Flabbergastingly Reverend James Jones, Lord Bishop of Liverpool and Bishop of Prisons, Platitude of the Year Winner 2009
BLASPHEMY! BLASPHEMY! IT'S BLASPHEMY I TELL YOU!
I refer of course to those wicked blasphemers, American politicians. They go around, citing the Invisible Magic Friend as approving their policies. Who do they think they are, telling people what the will of the Invisible Magic Friend is? That's our job!
Oh such terrible, terrible blasphemy.
Fifty years ago, the big issue in American politics was that John F. Kennedy was a Catholic. Now it's whether Barack Obama is a Muslim. Nearly a fifth of Americans think he is, rising to a third if you restrict yourself to the Not Entirely Stupid and Selfish Party. Some people think even that party is way too sensible and have started the Completely Stupid and Finally Lost the Plot Party. I discovered all this recently on my bishop's fact finding tour of the United States.
All this despite the fact that the United States constitution requires the separation of church and state. Yet almost every recent president has worn his faith on his sleeve. Here, in the more sensible Great Britain, where our hereditary monarch is the head of the Church of England, politicians are a little more circumspect about religion. Although all agree it is a wonderful thing, they leave the actual preaching to people like me, who are properly qualified to do the job.
The ancient Egyptians believed in life after death. The science of physics is all about investigating life after death. It says so on the doors of the Cavendish Laboratory. I've mentioned this several times before which is why I'm surprised that someone called Stephen Hawking, who clearly has no idea what the purpose of physics is, should dare to contradict me.
At this point, I just want to put an image into your mind by telling you that I love you, that I've reared your children. My lush ruby lips smile when you caress my soft delicate skin, feeling your warm, throbbing heart next to mine.
The Roman poet Virgil believed in an after life. So did the Greek philosopher Plato, as I'm sure all you Radio 4 listeners who shared my wonderful classical education will know.
Just as a passion for me is shared universally, so too is a belief in an afterlife shared by the Egyptians, Greeks and Romans - cultures that never had any contact with one another. Makes you think, doesn't it? If all these people had the same ideas, then there must be something in it, mustn't there? And as if the beliefs of all these great cultures gone past weren't enough, I believe in the afterlife. How much more evidence do you need?
And what if, and I stress the word "if", some one had raised himself from the dead? Don't you think that the Aramaic speaking witnesses of this momentous event, would immediately wait for Paul of Tarsus, who didn't witness it, to tramp around the Roman Empire for a couple of decades, drudging out endless dreary letters about it before getting some one else who didn't witness it to write it all down in Greek?
Billions of people believe that Jesus rose from the dead. If you don't agree with them, as many other billions don't, then you just don't understand the nature of empirical evidence.
Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert’s “Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear” saw tens of thousands of people express a desire to see a return to a more measured discourse in American politics. We can disagree with our opponents without demonising them.
This reminds me of religion. We have to keep our discussion of religion sane and rational and level headed. There are people out there who express their religion through hatred, burning Korans or attacking others' sexuality. I'd just like you to know that these aren't mainstream Christians. They're just the wacko, off message, lunatic fringe. They're not proper Christians, like me.
There are even people out there who actually mock religion, I can't think why.
Saint John's Gospel, generally agreed to be one of the very best Gospels, says that Jesus was really nice. You can trust Jesus and proper followers of him, like me. There have been some really good Christians, like Martin Luther King, and me.
I had a debate with lots of agnostics, humanists, Muslims and Christians about whether God existed or not. It was a really nice debate, where everyone was really nice to each other. And the great thing about that debate was that I certainly haven't changed my mind.
The clocks go back tonight, ushering in the dark nights.
The Celtic festival of Samhuinn gets celebrated tomorrow. Pagans will light fires and cast spells to prevent evil spirits from crossing between worlds on the day when the border between them is at its thinnest. They do this to protect us all from what lurks on the other side and also because they get to dance around naked together in the woods.
This has led to our modern festival of Halloween, or "All Hallows Eve" as it is more properly called. I have no problem with "Halloween", no problem at all. Doesn't bother me in the least. In fact, it bothers me so little, that I don't even know why I'm mentioning that it doesn't bother me.
