Impressively Reverend Lord Professor Bishop Baron Reverend Lord Richard Harries, Baron Pentregarth, Gresham Professor of Divinity, Baron, Bishop, Professor, Lord...
Life's a bitch. Jesus said so, and even more significantly, so has President Obama. Jesus said it again. Soldiers in Afghanistan and their relatives certainly say so. Jesus said so again.
I'd just like to include a totally spurious reference to euthanasia at this point.
A novelist said that life's a bitch too. There's a hymn that says it. There's even a poem that says it.
So in conclusion, life's a bitch and that's why you need an Invisible Magic Friend to pray to.
Mona Siddiqui, Professor of Islamic Studies and Public Understanding and Director of the Centre for the Study of Islam, University of Glasgow
Wednesday, 2 December, 2009, 08:43 AM - SiddiquiRating 3 out of 5 (Fairly platitudinous)
Many Muslims will be returning from their pilgrimage to Mecca (which you're not allowed to visit) spiritually renewed. They will have heard the inspiring sounds of the call to prayer from the Kaba Mosque (which you're not allowed to hear). "The Invisible Magic Friend is Great and really needs you to come and worship Him!" It is a beautiful, unthreatening sound. That's why it comes as such a shock to find that the Swiss have voted to ban them. If only the Swiss were a bit more open minded, like the government of Saudi Arabia.
Islam and Christianity, of which I'm sure most of you are one or the other, have had their little friendly rivalries in the past, but on the whole they've mostly got on rather well. This minaret ban is a bit of a setback - the result of fear and stereotyping of those who are a different religion from you. As a member of a religion that is currently in the minority, I'd like to plead for a bit more religious toleration.
Tuesday, 1 December, 2009, 08:21 AM - BillingsRating 3 out of 5 (Fairly platitudinous)
Should we lock up young offenders and throw away the key, or should we never lock them up at all? Obviously we need to consult my Big Book of Magic Stuff to find out which. Jesus, the visible bit of my Invisible Magic Friend, was a big fan of children at a time when no one else had really spotted they were around. This suggests that being nice to children is a good thing, something that I will bear in mind as I expound my thesis on the subject. I heard about a letter once from a youth's grandmother who extolled the benefits of him being locked up. "Best things that ever happened to him. He was a lazy, wild, no good little blighter when he went in there. They soon taught him a thing or two. Taught 'im a lesson that did."
As I think this anecdote clearly demonstrates, some young people find structure, discipline and purpose in their lives when they are locked up. Something that many of them previously lacked. So as the festive season approaches, let us all consider the true meaning of Christmas. As we celebrate the birth of the infant visible bit of my Invisible Magic Friend, I'd like to invite all Radio 4 listeners who would normally be mean, selfish and cruel to children, to please, please think of the children. Remember, locking one up this Christmas, could be the best thing you ever do.
Monday, 30 November, 2009, 08:40 AM - BellRating 3 out of 5 (Fairly platitudinous)
I had a really nice Holiday in Vietnam. I don't know anyone from Vietnam, don't know anyone who'd ever been to Vietnam so I decided to go there alone to see what it was like. I was soon approached by some charming young boys who really were very friendly indeed, despite them not having an Invisible Magic Friend. They all looked much younger than they claimed to be and seemed very keen to strike up a conversation with me. We talked in English which, it turns out, is of benefit in advancing them in their chosen careers. One asked me to sing to him, which I gladly did and he responded in kind by singing a beautiful song back to me.
I was so glad I had trusted these young boys. Without that trust across cultures and generations, I would have lost out on one of the most delightful experiences of my visit.
It reminds me of Advent, which for those of you who do not believe in the Christian Invisible Magic Friend, begins today. Let's not get carried away with all the little trinkets and games associated with the season. We mustn't forget the true meaning of Advent. The Invisible Magic Friend trusted us with his visible bit who, as soon as he was grown up enough and opened his mouth, we had tortured to death.
What with the Iraq war enquiry, and hospital enquiries and this, that and the other enquiries, everyone wants to hold someone to account. It's all very vulgar and democratic - self righteous victims or bereaved relatives demanding to know who is responsible. I certainly prefer the far more civilised approach of me telling you things and you just listening, with none of this irritating criticism.
"Judge not, lest ye be judged - by me that is, 'cos I'm God," said Jesus. You'd better be careful going around condemning someone as holy as Saint Tony of Bliar. You too could end up being condemned for the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people that you killed in good faith.
We're starting Advent, where we Christians pulse with hope, palpitate with anticipation, throb with eagerness. We roll out stock phrases like feed the hungry, clothe the poor and sort the sheep from the goats. We look forward to the return of Jesus, who hasn't returned in any of the previous 2,000 Christmases, so there's a fair chance this year will be it. Isn't that something to look forward to? A whole four weeks of us telling you all about the true meaning of Christmas and its deep spiritual connection with the Iraq war enquiry.
Saturday, 28 November, 2009, 06:43 AM - Not TFTDRating 5 out of 5 (Extraordinarily platitudinous)
In a striking reversal of received wisdom, it has finally been proved (by a professor of economics no less) that segregating children on the basis of their parents' Invisible Magic Friend is the best way to build strong community cohesion. This should be obvious to all sane, rational people, but now we have the evidence to back it up.
