time to list the candidates in no particular order. If presenters would care to send in photographs of themselves in evening wear (vestments in the case of clergy) and swim wear (especially Anne Atkins), I would be delighted to add them next to their names below.
John Bell is our most recent Clemmie winner for his single sentence, "The Holy Spirit is not a private poltergeist but a revealer of public truth." Such syntactically splendid gibberish, worthy of Lewis Carol at his best, doesn't just happen by accident. But whereas Lewis Carol's nonsense was inspired genius, TFTD nonsense is quite the opposite. It takes years of training to create a mind so mushy that it can assemble words into something so apparently meaningful.
November saw the superb Clifford Longley at his very best. quoting from Cardinal Newman:
"The Catholic Church holds it better for the Sun and Moon to drop from Heaven, for the earth to fail, and for all the many millions on it to die from starvation in extremest agony Ö than that one soul, I will not say, should be lost, but should commit one single venial sin, should tell one wilful untruth, or should steal one poor farthing without excuse."
A splendid example of how clinically insane the entire Catholic Church is. He also won the September Clemmie with two contributions that were really just part I and part II of the same contribution. Part I explained that everyone agrees with the Catholic Church on just about everything, so why are Catholics so persecuted. Part II admitted that there were a few things that people disagreed with Catholics about and it was all their fault, mainly through being British.
As if two Clemmies aren't enough, Clifford romped home in May with his spectacular claim about how gay friendly the Catholic Church is.
Not to be outdone by her fellow Catholic, 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. Despite a strongly contested month, this was sufficient to take the August Clemmie.
Richard Harries won the October Clemmie on the basis of two good, solid contributions. First, while other presenters were content to simply drop smug hints, our Bishop Baron Professor Lord displayed no such timidity and boldly asserted that it was the Invisible Magic Friend who really saved the Chilean miners. Then, to be absolutely sure of clinching the October award, he threw in a tried and trusted favourite about how much better Britain used to be when it was religious.
But this was not his only win in 2010. In February, with an extraordinary bout of clerical navel gazing, his lordship wondered who the Church might be discriminating against and persecuting today and came up with... no one.
Tom Butler was really the only candidate for the July Clemmie as he pondered why the 7/7 bombers had done it. Why? I mean why? What could possibly drive someone to such rage that they blow themselves up along with a whole bunch of innocent passengers. I mean why?
Akhandadhi Das gets a look in thanks to winning the June Clemmie. He dismissed any possible scientific explanation for loneliness, because scientific explanations just demean and dehumanise things. He had his own explanation: it's because you have an invisible magic bit.
April saw Shaikh Abdal Hakim Murad give us his views of the science of Stephen Hawking. Hawking has warned that we would be wise to stay well clear of those hungry aliens. The good Shaikh pointed out that alien life is totally improbable, and therefore impossible, and therefore the Invisible Magic Friend didit uniquely here on Earth, and what does Stephen Hawking know about science anyway.
March saw a field so strong, that a joint award was made. The Chief Rabbi argued convincingly that religious massacres have nothing to do with religion and are, in fact, evolution's fault. Meanwhile Rev Dr Giles Fraser explained why theology was such a lot of nonsense. Like abstract art, it was because people try to think about it and get answers from it. Theology has its own internal beauty that makes perfect sense as long as you don't think too hard.
His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI is eligible this year thanks to his Christmas Eve contribution. However, that turned out to be just him wishing everyone a Happy Christmas in a slightly creepy German accent. There are no end of other reasons why Pope Benedict should qualify for Platitude of the Year, but he is specifically nominated for his letter of (not) apology to the Irish people for the repeated, systematic abuse of the nation's children. He manages to blame just about everyone: secularists, liberals, homosexuals, the media, the Illuminati, the Irish, everyone but himself and the Catholic Church.
The final contender was our very first winner in 2010. In a classic case of a post rationalised attempt to invent a causal relationship to explain a correlation that doesn't really exist, Rev Angela Tilby explained why the drop in church attendance was responsible for a drop in the number of people voting.
So who will it be? The smart money's on the Catholics this year and there's already a strong bookies' favourite out there. As always I'm open to persuasion, flattery and outright bribery to ensure that your favourite candidate wins.
The winner will be announced next Sunday. In the meantime, if you want to recall some of the other highs, and lows, of the past year, simply browse the "clemmies" category.