Category Archives: Thoughts

Random thing that I’m thinking about

Why does England football team always fail?

Are you fed up with hearing about why the England football team always fail? Well here is my addition but I think it may be a little different to most.

No doubt part of the problem lies in the tactics, and I have little doubt this played a part in the last disaster against Iceland. No doubt our football stars are getting too pampered and this is making them soft when we need them to be tough. Yet you could add that this is true for every footballer in every country these days, so it can only be part of the answer. I might also point out that we haven’t won any major competition for 50 years and this pampering has only more recently become a problem. I also want to put the blame on the FA, of course. They are one of the best funded organisations in the world and so have access to the best minds yet they fail. Are the FA pampering themselves too much – no doubt. We could blame the press – after all look at all the pressure that is put on players to succeed – but then again is it unrealistic of us to expect the best trained and best paid players to come up with the goods from time to time? I don’t think it is. This is the same press who will also treat them like royalty if they succeed of course – maybe they could remember that instead.

The truth is that I think it comes down to us all – we, as a nation, are failing.

We are glad when success does come to our national teams – usually through the ministrations of a foreign leader of course – but they don’t come often enough to claim any kind of lasting success.

But when I look at our nation I see a place where people are giving up on trying and getting involved. Every group I speak to has terrible trouble recruiting leaders or even helpers. Parents are happy to pass their children over but don’t want any responsibility in making their children’s pastimes succeed. They will stand on the side and cheer (or moan) but don’t want to ‘do’.

We should have seen it coming when the churches emptied. We had excuses of course – not relevant, boring, science, modern, post-modern, etc – but all of them bogus reasons really. The real truth is that we couldn’t be bothered.

Couldn’t be bothered.

Isn’t that what we see on the international football pitch and isn’t that what disturbs us as spectators – it looked like they just couldn’t be bothered. Could it be that we as a nation have become so not bothered that it has become our default position? We have become passionate about not being bothered. We laugh at comedians who make jokes about not being bothered because we know deep down that this is what we are, what we have become. We encourage our children to have ‘personality’ which usually translates to ‘not bothered’.

I doubt, of course, that the player on the pitch would realise that this was the problem. They are blind to their not bothered nature that they have grown up with.

So England, it is time to get bothered. It is time to get off our ever widening backsides and to start getting involved. Get yourselves back to church, start volunteering to help, be a scout leader or football coach and maybe in a few years when we have all started being bothered again we might actually win something!

I would write more but I can’t be bothered.

Why do I walk up hills?

7593837It is not unusual for me to question my own sanity when I am struggling up a hill on a cold and wet day. On those days when I could be sitting in a warm room, maybe watching an exciting, or at least interesting, film on my T.V. munching away on some fresh popcorn; instead I’m suffering up a hill. I am getting good exercise, of course, and I know somehow it is good for my soul but I cannot deny that I have willingly undertaken to suffer.

When the sun is shining and views are expansive it is easy to take another lung full of sweet fresh air and to wonder at the glory of the world all around me. On days like that it is easy to understand why I would go through the agony of climbing a steep hill, after all some views can only be seen by those who bother to leave the car and take a long walk. Yet, some days you can not see further than a few feet in front of you and the struggle is made even more intense by the need to carry more clothes on a cold day and wear thick waterproofs to keep out the rain. What would motivate someone to do that?

I once heard a mountaineer say in response to the question “why do you do it?” that “if you are asking that question then you will not be able to understand the answer.” I understand just what they meant. Any answer that I give to such a question will, by it’s nature, be very unsatisfying because the only way to truly answer the question is to take to the hills and walk.

I like words, I also like pictures and film but there are still some things in the universe that it is impossible to successfully describe. The feeling, for instance, of holding your new born child or watching a sunset next to the love of your life. Poets come close but only because they reawaken some deep memory in us that makes us feel again that moment we remember but have never been able to describe.

I can not successfully describe to you why I like to walk but it is my experience that if you take the trouble to try it, and maybe come with me on a walk one day, and maybe in the wet and windy weather as we just crest the top of the hill the penny will drop and somewhere deep inside you a light will come on and you will then be able to stand on the top of that hill buffeted by the wind and without having to say a thing you will know why I do it, and then like me you will be wondering when the next chance will come to do this all again.

Farewell to the EU?

339176_1500I guess by now you are probably fed up with thinking about the EU but at the risk of causing even more trouble here is another comment. I’m not going to say how I voted – though I suspect most people who know me would be able to work it out. However, we now have to deal with the aftermath of the referendum. Please bear with me while I begin with a few moans – to get them off my chest.

