Of Course, I Could be Wrong

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A People Exempt From Criticism

So, what are Jews? Are they a race, a religion or a nation? If they are all three, which they claim to be, then the term "anti-semitic" is unique as it is so much more than a word to describe a particular type of racism. It makes criticism of their politics and religion as politically incorrect as calling for the eradication of their race. I cannot help thinking that British friends of Israel may be overplaying their card and that the "cry wolf" response may well kick in soon. No politician should be exempt from condemnation and no national policy should be protected from criticism even if the worst crime in the history of the human race was committed against your bloodline.

Passing Thoughts Of A Mad Priest

A simple and immediate way of reducing obesity in the United States would be for the colonists to change their weights and measures standards to metric. Overnight a two hundred and eighty pound person would drop in weight to a mere one hundred and twenty seven kilos. That's a reduction of over fifty percent. Even better, and if they don't want to ditch the imperial system (and being good royalists, why would they?) they should take a leaf out the Brit's book and make the stone the principal unit for large items such as the American body. Our corpulent friend would then weigh a mere twenty stones which, you must admit, sounds a lot better than two hundred and eighty pounds.

obese-swing-voter

To Seek Out Nothing

reesI watched an interesting documentary on the BBC last week, entitled "Aliens: The Big Think," about the scientific hunt for extra-terrestrials. It was introduced by the cosmologist,  Professor Martin Rees, who, it has to be admitted, bears an uncanny likeness to the popular image we have of little grey men. The programme was an easy to understand summary of the current state of affairs in this imagination-sparking field of scientific exploration which, although ultimately optimistic about our eventual first contact with creatures of a different genesis to our own, did emphasise the very real possibility that we are, in fact, alone.

I am very much of the opinion that if there is no creator other than nature itself then around all the billions of stars in all the billions of galaxies there will only be a very few planets that have been colonised by even the most basic organic life forms. In fact, I would not be surprised if life on earth turned out to be completely unique.

Our planet is ridiculously perfect for life to have evolved on it. All the things necessary for life beyond that which is most basic have come together to make our planet hospitable. The earth orbits the sun within the "Goldilocks" zone and it may well be that this is due to the rogue behaviour of a gas giant during the birth of our solar system and that rocky planets within inner solar systems are rare. The fact that the gas giant, Jupiter is where it is means that the earth has been protected from much bombardment by asteroids, comets and other debris from outer space. The earth colliding with a Mars sized planet near the beginning of its existence, which caused the formation of the moon and gave the earth its molten iron core, was an extremely fortuitous event especially as the moon turned out to be just the right size to prevent the earth developing life destroying wobbles. The plate tectonics system of the earth has given the planet the right sort of volcanism to produce the carbon dioxide that is necessary for life to exist and our hefty magnetic field has stopped our atmosphere from being ripped off and ejected into space by the solar wind. To put it simply, we have been very lucky.

The main reasons for my belief in the rare earth theory are all to do with the history of life on earth being one of massive improbabilities, all of which are rendered blatant by straightforward empirical evidence.

Firstly, we have no evidence to suggest that life began on earth on more than one occasion. All the evidence we do have confirms that all life on earth has descended from a single life form. If life has sprung into existence at other times it has not persisted. Therefore, that life began very early on in the history of our planet (pretty much as soon as the basic elements and conditions needed were first present) would appear to be nothing more than a coincidence and not the proof for the ubiquity of life that many claim it is. If life, given the right circumstances, is all but inevitable or even just more than likely, then there would have been many genesises on the young earth. That there was not makes me pessimistic about the commonplaceness of even just single cell life throughout the universe.

Remains of biotic life have been found in rocks that are four thousand, one hundred million years old. However, it was not until a mere eight hundred million years ago that the first multi-cellular life sprang into being. Again, as far as we are aware this transition from single cell to multi cell happened successfully only once. When you consider the amount of time that elapsed and the massive number of organisms that existed between the first single cell creature and the first multi cell creature it becomes obvious that the chances of the evolution from one to the other are about as close to zero as you can possibly get without it becoming impossible. Therefore, if there is life elsewhere in the universe it is extremely unlikely that it will be multi-cellular.