The Reverend Janina Ainsworth, chief education officer for the Church of England, explained. "Ofsted inspectors rated far more faith schools as having properly written action plans for community cohesion. Some of the faith schools even put part of their plans into action!"
Piers St-John Avery, headmaster of Saint Charles' Church of England School in Wiltshire, illustrated how his school contributes to inter community relations. "Once a month, we take the 3rd form boys to some godforsaken inner city estate, where they play a game of football with a whole bunch of brown kids from the wrong religion. This way they get to meet people from all sorts of backgrounds that we don't let into our school. We tried the same thing with the girls at netball but the ones in the jilbabs kept tripping up and falling over."
Professor David Jesson says, "This finding runs completely counter to those who say sectarian schools are 'divisive'. This is clearly not supported by the Ofsted inspection evidence. With this solid statistical result, I now hope we can get rid of the few remaining mixed faith schools in Northern Ireland which have done so much to promote sectarian bitterness in that troubled province."
Reverend Ainsworth concluded, "Mixed schools are just rubbish at building community cohesion. How can they possibly extend a friendly hand to other races and other religions when they're all mixed up in the first place? They haven't even got to the stage of creating divisions yet, much less started to overcome them. It's madness I tell you, complete madness! No wonder Ofsted rates them so poorly. By contrast, our high Ofsted score clearly vindicates this sensible and progressive policy."
A U.S. court has ruled that a bank was being harsh when demanding mortgage payments from someone who couldn't pay. It decided that the bank was just being unfair. The place to look to learn all about fairness is the Hebrew Big Book of Magic Stuff. There you'll find the Invisible Magic Friend being fair to all races and beliefs in equal measure. The Invisible Magic Friend is particularly fair in Genesis 18 where Abraham explains to the all wise and loving divinity that it's really bad form to smite the innocent to get at the wicked.
Of course you only get a feeble English translation of the original Hebrew. Several of the words are untranslatable into English, so let me go ahead and translate them anyway. English distinguishes between justice and charity, but Hebrew has a word that means justice and charity, which although being totally untranslatable, means "fair".
So there you go, the Hebrew Big Book of Magic Stuff says laws and society should be fair (although what it actually says is untranslatable).
Everywhere I go, people always ask about women in Islam. They go on and on and on about it. I mean, honestly, anyone would think there were some sort of divine injunction to beat women up, or treat them like property, or give them fewer rights than men. It's just ridiculous! As Professor of Islamic Studies and Public Understanding and Director of the Centre for the Study of Islam, University of Glasgow, let me just assure you that there are some lucky women in Islam, like me for example, who live in countries where we can do pretty much anything a man can. It's really just a cultural thing and not really anything to do with Islam (which is merely a complete way of life). And besides, lots of women like wearing a bag over their head and being beaten by their husbands and not being allowed an education, so the ones that don't like it don't really matter.
You see, what Islam does is give people hope. Naturally non-muslims don't have any hope, but Muslim women, being muslims, can live in hope of an afterlife, where they don't have to wear bags over their heads, or get beaten up, or live in ignorance. They just have to be one of 72 virgins that services some random bloke as often as he pleases - but with no bags!
Now that British schoolchildren are to be given lessons in how to respect women, we see that violence against women is just as prevalent here as elsewhere. Men are just naturally brutes. The difference here is that men are violent to women through stupidity and ignorance. They really haven't been told how to do it properly. Without a faith like Islam and a holy book like the Koran to guide them, I can't see how lessons on violence will make much difference.
The devastating floods in Cumbria could be about to return. I used to be a vicar in Cumbria. Every year I'd watch with trepidation as the flood waters nearly burst the river bank. Rather than petition to strengthen the flood defences, I'd trust to the Invisible Magic Friend and wonder how long it would be before we were all flooded.
It's at times like this that Christianity comes in really useful. What they need is a bit of Jesus around to calm the winds and the rain. Jesus, the magical meteorological manipulator, will soon have things fixed. All you need to do is visit your local church, say some prayers, light a candle in return for a small donation, and everything will soon look just rosy and tickety-boo. While there, you can ponder on the river of time, rushing by like a Cumbrian torrent, careering towards your inevitable demise and those of all you love. Sickness, pain, weakness, suffering and dementia await you all. What other religion brings you hope and consolation like that?
And as if all that weren't enough, there'll be sympathy. Lots and lots and lots of lovely sympathy.
Oh, and ethics.
Happy 150th anniversary of The Origin of Species everyone! We Buddhists, unlike some other religions that I'm not going to mention by name, have no problem with science. We're big fans of evolution, with no silly ideas like a "creator" or origin myths to contradict the search for scientific truth. You can trust us to be sensible and rational and really very intellectually hip with all you scientific types. That's why I say Origin is a great book, it's a fantastic book. I love it. At least as far as it goes. Well, it's alright I suppose. It could be better.
Well, I mean science is just so limited isn't it? When has science ever taught us anything really useful, like about karma or reincarnation, or the search for enlightenment, or helped us with a nice bit of meditation. I mean, learning that there's a really simple explanation for the diversity and apparent design of living creatures is all very interesting and everything. Maybe it's even useful in some sort of boringly pragmatic way, but come on, you're not seriously comparing it to Buddhism are you? Did you know that humans are self aware for example? No, honestly they are. And that some things cause other things?
Good job we Buddhists are around to fill in all the gaps left by science.
The Origin of Species - it's OK. I suppose.