I may be a bit busy for the next few days.
The size of the congregation in our local church has apparently been decreasing steadily in recent years, and so our Vicar, a very pleasant and open-minded man, has suggested that we might have a public debate in the Village Hall next Saturday evening with the title 'Did Man Make God?'. I think his idea is that he normally 'preaches to the converted' (the elderly converted at that), and a few younger floating voters might drift back into the pews if they think about things properly.
The Hawking book and the visit of the Pope have occupied the media considerably in the last few weeks, and so religious faith is quite a 'sexy' subject all of a sudden. We're expecting a fair number of assorted clergy, fundamentalists and humanists to turn up as well as a few uncommitted blood-thirsty locals who like watching intellectual punch-ups, so I'll have to get into shape.
My debate with the vicar will I'm sure, be fine, as I've had several long and interesting discussions with him and we both enjoy our little jousts, but I'm not at all sure about the questions I'll get from some of the local 'muscular Christians'.
I had a warm-up bout with one of them recently, and he said to me "If everybody thought like you, everybody in the world would think like Hitler". He couldn't see anything offensive with what he'd implied, so I liberated my inner infant and said "And if everybody thought like you, everybody in the world would think like the members of the Spanish Inquisition". You can see it's not going to be high-powered philosophy!
The next day he sent me with a copy of the Church Times, with an article headed "Why Hawking is not far from God" written by Keith Ward, an Oxford Professor of Theology who was formerly a philosopher who taught Logic. Keith Ward now claims that Hawking believes the Universe came from Nothing, which apparently shows Ward that there is a God. God give me strength!
If ever you're feeling apathetic and want to get incensed, try Ward's book "Why there almost certainly is a God". The cover claims its a "devastating critique" of Dawkins. You can have my copy!
One of my medical friends recently sent me an E-mail about Cardinal Newman's beatification (many doctors are querying the medical miracle, relief of back pain by prayer to Newman) and said that rather than see Newman beatified, he would like to see the Pope atheistified. I know I really shouldn't, but I'm afraid I was compelled to point out that Catholic priests are all anti-atheist, so that would make the Pope a consultant anatheist- "Just count to 5 and then you'll feel this little prick and....".
I just can't resist them. They give me so much pleasure and it does no real harm (the cheap jibes that is, what did you think I meant?).
This medical reference and religious irreverance was highly relevant because my friend, who generally speaks in code, implied that he might have a bowel cancer which will have to be removed shortly, but as he said, a semi-colon will be better than a full stop. I couldn't resist asking him if he had to keep 'dashing', and if so, how hyphen?