That first, fortunate organism that went from being one cell to being two cells was the grandmommy of over five billion subsequent species. Yet, of all that vast array of varied and increasingly complex sub-divisions of creaturely existence only one species happened to develop and employ a language capable of describing the complex ideas needed for even the most basic form of what we refer to as civilisation. Furthermore, the path from us being apes with basic stone tools to being apes with laptops has not been a smooth one of gradual, but inevitable evolution. Rather, our genus has progressed in mental ability in sporadic jerks any of which may not have happened. Therefore, when the luck involved in an "intelligent" life form evolving is added to the luck involved in all the other stages of development I have mentioned and the many in-between stages I have not mentioned, it seems to me that the possibility of there being little men or women of any colour or none being out there is zilch plus one nano-something, if that.

However, all my pessimism concerning the existence of extra-terrestrial life is based on our understanding of the mechanics of life, the universe and everything that is currently advocated by most scientists. I personally believe that there may well be an agency at work within the universe that considerably increases the chances for life existing elsewhere, maybe everywhere it is even remotely possible. I am not referring to God/god/gods, although this agency might be part of a divine being or might give rise to the existence of a divine being, or, on the other hand, it might not.

After many years seriously thinking about evolution I have come to two main conclusions. Firstly, Darwin was spot on when he formulated the idea of a tree of life. All living things have evolved from the same single progenitor. Secondly, Darwin was wrong about evolution being powered by natural selection in all but the most local and limited of cases. When thinking about evolution, most people when they try to imagine the number of individual creatures that have lived and died during the history of the earth consider a massive number. I, contrarian that I am, regard a very small number in deed. I just do not believe that there have been enough opportunities for one species of life to have evolved to its present state let alone all the varied species that are alive now or which were alive in the past. It is my sincere and nothing to do with my religion belief that there is something intelligent at work within evolution or something that, although non-sentient, mimics the actions of an interventionist intelligence. A few years ago my thinking would have been dismissed out of hand by all scientists but now it would only be scorned by most. There is a growing realisation that there must be more to evolution than we have so far assumed and there are even some, informed and respectable scientific thinkers who are proposing that something akin to intelligence must be at work in evolution for it to work as well as it does even if that "intelligence" is limited to just learning from past mistakes.

Being free from the shackles of the scientific method I am prepared to "what if" beyond the confines of earth. Playfully, I am presently wondering if there is such a magnitude of individual cells of information in the very fabric of the universe that a universal intelligence (of some sort) has evolved. Are parts of the universe intelligent? Is the whole of the universe intelligent? Is the universe conscious? Is it self-aware? Is it sentient? Did God create the universe? Did the universe create God? How much of everything is down to luck? How much was deliberately created to be as it is?

Is anybody out there?

God knows.

Holy Communion For The Fifth Sunday Of Easter

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The sacrament of holy communion is a love feast. As honoured guests we remember the love Jesus Christ has for his friends, his followers and all who belong to God, a love so strong that he willingly gave his life so that all may enjoy eternal life. We should respond to this divine act of love by unconditionally loving each other as Jesus commanded us to do.

At Saint Laika's everyone is welcome to take communion and be in communion, with each other and with God. There are no exceptions. So, come, join us.

If you want to physically partake of communion you will require a small piece of bread and a small amount of drink (preferably made from grapes and containing alcohol). How you view the nature of this part of the service is completely up to you.

CLICK HERE to access the podcast via iTunes.

To stream the service direct from this page without having to use the iTunes' facility, click on the arrow on the left of the player below.

Join in with us as we worship God by CLICKING HERE for the order of service, credits and details of the music featured. The words in bold type are the ones we say together.

vision

The Funny Peculiar World Of Clinical Depression

About seven years ago, because I was holidaying in Perthshire, Scotland, I made an appointment to meet up with the present Primus of the Scottish Episcopal Church, David Chillingworth, who was still just a lowly bishop of Saint Andrews, Dunkeld and Dunblane at the time. I thought we might hit it off together as, like me, he was a Christian blogger during that glorious blogging spring when all things seemed possible. He also struck me as a bit of a rebel himself.