So, unbothered as I am, let's move on to discuss the end of summer and the approach of winter, the passing of the light and the descent into darkness, of good and evil, of justice and the opposite of justice, of this world and the next world, of these really, really, deep spiritual questions that have haunted mankind since before the incarnation of the Invisible Magic Friend that definitely happened, of mystery and faith, of the souls of our ancestors and our ancestors' ancestors, of all kinds of mystical, magical woo-woo sort of stuff.
This is precisely the kind of thing that Jesus and John were talking about.
Alternatively, it might just be that the tilt of the earth's axis means that the northern hemisphere now points away from the sun.
Glitteringly Reverend Lord Professor Bishop Baron Reverend Lord Richard Harries, Baron Pentregarth, Gresham Professor of Divinity, Baron, Bishop, Professor, Lord...
Isn't Britain just awful! Everywhere you look, bribery and corruption, in the police, the courts, the NHS, in local and national government. You just can't get anything done these days without a brown envelope stuffed full of wads of cash. Even the cost of getting on Thought For The Day has gone up from "Bless you my child," to an entire evensong of prayer for the editor's eternal soul.
How did we get to this dire state? Once upon a time, in the good old days of public probity and private conscience, people had religion, specifically they had my religion. This is what gave people morals in the past. Of course, Anglican's don't have a monopoly on morality, Jews have some too. They believe you can be good or bad and the climate you find yourself in can push you one way or the other. And how do we get that moral climate? By having lots of religion. A quick glance at the table of the least and most corrupt countries tells you all you need to know, with fiercely Christian Denmark the least corrupt, and atheist riddled, secular Somalia at the bottom.
Of course, I'm not saying that it's completely impossible to be moral without religion. I'm just mostly saying that.
And I'm not the only one saying this you know. Tony Judt said so too. His book starts with the line "It's all gone down hill from the good old days. Life just gets worse and worse and worse, and kids don't respect adults like they did in my day. It's all just terrible..."
A famous German sociologist, Jürgen Habermas says it too in his recent book, "In the good old days, when there was religion, everybody was moral and there wasn't all this murdering and thieving and dishonesty and badness that we get today."
We saw it in the financial catastrophe, where you all ignored the Church's teachings on the proper capital requirements necessary to underpin the risk associated with Collateralized Debt Obligations. That kind of complete financial collapse could never happen in the good old days when people had religion.
The solution to all these terrible problems is to have more religion. That usually makes things better.
WE HAVE HEARD THE MOST WONDERFUL STORIES OF HUMAN COURAGE AND FAITH FROM THE 7/7 INQUEST. YET THIS CANNOT OVERCOME THE CARNAGE AND HORROR OF THE BOMBINGS THEMSELVES, AN ACT OF PURE EVIL COMMITTED BY RELIGIOUS MANIACS THAT THOUGHT THEY WERE GOING TO HEAVEN. I MYSELF HAVE FOUND MYSELF IN A TUBE TUNNEL, STOPPED AT A SET OF LIGHTS, WONDERING WHICH OF THESE MANY BROWN PEOPLE MIGHT BE A CRAZED RELIGIOUS FANATIC.
NOW, WITH THE THREAT OF MUMBAI STYLE ATTACKS IN THE UK, WE HAVE POLICE BEING ARMED AND TRAINED BY THE SAS. IT REMINDS ME OF SOME OF THE LESS CIVILISED PARTS OF THE WORLD WHERE PAPA USED TO WORK.
WITH ALL THIS EVIL LURKING IN THE WORLD IT IS ENOUGH TO MAKE YOU WANT TO SCREAM. BUT YOU MUST NOT SCREAM. YOU MUST FACE EVIL AS JESUS, WHO WAS THE INVISIBLE MAGIC FRIEND, FACED EVIL. FOR EVIL TO PROSPER ALL IT TAKES IS FOR GOOD PEOPLE TO DO NOTHING. SO TO OVERCOME EVIL YOU MUST DO GOOD, DO GOOD, DO GOOD I TELL YOU!
THERE'S THE FAMOUS STORY OF SAINT FRANCIS DE SALES, WHICH I'M SURE NEEDS NO RECOUNTING SO I SHALL NOT TELL IT TO YOU.
