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Thursday, 29 January 2009

The Beaker Code

Our understanding of the Church has been questioned by one of the leaders of a fenland religious instititution.  

In response we would have to point out the undisputable fact that the Early Church were in fact Beaker People.  
The legend of the Holy Grail is clearly a cryptic memory of the Beakers that the Church used for their ritual washing (later sublimated into baptism).  These beakers also underlay the Celtic myths of the use of cauldrons of healing.  The church inherited the use of "months" to compute the passing of time from their Jewish forbears - whose use of the New Moon to determine when to hold their own celebrations is an indicator that the Patriarchs themselves were Beaker Folk.  Do we even have to mention the ritual washing beakers at the Wedding at Cana, the beakers of water that Elijah poured out on his sacrifice,  the beaker of oil which sustained the widow of Zarephath?  One can understand how people have missed these hints over the years.  After all, we keep our treasures in beakers of clay.

That the role of female archdruids and the use of beakers has been so carefully edited from the records of the early Church is of course no surprise.  Females in leadership, and the use of common workaday objects such as clay beakers rather than silver and gold vessels would always have been offensive to an upper-class Roman society.  I'm just glad we have been able to set the record straight.

Wednesday, 28 January 2009

Beaker Folk and Anglicans

People have been commenting that there seems to be a similarity between we Beaker Folk and Anglicanism.  Nothing could be further from the truth, and I would like to point out the differences to clarify this matter:

  • The leader of the Beaker Folk is someone of great holiness who makes profound but incomprehensible statements. Her followers generally listen to her with great respect, and then totally ignore whatever it was she was trying to say. 
  • We are a democratic organisation, whose unelected leaders draw their authority from a group of former leaders in the remote past.
  • Although sharing a common set of beliefs, every sect within Beakerism is entitled to believe whatever they like.  The leaders try not to be too dogmatic, for fear of offending somebody.  Especially the Moon Gibbon people - they can get really nasty.
  • We have a Moot, not a PCC.  The Moot never spends hours discussing what wattage of light-bulb should be used to replace the one in the church lavatory.  Instead we spend hours discussing whether the tea-lights should be paraffin- or wax-based.
  • If a Beaker Person disagrees with a new innovation, they never refer to the fact that it was tried during the time of the previous incumbent and didn't work then.  Instead they refer to it having been tried in the time of Archduid Zinglewix (2045-2022 BC) and it didn't work then.
  • Although we are in favour of all-member ministry, the leader of the Beaker People must be a woman.  There's no theological  principle behind this - it's because she owns the house.
  • Beaker People are not frightened of the concept of "Mission".  We just need to work out how to do it, without offending people of other faiths, cultural sensitivities and attitudes to the Moon Gibbon, and without making ourselves look like fanatics or idiots... and then we'll get right on with it.

I hope this has set matters to rights at last.

Sunday, 25 January 2009

Moon watch

Once again another New Moon is upon us. I'd like to wish the Moon Watch Squad well, as they cower in the dark and damp of the Watching Booth.
I'd love to be there with you, but as you know being an Archdruid brings many concerns of a pastoral nature - binding up the wounded, listening to the whinging and self-indulgent, patronising the obsessive... sorry, lost the thread there for a moment... comforting the weak, healing the sick, raising the dead.... sorry, went beyond my remit there. The temptations of ministry include being both dismissive of one's charges, and over-confident of one's own abilities. Or is that just me?

Look, to cut to the chase, it's cold and wet and I'm feeling a bit sniffly. So good luck to you, and let us all know when you see the Moon. I'm going to stay in here with the Glenlivet.

Saturday, 24 January 2009

Inter-faith issues

Once again we seem to have inadvertently fouled up on the inter-faith front.  Last time was the unfortunate occasion when the living gods of the Guinea Pig Folk of Stewartby formed part of the barbecue.  At least this time no deities died.
This was all due to the New Moon All-Age Festival.  We chose quite a modern children's song, "A time for everything", on the grounds that it effectively has no identifiable theology and we therefore thought it was safe from offending other groups that were visiting our "Celebration of Faith" weekend.  But no.
The Aslan Worshippers of Ampthill took great exception to the chorus.  They seemed to think we were singing "Na Na Na Narnia" and therefore disrespecting their sacred land.  In the event, as seems inevitable in any event where we try to encourage mutual respect and understanding, an almighty fight broke out.  It would appear no real harm was done, but a number of marsh-wiggles ended up in the Casualty unit at MK General.  

