Aren't interfaith groups just fantastic? It all started during World War II when the Archbishop of Canterbury suddenly had this incredible revelation: why don't we stop killing Jews? Killing Jews, or simply just exiling them, torturing them or forcing them to become Christians, had been a bit of a Christian pastime for the previous 2,000 years. Now that the Nazis were killing Jews in their millions, the Archbishop and a previous Big Chief Rabbi decided enough was enough.
Since then there have been no end of interfaith groups, as people of different faiths try to overcome the religious differences that set them apart from one another in the first place. There are literally thousands of interfaith groups, interfaith meetings (with some very pleasant buffet lunches) and interfaith initiatives. Believe me, I know, I'm being invited to enough of them. They have been so enormously successful that they continue to be needed, thus ensuring a secure supply of buffet lunches for Chief Rabbis and other faith leaders well into the future.
Let me give you an example. A Synagogue in Swansea was vandalised and desecrated. I can't imagine who would want to do such a thing. I mean it's not as if there are any religions left, after all these interfaith meetings, who've still got a grudge against the Jews. Anyway, some people from one of the other nice religions helped us fix it all up again, so that I could reconsecrate it to our particular version of the Invisible Magic Friend.
The interfaith industry: one sector of our economy that looks set to endure for a very long time to come.
Saturday, 12 November, 2011, 08:13 AM - JenkinsRating 3 out of 5 (Fairly platitudinous)
London 2012 has apologised for airbrushing HMS Belfast from its posters. "It was entirely accidental," said an official. "We accidentally opened Photoshop, then accidentally removed HMS Belfast, accidentally replacing it with a perfect image of the background buildings and the waterfront. This was then accidentally blown up to poster size and accidentally posted all around London. It's the kind of accident that could accidentally happen to anyone."
But, aren't we all capable of airbrushing out groups of people? Haven't we all, from time to time, purged our politburo of inconvenient voices so that we could rule as sole dictator? Immoral as it may be to ignore or eliminate our enemies, what's really important here is that what we do them, we do to the Invisible Magic Friend. That's right, you're being rotten to the Invisible Magic Friend! Now, don't you feel bad?
I'd just like to end with Oliver Cromwell, to complete that whole, HMS Belfast, Stalin, Invisible Magic Friend, Cromwell thing.
From Norwich, it's the bishop of the week, Bombastically Reverend Graham James, Lord Bishop of Norwich
It's Armistice day today. Lots of people will observe the two minutes silence at 11 o'clock: at home, in the office, at the supermarket, on the train, in cafés, shops and restaurants, in car parks, at airports, in police and fire stations, in hospitals, in libraries, in bowling alleys, at sports grounds and many, many other places too.
The two minutes silence was invented by Edward Honey, except he called it a five minutes silence. It was reinvented by Percy Fitzpatrick, who decided that a two minutes silence would be better if it was called a two minutes silence. George V, who was the head of the British Empire at the time, thought this was a really good idea.
Quiet people are usually very nice people. Monks are quiet and they're really nice. Who ever heard of a monk doing anything bad? Jesus was really nice too and I can't recall him ever saying anything at all.
So, wherever you may be when you observe the two minutes silence today, just think how much nicer it could have been if we'd had a five minutes silence.
OK, so a major European economy is about to go down the pan. What's the big deal? I mean, it's not as if it's going to push the world into recession, make millions of people unemployed, crash the financial system, and destroy investments and pensions, is it? Does it really matter if your bank goes insolvent tomorrow and you lose all your savings?
It's about time we let those who are too big to fail, fail. I mean look what happened when Lehman Brothers failed. It's not like the stock market crashed to half its value, and those forced to buy annuities ended up getting half the pension they expected. Even if it did, those pensioners are all rich and powerful and they deserve it.
Time and time again, big things fail and it doesn't really cause that much harm. Look at the Roman Empire, can you honestly, honestly sit there and tell me that any one was worse off because of the fall of the Roman Empire? See what I mean? Look at me, I'm a celebrity Christian writer and I'm doing OK.
