Have you ever wondered why most religions are little more than childish storytelling? Virgin births, “immaculate” mothers and deathless demises. In ancient Egypt, for example, the godman had to be reassembled from bits by his consort, Isis. An early version of Lego, perhaps.
A great deal of this comes from the choice of texts to represent the religion. Some are written in impenetrable code to prevent the authorities knowing what’s going on. Thereafter the document will be explained literally, causing a lot of puzzled head scratching among future congregations.
The Christian New Testament ends with surely one of the silliest books ever written: Revelation, progenitor of countless prophesies of the end of the world. There was one only last week, you may remember. It didn’t happen — it never does — so the prophet has moved the date to October.
In his eyes, a select few, including him, will rise to heaven in a Rapture, while the rest of us get crumpled in worldwide earthquakes. Nice. The pastor in question is 89, so clearly wants to take all of us with him when he goes. It makes you proud to be a Christian.
There is a strong case then for retiring the infantile aspects of our major religions and seeking out more reasonable texts to replace them. In particular, the whole of the New Testament should be recreated from scratch.
First off, out with Revelation and in with the very grown-up Gospel of Thomas. Here’s why:
His disciples said to him, “When will the rising of the dead take place, and when will the new world come?”
He [Jesus] said to them, “What you look forward to has already come, but you do not recognise it.”
Apocalypse? What apocalypse? What a breath of fresh air!
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Over the last Bank Holiday (I don’t remember which one, there are so many these days) my cable television service disappeared. Pop, and it was gone.
Virgin Media confirmed that a major fault had occurred in the Westcountry and their wizard engineers were on the case. The service was down for three days. So much for the wonders of the latest fibre-optic technology.
During that period I explored the TV possibilities on the computer, discovering that one can watch all the channels online, including such obscure outfits as ITV3 and Watch. And, there’s often a choice between live broadcasts and catch-up TV.
Now, Virgin regularly pesters me with juicy offers to combine the television experience with broadband — everything down one superfast fibre-optic pipe. I confess, I have been tempted. But for some reason I stuck with BT’s ancient copper-wire landline with broadband zooming in at 4Mb per second. Virgin offers 10, 20 or even 50.
The reason I stuck with the wire for phone and online was pure lethargy. I couldn’t face another telecoms upheaval in the house: number changes, new business cards and letterheads, engineers crawling all over the place and BT’s endless refrain: Come back to us!
Had I succumbed to Virgin’s siren song, not only would the TV have gone south, but the broadband and main phone as well.
Lethargy, apathy, inertia, laziness can be positive forces too, I realised.
I’m thinking of writing a book: In Praise of Lethargy.
But I just can’t be bothered.
* * * * *
Three cheers for the Bateman report on Welsh land usage, with national implications.
Professor Ian Bateman suggests that Welsh farmers should give up on unprofitable sheep and turn their fields into woodland for recreational use. It will be part of the National Ecosystem Assessment to be published by the Environment Department on Thursday.
We need more trees and plenty of them. They provide habitat, recreation for weary city types and, yes, they have impressive carbon storage abilities. All shall be saved.
It’s a desolate fact that most children now live far from accessible woodland, and grow up thinking that the world equates to ugly buildings, roads and varieties of mental illness.
As a boy, yours truly lived close to open country amid spectacular woods and streams with real fish swimming in them. Paradise is an inadequate word to describe these God-given play areas for boys.
My small tribe of friends named most of the trees in the spacious clearing we made our own. There was the Robin Hood tree, the Peter Pan tree, the Faraway tree and the Tree of Doom, because so many boys fell out of it.
We made our own vehicles from two pairs of pram wheels with a plank mounted between. The front pair was held by a single bolt so that they could be steered with a length of string. Formula One it was not. Much more fun.
One day I decided I would tackle an impossibly steep hill, never before attempted. The descent began well, cruising at a steady 80mph, when one of the wheels struck a submerged rock sending the jalopy careering straight into a dense thicket of brambles. I was cut to pieces.
The tribe laid me out on the plank as with a corpse and solemnly bore me homeward like a funeral cortege. Shocked adults stared at my unrecognisable body in disbelief. Quite what my horrified mother made of it is not recorded in the annals.
It was said that one mischievous boy announced: “We brought back as much of him as we could find.”
As the Romans used to say, a man must die once before he can live.
And none of those delights would have been available without the trees. There’s a hospital there now, and acres of car parking where our woods once were.
Three cheers for trees. Long live Professor Bateman.
* * * * *
Where have all the neurologists come from? They are all over us like a swarm of bees. They pop up in colour supplements and newspapers smirkingly telling us how we work, rest and play, nothing is beyond their explanation.
The latest nonsense is that they will soon be able to see sentences forming in our brains by linking a type of signal to a particular word. Then, they claim, they will be able “to read our minds.”
During my close encounters with the TV’s digital box (see above) I realised that the mistake of neurology — in a wider philosophic sense, not of specific brain surgery — is that it confuses the signal processing mechanism with the source.
A digital box picks up countless invisible signals from the space around it using a type of aerial. You wouldn’t know they were there unless you were told. The box then manipulates the signals and streams them into the TV where they are converted into moving and talking pictures in a recognisable sequence and format.
But the signals originate elsewhere. The box is not a closed system. It just seems to be.
A primitive scientist unaware of how a digital box works might be forgiven for monitoring the signals within the box electronically and concluding that the box itself is the source of the television programmes.
That, I believe, is what is happening now with brain research. The brain is a kind of interface into the body, which is not a self-sufficient organism. The body is not a closed system.
This is one of the greatest misconceptions of our age.
* * * * *
Aphorism of the Week
If, when you open your eyes in the morning, the world does not look newly-minted, the problem is you, not the world.
Who is the author of The Eternal Quest for Immortality: Is it staring you in the face? Available from Amazon and all good booksellers.
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