Mona Siddiqui, Professor of Islamic and Inter-Religious Studies, Assistant Principal for Religion and Society, New College on the Mound, University of Edinburgh
The True Meaning of Christmas is that there are loads of twinkly lights. Everyone gets to decorate a Christmas tree with bright baubles and more twinkly lights. Living rooms have holly and ivy on their walls, or at least their plastic equivalents, and sometimes even more twinkly lights. The whole country comes to a stop for a few days and everything is completely dominated by it for months before hand.
It's all so unfair. I wish we had Christmas in Islam. Oh, we get Eid, but it's nowhere near as good. For a start, there aren't nearly as many twinkly lights. We do the family thing and have a big meal and all that, but the Queen doesn't come on the telly to wish us a Happy Eid. There's no Coronation Street special. It's just not the same. And there are no twinkly lights.
We exchange gifts and cards with people at Christmas time, but we don't get to put up twinkly lights. As Professor of Islamic and Inter-Religious Studies, Assistant Principal for Religion and Society, New College on the Mound, University of Edinburgh, I think Muslims should be allowed to put up twinkly lights at Christmas too!
Tuesday, 13 December, 2011, 08:31 AM - TilbyRating 3 out of 5 (Fairly platitudinous)
Antonio Horta-Osorio could soon be back at work. Hurrah! I hear you all shout. He, along with other alpha males and females, such as myself, always run out of steam in the end.
I used to be just like him, never delegating any of my preaching to anyone else, always wanting to be top priest, forever afraid that if I stopped priesting for a second, some ambitious youngster would snatch the title from me. The human body simply isn't designed for such constant stress.
I thought I could handle it. I thought nothing could defeat me. Then came A Nightmare in Waitrose, where a power cut plunged the store into emergency lighting. I immediately wanted to run to the bedding section and hide beneath the sheets but was forced to mingle instead with Marks & Spencer's customers who were in the midst of a similar terror. The trauma of that day, the flashbacks, haunt me still. I finally realised that I was not super vicar after all.
This is why Judaism is so much better than Christianity. They have definite rules about observing the Sabbath, and appropriate punishments, such as death, for those who don't obey. The Sabbath is a memorial to the infinitely powerful Invisible Magic Friend, who, shagged out after a hard six days creating, decided to have a bit of a rest. So having the odd power nap is OK, it says so in a bit of scripture somewhere. I know this because it says everything in a bit of scripture somewhere.
The Invisible Magic Friend is not some ultra alpha male that you all have to agree with and worship at ever opportunity. He doesn't micro-manage the whole of creation. Oh no, wait, he does.
When I find myself priesting away again at all hours, thinking once again that I'm the best priest ever, I think it's time to look at myself more humbly. There's nothing wrong with just being one of the best priests ever.
Clifford Longley, a distinguished Catholic gentleman who talks a lot about religion, Platitude of the Year Winner 2010
Monday, 12 December, 2011, 08:17 AM - Be nice, Courage, hope, perseverance etc., Democracy, Freedom of speech, LongleyRating 5 out of 5 (Extraordinarily platitudinous)
David and Goliath is a story from the Old Tasty mint of how the little guy stands up to the giant and goes on to be hereditary, autocratic dictator. It's the perfect metaphor for people standing up to dictator's today in a long list of Arab countries, plus Russia and Congo.
The people who stand up to people like the hereditary, autocratic dictator David, are just like David before he became a hereditary, autocratic dictator. They are showing something that we Catholics call "courage", which is when you stand up to autocratic dictators.
Courage was invented by the Greeks, along with justice, temperance and their sister, Prudence. Together these are the four cardinal ways of being good. They were such good ideas that we Catholics decided to adopt them and keep them alive for the sake of humanity. Has anyone mentioned Saint Augustine or Saint Thomas Aquinas lately? Thought not. Well they thought the four ways of being good were good too, so they decided to pass them on.
Being good took a bit of a dive after the Renaissance and then disappeared completely due to that wretched, secular Enlightenment. But the world hasn't been a complete wreck since then. After the war, philosophers rediscovered being good again. They found out that Catholicism, along with all the great religions, had advocated being good. Even Confucianism advocated being good. Confucius invented being good at about the same time as the Greeks, but he was very far away. It was still mainly religious people who thought being good was a good idea though.
So as autocratic dictators are swept away by people like David before he became an autocratic dictator, being good is surely an idea whose time has come.
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.