Thursday, 2 December, 2010, 07:58 AM - SacksRating 3 out of 5 (Fairly platitudinous)
There's a big Jewish festival just starting. Happy Hanukkah everyone!
Hanukkah commemorates the time, 2 centuries before your religion had even got started, when the Jews threw out the filthy Greeks who had defiled our temple by not being Jewish, and we were able to get on with really important things again, like religious festivals.
Not dropping names or anything, but I met Mikhail Gorbachev you know. I got him to light a Hanukkah candle with me and then explained to him what it was for. Then I congratulated him on not persecuting the Jews any more and made him blush.
Not persecuting religion is really, really important Radio 4 listeners. Those of you who are planning to persecute a religion today, please stop and think. It does you no harm when we light candles. Where would the candle industry be without religious people to light candles? It's important that you realise that freedom of religion matters.
The government is creating Public Health England to nudge us into healthy lifestyles, £4 billion worth of nudging a year to be precise. Local authorities will have Health and Wellbeing Boards with new powers to nudge us as well. There'll be rewards for those who live healthily and no rewards for those who don't. In this way there will be less government interference in our lives.
Sikhs used to be very healthy. There would be regular competitions where fit young Sikh men would wrestle each other's semi-naked bodies to the ground in a perfectly healthy and totally non homo-erotic way. Sikhs were renowned for their physical prowess. Who can forget that famous post war, gold winning, egg and spoon race team, fully three quarters of whom were Sikh?
Sadly those days are past. Many Sikhs have lost their religion and become fat and gluttonous and not at all the sort of people you'd want to have a good, manly wrestle with. They've turned to drugs and alcohol and have ended up in prison. Many Gurdwaras now have to organise running and cycling competitions to get our fat, lazy youths off their humongous bottoms and get them into a state where they'll be fit enough to defend the Punjab again.
James Naughtie And now, because in a three hour secular programme, TFTD is the only opportunity to reflect on religious values, an interview with Gary McFarlane, one of the many millions of poor, persecuted Christians in this country.
Mr. McFarlane you were cruelly and irrationally fired from your post as a Relate counsellor, just for being a Christian, weren't you?
Gary McFarlane Yes James I was. It's totally unfair even though the High Court disagreed. Other religions get to discriminate against you-know-who, why can't Christians?
James Naughtie Yes Gary, but we're not going to talk about that even though that's the reason you got fired.
Gary McFarlane Yes James, we're not going to talk about that. We're here to talk about how I'm being persecuted as a Christian just because I refused to offer services to you-know-who and wanted Relate to have special provisions for poor, persecuted people like me. I just want to point out that I'm black.
James Naughtie Yes Gary, let's talk about Christmas cards then. Most people think of Christmas cards as a way of remembering friends and family and telling them that you're thinking about them during the cold Winter nights, but to you a Christmas card is a statement of belief.
Gary McFarlane Yes James, that's right. Every Christmas card must have a picture of the baby Jesus on it, because that's the true meaning of Christmas and anything else is just us being persecuted.
James Naughtie Yes Gary.
Gary McFarlane Yes James.
James Naughtie Yes Gary, and on that worrying note about Christian persecution, thank you.
Tuesday, 30 November, 2010, 09:04 AM - ButlerRating 3 out of 5 (Fairly platitudinous)
There'sh a bit in The Great Hatsby where there's a great big (hic!) pair of eyes wearing spectacules. That'sh not what the Invisible Magic Friend's like. He's not a giant set of spectickles.
Wikileaks is like a great big, giant, recording angel, leaking all the U.esh. diplomatic cables over the lasht decade. They've thrown out all the cuddly cablesh (hic!). It'sh great fun though ishn't it? No but seri-isly though, we musht rem-(hic!)-ember that idle talk coshts lives. Dilpomats have to offer honesht opin-onions if the great 'nd d'good are gonna make wise dishcush... wise dishish... choices.
The Big Book of Magic Shtuff tells ush that there's nuffin vealed that will never not be (hic!) re-vealed. Sho ye see, the Invisible Magic Friend'sh not like a giant pair of spectaculars or a great big huge recording angel after all. He jusht judges you on evr'fin you ever did (hic!). S'completely diffr'nt. 'nd that'sh what we shood be like - completely diffr'nt like he ish.
Shorry to tell you all this, but I'm the ex-Bishop of Shuffock. Sh'what I do. (hic!)
Tuesday, 30 November, 2010, 06:51 AM - Not TFTD
Apparently Catholics find the above image so offensive that the Scottish referee who posted it via his SFA email address had to be sacked.
We all know what terrible victims of bigotry and violence Catholics are here in England. Just imagine how much more they have to suffer in Scotland. It is therefore perfectly understandable that anyone who links the Pope with the tiny minority of Catholic priests who use their positions of trust and power to sexually abuse children (and besides, other people do it too), should be sacked.
Richard Dawkins is attempting to make this joke go viral. I cannot approve of this. Do not post this image on your blogs. Do not email it to friends. Do not link to the Richard Dawkins' website.
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.
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.
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.
Friday, 26 November, 2010, 06:49 AM - Not TFTDI'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
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.
Mona Siddiqui, Professor of Islamic Studies and Public Understanding and Director of the Centre for the Study of Islam, University of Glasgow
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.
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.