I'm Not Ashamed to be a Christian 
Friday, 26 November, 2010, 06:49 AM - Not TFTD
I'm not ashamed to stand up and say, I believe in the Invisible Magic Friend. I do, I do, I do believe. And I believe that he sent a third of himself to be born as Jesus. Obviously his mum had to be a virgin because otherwise she'd have had to do you-know-what and really holy people like her don't do that sort of thing. So another third of the Invisible Magic Friend had to do it instead.

And Jesus grew up and said all sort of holy things about being humble and generous and kind and not harming children and not being rich, although we mostly ignore the last bit because he was obviously talking metaphorically there.

And then Jesus was tortured to death and nailed to a cross to die so that he could be sacrificed to all three bits of the Invisible Magic Friend, including himself, because that was the only way the all powerful Invisible Magic Friend could have a sacrifice suitably acceptable to himself for the sins committed by all of us that he foresaw before he created us.

And this nation was built on Christian foundations. Other nations, that weren't built on Christian foundations, but say on enlightenment values with a separation of church and state and a constitution that enshrines democracy and a separation of powers between the executive, the legislature and the judiciary, well they've just been rubbish and a miserable failure. And Jesus is the only true hope for our nation.

On our website, you will find the same dozen people that we always hold up as examples of poor, downtrodden, persecuted Christians. Persecuted for:

- upholding biblical teachings on the family (i.e. wanting to persecute homosexuals and being prevented by evil secularists);
- wanting special exclusion from uniform codes because we're Christian and we're special;
- wanting to prey pray over people who have repeatedly asked you not to and who obviously don't know what's good for them.

Oh, how we have to suffer!

So don't be ashamed. Please, please, please wear your three foot, flashing neon cross for everyone to see. Make sure everyone can clearly identify you.

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Mona Siddiqui, Professor of Islamic Studies and Public Understanding and Director of the Centre for the Study of Islam, University of Glasgow  
Thursday, 25 November, 2010, 08:36 AM - Gibberish, Morality, Siddiqui
Rating 5 out of 5 (Extraordinarily platitudinous)

I'd just like to mention Her Majesty the Queen, the supreme head of the Church of England, and the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr. Rowan Williams, both of whom said really interesting things to the synod of the Church of England, and both of whom may shortly be drawing up guest lists of important religious leaders and thinkers that they may like to invite to a forthcoming state event.

What's religion for? It's to provide moral clarity. People who don't have a religion, don't have any moral clarity.

I often ask students in my class if they have lost their religion. Some say yes. They say that they didn't want to be bound by the moral clarity of religion and wanted to run around not being moral any more. However, not having the moral clarity of religion, they often speak of a profound sense of loss. As students in an Islamic Studies class, I think these are probably fairly representative of your typical amoral unbeliever.

A famous philosopher, whom I'm sure needs no introduction, lamented that philosophy no longer has any answers. People who want to actually answer things tend to go and study something else. Religion's a bit like that. People get frustrated that religion doesn't seem to have any answers. I mean, it's not like belief in the Invisible Magic Friend gives a strict list of rules about what is right and wrong and what you must do to unbelievers, sinners and so on.

Most unbelievers lose their faith, and therefore their moral clarity, at a time of personal tragedy. Take the example of the New Zealand miners. Some will take great comfort in their belief in an Invisible Magic Friend, but others will tragically lose their faith. With no Invisible Magic Friend to help them, they'll be reduced to seeking solace with their friends and family.

The ones that manage to keep their faith in the Invisible Magic Friend though will remain strong and still have hope in their lives.

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Dr Indarjit Singh, director of the Network of Sikh organisations 
Wednesday, 24 November, 2010, 08:37 AM - Women, Singh
Rating 3 out of 5 (Fairly platitudinous)

Has anyone mentioned the Royal Wedding yet?

In common with all true Brits, we Sikhs share in the delight of the marriage of His Royal Highness Prince William, and her not quite yet Royal Highness, Princess Kate Middleton. We're even more delighted that they've chosen a date so close to the birthday of Guru Nanak.