Oh - and if anyone should meet a talking mouse, can you be careful?  He'll have someone's eye out with that sword. 

Tuesday, 20 January 2009

Young Keith Gets Political

I think Young Keith may have been slightly misguided (or else quite ingenious) in thinking he was making a political point by spending all day in the  pub in Olney.  His argument that by giving the Two Brewers all his money, he was showing solidarity with those suffering from the woes of the former SPCK bookshops just doesn't hold water somehow.

Sunday, 18 January 2009

Burton's Great Adventure

As comments to our previous news may have hinted, sending Burton out on the Agnostibike in the middle of last night's really rather foul weather may not have been unwise.
OK, in point of fact he didn't actually fly over Milton Keynes, but he tells us that is roughly the feeling he had as he was swept sideways by a gust of wind as he went past McDonald's in Kingston. Also when he had to climb out of a ditch after taking evasive action in the back lanes between Wavendon and Woburn Sands.
But the good news is, he seems to have done more praying lately than he has in a while. So all in all, a success.

Saturday, 17 January 2009

Agnostibike

Sadly we don't have the resources available to other groups, but we've managed to put Burton on a bike, pulling a go-kart with an A-board on it.  And we've sent him off to pedal round the Marston Vale and Milton Keynes areas.

I think the slogan catches the Beaker philosophy really well.  Let's hope it helps people think. 

"There may well be a God.  But we can't believe there's really a Hell.  Try not to worry about it too much..."

Wednesday, 14 January 2009

Radio Husborne Crawley

Yet another great idea from Drayton to reach the "youth" with our message.  Radio Husborne Crawley is going to really fly, I can tell.  His aim is to make the relevance, hip-ness and urban street-ness of the  Beaker message really clear to the youth of Husborne Crawley.  So if anyone can help out in the area of decently new groovy music we'll be really pleased.  Currently we've got Norman Greenbaum's "Spirit in the Sky" and the Airplane's "White Rabbit".  If we could only find a new needle for the record player, we'd be hitting the airwaves with some rocking grooves.  But in the meantime, we're restricted to Drayton's "Thought for the Day" and "I'm Sorry I haven't a tea-light".

Sunday, 11 January 2009

Do you believe in Beaker Folk?

Thanks to all for your kind enquiries about Husborne.  He's still being given a certain amount of pain relief, but no real harm done.

That's the trouble with accountants - they're so literal about everything.  He took the special application of the Sherine principle (that anything that is old must be untrue) just too far.  Yes, Newton did live a long time ago, but gravity still works.

On the bright side, at least falling from the roof of the Moot House stopped him going any further with his other scheme.  It was a bad idea to combine the general application of the Sherine principle (that the truthfulness of an idea is proportional to the number of people who believe in it) with his trip to the panto yesterday.
Please can I ask you all to stop believing in fairies again?  The things are all over the place.  And their droppings are really unpleasant.

Saturday, 10 January 2009

There may.... or may not be.... a God

Having read about the Agnostibus, I felt that it was my duty, as a loyal Beaker Person and an accountant, to bring some precision to the proposal that "there probably isn't a God".

Let us set some parameters and define our terms.

Let us call the probabilty of there being a God p(G).

We cannot say with certainty that there is no God. Scientists are very clear on the difficulty of proving a negative.
Can we say that there is definitely a God? Probably not. Even if everyone in the entire world had a direct experience of God, there would be a slight chance of a mass hallucination.

