The Big Chief Rabbi, Lord Jonathan Sacks, Baron Aldgate  
Wednesday, 28 September, 2011, 07:14 AM - Economics, Sacks
Rating 4 out of 5 (Highly platitudinous)

It's big Jewish festival time - happy Jewish New Year everyone!

Last week I explained how Jewish New Year was about Rupert Murdoch saying "sorry" and always has been. This week I'm going to explain how the Jewish New Year is about solving the Euro economic crisis, and always has been. The Crisis in the Euro, or "Euro crisis" as we economic experts call it, is the biggest crisis in world financial stability since the previous crisis.

The solution to the economic crisis is obvious - don't have one in the first place. You can achieve this by blowing a ram's horn for ten days every year. This tells the Invisible Magic Friend that you've read Nietzsche and are therefore worthy of forgiveness. We know, as an absolute proven fact, as certain as the existence of the Invisible Magic Friend himself, that he will forgive you. Of course sometimes he doesn't forgive you and condemns you for eternity, or throws an enormous divine wobbly and extinguishes all life on earth, but on the whole he's quite a forgiving Invisible Magic Friend.

So, all you spendthrift, sinning, irresponsible liars, it's time to get on your knees and start blowing that horn.

And that is how to solve the Greek debt crisis and reduce Italian government borrowing interest rates.

Happy Jewish New Year everybody!

8 comments ( 1313 views )   |  permalink   |   ( 3.3 / 355 )

Soberingly Reverend Tom Butler, ex-Lord Bishop of Southwark 
Tuesday, 27 September, 2011, 07:40 AM - Gibberish, Politics, Butler
Rating 4 out of 5 (Highly platitudinous)

Ish it me? (Hic!) Am I on? Yesh, yesh it ish me.

Polilicians! They love to talk. They talk and talk and talk and (Hic!) and talk. Sheems like they jusht never shtop talking. Today it's whotsisname? You know, the one that isn't David, the other Millipede brother. He's gonna set out his grand new plan, his bright (Hic!) shiny vision of the future. I mean take electionsh. (Hic!) Alright, I'll grant you, eleshuns are important. That'sh when we want to hear polithicians, but do they have to go on, and on, and on all the time in between erections?

Why can't they be more like we clergy? (Hic!) I mean you don't hear us prattling on all the time. You don't hear us pouring out endless streamsh ('Scuse me!) streamsh of vacuous nonsense, do you? Lot of hot air, that'sh what it ish!

Here'sh a reading from the nice book in the Big Book of (Hic!) Magic Shtuff, the one we like to quote.

There'sh a time for thish and a time for that,
And a time for a bit of the other.
My wordsh are not daft,
My sermon'sh a craft,
The shyllables come one after the other. (Hic!)

God, what a mess the world's in. I am so depressed. Maybe a little sherry will help. (Hic!)

8 comments ( 962 views )   |  permalink   |   ( 3 / 258 )

Rev Dr Dr Prof David Wilkinson, Principal of St John's College Durham 
Monday, 26 September, 2011, 07:44 AM - Science, Wilkinson
Rating 5 out of 5 (Extraordinarily platitudinous)

The OPERA experiment at CERN seems to have detected neutrinos travelling slightly faster than the speed of light. If true then this will overturn one of the foundations of physics, Einstein's Theory of Relativity. One physicist has even promised to eat his boxer shorts live on TV if it turns out to be true.

But this is how science works. We perform experiments, gather data, consolidate the data using theory, make predictions and do the whole cycle over and over again. Theory is developed using skill, judgement and intuition. Which is exactly like faith, isn't it? Michael Polanyi as good as said so. He was a Christian you know?

So what about the Invisible Magic Friend? Well, science is no good at telling you about the Invisible Magic Friend because he's invisible and magic. Theologians explore invisible magic things in exactly the same way as scientists do with visible not-magic things, apart from not doing experiments, not collecting data, not having to restrict our theories to being consistent with the data (because there isn't any), but in every other respect it's exactly the same.

21 comments ( 905 views )   |  permalink   |   ( 4.1 / 995 )

I Don't Understand Quantum Field Theory - Part I 
Sunday, 25 September, 2011, 10:40 AM - Science, Not TFTD
It's not for the want of trying. Over the past couple of years I've purchased the following shelf full of books on the subject.

