Happy Winter Solstice everyone! 
Tuesday, 21 December, 2010, 09:27 AM - Not TFTD
It certainly feels like the shortest day here in a very dark and gloomy Southend.
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Rev Dr Giles Fraser, Canon Chancellor of St Paul's Cathedral  
Tuesday, 21 December, 2010, 09:03 AM - Fraser
Rating 2 out of 5 (A little platitudinous)

And in the big news today, my wife got a free taxi ride from Euston to Saint Paul's, where I'm Canon Chancellor and Lucy Winkett isn't, at 3 o'clock in the morning. The driver said it was his "Christmas good deed".

The book On Kindness asks why people are so suspicious of kindness. We expect everyone to be selfish and think kind people must have something wrong with them. The authors argue that Christianity hijacked kindness, rather than see it for what it is, a natural part of humanity.

Hobbes thought that acts of kindness were really just acts of selfishness, doing good because it made us feel good. So kind people are really just selfish people and the taxi driver was actually an evil, greedy swine for helping someone.

These "anti-kindness" people, think they are realists, but it's the other way around. Portraying ourselves as innately selfish is a way of distancing ourselves from kindness, because in order to be kind, someone else must be vulnerable and vulnerability in others implies vulnerability in ourselves. We yearn for the kindness of others, but fear rejection and so choose to categorise everyone as selfish.

Fortunately, the taxi driver mentioned Christmas, so there's no need for me to find some other excuse to talk about it. The true meaning of Christmas is the kindness of a mother to her child and the dependency of the child on its mother. Kindness cannot exist without vulnerability. It is pretending that we are all selfish that is unrealistic. We must face the possibility of rejection with courage in order to keep kindness alive.

I think we can all agree, this is precisely what Christianity is all about.

And the therapy's going very well, thank you. Every day, in every way, I'm getting better and better.

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Rev John Bell of the Iona Community  
Monday, 20 December, 2010, 08:23 AM - Environment, Materialism, Bell
Rating 5 out of 5 (Extraordinarily platitudinous)

Everything's just me, me, me nowadays isn't it? Children want all the latest gadgets, games and fashions. Every single one of them is just totally selfish and self-absorbed.

I'll tell you where they get it from, they get it from their parents. Recently we've seen grown ups throw tantrums over not getting the World Cup or not being guaranteed to win the Ashes (whatever they are). Now we hear people complaining about the snow.

People go out, selfishly trying to get to work and making a fuss when the "authorities" fail to keep the roads clear. Doctors, nurses, midwives, bakers, truck drivers, gritters, shop assistants - you name it, they're all driving around and getting stuck in the snow, instead of leaving the roads clear for really important people, like TFTD presenters getting to the BBC studio in Glasgow.

Well I've got news for you, you're not omnipotent, you weak, mortal, foolish nothing you. Only the invisible Magic Friend is omnipotent, and you know what, he's having a good laugh at you all just now. If you're digging the car out to do some shopping for the old lady next door, or desperately trying to get to the hospital because your mum's slipped and broke her ankle, he thinks it's hilarious.

Whether you're a believer in Darwin or seven day creation, both of these equally valid theories say that you're a nobody that got added in after the rest of creation. You're not in control, there's nothing you can do about the weather, so just accept it.

And as if your own personal selfishness was not enough, you've all ruined the planet with global warming and none of you care.

Oh, and Merry Christmas.

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A Christmas Circular from Steve 
Sunday, 19 December, 2010, 07:12 AM - Not TFTD
A recent discussion got onto the subject of round-robin Christmas emails from Christians. Apparently quite a few people get these every year.

I don't. So, not wanting me, or indeed any of my flock of sheep, to feel left out, Steve has kindly put together his own Christmas circular for us all to enjoy.



Hello [insert name of dear friend or relative here]

Well, what a year it has been since the last time you heard from us. If you recall (and why wouldn’t you), 2009 was a great year for our family, but 2010 looks like it might be even better. Our investment portfolio had outperformed the market by 0.34%, which is truly a blessing from God. This additional profit (tax free owing to some creative use of the grandchildren’s trust funds) has enabled us to buy a new car this year, a Mercedes SLK convertible, the 230 supercharged version. 150mph and 0-60 in a fraction under 7 seconds, it certainly turned a few heads in the Salvation Army car park when we went to do our annual morning of soup kitchen volunteer work. In a year when very many people have lost their jobs and are struggling under the weight of the government’s austerity measures, it is heartening that we were able to help at least one part of the (German) manufacturing sector.

Sadly not everyone has been so blessed. Our next-door neighbours, and fellow congregants at St. Prendergast’s, were burgled in June by a gang of drug-crazed madmen bent on violence and destruction. As I’m sure you can imagine, the weeks afterwards were extremely traumatic as we tried to come to terms with the fact that it could well have been us. But I guess that God was looking out for us that night. The neighbours felt soon afterwards that they had to move away, not least to be closer to the mental hospital that his wife has been confined to since the raid. The new neighbours seem like a very nice family, though, so all’s well that ends well.

