Ann Allan: It’s the Gospel truth or Is It?

'For the last time, the conception was immaculate! You don't hear me asking where you were that night!'The recent discussions about Christians and their beliefs got me thinking about how the concept of Christianity came about. So I did a bit of research and I have come up with my version which is probably irreverend but nevertheless relevant.

I am going to tell you a story.  It’s about a boy and girl who fell in love. They weren’t married and by the time they got round to telling their parents the baby was almost due. Naturally the parents were upset and insisted they go away from the village to have the baby,  thus avoiding any scandal. The couple who were uneducated on matters of a sexual nature tried to deny that any sexual contact had taken place resulting in family members referring sarcastically to a virgin birth. Yes you’ve guessed it, the baby’s name was Jesus and he grew up and founded a movement called Christianity. We don’t know much about his early life other than he served his time as carpenter. He was baptised late in life by John the Baptist in and around his 30th year. This might suggest that his parents were not very religious or didn’t believe that a child of a few weeks could decide what religion they wanted baptised into.

thJohn the Baptist was a hippy. He wandered around in the wilderness, dressed in clothes made of camel’s-hair.  Like a modern-day Bear Grylls he lived on locusts and wild honey.  Fuelled by the stories of his ancestors who believed that a Messiah was coming,  John saw in Jesus a charismatic figure who could fill the role and so declared that he was the Messiah and the Son of God.  Jesus was raised as a Jew and until his meeting with John probably didn’t have any intention of starting a new movement. But egged on by John and not happy with his lot ( he came from peasant stock) he had an epiphany and realised he could do something to change society.

He was determined to better himself so he went to the temple where he mixed with the scribes and Pharisees who helped educate him. He also realised he was good at performing tricks, a bit like Dynamo. People were amazed and their only explanation was that Jesus was the Son of God. I suspect in 33 A.D. it was not always possible to tell when a person was dead or in a coma, so perhaps he got lucky on many occasions.  Jesus started to believe his own hype and as his reputation spread he amassed a large following. It is BB51E1C3-44C2-4762-8CD0-1DBB60122234 2reported that he was friends with all kinds of people but we know he was friendly with Mary Magdalene who some described as a prostitute while others have suggested she may actually have been his wife. It would have been unusual for a man of his age not to be married in the Jewish culture but I’m not going there. There are claims that he spend 40 nights in the desert fasting. While there the devil tempted him.  More likely he became delirious through a poor diet.  John being an inhabitant of the desert was probably not too far away keeping him supplied with locusts and honey.

Meanwhile Jesus was gaining attention from political leaders and particularly from Pilate. When others started referring to him as King of The Jews,  Pilate  accused him of treason and summoned him before a tribunal.  Judas who was jealous of Jesus daubed him in while on on a visit to Gethsemane.  It strikes me as strange that Judas had to identify Jesus with a kiss as he was well known to the authorities. Where’s Crimewatch when you need it? Pilate, who was a Roman governor, was reluctant to convict Jesus but after persuasion from the Jewish authorities he washed his hands before the crowd and told them to do what they wanted. Now this is where I have a problem. How can anyone believe that a loving father i.e. God would have his only son (allegedly) crucified and exactly how would this save us from our sins? What sins have the young children who die every day through abuse and starvation, committed? And don’t start me on original sin. What’s that all about?

4063EAC6-1F35-4163-82A6-2BC955B2A8CF 2Jesus was buried in a large tomb but during the evening, wary of his followers trying to view the body either Jesus was taken by his followers or by the authorities and reburied in a secret place.   In order to placate his followers the apostles spread the word that, as he was the Son of God he had ascended into heaven. Easy in those days to convince uneducated followers.  His fellow disciples perpetuated the story.  Thomas was obviously a bit sharper than the rest of the apostles or was not included in the conspiracy as he couldn’t be trusted. Whatever the reason, he didn’t believe the story and who can blame him?  The story was retold and probably was embellished as it was 80 A.D. before three of the four gospels were composed.  The authors remain anonymous but they are thought to be Jewish.

The spread of Christianity was perhaps due to a desire by a disillusioned people to believe in an afterlife. While the ethos of Christianity is love thy neighbour and do onto others as they would do to you, this has not been translated into words and deeds. Christianity has also been hijacked and used as a weapon to attack non believers and those of other religions and lifestyles. The misuse of Christianity by a number of religious orders in the middle ages to justify crusades where hundreds of thousands were killed in the name of God is a prime example.    ( ” Kill them all, God will know His own” )The Gospel according to . . .

My intention in writing this is not to offend or insult anyone but to look at the birth of Christianity and to question the belief that Jesus was the son of God. I believe Jesus was a man who saw a role for himself in helping his community. He started a movement which has lasted two millennium but as stated earlier the movement has been hijacked along the way by those who want to rule and control.

Áine McGrath:  A Rabbits Tale.


One day last week I was lifting a few spuds at the allotment and stopped to have a chat with a neighbouring plot holder.  As we stood there, I couldn’t help but notice out of the corner of my eye that there was a young wild rabbit sitting nearby, nibbling on some grass under a hawthorn hedge.  Silently foraging, it sat there in the sunshine, twitching its whiskers whilst it chewed on the blades of grass.  Eyes glistening, it was a beautiful thing to see – and to be so close to.  So as not to disturb it, I whispered to my friend “look – right there!” and gestured in the rabbit’s direction – not thinking that he wouldn’t be quite so keen to see it as I was…


I was horrified when my friend reached towards the ground and picked up a rock, about eight inches square.  Like a primitive hunter-gatherer, he eyed up the rabbit, growled under his breath and raised the rock up above his shoulder to take aim.


