John Walsh: btw

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The Independent Online

Great Moments in Theology, No 1. A professor of psychology at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem has a theory about some famous scenes in the Old Testament. He thinks they didn't happen. Plague of frogs? Nope. Burning bush? Never happened. Rivers running with blood? Don't make me laugh. They were, according to Professor Benny Shannon, hallucinogenic visions, experienced by feckless scribes in the grip of a drug from the same family as LSD. Many psychoactive plants in south Israel, says the professor, "constitute the key ingredients of one of the most powerful psychedelic substances in existence". He discovered a drink made from these plants, used in Amazon rituals; tried it; and parted company with his tree. Shannon believes that Moses has been drinking the stuff when he was given the Ten Commandments. Amazing to think the whole moral underpinning of Christianity is the result of an acid trip. It would, however, explain the stuff about coveting your neighbour's ox.

* Great Moments in Theology, No 2. According to sharia law, if you're born a Muslim, you're not allowed to convert to other religions. Islamic leaders come down like a brick wall on former zealots who switch allegiance to, say, Judaism. But surely the government of Malaysia is going a bit far in jailing Mrs Kamariah Ali for joining a cult that worships a giant teapot. It's called the Sky Kingdom Cult, and the teapot is symbolic of the purity of water and of the love that pours (geddit?) from heaven. But the government got wind of the cult, smashed up the two-storey-high sacred teapot and arrested the devotees who were praying to it. Mrs Ali is now in the slammer until she agrees "to abandon any teachings contrary to Islam". I trust someone will bring her fate (and the teapot) to the attention of the Archbishop of Canterbury.

* The Finnish prime minister, Matti Vanhanen, has been caught with his trousers in the ankle zone, as his former lover, Susan Ruusunen, publishes the revelatory The Prime Minister's Bride about their nine-month affair, and his legal attempts to stop her have been rejected by a Helsinki jury. But what was it he most wanted to suppress? The fact that he dumped her with a two-word text message ("It's over")? Or that, according to Susan, "Once he kissed me, and said I tasted better than baked potato"? No wonder the smooth-talking bastard got so far in public life.

* The Royal National Institute for Deaf People has asked young designers to dream up cool new styles of earplug, to be worn in noisy clubs, without the risk of mockery. Earplugs thereby join the list of things that are so uncool, you can't imagine any design or advertising pitch that could sell them. (Others are white sleeveless vests for men and crinoline ladies on spare loo rolls.) But can't the designers spare a thought for those already deafened by heavy metal, and design a cool ear trumpet? Once they were part of the vital equipment of the elderly English gentleman, but they died out one day. Bring back the trumpet!

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