The cardinal's hat
I think I have half made my peace with the Church today. Last weekend I went on the Today programme (an inadvertent blackleg -- I hadnt realised the NUJ strike went till Saturday, until I woke up to find that Farming Today had been replaced by a repeat); the, slightly self-referential, subject of the discussion was what life had been like last Friday without the Today programme (which was then itself off the air because of strikes).
Steve Richards, a loqacious journalist from the Independent, had loved it -- said that it made the day feel like Christmas. I, on the other hand, had felt distinctly nervous. I have never thought I was much interested in the rise and fall of BP shares, or the likely winner at Wincanton, but if all this stuff is NOT broadcast, I suddenly find that I really want to know. Having no Today programme was not like Christmas, it was like Sunday morning -- a real blot on the Radio 4 escutcheon, when (as I perhaps unwisely put it) we get that awful happy clappy Sunday Worship.
There was an instant torrent of email. Some said they were prepared to join in the fight for a Sunday Worship free Sunday morning. Others (and it was just about evenly divided) were accusing me of intolerance and irreligion -- many in polite and well argued comment, others in tones of which I think the Almighty would probably seriously disapprove.
I wrote back to all of the emailers, explaining that I was actually a great fan of SOME religion on radio, but in my view Sunday Worship hit rock bottom. And, of course, the most insulting didnt bother even to acknowledge my reply....so much for the spirit of tolerance and interfaith understanding.
Well I hope they are eating their words this morning.
Because by the time I appeared on the radio to share my views on happy clappy religion, I had already chosen my favourite photograph of the decade to appear in the Guardian. Honestly, I was at a bit of a loss. There were plenty of moving images in the books they sent to choose from, but I thought that I wanted to do something a bit different from human tragedy, the Iraq War or Huntingdon Life Sciences -- so I went for the picture at the top, of the cardinals at the funeral of John Paul II. The line was, as you can read here, that it would be dead easy to mock...but that the working ritual is a bit more complex than such mockery (on the Dawkins line) would suggest. Imagine for a start the jokes of these guys when they put their feet up later that evening round the Vatican fire, with a glass of the Vatican Benedictine. I was meaning to suggest that 'designer atheism' had got it all a bit too simple.
So much for Beard the hater of organised religion.
I am on the way back from Bochum by the way... it has rained non stop since I got here (see right), but I have had good fun in my 5 hours at the Memory-Fest. Thanks to all who gave be a good time.