So we can say with some confidence that p(G) is greater than 0, but less than 100.
So where could I get more precision? In the event I found it from Ariane Sherine - who inspired the whole campaign. On Radio 5 the other night she described the idea of Hell as "outdated". So from this I was able to derive what I will call the Sherine Principle - that the truth of an idea depends upon the number of people who believe in it. OK, according to this the world was flat until somebody actually sailed round it, but never mind... at least we have a working assumption.
So if the truth of a proposition depends upon the number of people who believe in it, clearly the possibility of God existing depends upon the number of people who believe in him/her/it. A reference to http://www.adherents.com/ gives us the number of people who are members of each religion - a total of 92% of all people on earth. So, even reducing the figure slightly to allow for the Church of England, there is a 90% chance that God exists. In which case the bus's view is an underestimation. God probably does exist. We'll hedge around the fact that, according to the Sherine Principle, there's a 60% chance of God existing in England, a 100% chance in Saudi Arabia, and a 5% chance in Islington. After all, I don't make the rules up, do I?
But even if the probability of God existing were less than 50% - ie if God probably doesn't exist - what is the conclusion? You see, if you decide God "probably" doesn't exist, but that probably is only a 40% chance - you're giving up an eternity of potential bliss for a lifetime of slight (if that) happiness improvement. If I told you to open a box, and you had an 80% chance that it contained a million pounds but a 20% chance that it contained a poisonous gas - would you open it?
So...

If you believe God doesn't exist and you behave as if that were the case, let us call your change in happiness for your lifetime compared to believing that God did exist dH. For the purposes of the argument, dH may be positive or negative - after all, you might "stop worrying" if you thought God didn't exist, or you might be really happy and fulfilled if you though (s)he did.
Now let us consider the risk/reward situation here. If you believe God exists and (s)he doesn't - versus if you believe God doesn't and it turns out to the contrary. And let us apply some statistics.
So in order for not believing in God to be (on a risk/reward basis) worthwhile:
dH * L * (1-p(G)) must be greater than H(h) * E * p(G)
  • where dH is the difference in happiness if you don't believe in God
  • L = the average human lifespan
  • p(G) = the probability of God existing
  • H(h) = the happiness of heaven compared to those in a state of hell/oblivion (again, taking into account the Church of England)
  • E = the length of Eternity.
And the problem is in E. E is the length of Eternity. And the length of Eternity is infinite. Which is really big.
So the only circumstance where the risk/reward is on the side of not believing in God, is where p(G) = 0 and dH > 0. And not only does the Sherine principle state that p(G) = 90% (give or take Anglicans), but the only situation where the benefits side of not believing in God outweighs the downside, is where p(G) = 0. Absolutely zero. Because anything more than that blows the equation across to the right hand side. And we know from the side of the bus that not even Richard Dawkins believes that p(G) = 0. If there is the slightest chance - no matter how small - of God existing, then the benefits of living as if God does exist outweigh those of living as if God doesn't. Even if (and it's unproven) people who don't believe in God are happier than those who do during their earthly life-times.
I asked the Archdruid what she thought of my equation. She told me to light a tea-light and try not to worry about it. It sounded like a good plan.

Monday, 5 January 2009

Twelfth Night

I know it's traditional to burn the festive greenery on Twelfth Night, but please can you all be careful? That holly seems pretty dry, and the flames were shooting out earlier. And I don't want to see anyone else trying to get the tree on the fire. It's just too big. And if it did catch - well, it's a new Moot House. Let's keep it for a bit longer this time.

Also, can you note that it's only the everygreens that are supposed to be burnt - mistletoe, holly, pine boughs etc. There were bits of glass all over the place after Algai threw the fairy lights on. It was even worse that she left them plugged in.

Saturday, 3 January 2009

On the anniversary of the Excommunication of Martin Luther

It seemed a happy co-incidence that the 488th anniversary of the excommunication of Martin Luther should fall on the same day as the 3rd round of the FA Cup, and right in the middle of our experimental worship season.

So I was happy to see our expression of love overcoming differences, as Beaker Folk wearing the colours of Luton Town, MK Dons, Rushden and Diamonds, Liverpool, Man Utd and many others mingled happily at our "united in our divisions" service.  The exchange of handshakes, hugs and kisses during the playing of "All you need is love" was particularly moving.