Moan 1: The politicians let us down

I think it was quite possibly the worst of times for British politics. In the first instance we had an internal party struggle that erupted into the country having to vote in a referendum that it was ill prepared for. I am disappointed that so many people seemed to vote in protest against the UK politicians – one way or another – when this was a referendum on our collective future. I’m appalled that so many lies were pushed out in an effort to persuade us – one way or the other – and now we are hearing that even those who peddled the lies knew they were lies but don’t seem bothered about it. I’m also upset that somehow people think it is perfectly acceptable to do anything to get the result they want. We saw the UK at its worst at a time when we needed it to be at its best.

On top of this just when we were shaken by the result and needed our politicians to step up and take a lead so we can gain a little confidence and encouragement they seemed to collapse into a heap of recriminations and quitting.

I am someone who has always defended politicians as good people trying to do a difficult job but sadly the leadership has been very bad indeed. It felt at times like a school playground squabble when we needed good leadership – shame on them all.

Moan 2: Those jumping on the political bandwagon

I once had great respect for Nicola Sturgeon but she lost that with her reaction to the vote. Though, it must be said that she is not the only one getting involved. With the whole of Europe shaken she chose the moment to force her own political agenda of getting Scotland out of the UK. When we needed some stability and proper democracy (when did it become democratic to say because I haven’t got my way I’m not going to play any more?) we instead got calls for division and instability. Democracy is surely about accepting that the majority decide and even if we don’t like that decision we have to accept it and live with it. Democracy is never about leaving because we don’t like the choice – that is not democracy it is childish behaviour.

Enough moaning, now what?

Moaning is not the answer  – we need strength and diplomacy

What we need now is to find a way to live with the decision. Very nearly half of this country did not get the result they wanted. This is very painful for many. But we have made the choice and barring some last minute attempts to change the result we will have to live with the consequences of what has happened. We cannot change the result but we can change our future. We need to put love and understanding at the heart of our next steps. We need to be strong and display what Britain is famous for and pick ourselves up from the rubble and show the world what we are now capable of doing. Whatever disasters come our way as a nation – whether we caused it or not – we need to roll up our sleeves and get on with the work. The time has come for us to work together. Who is with me?


P.S. Of course as we return to gold old fashioned British values I’m looking forward to people getting back to church again.

Farewell to Dad

meanddadI had hoped that this day would never come, the day when I have to say my farewells to my Dad. Tomorrow we have the funeral service but it seems every day since he died has had some sense of saying goodbye. It has been a time for a flood of memories to assault me and it seems even the simplest of things can bring them on.

Dad was not perfect but he was my Dad. During the many times in my childhood when my Mum was in hospital he was the one constant I could rely on. The needs of paying the bills meant that he often had to work long hours, especially when my Mum was in hospital and not working herself. This meant that on many occasions I only had myself to rely on to get on in life and my family will themselves testify that sometimes this means I rely too much on myself today when others are willing to help.

I am going to be taking the funeral service for my Dad tomorrow and when I did this for my Mum it turned out to be the hardest thing I have ever done – I anticipate the same will be true tomorrow. However, I’m doing it for my Dad because I want this one last thing I can do for him to be done properly – this is the last thing on this earth I can do for him.

I guess the memories will continue to flood in  – holidays, time spent working on the house together, making model air-planes, Navy Days, visits to castles, etc. At the moment they bring a sense of loss with them but I look forward to that time when they bring more feelings of gratitude and happiness – as they should.

So farewell Dad and may you find peace in God’s house.

I’m not religious

19391694I’m often hearing people say things like “I’m not religious” which I think generally means that they don’t go to church because they don’t want to subscribe to one way of viewing life and the universe. It does not mean that they do not believe in God or that they are not spiritual. I caught the tail end of a TV programme the other day when someone said that they were not religious but they did feel the holiness of Holy Isle – to my mind a very strange thing to say.

But what does this not being religious really mean?

In response to the idea of not being religious I want to ask lots of questions about how do you then make sense of the world? What do you think about heaven and what happens after death? What is the sense of the holy or the ‘other’ that you experience? How do you make any sense of it?

The usual response, in my experience, is to say a variety of things that might have come from a variety of different religions coupled with an attempt to make it all sound like science rather than religion. In effect what people do is to make up their own religion with lots of bits that they have thought about put together in a kind of melting pot. The truth is that they are just as religious as I am but they mistakenly believe that being religious is some kind of soft option for those who don’t think.