Oh yes, Guru Nanak - I wasn't going to mention him at all, but seeing as his birthday is so close to the Royal Wedding (that all we true Brits are so excited about and that has brought such joy and meaning to our otherwise dull and pointless lives) I suppose it's OK to briefly mention him. Guru Nanak taught complete equality of the sexes, as indeed did all the gurus - and so did their wives. This is why women have always had complete equality with men in Sikhism. This isn't true of other religions which I'm not going to name. Some religions, which I'm not going to name, treat women as property. Other religions, which I'm also not going to name, don't allow women to lead worship or share fully in religious rituals.

None of this is true of Sikhism. Of course, there are certain cultural traditions that prevent women from undertaking their full role that ideally Sikhism would like, but that's not Sikhism's fault.

In my household I remain the masculine hunter gatherer, bravely steering my loyal supermarket trolley down the aisles, but I also do the washing up and put the clothes out.

Anyway, back to the Royal Wedding that all we true Brits are so looking forward to with such fervent anticipation and unbounded delight. They're getting married in Westminster Abbey. I have many, many happy memories of some fantastic interfaith services in Westminster Abbey that myself and other important religious leaders have attended. It's so very, very big and that's bound to get them off to a long and happy married life. After all, Charles and Diana got married in the splendid setting of Saint Paul's and look how happy their marriage was... er.

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Soberingly Reverend Tom Butler, ex-Lord Bishop of Southwark  
Tuesday, 23 November, 2010, 08:43 AM - Butler
Rating 5 out of 5 (Extraordinarily platitudinous)

I took a little trip down a mine. It wasn't a working mine, obviously, we closed all of them years ago, but it was a mine nevertheless. Cramped and dark, I was glad to get back to the surface and breath some fresh air again, perhaps have a glass or two of sherry.

I think of this when I hear the news of the trapped New Zealand miners. It's too early to say whether the Invisible Magic Friend has chosen to save them yet, as he did with the trapped Chilean miners. We'll just have to keep praying and hope that our prayers work as well as they did last time.

There are different technical challenges to face this time. This may, or may not, make our prayers more, or less effective. We won't know until we find out.

It's at times like this that we realise just how strong our faith is. One of the fathers of the miners said "We've got faith that they're going to come out safe." As he used the word "faith" we can be sure that he meant faith in my particular Invisible Magic Friend.

I'd just like to gratuitously append a mention of Advent, the time before the Invisible Magic Friend comes at Christmas and we all celebrate with just a small drink of sherry. This is a time traditionally associated with trapped miners and so it is quite appropriate to tag it on at the end here.

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Clifford Longley, a distinguished Catholic gentleman who talks a lot about religion 
Monday, 22 November, 2010, 08:47 AM - Sex, Longley
Rating 5 out of 5 (Extraordinarily platitudinous)

Isn't the pope just fantastic? He's actually said something sensible about using condoms. This is a landmark day for the Catholic Church. It's the start of a great tidal wave of change, a sweeping revolution in Catholic thought. From now on, the Catholic Church is going to says sensible things about all sorts of things.

The Pope chose the example of a male prostitute using a condom to prevent passing on HIV infection. Using his massive brain and deep understanding of the Invisible Magic Friend, the Pope was able to authoritatively declare that using a condom might just possibly, conceivably, in certain circumstance, be better than not using a condom. An issue that has had the whole world confused for decades has now had the light of dazzling, papal clarity shone upon it.

Thanks to the Pope, male prostitutes throughout the world will be wearing their condoms with pride this morning, safe in the knowledge that they're on the road to having some morality. For as the Pope has pointed out, this is the beginning of their realisation that they are an inherent moral evil, a greater threat to the planet than global warming and all in all worse than Hitler.

What a bright, shiny new dawn this is for the whole world. Catholics, who for years have completely ignored the Pope's teaching on condoms, who have furtively asked school children to pop into the chemist and buy them a packet, can now stride confidently up to the counter and say in a clear voice, "I wish to buy a packet of condoms, yes, the extra large ones please."

Who says the Catholic Church doesn't move with the times?

