Sunday, 2 October, 2011, 07:50 AM - ClemmiesIn the month that included the tenth anniversary of 911 we (and by "we" I really do mean "we" ) could expect some predictable outings for the "no true Scotsman" argument.
We were not disappointed.
Mona Siddiqui got the ball rolling by pointing out that Islam is the religion of peace, tolerance, understanding, liberty etc. etc. What a pity that the 911 bombers hadn't consulted her in advance about the true meaning of Islam. After all, she's a professor of Islamic Studies and ought to know!
Clifford Longley delivered a similar refrain. He managed to add an extra twist by reminding us that no true 911 remembrance was complete without religion. How could we possibly grieve for the dead or honour the brave without invoking the Invisible Magic Friend?
Rev Angela Tilby took the news about the banks being split up and then went off at a complete tangent to explain how Protestantism was the best religion because it was the only religion endorsed by the Chinese Communist Party. I'd be very interested to hear the opinions of other TFTD presenters on this one.
Lord Jonathan Sacks went on about a Big Jewish Festival and how terribly relevant it is to the situation we find ourselves in today.
Dr Canon Rev Giles Fraser briefly mentioned the execution of Troy Davis before quickly moving on to the much more important issue of the theological significance of Christ's death on the cross. The common misconception that Christ died for our sins is down to a misunderstanding of Christianity. Christ actually died on the cross because... err... well he didn't get around to mentioning that. Taken with his earlier revelation that there is no life after death, I think a lot of Christians will be seriously wondering what their religion is all about.
Rev Dr Dr Prof David Wilkinson took the interesting discovery that neutrinos might be able to travel faster than light and explained that this is exactly the way theology operates: performing experiments, gathering data, testing hypotheses and adjusting theories to match the evidence. Except for not doing any of those things. And he's a Rev Dr Dr Professor, so he ought to know!
Who should take the crown this month? I must say, I'm tempted by Rev Angela Tilby. The way she so proudly hailed Protestantism as the one true religion because it was favoured by the largest, officially Marxist government on the planet, quite took my breath away. For originality alone this is surely a strong contender. Combining this with the splitting of the banks, as if the two subjects had something in common, was quite audacious.
Contrast this with the simplicity of Rev Dr Dr Prof David Wilkinson's message: that theology operates in exactly the same way as science. I wonder what other mutually contradictory thoughts he might hold: that sausages are exactly the same as ice cream, or Tony Blair might be appointed Middle Eastern Peace Envoy?
Much as I'm attracted by Rev Tilby, the clarity, and just plain 100% wrongness of Rev Dr Dr Prof Wilkinson's thought cannot go unrewarded. Sorry Angela, there is no disgrace in coming second to the Prof's masterful, topsy turvy, down the rabbit hole, Disney world of contradiction.
This month's undoubted Clemmie goes to Prof Wilkinson.
Saturday, 1 October, 2011, 08:15 AM - DraperRating 2 out of 5 (A little platitudinous)
Brian here, in Southampton, an associate lecturer at the London Institute for Contemporary Christianity where we envision and equip Christians and their churches for whole-life missionary discipleship in the world, seek to serve them with biblical frameworks, practical resources, training and models so that they flourish as followers of Jesus and grow as whole-life disciplemaking communities. Hi.
There's a big Christian festival coming up. Happy Harvest Weekend everybody!
In a weekend of glorious, unseasonal sunshine (except in Scotland), it's important to count your blessings.
Harvest may mean less than it once did - we can buy fruit and veg any time - but still you should count your blessings.
Andrew Bienkowski's book One Life to Give advises that the road to giving begins by counting your blessings.
Spend just a little time every day counting your blessings.
It's so easy to think about our wants rather than counting our blessings.
We all have breath, life. Most have shelter and a full stomach, so count your blessings.
The Big Book of Magic Stuff says to count your blessings.
So as you sit on your deck chair at the beach this weekend (except in Scotland), remember to count your blessings.
I went to a really nice do at the Guildhall the other day. I got to wear some fancy dress, not quite as good as my normal fancy dress, but pretty fancy all the same.
Now there are a few po faced killjoys out there, who ask awkward questions like, what would a poor carpenter from Nazareth have thought about all this pomp and ceremony? Well obviously he would have approved. You see, despite all the fancy dress, I'm not at all part of the establishment. All this fancy dress is all just part of the church's subversive, radical agenda.
When the rich and the powerful attend a big fancy do like that, they are forced to confront humble ministers of the cloth like myself. They are forced to look me in the eye and say, Giles (they call me Giles on account of the fact that I'm not really a member of the establishment), Giles, you are our conscience. Thanks to you we are accountable to each other and to the Invisible Magic Friend. Accountability does not come through balance of powers and democratic control, but through public displays of faith.
I find myself attending more and more lavish functions, ever more restricted to the country's elite. I don't know what greater proof there could be of my revolutionary credentials.
Yes, I'm quite convinced that if Jesus were alive today, he would have been standing right beside me in the Guildhall a few days ago. Absolutely no doubt about it.
Thursday, 29 September, 2011, 04:02 PM - Not TFTDSorry, there are times when I'm just completely outclassed by another
The Congregation for the Clergy used to handle cases of sex abuse by priests but they turned out to be (even more) incompetent than the Holy Inquisition who deal with them now.
Archangel Michael protects us from the dragon apparently. Archangel Raphael heals the blind - God's holy optometrist. The Archangel Gabriel specialises on knocking on doors and announcing that virgins are about to be knocked up by his boss.
I think all three archangels are to be congratulated. Presumably they started out as ordinary jobbing cherubs and worked their way up to their current exalted position.
"Protect the Pope believes that if Jesus and the Evangelists talked freely and openly about angels,then we should also be as open and free to talk about their importance to our lives."
And Platitude of the Day agrees! We need more articles about angels.
Please - get this guy on TFTD. On second thoughts, maybe not, this site would be out of business - parody would be unnecessary.
Everyone, and I really do mean everyone, is talking about it. It's the greatest event in politics since something really important happened. I'm talking of course about Ted Milliamp's big speech to the Labour Party conference. It was full of such memorable sound bites as... er... well... there was something about business wasn't there?
We all enjoy a good sound bite. How we love to repeat them in daily conversation with our friends. Only the other day I said to a friend of mine "education, education, education." But sometimes sound bites, however clever they may be, can be turned around. There's that hilarious YouTube spoof of David Cameron, whose URL I'm not going to give you.
The New Tasty mint has got some fantastic sound bites of its own - you would expect no less from Jesus, the visible bit of the Invisible Magic Friend. Who can forget his most unforgettable sound bite, that you must be "born again." Just in case you've forgotten, Jesus was speaking to Nicodemus, explaining that spirit gives birth to spirit, the wind blows and he was the truth and the light, thus making everything much clearer.
Some people use the term "born again" as a club membership. They show disdain for those who are not born again. That's not what Jesus meant. They're not proper Christians, real Christians, like me.
I am now about to reveal a startling truth that has never before been revealed by any revelation before. Sound bites, however witty, intelligent or insightful they might be, by themselves, they don't actually change anything.
Except Jesus' sound bites.
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!
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!)
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.
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.
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.