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crows nest
By Stephen Tomkins
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And the winner is...
May 2010

The results of last year's great contest are in – and the good news is that we won. The British Humanist Association's bus advert, "There's probably no God..." was only the sixth most complained about advert of 2009 in the UK, but the Christian party's response, "There is definitely a God..." reached the number one slot, with 1,204 complaints. Atheists have certainly learned a lot from Christians about how to be bores for a cause, but when it comes to annoying people through the medium of posters, Christians still lead the field. Praise the Lord!

Who won this month's religious rights contest is less clear cut. The Christian street preacher Dale Mcalpine was arrested in April after saying in public that gay sex is sinful. He was due to stand trial under the Public Order Act, but charges were dropped after the gay rights activist Peter Tatchell came to his defence, arguing that the principle of freedom of speech meant that the law could not punish homophobic opinions.

A win for Christian freedom of conscience there, I guess, but a rather greater win for Peter Tatchell's nobility of conscience, especially considering how few Christian activists would have been as generous in their support if the roles were reversed.

The Church of England has shown its support for a rather less urgent cause, the World Cup. Showing a touching solidarity with those who face no end (or indeed, beginning) of troubles because they enjoy watching international football matches, the church has published prayers that fans can use to help them get through the trying weeks ahead.

The prayers, co-authored by the Bishop of Croydon, are addressed to the God "who played the cosmos into being" – a new angle, I think. I'm picturing God placing non-existence on the penalty spot and kicking it fabulously into the back of the net, an achievement only slightly undermined by the lack of a goalie, and by the philosophical and practical difficulties involved in kicking nothing.

And if you couldn't care less about the World Cup, that doesn't mean the church has overlooked your needs. Repeat after Bishop Nick...

A prayer for those simply not interested
Lord, as all around are gripped with World Cup fever,
bless us with understanding,
strengthen us with patience and
grant us the gift of sympathy if needed.

Oh, Church of England, how would we get by without you?

Meanwhile, the Church of Rome has been equally daring in expressing its support for a beleaguered majority – those who believe that the Earth orbits the sun. It did this by reburying Copernicus amid lavish celebrations and ceremony beneath the altar of Frombork Cathedral in Poland, 467 years after his death and 394 years after putting all his writings on the Index of Forbidden Books. Well done, Rome, for promoting a scientific discovery that everyone realised was true mere centuries ago.

Finally, back to the Church of England, where bishops have been supporting those suffering from leglessness and nakedness. Fifty bishops were staying at the Park Inn in York for a House of Bishops meeting, we hear, when a woman was seen stumbling around the hotel in the middle of the night dressed in nothing but an anonymous bishop's dressing gown.

And if I'm going to tell you that, I should probably also tell you that shortly before that she and a friend entered the hotel alone in an advanced state of inebriation, set off the fire alarm, and for reasons best known to themselves and Bacardi, took off their clothes. Fifty bishops emerged from their rooms, 49 said, "Err..." in deep impressive voices and one threw his dressing gown over the unfortunate young lady. So if anyone stopped reading after the previous paragraph because they had finally give up their Christian faith in disgust, whoops, sorry.
also see
hubris 2
Mark Howe's regular rant about Internet culture
strangely warmed
Andrew Rumsey's regular column about the religious life
loose canons
Stephen Tomkins' regular round-up of the saints of yore who were one wafer short of a full communion
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