Canon Dr Giles Fraser 104

Canon Dr Giles Fraser is being forced from his job for the dreadful sin of actually acting as a Christian.

I was sent this recently; different church, same shit.

I am some kind of confused deist myself. I was recently told what I am sure is an old joke, but it struck me as very true:

God looked down at the sufferings of man, turned to the Devil, and said: “The plight of man moves me to compassion. I will send them Religion for consolation.”
“Good idea,” said the Devil, “I’ll organise it.”

104 thoughts on “Canon Dr Giles Fraser

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  • nuid

    Wasn’t there some old anarachist way back who stormed into a church, knocking over tables, complaining about moneylenders?

  • Chienfou


    Fair points but turning this into a general attack on all religion is going too far.

    The joke at the end is funny. It would be more accurate though if the punch line were “Good idea,” said MAN, “I’ll organise it.”

    Because religion is organised by people who are always going to have mixed results and get things wrong. We need to remember that religion inspires a lot of good too.

  • craig Post author


    Personal spirituality and the teachings of great religious figures do indeed inspire a lot of good work. Organised religions have rich people at the top with interests to protect, and alliances with the other rich in society, with the money to fund their lifestyles paid in by the poor (including inherited wealth stores from past money and resources taken from the poor).

    I was quite serious when I said the Canon was behaving as a true christian. If you think about it, that implies approval of Christ’s teaching on my part. And I have repeatedly say that my unambiguous opposition to torture when other civil servants were prepared to be complicit in it was due in part to my strongly christian upbringing. I don’t believe any more that christ was the son of god any more than you and I, and I certainly don’t believe in his or the church’s alleged metaphysical party tricks. But I think he was a very great man, perhaps the most philosophically profound of the great religious teachers whose ideas, however distorted, have come down to us.

  • Beeston Regis

    As a wise man once said:

    Religion is like a penis. It’s fine to have one and it’s fine to be proud of it, but please don’t whip it out in public and start waving it around… and PLEASE don’t try to shove it down my child’s throat.

  • Rob

    “Mr Pigott said the canon had become one of the most radical figures on the Church of England’s progressive wing, developing a reputation for tackling difficult issues head-on.”
    Well yes, and Canon Fraser deserves priase and support. But if he is “one of the most radical figures on the Church of England’s progressive wing” then the CofE is well off-course. As Nuid says, for christians there is the best precedent of all.

    And by the way, it is depressing how few public spaces are left in our cities. One of the – perhaps intended – consequences of handing over everything to private ownership is that people no longer have the right to demonstrate or protest in very many places where they are going to meet the general public. And protest in London streets is so heavily prescribed that in effect it allows the government a veto on who says what (eg:

  • Quelcrime

    A few years back someone tried to sue the church in Italy for fraud, if I recall rightly. The court threw the case out, but it would be a good thing if more people tried that. Personally I don’t understand how people can believe the crap the church teaches – I don’t mean the teachings of the holy men, I mean the idea that Mary was impregnated by a deity and so on and so forth.

    Every time I meet a priest I have to struggle not to say, “You don’t actually believe that crap, do you?” The church is a mechanism of social control which has been superceded by other mechanisms. It’s just taking an awful long time to die.

  • craig Post author


    One of the good things about the church of england was that most of the clergy didn’t used to believe all the crap, but many viewed it as perhaps necessary to explain spirituality and teachings to the simple. Unfortunately now they feel they have to compete with the happy-clappy idiots who believe all manner of nonsense, and the church of england is worryingly tinged with religion.

  • Uzbek in the UK

    Mr Murray,
    By claiming that most of the Church of England clergy did not used to believe in all this crap but while cashing on it, do not you think that it is a sign of hypocrisy?
    I am spiritual man who believes in God. But I am not religious man as all religions were created by men and are based on dogmas rather than anything else. Although, in history there were some ages when religion played progressive and even positive role, but then it has all been overshadowed by most sinister crimes that have been done in the name of one and only right faith and quite often clergy was not only involved but inspired those crimes.