After the initial introductions the first thing he said to me was, "You have a problem with authority."

Perhaps I should have left David's office at that point instead of letting myself be lulled by his diplomatic charm into a sense of optimism that would prove to be unwarranted. He never kept in touch and there would turn out to be no place for me north of the border as I had so fervently hoped there would be (I had it in my head that they were more adventurous up there but I was so naive back then).

This thing about having a problem with authority has been flung at me in various forms over the years. The truth is that I have as many problems with authority as I do with unicorns and little green men from Mars and for exactly the same reason. I do not believe in it. In fact, the concept of one person being in charge of another and the other having to do what the person in charge tells them to do is so ridiculous to me that it literally makes me laugh. I find it funny. It's not the only thing that is obviously important to the vast majority of people in the world that I find hilarious. For example, some people earning more money than other people is like an absurdity out of a Monty Python sketch to me. I do not understand how people can believe such things to be in anyway logical let alone of culture defining importance. However, my downfall has been my inability to pretend that such things are important and, believe me, there would appear to be nothing that annoys a person who thinks they are more important than you more than you relating to them as an equal.

I have lived with the suspicion that I might have some form of autism, although psychiatrists do not seem to think I have. However, if Tim Lott, writing for The Guardian two days ago, is right, what might appear at first to be a serious case of social ineptitude may just be a part of the depression that has rendered my life one of ongoing social ostracism.

Towards the end of his opinion piece, Tim writes:

"I have a suspicion that society, in its heart of hearts, despises depressives because it knows they have a point: the recognition that life is finite and sad and frightening – as well as those more sanctioned outlooks, joyful and exciting and complex and satisfying. There is a secret feeling most people enjoy that everything, at a fundamental level, is basically OK. Depressives suffer the withdrawal of that feeling, and it is frightening not only to experience but to witness.

"Admittedly, severely depressed people can connect only tenuously with reality, but repeated studies have shown that mild to moderate depressives have a more realistic take on life than most “normal” people, a phenomenon known as “depressive realism”. As Neel Burton, author of 'The Meaning of Madness,' put it, this is “the healthy suspicion that modern life has no meaning and that modern society is absurd and alienating”. In a goal-driven, work-oriented culture, this is deeply threatening."

Something that keeps me awake at night is trying to understand why Martin Wharton (formerly the bishop of Newcastle) was so eager to get rid of me as quickly and completely as possible when I fell ill with depression rather than help me to recover, which you would think would be the Christian, "good Samaritan" thing to do. Also why did his henchmen, like the archdeacon, Geoff Miller, back him up so enthusiastically; why did none of my colleagues visit me when I was sick let alone stand up for me when my vocation, my whole life, was being ruined by the ecclesiastical authorities and why has no one, who could help me get my job as a parish priest back (no matter, how morally virtuous and inclusive they make themselves out to be in the media and social media) offered to help - even tentatively?

Tim Lott's suggestion would explain it.

However, knowing the reason for the bigotry of others towards you does not help and neither does any amount of sympathy. What is needed is for the laws protecting those who suffer from mental health problems in secular employment to be widened to apply also to those working in the Church of England (at present the church is exempt from such human rights laws). This is urgently needed because Christians, regardless of their position in the church, appear to be quite incapable of acting like Christians. To a depressive like me that is very silly indeed. Heck, it would be hilarious if it was not so tragic.

Tim concludes pessimistically:

"... the bulk of the unafflicted population may never really understand depression. Not only because they (understandably) lack the imagination, and (unforgivably) fail to trust in the experience of the sufferer – but because, when push comes to shove, they don’t want to understand. It’s just too … well, depressing."

Basically, the people who let me down so terribly were scared - not, so much, of me as of the possibilities within themselves.