Of course, you’ll be desperate to know how the children have got on this year. Samuel has been able to employ another secretary – that’s six in all now, although he did have to lay off all of his other staff. Times are rather hard in the organic marmalade business (I’ve included an order form, minimum order twelve dozen boxes – Samuel always lets me know who has bought things from him). Ruth’s law firm has gone through some tough times. She recently had the stress of telling everyone that they’d have to take a 20% pay cut, although fortunately she and the other partners were able to maintain their own salaries. Ezekiel is “up”, as they say, at university in Scotland, which just leaves Brian. He recently dropped out of his course in fashion design, and is now living in Brighton with his very good friend Jeff. Goodness me they hardly seem to be apart, these young boys. They’ve recently come back from a coffee-tasting holiday in Amsterdam. We think Brian must have a secret girlfriend that he hasn’t let on about, as Ruth overheard him and Jeff discussing registry offices recently. So maybe there will be wedding bells in the New Year – we do hope so.

We know you’ll be dying to hear about the charity jumble sale we hold each year. We always think that with all the blessings we have from God, it’s right that we put some small thing back, to try to make sure that others can share in the bounty and plenty that God has granted to us. However, this year it clashed with Wimbledon, so we had to cancel. But we made sure that the charities in question didn’t lose out, by asking the vicar to add them to the praying list for that Sunday’s service.

So all in all it’s been a great year. Of course, the loss of our dear mother in August, followed by the loss of our dear father in September, then Ruth’s divorce and the fire last month, have been reminders that it’s not always rosy in the garden. But I think what sums up the year for us is winning tickets for Centre Court on Ladies’ Finals Day in the tennis club auction (a tactical masterstroke, we were sure that those council estate kids wouldn’t be able to beat an initial bid of £2,000 a ticket, and we were right). Truly God is looking down on us and granting us all of his blessings.

Peace and Goodwill to Thou Allst at this Time of Yuletide and Cheer to All God’s Children in His Blessed Sight of The Lord.
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Reverend Rob Marshall, an Anglican priest 
Saturday, 18 December, 2010, 10:26 AM - Education, Marshall
Rating 4 out of 5 (Highly platitudinous)

It's really important to learn to read. The younger the better.
Michael Gove says it's really important to learn to read.
Victor Hugo said it's really important to learn to read.
C.S. Lewis said it's really important to learn to read.
I say it's really important to learn to read.
Learning to read can open up young minds to all sorts of possibilities.

Then, as soon as it's open, we'll fill it up with stories of angels and shepherds and wise men, that we'll tell them is the truth and they shouldn't ever question it.

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Preposterously Reverend Lord Professor Bishop Baron Reverend Lord Richard Harries, Baron Pentregarth, Gresham Professor of Divinity, Baron, Bishop, Professor, Lord... 
Friday, 17 December, 2010, 08:57 AM - Gibberish, Prayer, Harries
Rating 4 out of 5 (Highly platitudinous)

Why do people take drugs?

Some just want to blot out the misery of human existence, the sheer hopelessness of it all, the pointlessness of existence, the dreary, limited futility of you meaningless, dreary lives.

Animals don't have this desire. I've spoken to many of them about it and they all expressed their perplexity at the human propensity to seek oblivion. As one field mouse put it, "If you seek non-existence that much, why don't you just get eaten by something?"

Angels don't either. When was the last time you saw an angel that was paralytic drunk? Proves my point I think.

Others take drugs to get a high, to lose themselves in the music and dancing. As T.S. Eliot wrote "I'm off to get stoned." It's all about mysticallness and stuff. The response of this intellectual colossus of 20th century literature was to become an Anglican, which coincidentally just happens to be my religion.

I'm not going to mention invisible magic stuff - that would be far to crude for someone as preposterously reverend as oneself. Instead, I will refer to "reality", at once stillness and ecstasy, and unfortunately not currently available in pill form. You can only understand it by praying. Again not by praying to the Invisible Magic Friend, one takes that as read, just praying in general.This is how one finds one's true self.

We need to get young people off drugs and get them into prayer - the real way of discovering reality.

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Reverend Lucy Winkett, Rector of St James Piccadilly, just down from Fortnum and Mason  
Thursday, 16 December, 2010, 08:13 AM - Invisible magic stuff, Science
Rating 3 out of 5 (Fairly platitudinous)

Voyager I is at the edge of the solar system and will soon enter inter-stellar space. Even after 33 years, Voyager I continues to make new discoveries and ventures even further into the unknown.