  • Quelcrime

    perhaps necessary to explain spirituality and teachings to the simple.
    Metaphors taken literally are a source of much evil. Once you make an individual of God you can distort religion into anything you please.
    If the peasants don’t understand what’s going on in the monastery, let them get on with their lives. Each of us finds his own way. Hesse’s Siddhartha found it by rejecting teachers and listening to the river flow. I don’t see why it’s necessary to persuade someone to accept your own system of metaphors unless you have an ulterior motive.

  • Vronsky

    “…so intimate is the connection between the throne and the altar, that the banner of the church has very seldom been seen on the side of the people.”
    Gibbon, Decline & Fall. History or prophecy?

  • Chienfou


    Your actions in Uzbekistan are a good example of doing what is right rather than what is easiest or just what is expected. As you say (and Nuid’s comment points to) that is an approach which follows Jesus’s example. I have great respect for your actions in the face of immense pressure to keep quiet and turn a ‘blind eye’.

    Canon Fraser is doing the same in saying what he feels is right while the CofE authorities are bogged down in all the political, financial and PR complexities of it all. Again Jesus show us of the dangers of this (e.g. Mark 10:17-31).

    One thing you say here doesn’t make sense though. You said “I don’t believe any more that christ was the son of god….But I think he was a very great man”.

    Jesus closed off that as a possible interpretation when he said he was the Son of God and forgave people for sins against God. Someone who does that is either mad or the Son of God. We each have to decide which we believe he is.

  • craig Post author


    He also said we should pray to “Our father” not “Jesus’s father”. There is absolutely no evidence – not even from any phrase attributed to him in the church authorised Gospels – that Jesus himself ever claimed to be divine or to be the son of god in an exclusive way. I did not say I do not believe christ was the son of god, I said “I don’t believe … that christ was the son of god any more than you and I”.

  • Jack

    There’s personal religion and there’s organised religion. Whatever the claims, the latter seems to boil down to:

    1. To be a good person you must do as God tells you.
    2. Don’t worry if you can’t hear God – I can, as I’ve been specially chosen, and have a book to prove it.
    3. Therefore – to be a good person – you must do, and believe, as *I* tell you.
    4. God has expenses, so I may need your money too.
    5. Beats the hell out of getting elected, doesn’t it?

    At its core, organised religion is about little more than social control – and if the existence of a deity were scientifically proven tomorrow, it wouldn’t change my view of that. The good people inside religion – and there are many of them – would be as good outside it. The bad – occasionally the very evil – too often find it not just a refuge but a very effective tool.

  • Cucumber Type

    Jesus closed off that as a possible interpretation when he said he was the Son of God

    Do you have a reference for that, Chienfou, or did you just make it up?

  • nuid

    As far as I know, the gospels were written down donkey’s years (50 or so?) after the death of Jesus, and he was made to fit the prophecies of a ‘Messiah’. I wouldn’t take any of the words in the Gospels too literally. They don’t even agree with each other. All I believe is that he probably existed more or less as described and preached some very good lessons. To that extent, I’m a follower of Jesus, or a Christian. But I’m also an atheist.
    I have pondered good and evil and the question of a conscience. Are we born with a conscience, a “feel” for good and evil, or are we taught by our parents? And if so, were they teaching us from the perspective of their own religions? And if all organised religions died out and the world was populated entirely by atheists, would ‘consciences’ exist?

  • john stack

    Your point starts with St Pauls Church of England. You then illustrate this with a viscious anti catholic picture.
    This anti Catholicism is the very worst thing about Scotland. You stoke it further. This instinctual anti catholic rant is so unworthy of you.
    I believed in you. It is nearly impossible to undo the harm you do unthinkingly. But for Scotland you must try. Shame on you Craig.

  • john stack

    Your point starts with St Pauls Church of England. You then illustrate this with a viscious anti catholic picture.
    This anti Catholicism is the very worst thing about Scotland. You stoke it further. This instinctual anti catholic rant is so unworthy of you.
    I believed in you. It is nearly impossible to undo the harm you do unthinkingly. But for Scotland you must try. Shame on you Craig.

