Wednesday, 17 December 2014

Rev. Libby Lane and Dr. Elena Piscopia

Dr. Elena Piscopia 
On the 25th June 1678 Elena Cornaro Piscopia earned a Doctorate in Philosophy at the University of Padua in Italy making her the first woman to be awarded a doctorate.  She would have earned a doctorate in theology had the Bishop of Padua not refused her doctorate of theology on the grounds that she was a woman. She later became a mathematics tutor at the University of Padua and was also considered an expert musician. Perhaps she would have been less successful had she tried to pursue a senior position in the Church.
Rev. Libby Lane
Over 336 years later on 17th December 2014 The Church of England appointed Reverend Libby Lane as its first female bishop. Surely an organisation that steadfastly still claims moral superiority over the faithless should have been first past the post rather than breathlessly wheezing as it finally stumbled over the equality line three centuries behind academia?

The problem with adopting an ideology rooted in a purported divinely revealed truth is that by its very nature it is extremely tricky to improve upon that divinely revealed truth in the light of new evidence and thinking without questioning the wisdom of the deity originally credited with it.

This particular example of lackadaisical Christian catch-up is therefore far from unprecedented.

Galileo was put on trial and condemned in 1616 and 1633 by the Roman Catholic Inquisition for contradicting its unquestionable scriptures by daring to use the scientific method to theorise that the earth in fact orbits the sun. It wasn’t until the 4th November 1992 that Pope John Paul II issued a weasel worded vindication of Galileo, long after the Church’s original position had become utterly untenable.

The speed at which the church was able to catch–up with what now seems to be such obvious and basic gender equality is laughable. But it will need to speed up its reform process to a rate that will be uncomfortable to many of its members if it wants to try and keep in touch with the modern world.

The only alternative to such sensible liberal reforms is to simply stand still. In a post-enlightened world where society, morality and equality are advancing at an accelerating rate, standing still and refusing to rethink frequently now manifests itself as bigotry, with fundamentalism not far behind.

As religious views on women bishops and gay marriages become more polarised how close are we to the ultimate Christian reform of jettisoning the supernatural mumbo jumbo altogether? Bereft of its divisive mystical claptrap surely Christianity could be distilled down to a laudable set of ideas about being nice to one another that we could all rally behind.

How long will it be before Christianity officially abandons the pious petitioning of supernatural beings, implausible virgin births, credulous miracles, the wicked threat of eternal damnation and the fabricated bribe of immortality to the bigots and fundamentalists who prefer to stand still?

I suspect it will be considerably less than the 336 years it took Libby to catch up with Elena but In the meantime we still have the British Humanist Association. But when the Church finally embraces this ultimate reform I’ll be happy to go back, after all they do have the better architecture.

 

Might pop into my local village Church for the Carol Service on Sunday though, I do like a nice sing-along at Xmas, as I think I mentionedlast year.

Thursday, 19 December 2013

The Venn Diagram of Christmas Traditions

I love Christmas. I love everything about it, apart perhaps from the predictable fundamental Christians bleating on about the so called War on Christmas and their irksome ill-informed insistence that Jesus is the reason for the season.

A few years back at my local church, I sat through the vicar’s ranting sermon shoehorned into the school carol concert. It was blatantly aimed at heathen parents like me that no longer routinely grace his ever-dwindling flock. I felt honour-bound to boo him for his pious absolute claim on Christmas. The dig in my ribs from my wife however reminded me that it’s still generally considered bad form to boo the vicar – even if he is clearly talking out of his arse. But despite the dodgy sermons proclaiming Jesus to be at the centre of Christmas, I still think it’s a great time of the year.

In fact the very reason why Christmas is so great is precisely because it is a non-discriminatory celebration, far wider and more encompassing than the mere strategically relocated anniversary of the alleged saviour of one particular faith group.

That’s not to say that the baby Jesus lying in a manger surrounded by adorable toilet-trained livestock isn’t a vital and welcome part of the imagery and tradition of the season. It’s just that he’s not at the centre of it any more so than a barefooted John McClane in the Nakatomi Plaza or grumpy TV executive Frank Cross being violently punched in the face by the angelic Ghost of Christmas Present.


The modern Christmas traditions we’re all familiar with (at least in the western world) have drawn from Christian, Pagan and Secular sources, and they all add value. If we map them onto a Venn diagram there’s quite clearly someone else at the centre of our Christmas traditions and, thankfully, he does not concern himself with our arbitrary faith boundaries.



With the obvious exceptions of Cliff Richard and eggnog, I like everything on this diagram. Those who claim that Christmas is under attack from the politically correct forces of secularism and consumerism are merely trying to purge the season of its equally worthy non-Christian elements.

So, beware of any one set on this diagram who try to claim sole ownership of the winterval. The true spirit of Christmas is not about hijacking the seasonal festivities for the exclusive celebration of one particular ideology. Christmas is for everyone, Christians, Pagans, Atheists, Agnostics and adherents of any other conceivable faith group who would care to come and pull a cracker with me.

