Further to yesterday's posting regarding the research findings that Manchester is the happiest city in the UK
today the city itself tried hard to live up to its positive reputation by allowing the very faintest glimmer of sun. This phenomenon lasted for about one minute, but was pretty heart-warming for all that!
To continue with yesterday's theme of Manchester good neighbourliness and positive ethnic and cultural relations, at 10.00 the local flower shop (owned by a charming Sikh couple) was still shut. On enquiring at the hairdresser's next door, I was invited in and offered a cup of coffee whilst waiting for the flower shop to open.
And not once did that rather chic hairdresser's try it on, even though I'd just been swimming and my hair was - frankly - in need of some attention!
Talking of different faiths, today's Times has an interesting article by A.C Grayling on
Religion and its mortifying history of self-inflicted pain:
Apparently, Judaism is
[t]he only "religion of the book" that does not contain ritual traditions of self-inflicted suffering
It [does] require[s] male genital mutlilation in the form of circumcision.
Hang on a bit - that's a bit loaded, isn't it! Has he actually interviewed any Jewish males lately to see what they think? I mean 'mutilation' - that's a bit over-the-top, surely!
He then continues that, in Judaism:
Sackcloth, ashes and fasting are the norm for penitents; punishments, which are biblically plentiful and savage, are most inflicted by the deity.
Yes, but is this really what Judaism is about, I ask myself. I mean, I haven't seen much evidence of sackcloth and ashes either in Israel or in Jewish areas of the UK. Fasting there is, but only deemed meaningful when done with the 'right intention', as a Buddhist might say, Just look at the prophet Isaiah, Chapter 58, for instance:
Presumably, when Grayling mentions the Bible, he is talking about the 'Old Testament' and not the New Testament, which tends to share the view that circumcision is NOT A GOOD THING, AS WELL AS BEING HARMFUL TO THE MALE OF THE SPECIES:
I wonder how Professor Grayling (whose field is philosophy) would get on teaching RE in the classroom. Would he be happy to learn, for instance, that RE is gaining in popularity and 'is now the most important examination subject after English, maths, and science':
English, maths and science are, of course, compulsory, which makes the achievement of RE all the more fascinating, given the input of the Dawkins and Graylings of this world!
At least the Church Times admits that knowledge of the 'Old Testament' is pretty thin on the ground in Church circles, let alone other circles:
The C of E has long since lost the Old Testament from its worship and preaching. This is not just a pity: it is a cause for concern:
One of the reasons for this sad state of affairs may be the very low priority set in this country on the learning of foreign languages. If French is no longer compulsory from the age of 14, what hope for Latin, Greek and Hebrew? And, as I've argued before, you can't understand the Hebrew Bible (alias 'Old Testament') without knowing Hebrew, as it is based on punning and innuendo - much of the time at least! Most of which is lost in translation.
But to go back to the beginning of this blog - that Sikh flower shop - It is heartening to read in today's Times that (pace Grayling) the RE GCSE syllabus will give more recognition to Sikhism and Buddhism to reflect greater representation of those faiths in the classroom.
Although, my experience of teaching RE in a very tough school in north Manchester is that the RE department was scrupulously fair and allotted an equal time for all the six major religions practised in this country. The problem was that some pupils from a certain religion were not too keen on learning about some of the other religions.
As for Judaism, I wonder if Professor Grayling might like to ponder the following: is there any other religion which sanctions putting God in the dock, as Judaism has, based on biblical precedent?
I mean, can you imagine Aristotle talking to the 'Prime Mover' in the way that Abraham took on God over Sodom?
No, I thought not.