  • wendy

    it appears that st pauls is due some important events coming up soon and the hierarchy / establishment dont want the protestors to be in view.
    it is also a very big money spinner for the church.
    its quite revealing tho the manner the uk media have been trying to demonise those who are protesting and if that has got little traction they have begun to ridicule them for not being articulate enough in expressing their grievances .. but i suspect the real issue they havent as yet been able to locate a ‘leader’ to sling mud at.

  • JJB


    “Jesus was a great man”. We will never be sure of that, I am affraid. He certainly did leave his mark on the people that meet him, but to extrapolate greatness from his alledged teachings as “reported” in the gospels is naive. Or, at least, greatness in the way of high moral principles. As you are well aware, the gospels are, at best, a distortion of his life, approved by the powers that be sometime in the 6th century. There are clear indications that Jesus was, in fact, a sort of “freedom figther”. What some will call now a “dissident” or “terrorist”. And that he was not particularly peaceful or mistical (and certainly not supernatural). Moreover, he was one of many that were trying to initiate a rebelion against the rulers of the land (that will be the kings, rome puppets). John the baptist was another who’s name has survived.

  • Rhisiart Gwilym

    Regarding the Nazarene carpenter’s party tricks, Craig: suspend judgement till you’ve actually seen a few modern ones. The late K J Batcheldor’s sitter-group method is very good at generating a reliable stream of paranormalities, when applied knowledgeably, and patiently with some dedication. Various groups following his basic method have found it so, and others keep turning up from time to time.

    I was lucky enough to sit in on Ken’s last group as an occasional visiting member. The things that you witness directly for yourself in such deliberately-generated, discreetly-low-profile ‘pockets of indeterminacy’, as Ken described them in one of his technical papers, make it very clear that there are indeed ‘…more things in heaven and earth, Horatio…’

    Put in plain bald language, what we commonly call ‘miracles’ — apparent local, temporary suspensions of the ‘laws’ of physics — are, as it turns out, genuinely possible in the real world, though quite rare (in naked, unmistakable form at least), and always elusive, tricksy, and just about fundamentally unbiddable. They come when they will, and do as they will.

    Their objective reality doesn’t in any way prove the alleged truth of the christian religion, of course, nor the carpenter’s alleged belief in his own special god-status (if he really did believe that; who knows). But he may have had an unusual knack for inducing such paranormalities; like, for another example, D D Home in the 19th century.

    The objective occurrence of these ‘impossible’ events is a real, and maybe even as some serious cognoscenti suspect, a fundamental aspect of the nature of reality. Don’t throw out the paranormal baby with the organised-big-machine-religion mucky bath water Craig!

    And therefore, don’t throw out altogether the possibility — speaking from long experience I’d say the pretty-near certainty — that shamans and other related ‘technicians of the sacred’ may actually have a working, if always tricky, connection to this wild-card aspect of reality, and may therefore always have been able to do some good thereby for the human condition.

    Cheers bro!

  • nuid

    “There are clear indications that Jesus was, in fact, a sort of “freedom figther”.”
    And nothing wrong with that either. Nor does it preclude greatness.

  • Iain Orr

    For a rounded picture of Dr Giles Fraser’s radicalism, I suggest re-reading the texts of his past Radio 4 Thoughts for the Day at .

    However, for a highly topical take on banking and religion I recommend Martin Palmer’s reflections on usury [ see and open the listening or reading text for 7 November, 2007]. It was because he named Citigroup’s then CEO, Charles Price, in this broadcast that Martin was removed from the current list of approved Thought for the Day contributors – a loss to us and the BBC.

  • craig Post author

    John Stack,

    anti wealthy priests. I come from a catholic Scots-Italian background. A great many of my family are pious Catholics and I love them dearly. But my father was educated by catholic priests, and some of the things he saw them do left him with a real hatred of priests. Personally I think there are good ones and bad ones, But I think the historic accumulation of wealth by religious leaders is unacceptable, and that photo nicely encapsulates it. Sent to me, incidentally, by someone who definitely, like me, does not come at this from a “fan of Paisley” background.


