Wednesday, 26 October 2011

How Many Festival Tents Does it Take to Close a Cathedral?

Q: How Many Festival Tents Does it Take to Close a Cathedral?
A: About 97

I know this because during my lunch break I left my warm office on the South Bank, trip-trapped over the Millennium Bridge and walked up the magnificent front steps of St Paul’s Cathedral, completely unimpeded.

I stood near the top of the easily accessible, completely unobstructed front steps and did a quick recce of the small array of tightly packed dome tents at one side of the foot of the steps. A quick tot-up from my vantage point revealed around 97 tents (not counting the additional protesters hidden out of sight around the side of the Cathedral).

The tents were fronted up by a small number of quiet, well-mannered protesters who were significantly outnumbered by films crews, press photographers, curious onlookers, opportunistic leafleters and intrepid bloggers on their lunch break.

Firstly, I have to congratulate the protestors for peacefully and safely invoking their right to free speech and effectively raising the awareness of the Occupy The City campaign  (#OccupyLSX), whilst being far less obstructive to the Cathedral visitors than the normal £14.50 admission charge.

However, as worthy as this campaign may well be, this blog is more concerned with the irrational knee-jerk behaviour of the Cathedral’s custodians. Whether the church officials acted on undisclosed health and safety grounds or were simply worried that church visitors might be exposed to the forces of liberal free-thought as a valid alternative to unquestionable authoritarianism is unclear, but either way they chose to make their stand and close the Cathedral. As time goes by and it becomes clearer that a wrong decision has been made, the Bishop of London has had to call for the protestors to move on to save themselves the embarrassment of admitting they were wrong to close the Cathedral in the first place.

I’m rather hoping that the protestors will dig their heels in, as the deafening silence of the Cathedral tills is likely to spur the church officials into action. Of course all that is really required is for the church officials to simply hold up their hands up and re-evaluate their hasty closure decision. However, despite plenty of practise at it, the church are still not especially good at admitting when they're wrong, but perhaps they can find a weaselly way of reversing their decision and attempting to save face.

But the interesting thing we have discovered is that it turns out to be far easier to close down a Cathedral than anyone suspected. I’m not especially anxious to close down Cathedrals, but I am always terribly excited at yet another opportunity to expose the frequently inherent irrationally of religious leaders.

So armed with the useful information that it takes less than 100 strategically positioned small festival tents to bring a major Cathedral to its knees, it might be time to extrapolate again.

As there are 42 Cathedrals in the United Kingdom, and assuming that the church officials for each Cathedral are as stupid as those at St Paul’s, then it will take a mere 4,074 happy campers to close down every Cathedral in the land on Sunday morning.

So, anyone fancy a camping trip this weekend?

Normally I’d love to join you, but I’ve actually got a rather nice Hotel booked this weekend. Solidarity Brothers.

(Oh, and Sisters, sorry Loretta).


If perchance you would prefer some quality investigative journalism to my vitriolic catcalling, I would highly recommend a visit to my good friend David’s Blog over on the New Statesman where he has fairly and intelligently dissected the whole sorry affair.

Tuesday, 18 October 2011

What Must The Catholic Church Do To Finally Concede The Moral High Ground?

Whist morality is an innate human quality with evolutionary advantages, it was nonetheless well shepherded in early cultural development by religion. Although we now have a better understanding of the natural origins of morality and are more than capable of being good without god, tradition and culture still maintain the now defunct association between religion and morality. So much so that as soon as we suspect a moral decline the first port of call for the press and media is always a priest or bishop to point us in the right moral direction. We install Bishops in the House of Lords to ensure a moral health-check on new legislation and we religiously broadcast platitudes on the Radio 4's Today programme just to keep our moral compasses in check. Tradition, culture and public opinion will simply not accept the uncoupled status of religion and morality.

To their credit though, the Catholic Church have been working very hard to clearly demonstrate this misconnect. We are familiar with the church's institutionalised child abuse and habitual cover ups, we’re familiar with the frequent homophobia, the antiquated suppression of women and the unforgivable deadly sexual health misinformation. But the vast majority of us still refuse to let the church step down from the moral high ground.

Today sees a new low in Catholic immorality as the secret of Spain’s stolen babies is finally revealed. Parents considered “undesirable” or morally or economically deficient by priests, nuns and doctors were told their babies had died so that they could be placed with “approved” families.

Despite the revelation of this latest scandal (which the Catholic Church is of course at the heart of), I have no doubts that we will still be encouraged to look up to these child traffickers for our moral guidance.

I’ll wager that even if the Vatican installed gas chambers and ovens in St Peter’s Basilica and invaded Poland, we would still be wheeling in a priest to give us a good talking to on our depraved morality.

Saturday, 1 October 2011

When Will The Church of England Shut Up Shop For The Last Time?

It’s that fun time again when the Office of National Statistics release a whole bunch of completely unsurprising figures that the newspapers can spin to reflect whatever point of view they suspect will sell the most papers. I might as well add my own biased spin to counter the Daily Mail's arse dribble.

In 2011, 68.5% of the UK population apparently identified themselves as Christian, compared to 71.3 % the previous year, with the overwhelming majority of the slack being taken up by us godless heathens.

These percentages of course refer to “Cultural Christians” rather than “Practicing Christians”, indeed the wording of the question includes the caveat “even if not currently practicing”. However, what I think is a far more pertinent statistic, is the actual Church attendance numbers.

The above graph shows the average weekly attendance of Church of England services over the last 10 years. Indeed, if you look at the source you can see this same declining trend in Sunday Worship going all the way back to the late 1960’s. There is of course no surprise in seeing this steady slump in church attendance. Each year an average of 14,300 fewer people attend Anglican services.

That means that on average, each week, 275 regular church attendees have either died or have woken up and decided that it's all a bit silly really and they’d rather have a nice lie in of a Sunday morning.

Of course extrapolating figures generally leads to some very dodgy conclusions, but what the hell, let’s extrapolate anyway.

Assuming the same steady decline continues year on year at the same rate, then on Sunday 16th January 2089 the last 75 stragglers will wander through the hallowed doors for one final sing-song and a couple of nice platitudes before being sent on their merry way for the last time. The following week, Sunday 23rd January 2089, every church, chapel and cathedral across England will be empty, vacant, void. Completely deserted.

I wonder if on Monday 24th January 2089 when the Daily Mail reports with horror that no bugger turned up for Church yesterday, that the government will still feel justified in their support of an education policy that actively discriminates based on the alleged religious beliefs of parents and a theocratic admissions policy for the House of Lords.

After all, if I were to believe this dodgy extrapolation, it could be in the lifetime of my children.