This fetish for big economies, big banks and big ships like the Titanic, is something that we, and by "we" I do of course mean "you", seem to hold as an irrational belief. I can only conclude that you are all utterly delusional.
Which brings me to the Tower of Babel, which definitely existed. This is the story of how people worked together in harmony to do something constructive. Not being irrational or delusional myself, I am able to inform you that the Invisible Magic Friend intervened. "I'm not having this," he said. "That tower's nearly twenty stories tall. You'll be up here with me in the clouds soon. You've got no business with all this evil bigness, that's my job. I'm going to confuse and scatter you so that you'll mistrust each other and have frequent wars."
Now some people think this was a negative, petty, spiteful thing for the Invisible Magic Friend to do, but it's really all just part of the Invisible Magic Friend's 10,000 year plan which I'm not going to tell you about.
What we need are not things that are too big to fail but things that are too populist sounding and trite to fail.
Walessss intendssss to introduce a sssystem of presumed consent for organ donation.
I've never needed an organ to sssave my life. Nor hasss anyone that I have loved. However, I can imagine exactly what it isss like. The waiting and waiting and waiting and waiting and waiting and waiting and waiting. Thisss, together with my closenesss to the Invisible Magic Friend, putsss me in the ideal position to lecture you on the sssubject.
The sssoulsss of the dead may have departed and left the body, but the body remainsss for the loved onesss who are left behind. A dead sssquirrel, like a dead baby or my own mother, deservesss a decent burial. That isss even more important than sssaving a life.
Those of you with a classical education like myself, will no doubt recall the frightening, terrifying ssstory of Hector. I need sssay no more.
Why doesss the Invisible Magic Friend not help? Isss it because he doesss not exist? No. The Invisible Magic Friend givesss usss all a choice of when to die. Those who die because of a shortage of organ donorsss chose to do ssso. Death never comesss sssuddenly or unexpectedly as a certain foolish Rev Dr ssaid the other day. Thisss isss why the Church hasss alwaysss sssupported those who wish to end a life of sssuffering when they choose.
The ssstate ssshould not presume to take a dead person'sss organsss. It takesss away their freedom of choice.
Shaikh Abdal Hakim Murad, Muslim Chaplain Cambridge University (the Shaikh formerly known as Tim Winter)
Those clever scientists have discovered African migration to Britain over 40,000 years ago. What this shows is that, even in the dim and distant past, foreigners were coming over here and taking our jobs.
But before you get too angry with all these illegal workers, just keep in mind that all our families had to come here once. So in fact, even we British are foreigners. Xenophobia and hard right attitudes are on the rise across Europe, although thankfully they remain confined to the lunatic fringe here in the UK.
Mecca, where most of you cannot go, was founded by Abraham's son Ishmael. We know this because immigration records have been remarkably well kept in Arabia for the last 3,000 years or so. Abraham prayed to the Invisible Magic Friend that Ishmael would receive a warm welcome from the locals and he did. Most of the human race, would get rather a different welcome if they tried to visit Mecca today. You could of course pray to the Invisible Magic Friend to keep you safe, but bear in mind that the Invisible Magic Friend doesn't always grant everything that you pray for.
Let's hope that Europe continues to give the kind of welcome that ancient Meccans gave to those from a different background, and not the kind that modern Meccans are likely to give.
The crash on the M5 on Friday killed seven and injured 51 others. Anyone who regularly uses the motorways may well shiver with fear at memories of their own near misses or incidents they may have been involved with. It reminds us just how instantly our lives can be changed by unexpected events.
But it's not just motorway crashes that you should be afraid of. On this dark and gloomy November morning, let us remind ourselves that there are no end of ways in which our lives can be made irredeemably miserable. Your cherished partner, the love of your life, could desert you at any moment. You might get to work this morning, only to find the redundancy notice waiting for you. You could be diagnosed with terminal cancer on your next visit to the doctor. You could be about to retire when a stock market crash destroys your annuity and condemns you to an old age of abject poverty. An earthquake could destroy your home and your possessions, killing your children and burying your beloved grandmother under a hundred tons of rubble. Nuclear Armageddon, with the destruction of our entire civilisation, might be only around the corner. The Invisible Magic Friend could visit no end of horrors upon you on the merest whim.