    The gospels are historical records, and written long before their editing and codification five hundred years later. There are other non-Gospel Jesus texts as well that add to the picture. I think we know as much about Jesus as we do about a great many accepted historical figures – and in fact our knowledge benefits from the fact these surviving records are not the hagiography of victors that passes for history for the most part.

    A revolutionary figure, yes. But while he was a Jew who lived in the context of their continuing rebellion and conflict against Roman occupation – was in fact a Nazarene – there seems no particular reason to doubt that he also focused strongly on moral reform of his own society. I see no reason also to doubt the fairly consistent evidence that he had a non-violent resistance philosophy. That doesn’t stop you being an anti-colonial and social revolutionary – look at Gandhi.

  • orkneylad

    Stultitia et miseria hominum
    The folly and misery of men

    Marsilio Ficino to Plero Vanni, Cherubino Quarquagli, Domenico Galletti: greetings.

    “You have seen painted in my academy a sphere of the world; on one side Democritus laughing, and on the other Heraclitus weeping. Why is Democritus laughing? Why does Heraclitus weep? Because the mass of mankind is a monstrous, mad and miserable animal.

    Mortal men ask God for good things every day, but they never pray that they may make good use of them. They want fortune to wait upon their desires, but they are not concerned that desire should wait upon reason. They would like all their household furniture down to the least article to be made as beautiful as possible, but they are hardly ever concerned that the soul should become beautiful. They diligently seek out remedies for bodily diseases, but neglect the diseases of the soul. They think they can be at peace with others, yet they continually wage war with themselves.

    For there is a constant battle between body and soul, between the senses and reason. They believe that they can find themselves a faithful friend in others, but not one of them keeps faith with himself What they have praised, they reject; what they have desired, they do not want; and contrariwise. They lay out the parts of buildings to a measure, and tune strings on a lyre to a hair’s breadth, but they never attempt to harmonize the parts and movements of the soul. They make stones into the likeness of living men, and they make living men into stones; they despise wise men themselves, but they honour the statues and names of the wise. They claim to know about everyone else’s affairs, although they do not know about their own.

    What more, my friends? The magistrates forbid murder, and allow instruments for killing men to be made everywhere. They desire an excellent crop of men, yet they do not take sufficient care of the seedling, that is the child.

    People always live badly today; they only live well tomorrow. For the sake of ambition they strive against each other with evil deeds, but the path to glory would be easier to tread by doing good to one another.

    Although they always speak evil, they hope to be well spoken of themselves; although they do evil, they hope to receive good. We proclaim that we are the authors of good, but that God is the author of evil. We blame our faults on the stars.

    How many people will you find who value a man as much as money; who cultivate themselves in the same way as they cultivate their fields and other affairs; who bring up their family with as much care as many rear their horses, dogs and birds; who consider how grave is the waste of time? In spending money we are very mean, in expending time we are extravagant beyond measure. How many can you name who recognise the poverty of their soul? Everyone believes that he abounds in wisdom, but is short of money.

    What a sorry state! We seek the greatest in the least, the high in the low, good in evil, rest in activity, peace in dissension, plenty in penury; in short, life in death.

    I beg you, my friends, let us seek the same ends that we are already seeking, but let us not continue to seek them in the same place. The man who believes he will find one thing in its opposite is mad and miserable.


  • Vronsky

    If we have a native sense of right and wrong we have no need for religion in its role as moral preceptor. If we have no native sense of right and wrong then we cannot judge whether the moral codes contained in the bible are right or wrong: we are concentration camp guards, merely obeying orders.
    This of course is the practical political use of religion – it prizes obedience to authority above all.
    As for Jesus, many mere mortals have shown more persuasive moral sense and greater personal courage – and there is no dispute as to the reality of their existence.

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