I say this because whenever I argued with my mother about religion – as I often did from about the age of 11 onwards – she would say things like, ‘There are plenty of clever people in the church, people with degrees and doctorates.’ It used to flummox me at the time. I just couldn’t understand why people so highly qualified could still be so obviously wrong.
Eventually, it dawned on me that the great bulk of these degrees and doctorates weren’t in real subjects at all – they were in theology! I’d imagined for a while that the upper echelons of the church (the Catholic one, of course) were peopled with physicists and mathematicians, chemists and philosophers. The reality was somewhat shocking. In effect, religious loonies were running courses in religious lunacy so that other religious loonies could get degrees in it! What’s more, it wasn’t just going on at church-funded colleges. This was happening in real universities!
I t took me a while to get over this. However, I had the small consolation that my mother’s argument no longer had any weight. It was also not long after that, that I became aware of Rev. Dr. Ian Paisley, well known for his voluble contribution to the troubles in Northern Ireland. The words, ‘Yes, like Ian Paisley,’ were the perfect riposte to the lots-of-clever-people-in-the-church argument.
It was always my mother’s fondest fantasy, that I would join the church and become a Jesuit. There were times when past wives almost drove me to wish I had done. But what fun, to be a theologian. I could have made a significant contribution to the debate on how many angels can dance on the head of a pin. Here – without even the benefit of a dodgy PhD – is my 2c worth. The number of angels that can dance on the head of a pin is:
- As many as God wants to.
- None. Angels are too big – unless they’re insubstantial and can all be in the same place at the same time. Then you could have any number you liked.
- Any number you like – as long as they only do it one at a time.
- None. Dancing is wicked and evil – like fornication without the good bits – so angel’s aren’t allowed to do it. Fallen angels could probably get away with it though – so this might be a good test to discriminate between the two types.
It’s like that old joke, really – still popular in universities – where the kiddies write above the toilet roll dispenser, ‘Sociology degrees. Please take one.’