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Introducing Papa Benny's Own Brand... 
Sunday, 21 November, 2010, 10:52 AM - Not TFTD
...Vatican condoms (male prostitute strength)*.

Are you an amoral, hedonistic, drug addicted, HIV+ male prostitute? If your answer is "yes" then the Catholic Church has got just the product for you - new Papa Benny's own brand Vatican condoms!

They come in a range of sizes (Big, Really Big and OhMyGawdWhatIsTHAT) and a variety of flavours: strawberry, mint and Benedictine communion wine.

For the more adventurous among you, why not try our variety pack. There's the Bishop's Staff with its multiple ribs for extra sensation and the Mitre Head for those really tight situations (parish priests - you know what I mean ;) ).

But don't worry if you're a more traditional male prostitute. We know that many of you are more conservative in your tastes. For you, we still produce the old, style, one size fits all condom, guilt lined, with instructions in Latin

Every condom is stamped with Papa Benny's personal imprimatur, guaranteeing quality control, and each pack contains penances for a wide range of condom related sins. With Papa Benny's own brand Vatican condoms (male prostitute strength), sinning has never been so much fun!

"Just call me Daddy."

*These condoms are not recommended as a contraceptive device.
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Wow! - I mean, just WOW! 
Sunday, 21 November, 2010, 06:49 AM - Sex, Not TFTD
The Pope has said that condom use isn't always wrong.

I've heard one or two cardinals of the Roman Catholic Church say something similar in the past, that condom use to prevent HIV infection could be regarded as the lesser of two evils, but they were usually slapped down or ignored by the Vatican. It's a different matter entirely with the Pope - like it or not, when he speaks, the Catholic Church listens.

The Pope's comments may be caged in caveats, but the very fact that he is willing to make any concession at all on the issue is a major step forward.

Of course, they'll have to spin it as "the Church has always had a more nuanced view on condom use than was generally recognised by an ill informed and hostile press", but who cares, if that's what it takes to square the Catholic theological circle, then so be it.

What next I wonder? The Pope is, and has always been, a staunch defender of gay marriage. Reports suggesting otherwise represent a complete rewriting of history...

The Pope was recently rated the fifth most powerful person in the world. Statements such as this show why. Hundreds of cardinals and thousands of bishops across the world will now instantly discover that condom use can be a good thing.

Sadly, I doubt if many Catholics will now question the almost absolute power concentrated in the hands of just one man. To Catholics he remains the successor of Saint Peter with a hotline to God. The fact that eating meat on a Friday was a sin a few decades ago, but not a sin now, that limbo existed a few years ago, but doesn't exist now, that condom use was always wrong yesterday but can sometimes be right today - none of these contradictions will cause the faithful to question the unchanging and perfect teaching of the one true faith.

If the Catholic Church were like other human institutions, it would simply adjust to the tide of ongoing events and use a bit of common sense. But it isn't. It regards itself as divine in origin, so to change it's mind on anything is a major upheaval that threatens to undermine it's claims to possess a unique insight into absolute truth. To adjust it's position on the reality of AIDS in just a few decades, is almost lightning fast by RCC standards. It's still a shame it took it so long though. Think how much suffering could have been averted if John-Paul II had said this twenty years ago.

p.s. Read the comments on Damian Thompson's blog. They're hilarious.
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Vishvapani (a much nicer name than Simon Blomfield) - I'm ordained you know! 
Saturday, 20 November, 2010, 08:25 AM - Money, Vishvapani
Rating 2 out of 5 (A little platitudinous)

I was relaxing in Sri Lanka the year before the tsunami that brought so much destruction. The Irish economy is suffering a similar tsunami, except in this case it is not natural, does not involve large amounts of water and could have been prevented if banks and governments had not allowed a property asset bubble to grow out of control using financial derivatives with unknown levels of risk. In all other respects the two are completely identical.

It would be very easy to reflect on the moral aspect of the financial crisis, of greedy property magnates and bankers' bonuses - very easy indeed. So I'm not going to mention anything about greed. You won't even find the word "greed" anywhere in this talk. It's all been said before, no need to go over it all again and again.