A religion is really just a framework. It provides a set of beliefs that fit together in a coherent way to enable us to make sense of those big questions we ask. Religions often have various practices that they expect their adherents to use to help them and they often provide training in beliefs to help answer the big questions.

I often find it a bit weird to listen to the ‘non-religious’ talk about what they believe because to me it seldom – if ever – makes sense, there are usually major contradictions involved for instance. I find that particularly so for atheists – itself a framework of belief of course.

Christians, and other religions, sometimes like to make the point that their belief is not religion but a way of life. Meaning it is not about just following a set of rules but is instead about the whole of life and in particular a relationship with the Almighty. This also highlights the problem of trying to understand what a religion is – if being religious is just following a set of rules then I am not religious myself – but it isn’t.

Of course, I am also searching for truth and like many others I have found that truth in Jesus Christ. This means that I am humble enough not to make up my own religion but am instead trying to make use of the framework that Jesus has given us to help me answer the big questions and to understand how life should be lived.

Let’s give up on this nonsense of not being religious and acknowledge that we are in truth all religious people but we disagree over which framework is the right one to make use of. I would then encourage you to try and understand that making up your own religion may not be the best answer – at least not without discovering what the great frameworks of religion actually say (I hope you don’t mind if I suggest Christianity is a good one).

Happy Easter!

15743423What a wonderful thing Easter is. A time to remember that there is still hope, darkness turns to light.

It would be easy to believe that God doesn’t care and just leaves us in the darkness. Some versions of religion sound like there is hope but we have to go and get it. Imagine we are lost in a deep dark cave with no sign of a light at the entrance. Some religions seem to teach that there is a God but he is at the entrance shouting orders for us to follow to get out (helpful but not very reassuring). Of course, with atheism there is no God at the entrance and indeed no light at the entrance but that is something for another time. Christianity teaches us that God (at our request) comes into the tunnel to find us and when he finds us shines enough light to guide us to the entrance and freedom. Easter is a reminder of a loving God who rescues us.

Holy Week

893192_66453165I find Holy Week a very strange time. For clergy it is a time of great activity and there is little time, or energy, to think about anything other than the events of that most precious time. Yet, the rest of the world is talking about holidays and long weekends and eggs, etc. The events of Holy Week also leave me drained emotionally, I can’t get through Good Friday without weeping at some point, I do this in private of course – being a good British man. By the time Easter Day arrives I’m about ready to crawl into a dark space and hide.

I’m not sure it would be entirely healthy for the whole population to go through this extreme Holy Week experience but just occasionally I wish that other people would stop and take notice of what happened. It may be a distant historic event but it is also an event that speaks to us today – if we will let it. It is hard to think of better news than you are forgiven, death is defeated and you are going to live in paradise – oh and by the way paradise starts now, at least in parts.

So spare a thought this week for what we celebrate. Take a break from the thoughts of long weekends and chocolate and spare a few moments for Jesus – I promise you won’t regret it.

Here is a rundown of what happens through the week:

Palm Sunday – Jesus enters Jerusalem.

Monday – Jesus clears the temple (probably – although the gospels differ over when this happened).

Tuesday and Wednesday – Jesus teaches in the temple and spends a lot of time with his disciples.

Thursday – Jesus celebrates Passover with the 12 disciples (including Judas). In the evening Jesus is betrayed by Judas, and Jesus is arrested. Over night Jesus is tried and condemned.

Friday – Jesus is crucified

Saturday – nothing

Easter Sunday – Jesus rises from the dead.

Have a good Easter.

Is it possible to have Christmas without Jesus?

19179781I am always interested by those who say they are not religious but who love the carols and Christian symbols used at Christmas.

And while I’m on the subject of Christian symbols at Christmas – I was interested to see on a TV programme the other day (it was a BBC effort to show Christmases of the past but which left us all feeling a little dissatisfied – at least it left everyone I know dissatisfied) that after putting up some outside lights and standing back to look at them there was a comment about how there were not any Christian symbols – let me clear up what there was:

  • A star – obviously the star of Bethlehem that the wise men followed, a Christian symbol.
  • A Christmas tree – a Christian symbol started by Martin Luther
  • Father Christmas – a Christian saint (St Nicolas)
  • Candy canes – a Christian symbol invented by a candy maker in the USA (shepherds crook with white for purity/Jesus and red for the blood of Christ)

No Christian symbols??? It was nearly all Christian symbols but they were too ignorant to know it.

