Tuesday, 26 January 2010

A prophet for our times

I’m toying with the idea of founding a new religious sect. Looking around the world, I often feel that there just aren’t enough of them yet. In fact, I’m struck by how often down the years I’ve heard the complaint ‘I’m just not getting enough sects’.

An aspect that I find especially endearing about some of the established religions is their dietary laws. The Jews, the Hindus and the Moslems are particularly hot on the topic, but even the Catholics had a few, at least until recently – fish on Fridays, for instance. My problem is that I’m not keen on some of bans the established religions impose. For instance, I can’t really think of any pork dishes I haven’t enjoyed. I mean, even my Jewish family had trouble when they smelled bacon frying – a difficulty many of my vegetarian friends share. In my case, my partiality for pork has been deepened by intimacy with that glorious Eastern French province, my wife’s native land, Alsace, where what they don’t do to a pig just isn’t worth doing. And certainly wouldn’t be legal.

On the other hand, I’m not unduly fond of cheese. Raw, at least. I like fondue and I like parmesan on my pasta. So it occurred to me that my sect could ban raw cheese. That, however, seemed a little unfair to those of my prospective acolytes who might be partial to a bit of cheese. So I’ve decided that all my followers would have to find some dish they really couldn’t stand, and then strictly ban it from their lives. Of course, that’s still unfair to those people who don’t have any food phobias at all, but you can’t be fair to everyone. They’ll just have to make do with one of the established cults.

But my religion wouldn’t be all about bans. There would also be things that it would actively encourage.

One of the charms of my recent visit to Morocco was the Muezzin’s call from the Minarets, though at a quarter to six in the morning it was nothing short of vile. In my religion, therefore, there will still be Minarets and calls to prayer, but just twice a day and at civilised times. The first will be at midday and be some appropriate variant of ‘get home and have something to eat, but do try and desist from anything that happens to be on your banned list.’

The second would be at six in the evening, and warn you that ‘if you haven’t finished your work yet, you’re being inefficient; wrap up now and go home and have a decent meal without, if possible, eating anything that you’ve decided to forbid yourself.’

Perhaps one of the more significant innovations would concern sermons. I’ve always regarded these as one of the most tedious aspects of Christian worship: they last too long and, above all, you have no right to reply. So in my religion they would be limited to a quarter of an hour and the minister would speak for only the first five minutes, after which the debate would be thrown open to the congregation.

My view is that if you can’t say it in five minutes, you just haven’t got your thoughts in order. In that time you should be able to tackle intelligently any interesting contemporary topic, such as why professional sportsmen get paid so much for playing a game they presumably like – shouldn’t they be paying us for going to watch them and cheer them on?

The sermon would start at a quarter to twelve and be brought to a close by the muezzin at midday. His call, adapted for the occasion, would point out ‘you’ve had quite long enough to debate this point, if you haven’t decided yet then you’re rambling inconsequentially, go home, have a meal without any banned ingredients, and come back once you’ve got your ideas sorted out properly.’

What do you think? Pretty smart suggestion or what?

I think it’s got potential.


Mark Reynolds said...

I nominate canned peas be haram, but I'm not sure I can accept that ban not being universal.

Mark Reynolds said...

"they last too long and, above all, you have no right to reply."

I've always thought this was the particular genius of the Rohraffe marionette in the Strasbourg Cathedral - a sanctioned heckler to act as the voice of the congregation. Alsace was ahead of it's time in this, as in so much else.

David Beeson said...

With you on the canned peas - or the 'mushy peas' of British chip shop fame. Apparently, Lord Mandelson when he was MP for the thoroughly Northern, thoroughly working class constituency of Hartlepool, while remaining profoundly Southern and bourgeois himself, pointing at the mess of mushy peas and said 'oh and I'll hae some of the guacamole.'

Probably an urban myth, but even if it is it contains a grain - perhaps more than a grain - of psychological truth.

Anyway, that particular dish can certainly go on the banned list, for anyone who agrees.

Awoogamuffin said...

Sign me up! Sounds brilliant!

David Beeson said...

You need to identify a food you don't like that we can then abominate as a community (but only for you, of course, in case someone else likes it)