Well, I'm not quite the only one, Channel 4's Faisal Islam seems to share some of my confusion.
The government line, or at least the Tory line, seems to be that the changes weren't in Britain's interest. Fair enough, but AFAIK, the changes applied only to the Eurozone and to prospective Eurozone members. The UK was never going to have to follow its rules or submit its budgets to Brussels for approval. So it's difficult so see how this could be against British interests.
As for City regulation, again there was nothing in the proposed treaty changes that would have given Brussels any new regulatory powers over the financial industry. Or have I missed something incredibly obvious?
Cameron appears to have wanted to claw back some powers to Britain. The others said no. Bluff called. Did Cameron and Clegg seriously think that a conference to bring stability to the Eurozone was going to countenance concessions on financial regulation? The only thing achieved by actually wielding the veto was to antagonise everybody else in Europe and to guarantee that Britain had no seat at the regular heads of government meetings that the inter-government treaty now intends to hold.
What has Britain gained from this fiasco? What could Europe have done through the proposed treaty changes that it is now prevented from doing? (Apart from stabilising the Eurozone, which is in all our interests, and which is precisely what George Osborne has been saying needed to happen for the last six months.)
Or could there be a more mundane explanation: that Cameron and his team were tired and just didn't realise the enormity of what they were doing? A straightforward, good old fashion, human cock up?
Long term isolation from others is not desirable for most of us.
A little bit of isolation can be good but lots of it is bad.
In other words, we like to engage with others.
In other, other words, we don't like to be in solitary confinement, or in yet other, other words, to be cut off.
I've seen people in solitary confinement, when the only person they were allowed to see was me. You cannot believe how terrified they were.
In other, other, other words we don't like to be lost in isolation.
Visiting friends in France recently, they now see Britain as isolated. They think that Britain only cares about its own self interest, unlike France.
Well who won the war anyway? Damned ungrateful French.
Early Christians used to isolate themselves in the desert in order to be holy. Then they'd come back as holy people. So we will come back to the EU as holier too.
The Old Tasty mint book of Proverbs says isolation is a bad thing, therefore it is.
In summary, using my initial words and not any of the other words, a little bit of isolation can be good but lots of it is bad.
Resplendently Reverend Lord Professor Bishop Baron Reverend Lord Richard Harries, Baron Pentregarth, Gresham Professor of Divinity, Baron, Bishop, Professor, Lord...
And the Big Question on everybody's lips this morning: what role will the Church of England play in the imminent depression?
As a Resplendently Reverend Lord Professor Bishop Baron, let me just set everyone's mind at rest. The C of E won't be like those loud, brash Americans. As everybody knows, we Christians are a meek, mild bunch who are not at all pushy. You won't find us poking our noses into everything and shouting about how we need to be listened to. Just listen to me now on TFTD, I'm ever so polite and reasonable.
For some reason, when we tell people about the Invisible Magic Friend, they seem to think that we in some way lack credibility. I know, it's astonishing, isn't it! Our shyness comes from the fact that we know we are right. It's not at all connected with the fact that last time people were openly religious we had civil wars and massacres, or that every time we mention it now people give us a very odd look.
A famous poet agreed with me, so I must be right.
Did you know that one of Hitler's attempted assassins was a Christian? Just one little example of how great we Christians are. He pointed out that one day you'll all be forced to be Christians. Until that happens, we'll continue to be very quiet and unthreatening.
In the meantime, do try to be nice to one another.
Friday, 9 December, 2011, 06:26 AM - Not TFTDStonyground posted this interesting link on John Bell's thread. I thought it deserved a bit more prominence. As the title suggests, it's Thomas Paine systematically demolishing the alleged prophecies of the Old Tasty Mint about the arrival of Jesus.
It's one of the pressing problems of our age: what version of the Lord's prayer should we use? Should we forgive trespasses, forgive debts, or forgive sins? It's a tough one, but fear not, that's precisely the sort of vital challenge that Christian theology is willing to take on.
As luck would have it, debts have been in the news lately in the form of pay day loans. These are loans that poor people have to take out. Poor people are people who've run out of money. Just at the time when there are more poor people about, the British are becoming less tolerant of poor people, with many thinking that the poor just deserve to be poor.