It was in order to emphasise my total neutrality in all this tribal loyalty that I wore a referee's outfit.  However I did not expect to hear a song requesting information about my identity and casting doubts on my parents' marital status.  It wasn't big and it wasn't funny.

Please note that tomorrow's Pouring out of Beakers has had to be cancelled, due to freezing beakers. 

Beaker Secularists' New Year Message

In the interests of tolerance for all beliefs, even rather sad ones, I am delighted to post the New Year message and annual review of the previous year from the Beaker Secularists. I assume that it was the Secularists' leader who gave me the article. However to be honest one bloke with a weedy moustache and an anorak always looks much like another to me, so it could have been any one of the others.
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It is with great pleasure that we of the Beaker Secularists look back over another year of fighting against the powers of religion and superstition, and a number of cracking social events.

January saw our Annual General Meeting, held at the Little Chef, Hockliffe. We spent a while protesting that the Little Chef image is clearly religious, representing some kind of tutelary deity of bacon and eggs, and demanding it be taken down. We have respect for other people's right to belief, but don't see why Big Business, in collusion with this Chef cult, should quite literally push their beliefs down our throats. The manager took our complaints quite seriously, then threw us out into the car park. Still hungry, we went across to the McDonalds across the A5. And don't even get me started on Ronald McDonald...

February and I am pleased to announce I had a letter printed in the St Albans Telegraph. Why, in this day and age, when as few as four people in the entire country ever go to church in the average year, should we continue to name a town in Hertfordshire after a so-called "saint" who, if he existed at all, was a threat to an orderly civil society in hiding another subversive Christian from the lawfully-appointed powers? We requested that the town be renamed after a suitably well-known secularist - possibly Jeremy Bentham, Bertrand Russell, Stalin or Mr Wainwright, the librarian from early series of Last of the Summer Wine. Needless to say, due to a conspiracy between the Established Church and the powers-that-be, our request was ignored.

March, and sadly we had a 25% fall in membership. This occurred after I was compelled to dismiss Bernard from membership of the Beaker Secularists, after we caught him trying to hide the evidence that he had been eating an Easter Egg. I need say no more.

April, and we moved our regular meetings from the Husborne Crawley Reading Room to a table in Wetherspoon's in Milton Keynes. After a meeting in Husborne Crawley, we would often walk out into a starlight night, look up and consider the beauty of the heavens, the wonders of gravity, the sheer immensity of the Universe - and then the utter futility of it all. Frankly it was getting us down. In Central MK, we can't see the stars due to the street lighting, and we're a lot happier with our position in the universe now.

In May we wrote a number of complaining letters to the Government pointing out that, in a shameless example of religious bodies trying to retain their place in this modern world, all the days of the week are named after gods. Needless to say, the Government rejected our suggestion that we instead name them after twelve dignitaries from Mid-Beds and Milton Keynes Councils.

June, and in that pleasantly anachronistic (but in no way religiously-motivated) way of things, we held our May Ball. I'm glad to report that we had a 100% turn out for the event. It was on the - amusingly ironic - theme of "vicars and tarts". Wearing a dog-collar for the occasion, I felt, was a great way of showing the sham that is clerical power - whereby a small piece of plastic raises your social status. The downside was that, as Rodwell was taking the part of the band (through judicious use of comb, paper and spoons), Stanley had to turn up as the "tart". I hope I never again anyone with a goatee wearing a flapper outfit again. Worse was to occur, as of course I had to dance with him.

July, and we commenced our campaign to remove charitable status from the Beaker Folk of Husborne Crawley. We kicked these campaign into touch after the Arch-druid reminded us that she knows where we live.

August, and we attended the British Beer Festival. We had been boycotting for many years, as it was held at the religiously-inspired "Olympia" - clear proof that Camra had been infiltrated by worshippers of the Greco-Roman Pantheon. However for the last three years the festival has been moved to Earl's Court. Unfortunately Rodwell went mad and had a couple of pints, and we still await his release from custody.