It is at times like these that we clutch to our cherished memories: a photograph, a small memento or keepsake, a statue of the visible bit of the Invisible Magic Friend being horribly crucified for your sake, or a reading from the Big Book of Magic Stuff.
Religion: the one small comfort we have for when the Invisible Magic Friend comes to visit.
Sunday, 6 November, 2011, 03:03 PM - ClemmiesWe only have one candidate this month. The only wise sage to make a pitch for the top award, was Rev Dr Dr Joel Edwards, who lambasted secular society for failing to keep up with the Church's enlightened views towards women.
I'm not really sure if he should get an award when the others were obviously just not trying. What do people think? Should he get the October Clemmie by default? Or should I just roll this month's award forward?
I have a feeling November is going to be a lot better with Anne Atkins and Rhidian Brook already scoring fives.
Rev Dr Dr Joel Edwards is hereby awarded the October Clemmie. My heartiest congratulations to the good Rev.
It isn't easy being a priest. You can't just pick the nice bits from the Big Book of Magic Stuff. You'll doubtless recall all the stories of genocide, barbaric punishments, enslavement, religious absolutism and misogyny that were regularly read out in church when you were young.
Imagine my horror, yes Horror, when I was asked to read Luke chapter 6, blessed are the poor and woe to the rich. My heart sank as I realised that I would be forced, forced I tell you, to preach about precisely the issue I had resigned over.
I'd like to use the metaphor of tectonic plates to describe the predicament of Saint Paul's and the street protests. It lets me use phrases like "fault line", which conjures up images of unimaginable forces and sounds all sort of grand and sciency. It puts theology on a par with geology and makes it sound as if theology actually has something to contribute to the debate about human inequality. These are much more compelling images than one gets from words like "confused", "irrelevant" and "hypocritical" when one thinks of the wider Church of England's response to the protests.
I'm not against capitalism, at least not any more. Anti-capitalists are just that, they are "anti" without having an alternative. The Church isn't like that. Unlike anti-capitalists we are against vast inequality, against rampant materialism, against poverty and suffering. But we are not just against them, we are for whatever the opposite might be, without getting into any specific solutions to complex economic questions.
In a very real and definite sense, the Church believes that it would be nice if everything were better.
Great Uncle Dr Lord Indarjit Singh JP, CBE, Baron Wimbledon, Director of the Network of Sikh Organisations
Isn't the financial crisis just terrible? This is far and away the worst financial crisis for at least three years. But what can we, and by "we" I do of course mean "you", do about it?
Well you can all start being a lot less selfish for a start. It's selfishness and greed that has caused all of this, and not the fact that the Greek government consistently massaged its economic statistics to hide a huge, growing, government debt.
Capitalism relies on man exploiting man, whereas communism does it the other way around. Wise words indeed. Words that should be heeded and acted upon. If only you had listened to such words in the first place then you wouldn't have got us all into this mess.
Mr. Jesus, surname Christ, who was not the visible bit of the Invisible Magic Friend, told a story about a rich man and a needle. Jesus Christ was nearly as wise as a guru. Incidentally, there's a big Sikh festival coming up. Happy Guru Nanak's nearly birthday everyone! Guru Nanak gave a rich man a needle. In fact, all the great religions have rich men and needle stories. It's a mark of how truth permeates all great religions, and even not so great ones. Atheists don't seem to have any stories about needles, or even about sowing in general, which just goes to show how rubbish they are.
Anyway, back to you being selfish. What you need to do is be a bit more generous, particularly to people less fortunate than yourself. I cannot emphasise this enough. Do not, I repeat do not, start being more generous to people who are more fortunate than you. The wisdom of religion teaches us that it would be better to help those who are less fortunate than you. Helping people who are equally fortunate is optional.
You can start helping the less fortunate immediately. If you have several hundred billion Euros that you don't need, why not give them to Greece?