Fortunately we have Christianity. Christianity invented being good to the poor. Judaism, which was a kind of dummy run for proper Christianity, also did some helping of the poor, although mainly their own poor. Christianity decided to help all the poor, which is why we don't have any poor people left today.
The Emperor Julian said so, so I must be right.
News, news, news. The news is just full of news these days. However, a lot of news is not news at all. It is in fact, old news, news that has been announced before it was news and that by the time it became news was no longer news.
There, no one can accuse me of only tangentially mentioning the news today. I've done nothing but talk about news, future news and past news.
Which brings me onto past and future tense and the true meaning of Christmas. The true meaning of Christmas is that we haven't had it yet. You're not supposed to be jolly yet. You're supposed to be miserable. There's lots of death, suffering, injustice and wealth disparity to dwell upon. Believer and unbeliever alike, ask why does the Invisible Magic Friend not do something? Simplistic answers like, he doesn't exist, are automatically excluded because it would make religion look silly.
The birth of the Invisible Magic Friend is something that happens NOW, that is to say, in several weeks time. It wasn't announced in advance, except by the prophets who announced it in advance. That is why Christmas is real news, or at least it will be when it happens. When it does actually happen, which is NOW, in several weeks time, we'll all be jolly grateful that it's already happened in the past, unannounced and NOW.
Mona Siddiqui, Professor of Islamic Studies and Public Understanding and Director of the Centre for the Study of Islam, University of Glasgow
I was once asked if cultural traditions could be used to excuse a particularly violent case of honour killing. It cannot. Murder is murder and is always wrong.
Honour violence in this country is nearly always perpetrated by Muslim men against Muslim women. Family honour is often interpreted as narrowly as a woman's chastity.
Last year, there were nearly 3,000 reports to the police of honour violence. This is not something that we Muslims can afford to ignore. It is a culture intended to impose obedience in women through fear.
Religion cannot pretend to maintain the dignity of all human life while ignoring the murder of women. The mindset of Muslims must change. We cannot continue to enjoy the benefits of a liberal society while ignoring this oppressive behaviour. It is time to speak out against Muslim violence against women. If we do not then all Muslims will harbour some responsibility for the consequences.
Good morning Evan, good morning Jim and good morning to you all.
Well here we are in another crisis. It doesn't really matter what it is because there's always a crisis of some sort, this is just the latest one. It's mostly our own fault, whatever it is, for not learning lessons from the past and being too short sighted about the consequences of our actions.
Many crises ago, back in the last century, people sought scapegoats for their crises, and for once that really is how Nazi Germany started.
We were poor but happy back then. We left our front doors unlocked, because quite frankly, there was nothing worth stealing.
So here are some of my personal tips on how to deal with the latest crisis.
Don't worry about things that might never happen. There are much worse things that probably will happen and that you haven't even thought of yet.
Now some jokes.
How many Jews does it take to change a light-bulb?
Two, one to change the bulb and another to tell him how to do it better.
How many psychoanalysts does it take to change a light-bulb?
One, provided the light-bulb really wants to change.
How many Jewish mothers does it take to change a light-bulb?
None, don't worry about me, I'll sit alone in the dark.
Don't be afraid to ask for help or courage. The best things in life really are free: friendship, kindness, complements and kisses. This isn't shmaltz but personally tested.
Sunday, 4 December, 2011, 07:30 AM - ClemmiesWe've had an extraordinary number of extraordinarily platitudinous contributions this month, with no fewer than eight top scorers and a further nine who only just missed reaching the top spot. I think we all need to offer a huge vote of thanks to all the TFTD presenters this month, and to the BBC's Holy Department of Religion and more Religion, for this bonanza of thoroughly entertaining nonsense. Lewis Carroll would be proud.
The month began encouragingly, with the matriarch of TFTD herself, Anne Atkins. Lesser apprentices to the TFTD craft often present woolly, incoherent nonsense to various degrees. Few, however, have ever mastered the art to the extent that AA has: the express delivery, the posh accent, the random juxtaposition of references to Jesus and the news. I would go so far as to say it is impossible to exceed the speed of gibberish of AA when her head is filled with a vacuum. This was a classic which I didn't even dare to parody. Every word was perfect, to take one away, or try to replace any part with a summary, would be to diminish the whole.