Anyway, I understand that some folks might like the feeling of listening to music, giving presents, eating, etc. but it always seems to me that carols, and the other Christian celebrations, offer something much more than you will ever get with just the Seasons Greetings stuff. It is all very well being jolly and talking about goodwill but you need the words of hope that only the birth of Jesus Christ can give to offer any real meaning. Otherwise it is just sentimental mush and how is that going to help anyone? The point of a Christian Christmas is NOT a sentimental wishy washy vague hope that things might get better if we keep grinning but that God has sent his son and so we can, at last, put our trust and hope in something concrete. If you remove Jesus all you have is a sentimental selling fest where we are all persuaded to spend obscene amounts of money on stuff we don’t need with limp talk of peace and happiness with nothing to back it up but with Jesus there is so much more. With Jesus in Christmas the lonely, the sick, the abused, the poor, the suffering are offered hope but take Jesus away and you have nothing to give them but glitter and mulled sentiments which are all, in the end, useless to anyone.

No, you cannot have a true Christmas without Jesus – if you try you are just conning yourself.

Have a very happy  – Jesus filled – Christmas.

Is religion evil?

799642_18679946I have often heard the accusation that religion is evil. The evidence, it is claimed, is that many wars have been fought in the name of religion and many people have been mentally and physically abused in the name of religion. There is then usually a comment about the restrictive laws that have subjected women, people of other races and the sexually orientated minorities to terrible suffering in the name of religion.

Of course, many of these accusations do have foundations because many religious people have been the source of much suffering (to deny this would be a crime in itself). I would like at this point to add my voice, again, to the many others who have said sorry for the suffering that has been caused in the name of religion.

When the religious counter this argument by pointing out that the same suffering (if not more) has been caused by atheist regimes the counter-claim is made that these were of course regimes that were  – to all intents and purposes – religions, in that they encouraged the worship of individuals.

However, such an argument  – in my opinion – misses the point completely and here is why. An organisation and the philosophy that drives it are two distinct things and should not be confused.

The truth is that it is not the religion that causes the problem but it is the organisation that is set up in the name of that religion that is to blame. Sadly, when power, influence or money is at stake people look for justifications to allow them to take what belongs to others (be it oil, land, gold, whatever). They can find excuses in the corruption of any philosophy to justify their actions. Sometimes organisations get so big and the people who run them so powerful that they get corrupted. This is as true for any atheist organisation as it is for the Church or government or whatever other organisation you might mention. We are currently seeing this played out with FIFA where so much power and money is concerned that people have manipulated rules – or so it seems – to allow them to have a greater share of the power and money than perhaps they should have done. It seems obvious to me that the problem is with the organisation and not necessarily with the philosophy behind it. If you want to learn about organisations that cause suffering you have to include the old communist states of the world in your reckoning – atheist organisations of course who did everything in their power to stamp out religion – including causing great suffering to the religious.

So why do religions get more blame than other organisations? Is it because we are all aware that they should know better? Is it because we know that the religions behind them have such a high moral code at their heart that they should know better than to cause such suffering and problems? I think this is certainly true of the Christian church  – though I cannot speak for other religions. Christians should know better but sometimes they get it wrong and the organisation becomes corrupted (even if the people at the top don’t understand that what they are doing is wrong – but that is a big subject for another day perhaps). And that is why, from time to time, the church issues an apology – what other organisations do you know that do that? Has the scientific world (for instance) apologised for the part it played in the extermination of thousands of Jews during the second world war? If it has I’ve never heard of it.

Here are some links to church apologies in case you doubt this: From JP2 from Methodists

Of course, the organisation that breaks its own codes of morality should be held to account for it but that does not make the codes of morality evil. I am quite happy to say that atheists are not evil people – misguided yes but not evil. I don’t blame atheism for the suffering caused in its name  – though I do have questions about the lack of moral absolutes that can so easily lead to such suffering. So, you can’t blame the Christian faith for the bad things the church has done in its past – to confuse the two is either extremely nieve or downright ignorant.

The best you can do is to attack each religion on its moral code – not the organisations associated with it (hence, to condemn the Muslim faith on the grounds of terrorism alone is nonsense). To make any such argument you would have to attack the moral codes of each religion and at least decide on each religion individually (this would require a detailed examination of what each religion ACTUALLY says and not your own interpretation of some obscure texts or literal out of context quoting or quoting some extreme minority position, as most atheists seem to do). I am happy to say – without spelling it out in detail here – that I believe Christianity can stand up very well to such an attack.

No, religion is not evil.

P.S. Of course, without religion you couldn’t even ask the question because without God there are no moral absolutes and without moral absolutes there is no such thing as good or evil. If you are an atheist who wants to make the claim that religion is evil then you are defeating your own argument – sorry.