Doc, Grumpy, Happy, Sleepy, Bashful,
Sneezy And Dopey Do A Runner

From GhanaWeb:

Drama unfolded at Breakthrough Ministries International, a charismatic church at Bu in the Sekondi/Takoradi Metropolis, last Sunday when, out of the blue, a fetish priestess surfaced in the course of the church service. The general overseer of the church, Bishop Prince Kweku Asare, had finished delivering the sermon and the service had almost come to a close when suddenly the woman entered with a frowned face.

All activities consequently came to a halt, and when she was asked her mission, she retorted, "I have come to confront the church why they had not allowed me to carry out my spiritual mission in the vicinity."

The fetish priestess, who did not mention her name and where she was coming from, said she had been contracted spiritually to kill someone around the area where the church is located but anytime she got to where the church is located, she could not continue her trip because of the power around that area.

It turned into heated verbal exchanges between the bishop and the priestess for almost an hour before the priestess retreated, claiming all the dwarfs that were accompanying her in the trip had deserted her.

She has however promised to return on Wednesday, April 19, 2016.

Que Sera, Sera

English football fans are in shock due to the fact that the team now at the top of the Premier League is the once lowly, Leicester City. Pundits have suggested various reasons for their spectacular rise to the upper echelons of world football such as their ability to play as a team rather than like a bunch of overpaid prima donnas (the preferred style of the vast majority of top flight soccer players nowadays). However, the real reason for Leicester's triumph is of a far more divine nature. In fact, it is nothing less than the coming true of the well-known football chant "Whatever will be, will be."

According to Buddhist monk Phra Prommangkalachan, the 63-year-old assistant to the abbot of Bangkok’s Traimitr Temple, the honest work of Leicester’s billionaire owner, Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha, is the reason.

“I believe that all the good karma that Vichai has made will be a factor that helps Leicester to definitely win the Premier League,” he asserts.

Vichai has invited Phra Prommangkalachan to England to give his blessings on the Leicester team. In the meantime, Phra Prommangkalachan is helping Leicester’s unlikely run by giving away holy ‘never know how to lose’ cloths in blue, white and yellow/gold to bring luck to the team.

“The holy cloth is just like one of the psychological tools that we created to reinforce the moral support and create positive thinking for the team,” he said.

OPINION

OCICBW... would like to know what the new bishop of Newcastle, the Right Reverend Christine "you're going home in an ambulance" Hardman intends to do about the Toon languishing at the bottom of the Premier League staring relegation in the face. So far she has been noticeably silent on the matter which means, that with the full time whistle about to be blown, it's definitely a case of Buddhism 1 : Christianity 0.

Full story at The Hindustan Times.

Fresh Expressions

From Wikipedia:

Goliard

The goliards were a group of clergy who wrote bibulous, satirical Latin poetry in the 12th and 13th centuries. They were mainly clerics at or from the universities of France, Germany, Spain, Italy, and England who protested the growing contradictions within the church through song, poetry and performance.

The goliardic class began, in large part, as a result of the medieval social convention of primogeniture. This practice of bestowing the rights of inheritance upon the eldest son left younger sons to seek other means by which to support themselves. Often, these younger sons went (or were sent to) the universities or monasteries of the day, where theology and the clergy were a major focus. Many felt no particular affinity for religious office. Consequently, these groups of over-educated, under-motivated clerics often adopted, not the life of an ordered monk, but a life focused on carnal pleasures.

Travelling entertainers, the goliards composed many of their poems to be sung. These poems, or lyrics, focus on two overarching themes: depictions of the lusty lifestyle of the vagrant and satirical criticisms of society and the church. Portraying their lusty lifestyle, the goliards wrote about the physicality of love, in contrast to the chivalric focus of the troubadours. They wrote drinking songs, and revelled in riotous living. Their satirical poems directed at the church grew from what they saw around them, including mounting corruption in monasteries and escalating tensions among religious leaders.

Well, that all seems rather attractive. Maybe it is time this particular institution was reinvented for the modern era. To be honest, I'm already doing most of it, although I steer clear of the carnal pleasures bit to avoid being aberlarded by Mrs MP.