September, and inspired by Camra's rather exciting advertising, we thought it was time for a publicity campaign of our own. However none of the slogans seemed particularly effective. I thought that "Beaker Secularists - you don't necessarily have to work for the council and live with your parents" had a particularly good ring.

In October, we went out in Husborne Crawley with the intention of persuading children from desisting from the supernaturalist and irrational celebration of Hallowe'en. However meeting what appeared to be Russell Brand and Jonathon Ross walking up Crow Lane, we panicked and ran down to the White Horse. There we were beaten up by a group of small boys armed with pumpkins. The Beaker Secularists are dedicated to peaceful co-existence, and this year we have certainly been reminded of why.

November's letter-writing campaign surrounded our demands that Ian St John remove the "Saint" from his name. A clear attempt to cash in on the modern interest with professional football, to encourage anti-rational behaviour. Once again, the established church exerted its power, preventing the Premier League from getting Mr "St" John to change his name.

In the run-up to the Winter Solstice celebration (we prefer this designation to the unscientific terms "Christmas" and "Yule") we went on our anti-bling campaign. This consisted of knocking on the doors of those who had erected lighting displays, to explain to them the non-existence of any kind of deity, the historical dubiousness of the so-called "Nativity" and how the event is a the result of pressure by the commercial/retail industrial cartel and the Church of England to encourage the worship of the so-called "Santa Claus", a Norse god of fertility and flying reindeers. Sadly some of the householders - well, all of them - refused to listen to our points of view and we were forced to remove ourselves from several premises extemely rapidly.

And so to my message for the new year. To the British Public I say, don't be fooled any longer by the Established Church, a massively powerful body which in fact has only approximately seven members according to our latest survey (which Stanley took at the door of the White Horse one closing time). Instead look forward to a life of civic dullness, wearing anoraks, pointless vendettas, endless letter-writing and - eventually - an inevitable death which renders the whole of your life (including joining the Beaker Secularlists) meaningless. Imagine the freedom of a life where tea-lights, instead of being invested with immense spiritual meaning, are just a means of lighting your bedroom while you try to find your copy of the Lamp-post Identifier's Weekly.

And to my mum - don't worry, I will find a girl one day.

Gilbert Le'Strange.

Thursday, 1 January 2009

A Lift for the New Year

Rather a shock, this evening's events.

I'll be honest, the idea of using balloons wasn't original. We did borrow it from some friends in the Peterborough area. But we thought that, with the opening of the new restored Moot House co-inciding with the Hogmanay celebrations, it might make a nice touch - the balloons floating up to the top of the Moot House's conical roof, as a symbol of prayer, and then floating down gently over the weeks to come.

Admittedly the job lot of balloons and helium that Hnaef laid his hands on weren't quite as spiritual as we were expecting. "Happy Hallowe'en" balloons in the shape of pumpkins, ghosts and vampires weren't really that fitting.

But Hnaef and I were really looking forward to wearing our new druidical robes, complete with sleeves that tapered to the wrists - so much less likely to be involved in a tea-light-related spontaneous-combustion event. What we weren't expecting was that an unknown miscreant would manage to get the helium into the underfloor heating events. First we knew of it was when we started floating into the air, ending up bobbing gently under the roof.

While we were thus incapacitated, the remaining members of the community took a good lungful each and we were treated to the entire liturgy rendered as if by chipmunks. Not very reverent, was it?

But life only became worse as midnight neared. First, the balloons were released and joined us in the roof space. Enough to give anyone a fit of hysteria. But then using us as target practice when you were all letting off the party poppers was just beyond the pail.

We'd probably be up there still, but for Young Keith getting his uncle the policeman round. Never knew he had previously been in the firearms squad. It seemed a shame to have to put a couple of air pellets through the robes, but at least it gave us a gentle return to earth.

Noting that the Community as a whole seemed highly - let us say - illuminated by midnight, don't worry we'll be round tomorrow morning early bashing dustbin lids together. Think of it as an old tradition - or at least one that will be an old tradition one day, if this kind of behaviour continues.