A first tranche of what is owed
One of the things that worries me most about the Iran situation is my fear that the Iranian President is actually trying to provoke attacks by Israel and the USA. After all, though they have achieved enriched uranium, Iran is still a significant number of years, perhaps five or more, away from actually having a workable nuclear weapon or a power station, come to that: five per cent enrichment is not the same thing as ninety.
Promises to obliterate Israel from the map, and announcements that the US is a decaying power (truish) which not need be taken into anyone's consideration (so untrue as to take the breath away), might seem a little premature in the circumstances.
But not if you were elected on a manifesto of social welfare you have done almost nothing to implement in an election from which most politicians people wanted to vote for had been excluded by your clerical backers, and if you are uneasily aware that the populace really don't like you very much. In those circumstances, getting someone very stupid to pick a fight with you is a recommended policy for making all opposition to you seem unpatriotic. After all, it is not as if anyone is going to conquer Iran: it is far too big, even if the likely invader were not busy holding down two adjacent countries already.
What is far more likely is that the Americans or the Israelis will bomb some fifty or so sites where nuclear work might be being done, miss half of them killing civilians whether through poor aim or poor intelligence in the process and make you the most popular man in Iran.
A man who will try to set up a Holocaust Denial conference is not someone I would trust not to be that cynical and cold-blooded.
The weekend saw a couple of sermons - Rowan Williams and the Pope - denouncing Dan Brown and stressing, correctly, that the Gospel of Judas is a latish text of no particular authority. Both, but especially Williams, went on to say that Christianity has nothing to hide, nothing up its sleeve, honest guv, and that conspiracy theories are entirely beside the point.
Which is true, in the sense that Brown and his predecessors mean it. Probably.
It is also pretty disingenuous. The sorting out of the canon of what became the New Testament was a process of selection which meant that some material of doubtful provenance found its way into the Christian Bible, notably the so-called Revelations dubiously attributed to the Apostle/Evangelist John. The process also inserted the epistles attributed to Paul, which are, some of the time, impressively poetic wisdom literature, but hardly, even for believers, of the same importance as the reported words and deeds of Jesus.
I can see very good arguments why the mainstream of Christianity opted for the penny-plain versions of the Gospels, which do seem to be as early as any, rather than for collections of sayings that perpetually drift into the higher loopiness of most Gnostic writings. What I cannot see is that there is any reason why anyone should pretend that a process of selection did not take place and should be discussed from time to time.
And this is particularly relevant when churches are making statements about the secondary role of women in the early church which the evidence, if you look at all of it, does not sustain.
Williams was also scathing about books which claim that the Crucifixion did not happen, or that Jesus survived it.
This is sensible enough - pagan philosophers mocked Christianity fairly comprehensively, but never tried to claim that Jesus never existed or that the Roman state had not executed him, which I am sure they were capable of thinking of doing, were it a sustainable claim.
Islam, on the other hand, does make such a claim, alongside its vast respect for Jesus as a prophet who wll return in the Last Days. (On which, btw, the President of Iran is quite keen - I guess it is important to have a Plan B.)
Meanwhile, fillums.( Collapse )