Sadly, now that humanity has been into space, it turns out that the Invisible Magic Friend was not sitting up there on a big throne. Nor was there any sign of Jesus still ascending into heaven.

That's all right. Just because for thousands of years the Church taught that heaven was up in the sky and hell was down the other way, we're happy to change. Just like science, religion, in it's journey towards ever better understanding of invisible magic stuff, adapts to new data about our eternal truths. We'll come up with some more accurate images of the Invisible Magic Friend - this time even more invisible and even more magical.

My church, which is handy for all the major West End attractions, was where William Blake was baptised. He turned out to have some radical views on religion. He was pretty good at imagining new ways of characterising the Invisible Magic Friend - ways that'll be much harder for science to disprove next time.

So, as Voyager sets out for the stars, let's all set out to find new ways to think about invisible magic stuff.

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The Pope, the bishops, the nuns and those acrobats 
Thursday, 16 December, 2010, 07:05 AM - Not TFTD
For those who didn't see this over at Pharyngula.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-rbxov7CVi8

Happy dreams your holiness!
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Akhandadhi Das, a Vaishnav Hindu teacher and theologian  
Wednesday, 15 December, 2010, 08:38 AM - Education, Morality, Akhandadhi Das
Rating 5 out of 5 (Extraordinarily platitudinous)

We usually think young people are only interested in the X Factor or student fees. Surprisingly, it turns out that young people are not as shallow and materialistic after all. A recent study by a group dedicated to religious education, found that young people just love it - religious education that is. When asked "Do you think studying lots of different religions will increase your understanding of lots of different religions?", 80% replied yes. 20% thought that studying religion would not increase their understanding of religion.

This just goes to show how young people yearn for spirituality, mysticism and general transcendental woo-woo stuff. Apparently, even atheists, who you'd think would want to remain completely ignorant about other people's belief systems, think studying religion can teach you more about religion. Isn't that just amazing? This shows that even atheists yearn for spirituality, mysticism and general transcendental woo-woo stuff.

Young people also want to debate right and wrong. This is, of course, exactly what religion encourages you to do, as long as you end up agreeing with what a particular religion's fixed list of rights and wrongs are.

One of the Hindu Big Books of Magic Stuff, and we have many, tells the tale of Prahlada. As a young boy, Prahlada showed signs of being interested in spirituality, mysticism and general transcendental woo-woo stuff. Fearing that the boy may turn out to be a useless, gibbering idiot, his father sent him to be educated, but it didn't work. This too shows the latent desire in all young people to study spirituality, mysticism and general transcendental woo-woo stuff.

Some (i.e. atheists) think that religion should be confined to the home. I'd like to deliberately equate religious practise with the study of comparative religion, which they are also uniformly against. This narrow minded, dogmatic view of some (i.e. atheists) should be contrasted with my more enlightened view that children should be taught about many diverse religions. Once again this shows how spirituality, mysticism and general transcendental woo-woo stuff leads to a better way of doing things.

We need RE in schools. The only way to help young people develop their own individual morality, is to examine all the contradictory views of the world's religions.

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Rev Dr Giles Fraser, Canon Chancellor of St Paul's Cathedral  
Tuesday, 14 December, 2010, 08:18 AM - Theology, Fraser
Rating 3 out of 5 (Fairly platitudinous)

Has anyone mentioned Advent yet?

You might think you're having a busy time trying to sort out the Christmas shopping, just imagine what it's like for me. I've got week's worth of complex theology to get through. You've no idea how much theology I have to wade through as a busy Canon Chancellor in the weeks before Christmas.

What many people forget is that Advent isn't just about looking forward to the coming of the baby Jesus, who doesn't really appear on Christmas day because that all happened thousands of years ago. The true meaning of Advent is in looking forward to the second coming of Jesus.

Obviously I don't actually believe in the second coming of Jesus, just as I don't actually believe in most traditional Christian teaching, that's for people who are much less theologically sophisticated than myself.

I suppose I better mention something to do with the news. Julian Assange is a bit like Jesus Christ, as he exposes all the crimes and hypocrisies of world governments. And now back to the second coming.

As the psalmist says on the day of judgement, "Did you really have to bring that up. I am so embarrassed." Or as Saint Paul so wittily remarks, "You're all screwed."

What people who are less theologically sophisticated than me don't seem to realise is that the day of judgement isn't all about thunderbolts and anger, it's about that tear of disappointment running down your mother's cheek, just before you're condemned to eternal punishment.

But judgement is good. Without someone to spy on you and judge you, you'd all just run around doing what you like, because you're like that, basically immoral, selfish and cruel. Without the threat of eternal punishment, nothing matters and nothing counts for anything.

With such an utterly negative view of humanity is it any wonder that I need psychotherapy? I mean wouldn't you if, despite your enormous theological sophistication, you didn't really believe in anything, including your fellow human beings?

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