Holy Communion For The Fourth Sunday Of Easter

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The Kingdom of God can be likened to a great banquet held in honour of Jesus Christ, our messiah, who conquered death and gained for us eternal salvation. One day we will be honoured guests at this banquet and we will take our places among the faithful of the past, the present and the future and join with them in singing their hymn of praise: "Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might be to our God forever and ever!"

In the sacrament of holy communion we enjoy a foretaste of this heavenly feast as we join with each other and with Jesus Christ to break bread together and to drink from the cup of our salvation.

At Saint Laika's everyone is welcome to take communion and be in communion, with each other and with God. There are no exceptions. So, come, join us.

If you want to physically partake of communion you will require a small piece of bread and a small amount of drink (preferably made from grapes and containing alcohol). How you view the nature of this part of the service is completely up to you.

CLICK HERE to access the podcast via iTunes.

To stream the service direct from this page without having to use the iTunes' facility, click on the arrow on the left of the player below.

Join in with us as we worship God by CLICKING HERE for the order of service, credits and details of the music featured. The words in bold type are the ones we say together.

Rev7.9-10 850W

Restriction Of Fireworks To Be Debated In Parliament

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Restricting ourselves to letting off fireworks only on a few specific days each year would be a very small and easy thing for us humans to do and yet it would reduce the stress on both wild and domestic animals considerably. At the moment my wife and myself have to stay at home to comfort our dogs every evening between just before Halloween until after New Year's Day in case some selfish, money wasting pyro-lout decides to subject man and beast alike to the noise of what sounds like a Battle of the Somme reenactment in his back garden. I would ban fireworks completely if I was in charge.

The Loneliness Of A long Distance Failure

My word for the day is "anguish."
You probably think I'm exaggerating and looking for sympathy.
Well, no, I am not and yes, I am.
In that order.

It all started last night just before bedtime. We were watching a lightweight documentary on Northumberland. One of the items was about the church of Saint Oswald at Heavenfield. It's a beautiful, old church on an even more ancient Christian site. In fact, it dates back to King Oswald of Northumbria whooping the arse of Cadwallon ap Cadfan of Gwynedd with the help of English Jesus. It's has no electricity and is in the middle of a pasture. It's one of my all time favourite places and just seeing it on TV reminded me of how I will never get to do what I always wanted to do, namely be a parish priest.

This is the trouble with my pain - It is triggered by anything to do with religion and, in particular, by churches. Every time I walk past a church or see a picture of a church I crash. Going on holiday can be hell as the drive to and from entails the passing of numerous church buildings all of which remind me that my life has been a complete waste of time. You may think it has not but I'm afraid what you think, right or wrong, doesn't help me.

And nobody in the Church is willing to give me the help I actually need even when I ask them for it directly. I expect they are too busy telling everyone that God is love.

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To Brexit Or Not To Brexit? What The Heck Is The Answer?

I realise that, once again, I am kicking against the pricks of right-on party policy but the thing is, I am still undecided as to whether to vote to stay in the Common Market or to vote to leave it. I know the reason for this. I need information before I make a decision and I just don't have enough information in respect of the pros and cons of EU membership. Oh, I know what the leaders of business, bankers and politicians think. Overwhelmingly it would appear that those who have the most power and money in Britain want, very much, for the country to remain part of the EEC. This, in itself, makes me extremely suspicious. These people do not tend to think about the common good when making decisions; they are all about what is good for them and sod the rest.

What I would like to have is some information about how voting to stay in or voting to get out will affect the workers and less well off in my country. And I do not want to hear a whole load of garbage about trickle down economics. I want to know if the European Community is for the proletariat or against it.

Normally we would be able to rely on the BBC to give us impartial advice on such momentous issues. Unfortunately the powers that be at the BBC are petrified of upsetting the government by saying something David Cameron doesn't like (even if it is the truth). So, they are conspicuously taking a back seat on this one and are being about as much use as a condom in a convent.