Merry Christmas everyone
Crispian
Christmas 2013

Thursday, 21 November 2013

Nobody expects the Monty Python Reunion



A quick transcript of me reading the BBC News website during my lunch-break today...



BBC Website
Trouble at Co-op. 
Jago
Oh no. What sort of trouble?
BBC Website
Ed Miliband has accused David Cameron of "unjustified smears" over claims about Labour's links to disgraced ex-Co-op Bank chairman Paul Flowers.
Jago
Pardon? 
BBC Website
Ed Miliband has accused David Cameron of "unjustified smears" over claims about Labour's links to disgraced ex-Co-op Bank chairman Paul Flowers.
Jago
I don't understand what you're saying
BBC Website
(slightly irritated and with exaggeratedly clear accent) Ed Miliband has accused David Cameron of "unjustified smears" over claims about Labour's links to disgraced ex-Co-op Bank chairman Paul Flowers.
Jago
Well what on earth does that mean? 
BBC Website
I don't know. I’ve been told to display the news that Mr. Miliband has accused David Cameron of “smears” over Co-op. - I didn't expect the Monty Python reunion.

Jarring chord. The link is clicked and the web page displays the news that Monty Python are to reunite for a one-off show in London.
Palin
Nobody expects the Monty Python Reunion! Our chief weapon is satire...satire and surrealism...surrealism and satire.... our two weapons are surrealism and satire...and collage stop motion animations.... Our three weapons are surrealism, satire, and collage stop motion animations....and an almost fanatical devotion to a dead parrot.... Our four...no... amongst our weapons.... amongst our weaponry...are such elements as surrealism, satire.... I'll refresh the web page. (exit and exeunt)
BBC Website
I didn't expect a kind of Monty Python reunion. 

The link is clicked again. Jarring chord.
Palin
Nobody expects the Monty Python reunion! Amongst our weaponry are such diverse elements as surrealism, satire, collage stop motion animations and an almost fanatical devotion to a dead parrot, and silly walks - oh damn! (to Gilliam) I can't say it; you'll have to say it. 
Gilliam
What? 
Palin
You'll have to say the bit about 'Our chief weapons are ...' 
Gilliam
I couldn't do that... 

Palin bundles the Pythons outside.
BBC Website
I didn't expect a kind of Monty Python reunion. 

They all enter.
Gilliam
Er.... Nobody...um.... 
Palin
Expects. 
Gilliam
Expects... Nobody expects the...um...the Monty...um... 
Palin
Python. 
Gilliam
I know...I know! Nobody expects the Monty Python reunion. In fact, those who do expect... 
Palin
Our chief weapons are... 
Gilliam
Our chief weapons are...um...er... 
Palin
Satire. 
Gilliam
Satire and... 
Palin
Stop. Stop there! Stop there. Whew! Our chief weapon is satire, blah, blah, blah, blah. Terry, read the leak
Jones
The reunion will be a one-off live show in London next July. Brian, come and clean your room out...


.

Monday, 21 October 2013

Give Piss-Taking A Chance



It’s 45 years since John and Yoko suggested that we “Give Peace a Chance”. A laudable suggestion and a very handy sound bite for the budding Beauty Queen.

For many however such commendable desires for world peace are often tempered with their own indoctrinated ideologies. Many falsely believe the path to peace and harmony lies exclusively within their own particular faith. Increasingly we seem to be witnessing examples where those ideologies appear to be so entrenched and perverted that those captivated under their spell abandon reason and humanity in violent and bloody pursuit of their own deluded notions of Nirvana.

Imagine if John was still with us today, it’s easy if you try. The rolling news coverage on any given day may well lead him to conclude that his admirable 1968 proposal is not going as well as he had hoped. We tried staying in bed. We tried painting our naked bodies in psychedelic patterns and flouncing around to Jefferson Airplane whilst shoving flowers down the barrels of rifles, but it didn’t really work. More recently we tried retaliating against terror with well financed “Shock and Awe”. But that didn't seem to work out too well either.

Now what?  Are we all out of ideas? Do we just cower behind our enhanced airport security and knee jerk anti-terrorism policies and wait for it to go away? Do we redefine our goals for peace to be a little more localised?

I think not. I think we’ve just been retaliating with the wrong weapons. I propose a fresh assault on terror. Not with guns and bombs but with satire, sarcasm and ridicule.

Let’s rip their ideology apart with cutting satirical warfare; let’s rain down cogent and piercing ridicule on their fragile dogmas. Let us unleash the weapons of mass derision. Put down your swords, pick up your pens and let’s make the fundamentalists of all faiths into morons rather than martyrs. And let’s indiscriminately deploy the same sardonic sortie on our own more familiar ideological claptrap.


NB: Extracting urine from deeply held yet completely ridiculous ideologies does not contravene your diversity training