I was able to read a couple of chapters of most of them before getting lost. In some I barely managed a couple of pages. This is despite the fact that they all have their followers on Amazon who assured me that this was the book for beginners. The writing was simple, clear, direct and accessible to anyone with even the flimsiest of familiarity with basic physics. Only a completely dumb idiot could fail to understand the subject after reading this book.

I have managed to (nearly) finish one of them: Gauge Theories in Particle Physics, Volume I by Aitchison and Hey. It's taken me over a year. I've compiled a collection of notes almost as big as the book itself. One chapter alone took me over four months to get through, largely because I realised I had to reread the start of the book, and the relevant sections from several other books as well. As if that wasn't embarrassing enough, the title of the chapter begins with the word "Elementary." The authors are at pains to point out that Vol I is the easy bit and that things get much harder in Vol II.

So, partly to show off, partly to organise my thoughts and partly to pass on what little I've learned, I thought I'd try writing some of this stuff down on this blog. If I write anything that seems to contradict what real physicists say, then believe the real physicist.

17 comments ( 737 views )   |  permalink   |   ( 3 / 362 )

Rev Rob Marshall, an Anglican Priest  
Saturday, 24 September, 2011, 07:25 AM - Gibberish, Marshall
Rating 3 out of 5 (Fairly platitudinous)

People use emails. To say things. To each other. MPs use them too. And other things, like Facebook. To communicate. To say things to people. People like to communicate. Communication didn't just evolve, or anything, to like, communicate, or stuff. It's a gift. From the Invisible Magic Friend. People communicate electronically. And in other ways. Sometimes not electronically. Although there's a lot of it about. Sometimes I meet with people. We talk. We communicate. Not electronically. Although sometimes we do. Some of them have families. Some have careers. Some have families and careers. And they communicate, just like I'm doing now. As a famous person whom you've never heard of said, "Yes."

Er... That's it really.


11 comments ( 665 views )   |  permalink   |   ( 3 / 367 )

Rev Dr Giles Fraser, Grumpy Canon Chancellor of St Paul's Cathedral  
Friday, 23 September, 2011, 07:44 AM - Theology, Fraser
Rating 5 out of 5 (Extraordinarily platitudinous)

After 22 years in prison, Troy Davis was executed for the murder of off duty police officer Mark MacPhail. There are all sorts of issues to explore here: why did most of the witnesses withdraw their testimonies, why was there no forensic evidence, is 22 years in prison sufficient punishment? Is the man who was executed the same man of 22 years ago? What about the huge imbalance of black men on death row?

I'm not going to explore any of those. I'm going to talk about the visible bit of the Invisible Magic Friend. Why did Jesus have to be sacrificed on the cross? I'm sure this is the pressing question that everyone desperately needs an answer to this morning. As a Rev Dr, let me just assure you that it was not, I repeat not as retribution for the sins of mankind. This is a common misconception, often held by those who don't properly understand Christian theology. In fact, we've known since Martin Luther that if there was any justice in this world, we, and by "we" I do of course mean "you", would all be condemned to eternal misery.

Fortunately, Christian theology teaches that Jesus, whom you'll recall was the visible bit of the Invisible Magic Friend, is loving and merciful and forgives you. Which just goes to prove, yet again, how fantastically useful theology is.

As William Shakespeare's lesser known brother Archie famously said, "Couldst thou spareth not an schilling, dear brother Bill?"

As to why Jesus had to die? That's just too theologically complex to go into at the moment. Don't forget to tune in next time for some more vitally important Christian theology.

9 comments ( 785 views )   |  permalink   |   ( 3.3 / 557 )

Reverend Rosemary Lain-Priestley, Dean of Women's Ministry in central London  
Thursday, 22 September, 2011, 07:59 AM - Justice and mercy, Priestley
Rating 3 out of 5 (Fairly platitudinous)

John Murray made a promise to WPC Yvonne Fletcher, as she lay dying from gunshot wounds fired from the Libyan embassy in London. He promised that those responsible would be brought to justice. It has taken 27 years, but now, with the new Libyan regime in place, he is the closest he has ever been to fulfilling that promise. To do it, he must place his trust in strangers.