Poll Of British Muslim Population Is A Curate’s Egg For Liberals

A major, reputable poll, carried out by ICM for a forthcoming Channel 4 documentary, has brought to light the fact that four percent of British Muslims sympathise with suicide bombers and that four percent of British Muslims sympathise with people who commit terrorist actions as a form of political protest generally. That there are one hundred and fifteen thousand people in Britain (mostly in England) who support the actions of the terrorists who recently caused much bloodshed in Paris, Brussels and the Middle East is worrying but for a very high proportion of this four percent their militancy will be just words, bravado and immature male posturing. My guess is that a similar, if not higher, percentage of white caucasians in Britain will have the same sort of sympathy for fascist organisations. It is a problem for our security and police forces but it is a containable problem that will, more than likely, never increase in size.

Another finding of the poll proves beyond doubt that British Muslims feel a strong connection to Britain. In fact, it appears that they are far more patriotic than the rest of us. Sadly, there is also a strong desire in the Muslim population to remain within their own separate (separated, separatist) communities.

Unfortunately there are a few negative tendencies brought to light by this poll which are frightening rather than just disappointing or worrying. Twenty-three percent of British Muslims (six hundred and sixty-three thousand people) want some form of Sharia Law to be introduced into the British legal system. Thirty-nine percent (one point one two five million people) believe that wives should always obey their husbands (the figure is five percent among the general population which will also include the Muslim element). Thirty-one percent think it is acceptable for a British man to have more than one wife (compared to eight percent of the general population).

The big bombshell finding is that fifty-two percent of British Muslims (one and a half million people) want to make homosexuality illegal with forty-seven percent of British Muslims wanting gay people to be banned from teaching (compared to five percent and fourteen percent of the general population respectively).

There are some added facts that make this situation potentially even more problematical for the inclusive, liberal agenda of Northern Europe.

... most British Muslims were born in Britain.

... most British Muslims are young people.

... the British Muslim population is growing and faster than the British population in general.

... there are many non-Muslims in Britain who are as equally non-tolerant of non-straight sexuality.

When you add all this together you are faced with a future for British society in which hostility is set to increase towards gay people to the point in time when the influence of the intolerant will outweigh the influence of the tolerant in the politics of the country, bearing in mind that the percentage of the population that is needed to alter law is considerably less than fifty percent in the apathetic political reality of the United Kingdom.

Therefore, it may well be that we have already reached the high-waterline of the liberal and enlightened zeitgeist in Great Britain. From now on it may very well be downhill all the way into Victorian prudery at best or a nasty medievalism at worst. It is unlikely, in my opinion, that shoplifters will be having their hands chopped off for their crimes in Britain or that women will be stoned to death for leaving their abusive husbands. However, the American experience makes it clear that the law in respect of the human rights of LGBT people can swing back and forth between accepting and condemning very easily. Liberal toleration of apparently mainstream Islamic beliefs in Britain could lead to a growing intolerance of gay people in Great Britain to the point of everything that has been achieved since 1968 being reversed.

More details of the poll can be found on The Guardian website
and from many other media sources.

Tax Avoidance, The MadPriest Way

There are two main ways of avoiding the payment of tax. The first is to become very rich so that you can afford to pay accountants to hide your money somewhere the taxman cannot find it. The second is to become so very poor that your contribution to the common fund would be so insignificant that it is not worth the postage costs of sending you a tax return. I have somehow wound up in the second category. As for handing in my resignation - well, chance would be a fine thing.

Holy Communion For The Third Sunday Of Easter

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On the night before he died, Jesus shared a meal with his friends and, after his resurrection, he again shared food with them. As we break bread together in this sacrament of holy communion we are fed by the very bread that came down from heaven, Jesus Christ who is our shepherd and our friend, so that we may be strengthened to share with him and with each other the duty of caring for God's creation and God's children.

At Saint Laika's everyone is welcome to take communion and be in communion, with each other and with God. There are no exceptions. So, come, join us.

If you want to physically partake of communion you will require a small piece of bread and a small amount of drink (preferably made from grapes and containing alcohol). How you view the nature of this part of the service is completely up to you.

CLICK HERE to access the podcast via iTunes.

To stream the service direct from this page without having to use the iTunes' facility, click on the arrow on the left of the player below.

Join in with us as we worship God by CLICKING HERE for the order of service, credits and details of the music featured. The words in bold type are the ones we say together.

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