Clifford Longley, a distinguished Catholic gentleman who talks a lot about religion  
Monday, 29 November, 2010, 08:40 AM - Invisible magic stuff, Longley
Rating 5 out of 5 (Extraordinarily platitudinous)

They're at it again, new atheist versus defender of the faith, slogging it out over whether religion is a good thing or not.

They're both completely missing the point. Christianity isn't about helping people. It isn't about mundane human things like health and happiness. Christianity is about invisible magic stuff. It's about getting as many invisible magic bits of people into heaven rather than being condemned to agony, writhing in the sulphurous flames of hell for all eternity.

The Invisible Magic Friend moves in mysterious ways his wonders to perform. This poet was a right poet, the Invisible Magic Friend is mysterious and enigmatic, his ways unknowable to mere mortals. John Milton, on the other, was a wrong poet. He tried to explain the ways of the Invisible Magic Friend in Paradise Lost. Bad Milton, bad. Alexander Pope however was a right poet. He didn't think humans had any business thinking about the ways of invisible magicness. Good Pope, good Pope. All you need to know about invisible magicness is what me and the Catholic Church tell you.

Has anyone mentioned Cardinal Newman recently? As he said "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 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." And he was one of the greatest Catholic thinkers of all time. That's how much more important invisible magic stuff is than helping humanity.

Some of you may think this sounds like insanity. You may think it the kind of reasoning that leads the faithful to fly planes into skyscrapers, but it is in fact all perfectly rational and reasonable to the religious mind.

Who is the better person, the person who follows all the rules of the Invisible Magic Friend to the letter, or the tax collector who asks the Invisible Magic Friend's forgiveness? Clearly this is a far more important question than whether religion is good for us or not.

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Vishvapani (a much nicer name than Simon Blomfield) - I'm ordained you know!  
Saturday, 27 November, 2010, 08:21 AM - Science, Vishvapani
Rating 0 out of 5 (Not platitudinous)

The day may come when identical cows, identical in size, with identical markings, stare at you from their fields. That day came closer yesterday when a scientific advisory committee said that meat and milk from cloned animals were safe.

Public opinion remains resistant to cloning animals for agriculture. There's a deep sense of unease that somehow all living beings should be individuals and that cloning in some way violates this principal.

But where in all the sinews and muscles and genes can we find that essential aspect that defines individuality? Is there a soul? Buddhists would say that human consciousness arises through the same mechanism of stimulation and response that is present in all animals. It follows that animals can suffer and so it is natural for us to be concerned about their well-being. Treating animals as no more than agricultural products instinctively feels wrong.

There seems to be no obvious rational argument against cloning animals, or even people. There is nothing intrinsically wrong with the technology, it's what we do with it that matters.

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Rhidian Brook, writer, celebrity and Christian 
Friday, 26 November, 2010, 08:14 AM - Materialism, Money, Brook
Rating 4 out of 5 (Highly platitudinous)

Has anyone mentioned the happiness index yet?

It's good that the government recognises that there's more to life than having loads of money. In fact, with this government, there had better be, but they're not going to find it easy to measure happiness. It can depend on people's immediate circumstances. If you ask someone who's just stubbed their toe if they're happy, then the reply you get is unlikely to be an unqualified "yes".

I'd just like to mention Aldous Huxley and Woody Allen, because they're the sort of names that middle class intellectuals tend to know about and that's the sort of savvy, hip, celebrity Christian writer that I am.

A good friend of mine likes to entertain us all over the Christmas lunch by treating us to pie charts, graphs and statistics about his year gone by. He uses them to assess how his year has gone and gives it a mark out of ten. Oh the fun just never stops 'round at his place.

A few thousand years ago, the writers of the Big Book of Magic Stuff discovered that true happiness does not depend on money. I'm probably the first person to point this out to you. One of the psalms says you can only be truly happy by trusting the Invisible Magic Friend. Jesus went further and said how really great it was to be poor and downtrodden and how terrible it was to be rich. So if you're having a really rotten life, well done!

And now a quote from one of the good bits of the Big Book of Magic Stuff: Ecclesiastes (we don't quote from Joshua, Deuteronomy or Leviticus - the invisible Magic Friend was in a really grumpy mood when he wrote those bits). God sends you good and bad times - life with it.

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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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