But if Anne thought she had it in the bag for November, she had another thing coming. The very next day, Rhidian Brook, another celebrity Christian writer, effused enthusiastically about Christian Cathedrals. Despite them being such wonderful buildings, Rhidian, very clearly and carefully, explained that we don't actually need the Church in order to pray to the Invisible Magic Friend, and that religion is, in fact, pointless.
In any ordinary month, Rhidian would stand a very good chance of winning the Clemmie for that. It was his sad misfortune to be up against some of the most platitudinous platitudes of all time, including his own contribution the very next week. In one of the most egregious misunderstandings of current affairs for a very long time, he suggested that organisations that are "too big to fail", like banks or the entire Italian economy, should be allowed to fail so that we can look after the little people. He wasn't joking either.
Lord Sacks, without even the slightest suggestion of irony, explained the long history of interfaith groups and their continued flourishing today. We need ever more and more interfaith groups, a fact that the Chief Rabbi seemed to find very encouraging.
Akhandadhi Das has clearly been nursing at the breast of Anne Atkins. This was AA, eastern mysticism style. It was a particularly stylish TFTD, beginning with something perfectly rational and coherent, before diving ever deeper into the darkness of unadulterated woo. Once again, I found myself quite unable to produce a respectable parody. My thanks to the ever faithful member of my flock, tony, who did a far better summary of das nonsense than I ever could.
Catherine Pepinster wasn't going to let the Anglicans and the Hindus have an easy ride. In an apparently logical series of small steps, she was able to demonstrate that the way to make a house a home, was to spend as much time as possible in a (Catholic) church, gobbling slim slivers of the Invisible Magic Friend. Yet again, I feel some sympathy for Ms Pepinster. In any other month...
We don't often get Rev Roy Jenkins showing up at the monthly awards ceremony, so it's good to see him joining the party. Rev Roy gave us the first of this year's "true meaning of Christmas" sermons. The true meaning of the festive season isn't that you're all going to have a good time with family and friends over an outrageously large turkey and a disappointingly small number of roast potatoes. The true meaning of Christmas is that Jesus is coming back some time soon to judge you all, so just watch out.
Finally, in a completely unashamed lack of taste, Rev Dr Michael Banner tried to find something significant that Christianity had to say about suicide (other than it's a sin and you'll go to hell for it). He failed utterly, of course, but I think it's the trying that's important, don't you?
So, out of this selection of delights, who receives this month's award? What's the point of trying to build up any sense of anticipation, it's Anne Atkins of course, but with a very honourable mention to Akhandadhi Das.
Saturday, 3 December, 2011, 08:09 AM - MarshallRating 4 out of 5 (Highly platitudinous)
Ambassadors are in the news. Iran and Britain have decided to stop having ambassadors. The 2012 Olympics, on the other hand, have decided to have some royal ambassadors. They'll royally tell everyone that the 2012 Olympics are really royally great.
This got me thinking about ambassadors. Here is what I thought.
An ambassador is someone who speaks up for someone or something and says, "Someone or something is really great." They usually arrive at the place where they're going to do their ambassadoring and say, "Hello, I'm the ambassador for someone or something. Now it's time for me to get on with the job of saying how great someone or something is."
In the New Tasty mint of the Big Book of Magic Stuff, Saint Paul mentions "ambassadors" twice: once in his second letter to the Corinthians and once in his letter to the Ephesians. That's how important ambassadors are: Saint Paul mentions them twice. He doesn't mention them in his letters to the Romans, Galatians, Philippians, Colossians, in his first letter to the Corinthians, in either letter to the Thessalonians, or to Timothy, Titus, or Philemon, but that doesn't reflect on how important ambassadors are.
As an Anglican priest I know that a person who is really good at saying how really good someone or something is, will be really good at being an ambassador for that someone or something, because a really good ambassador is really good at that.
That's my thought for today.