What the two disasters have in common is our lack of control, except that in the case of the banks we could have controlled them but just didn't. As a Buddhist, I regard every crisis as an opportunity. What was it about the tsunami and the financial collapse that allowed us to be taken in? As I lay there on the beach in Sri Lanka, why didn't I think to myself, there could be a tsunami here in a year's time?

We like to think of ourselves as independent agents, when we're really just not independent agents. We have unconscious instincts for hope, faith, greed and denial. Many other TFTD presenters will tell you that "faith" is a really good thing, but having faith in bad things can be a bad thing. Do not have faith that there won't be a tsunami or another financial crisis any moment now.

If there is a tsunami, consider your instinct to grab your family and run for the hills as fast as possible. This is an opportunity for self reflection that will give you greater insights into the nature of being and bring you closer to enlightenment, right up to the moment when several tons of water crashes down on you.

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The Chief Rabbi, Lord Jonathan Sacks, Baron Aldgate  
Friday, 19 November, 2010, 08:50 AM - Interfaith, Sacks
Rating 5 out of 5 (Extraordinarily Platitudinous and grovelling)

Happy Inter-Faith week everyone. Yes, it's that jolly time of year again when people of all different faiths come together to discuss how much we have in common and how well we all get along.

But it wasn't always like this. There was a time when some religious people sought to impose their beliefs on others. Thankfully we don't do that sort of thing any more. And I just want to make it clear that it's not because we lack the power to enforce our will in Britain any more. Nor is it because, in an increasingly secular society, we find ourselves forced together to offer each other some crumb of comfort. In fact, even if one of us did come to dominate society as we did in the past, you can rest assured that we wouldn't use that dominance to alter the way things are done. All around the world, where one religion dominates a country, we see models of toleration and liberal values.

When we important religious leaders get together, we can do such fantastic things. A few years ago we got together and said, "Look, there are poor people in the world," something that until then had largely gone unnoticed.

Then there was the year we all went to Auschwitz together and we told the world, "This is really very bad and we don't think this should happen again."

There can be a teeny-weeny tendency for religions to divide people into "them" and "us", perhaps due to us having the true word of the Invisible Magic Friend and them being deluded, heathen unbelievers who stubbornly refuse to recognise the truth. That's why it's so important that we all get together and paper over these minor differences in doctrine.

p.s. I'm not going to mention the Royal Wedding. Inter faith week is far too important to distract you with trivia like that.

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Dr Indarjit Singh, director of the Network of Sikh organisations 
Thursday, 18 November, 2010, 08:12 AM - Materialism, Singh
Rating 5 out of 5 (Extraordinarily Platitudinous and grovelling)

Has anyone mentioned the Royal Wedding yet? It's just the sort of thing we need to make us happier in these dark economic times.

But even the happiness that we feel about the Royal Wedding may not be enough. Most of you probably think that a new car or a new kitchen will bring you life long happiness - Radio 4 listeners tend to be shallow that way. The Prime Minister suspects that this may not be the case. The government's going to look into what makes people happy, and when they find out, they're going to change government policy to make us all happier. He understands that money doesn't make people happy. Having money actually makes people very sad, which is why he's taking so much of it away from people.

I want to tell you about a king who was obsessed with his own problems. He was told they'd all be solved if he spent the night in the shirt of a happy man. He searched the land for such a man but found only tales of his downtrodden subjects, who had real problems in life. Seeing all these problems, he decided to sweep away a hereditary monarchy and found a government elected by and accountable to the people. No, he didn't really do that - he decided to have a nice Royal Wedding to cheer everyone up a bit.

We, and by "we" I mean "you", have become far too selfish and obsessed with our (i.e. "your" ) material wealth. We, i.e. "you", have become greedy and vain and selfish. A Sikh Guru said we should help others. A Christian theologian said something very similar, so I'm forced to conclude that it must be true.

So Radio 4 listeners, I urge you to abandon your hedonistic ways and spare some time to help others. You'll find that it really does make you happier, perhaps even happier than the Royal Wedding makes you.

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