WE ARE ALL AFRAID OF DEATH. EVEN THOSE OF US WHO LEAD GOOD, HOLY LIVES, DO NOT WISH TO JOIN THE INVISIBLE MAGIC FRIEND IN ETERNAL HAPPINESS. YOU COULD DIE ANY MOMENT NOW, SO MAKE SURE YOU ALWAYS DO GOOD FOR YOU DO NOT KNOW THE DAY OR THE HOUR.
AS SAINT PAUL SO ELOQUENTLY PUT IT, EVEN THOUGH YOU JUST WANT TO SCREAM AT ALL THIS EVIL, DO NOT BE AFRAID. DO GOOD! DO GOOD! DO GOOD!
Naomi Klein wrote a very good book called No Logo - available from all good bookshops and online retailers.
The book analyses the various stages of product advertising.
1. It's intrinsic usefulness.
2. The virtue of the manufacturer.
3. The endorsement of a famous person.
4. How the product will improve your quality of life.
It seems politics is following the same route, especially with regard to stage three and especially in the United States. Politics is championed by media personalities, notably Jon Stewart and Glenn Beck. This doesn't seem to be happening so much over here, but I'll warn you Radio 4 listeners of the dangers of it anyway.
DO NOT CHOOSE YOUR POLITICAL PARTY ON THE BASIS 0F WHICH CELEBRITIES ENDORSE IT.
I cannot emphasise this enough. That is not a good way to decide who to vote for.
There's no direct support for this view in the Big Book of Magic Stuff. For some reason, it doesn't seem to have much to say in the areas of democracy and political accountability, but it's notable that Jesus did not employ celebrity endorsement of his product. He didn't even hand out promotional materials based around the biggest media celebrity of the time, John the Baptist. There were no billboard advertisements saying, "Try the new, improved Judaism. Washes your brain even cleaner. As recommended by the late John the Baptist."
I think it's fair to say therefore that Jesus would have approved of me telling to vote on the basis of policies and ideals.
Tuesday, 26 October, 2010, 07:35 AM - AtkinsRating ? out of 5 (Don't know - I have no idea what she was on about)
There's too much information about nowadays.
Have I mentioned sex yet? I do know how my listeners like to hear me talk about sex. Should young people be taught about sex? Yes of course they should be taught about sex, but only if it's done properly. Sex should be taught using the tried and trusted Anne Atkins method of teaching sex.
Nothing gets taught properly nowadays, and I include sex in that. People keep going on about facts these days. Facts are all very well but there's really no point in giving all these facts to people who aren't equipped to understand them. What's the point of giving children facts about sex without teaching them properly about sex?
Jesus didn't go on about facts, or about sex. He certainly didn't want anyone to know about him. He told everyone to keep his many miracles and thoughtful insights secret. He told them not to tell anyone he was the second lump of the Invisible Magic Friend. It's thanks to his disciples' fear of disobeying the Invisible Magic Friend that they didn't tell anyone and Christianity remained a small secretive sect within Judaism.
You'll learn far more from one good classic Jane Austin novel than any number of copies of the New York Times with all it's pages full of facts.
What you people don't seem to understand is that for everything there is a season.
I'd just like to add the word "believe".
Monday, 25 October, 2010, 08:08 AM - Not TFTDRichard Dawkins is suing Josh Timonen.
From reading the papers filed at court, it looks as if Timonen has been paying himself and his partner a salary out of the website company's sales, in addition to the money paid by the Richard Dawkins Foundation directly. In fact, it looks like about 90% of the turnover has been going to Timonen.
There's an awful lot of mention of "oral contracts" in the filing, which I really wouldn't have expected between a charity and a company contracted to do work for it. It will be interesting to hear Timonen's side of the story when this comes to court.
Watch out for all the comments about how you'd never get a Christian or a Muslim or a whatever committing fraud, tax evasion, embezzlement...
After all the hoo-ha over the changes to the RDFRS website and the loss of the discussion forums, Timonen probably ranks somewhere close to the Pope in terms of atheist bogey men. This could get nasty.
http://scienceblogs.com/pharyngula/2010 ... imonen.php
http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world ... 15632.html