This is a bit like Saint Paul joining the early Christians, except that Saint Paul wasn't a stranger to them, and he was changing sides from being a persecutor to one of them, which isn't happening here, and this is about fulfilling a promise, which didn't happen in the case of Saint Paul, but I think you can see that otherwise it's exactly the same, which is why it's so helpful in understanding the otherwise inexplicable story of Yvonne Fletcher.

3 comments ( 1050 views )   |  permalink   |   ( 3 / 310 )

The Big Chief Rabbi, Lord Jonathan Sacks, Baron Aldgate  
Wednesday, 21 September, 2011, 07:15 AM - Be nice, Sacks
Rating 5 out of 5 (Extraordinarily platitudinous)

When Rupert Murdoch says "sorry", he really says "sorry". Now, with some recent news out of the way, let's not bother mentioning it from now on.

There's a big Jewish festival coming up. Happy Jewish New Year everybody!

Last year, Jewish New Year was all about scientists not being as clever as theologians. The year before that it was all about blowing rams' horns. The year before that it was all about the markets. And the year before that it was all about how religious rituals make me such a nice guy.

Jewish New Year is all about saying "sorry", and it always has been. If only we could be sorry, I mean really, really sorry for all the bad things we've done, if only people could forgive us for all the bad things we've done - just think what a nice world it would be.

This is what Judaism and Christianity (but not another well known Abrahamic religion) have brought to the world: saying sorry and forgiving. Before Judaism and Christianity (but not another well known Abrahamic religion), people didn't say sorry or forgive one another.

Wouldn't it be great if we could all just get along!

10 comments ( 1262 views )   |  permalink   |   ( 3.8 / 563 )

Rhidian Brook, writer, celebrity and Christian  
Tuesday, 20 September, 2011, 07:40 AM - Money, Brook
Rating 4 out of 5 (Highly platitudinous)

Very few of us are rich, and by "us" I do of course mean "me". As a celebrity Christian writer, I am gradually becoming ever more fabulously wealthy. Naturally, I'm inclined to give all this wealth to the poor but I prefer not to. It's the job of the tax system to do that. If you can't be bothered to elect people to take the money from me then I really don't see why I should bother myself with you.

You can argue all you like over the 50% tax rate. It doesn't matter to me. You see I have a secret weapon, I have an accountant. Thanks to my accountant, I will always be able to find ways of hoarding my money that are eligible for tax relief.

As I sat at the harvest festival celebration I thought to myself, people used to share out the fruit of their labours. What a good idea. Wouldn't it be nice if people still did that? Yes, that would be really nice. A bit socialist, but nice all the same. I'm sure I'd do that if I were a farmer. Unfortunately I'm not a farmer, so I'll be moving my money from a savings account to a portfolio of investments that attract a more favourable rate of Capital Gains tax.

Jesus himself, whom you'll recall was the visible bit of the Invisible Magic Friend, had wise words for farmers, "Don't hoard your grain - share it out."

As far as I recall, Jesus didn't do any parables about tax avoidance, which presumably means its OK.

5 comments ( 1118 views )   |  permalink   |   ( 3 / 188 )

Rev Dr Dr Prof David Wilkinson, Principal of St John's College Durham 
Monday, 19 September, 2011, 07:11 AM - Science, Wilkinson
Rating 4 out of 5 (Highly platitudinous)

The planet Kepler 16b orbits two suns, just like George Lucas predicted in Star Wars. It makes you wonder whether there's intellegient life somewhere up in space.

Hundreds of extra-solar planets have been found now, many be the Kepler space telescope. When their atmospheres have been examined we'll be able to tell whether some of them might support life. What effect will this have on religion?

Absolutely none is the answer. We'll go on saying exactly the same stuff as we've always done. You see, the Invisible Magic Friend didn't make the universe just for our benefit. Christians don't believe that. No Christian has ever said that. The Christian Church has always believed in extra-solar planets and has always been very nice to anyone who wanted to talk about them.

You can trust me on this. I started out as an astrophysicist you know, before abandoning it for the far more interesting career as a theologian. Kepler was a Christian himself, which just goes to show how right Christianity must be, although he also believed in astrology, which is wrong, so you can ignore that belief.

15 comments ( 1326 views )   |  permalink   |   ( 3.4 / 318 )

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