“NO!” I yelled, startling him into submission.  “What do you want to do that for?  Look at all the size of it – and look at the size of us!”  He was stunned and muttered “well…they come in and eat everything in sight!”, gesturing towards his plot.  Yes: I remembered then that wild rabbits had indeed found a way onto his allotment last summer and had particularly enjoyed his beans…


He went to take aim again.  “NO! DON’T DO IT!” I yelled again.  “Look” I said, “that wee rabbit’s only doing what comes naturally to it.  It spends its day searching for food, then it goes home to its burrow and makes baby rabbits.  That’s all they do – that’s all they’re supposed to do.  This is its home, its natural environment.  WE’RE the ones who are upsetting the natural order of things here!  We each have a wee strip of ground that we grow stuff on in a concentrated, cultivated fashion, and those wee rabbits come in here and see all of this and think “waaa-hey!”  We’re practically laying out a buffet for them – yet we persecute them for following their instinct!”


Unable to keep from smiling, he looked at me and said “uuuurrrgghhhh!!!  You bloody big softie!  I’d never thought of it that way before…”  Laughing, he threw the rock away and left the rabbit to eat in peace.


Incidences such as our encounter with the rabbit serve to remind us that life does not revolve around our own personal needs and desires.  There are always other people, or other things, to consider, and every choice that we are faced with presents us with an opportunity to generate a positive or negative outcome.  The truth is that we can’t make informed, responsible decisions without considering the perspective of all of the parties concerned – even if it is only that of a young wild rabbit!  Just because a situation directly affects us, it doesn’t mean to say that ours is the only viewpoint that matters.  In every sphere of life, there will always be other viewpoints – and they will always be equally as valid as the one(s) that pertain to our own personal selves.  Just take a quick look down the headlines that are making the news today.  How many differing viewpoints do you see?  How much compromise do you see?  It makes me wonder, just how many of those people making the news today could benefit from watching baby rabbits…

Áine McGrath: Is Real Food Weird ?

I remember one day a few years ago, I went to buy spuds from a local farmer who sold the produce he grew from a hayshed at the back of his house. We were chittering away when a middle-aged woman pulled up in a big Merc. She got out and with a plum in her gub she said,

“I’d like to buy sahm of yohr po-TAY-toes.”

The farmer explained that he had some freshly dug Navans and gestured towards some that he was in the process of bagging. A look of contempt crept across her face as she replied with the plum in her gub

“Oeh my GOOD-ness! They’re DER-TEH! I’ll goeh to Mahks and Spincah instead.”

The farmer and I struggled to keep our faces straight as she jumped back into the big Merc and sped off to Marksies. In this sanitised world we live in, adults are just as detached from the essential tenets of survival as the children in this cartoon are…

Being Mindful of Success by Áine McGrath

Often I find myself thinking in depth about modern living and the effect it has on the human psyche. I’ve written about it extensively in my journals for several years now, exploring the symptoms and reflecting on the effects of constructed social norms that have corrupted basic human happiness. We live in a high octane, fast-paced world that’s fuelled by stress generated by fickle man-made standards that equate to smoke and mirrors. “Success” is defined in monetary and material terms – but if we take a bit of time to examine what’s really going on we can see that “success” in the modern world is something very different indeed.

Where is the success in having a career that demands all of our time, leaving us with no room to enjoy quality moments with the people with whom we feel real and completely at ease? Is there really success in a job that brings nothing but deadlines, isolation and stress into our lives? Do our demands for “rights”, accountability and retribution become obstacles to our own peace of mind? Are our priorities all wrong?

It pays dividends to take a little bit of time out of every day for the purpose of lone reflection. Sitting still, listening to the sounds that are going on around us, feeling the sensations in our body as we sit quietly and allow our minds to gently settle brings a certain sense of perspective into our chaotic lives. Some people call these windows of reflection “meditation”. It should come naturally to us, but we’ve become so conditioned by socially
constructed chaos that this most natural of human phenomena has become almost impossible for us to access. With that in mind, I’m inclined to believe that true success in life is remaining spiritually and emotionally healthy in a world where our buttons are being pushed 24/7. Breaking the mould and nurturing our own uniqueness has become the exception rather than the rule – and it requires self-awareness and spiritual awakening of the kind that can only be rooted in true inner calmness. It’s difficult to achieve that when we’re constantly surrounded by other people and the majority of our time is taken up with worldly “obligations”. Making time to practice mindfulness at some point in our day helps us to filter out all the background noise, the chaos and the unnecessary demands of modern living with the result that we find a sense of perspective on the world we live in – and how to survive within it. It’s a lifeskill that’s definitely worth having. 🙂



Ann Allan: How to Stay Faithful to Facebook while Having an Affair with Twitter.

I suppose it all started when I discovered Skype. Suddenly I could communicate with relations I hadn’t seen for years. It took a while for me to realise why I hadn’t communicated with them for years. We had little in common. As a result I sat making small talk before announcing , sorry have to go, somebody at the door. Ok, so it was midnight here and morning in Australia, but I hoped they wouldn’t notice. The novelty with Skype soon wore off. I became restless. When a friend introduced me to Facebook I was ready for something new. The attraction wasn’t instant. I dabbled a little.

Facebook wanted to know a lot of personal information and being a little coy I decided that my name and an outline photo was as far as I was prepared to go. I openly mocked those who had succumbed to Facebook’s charms and thought them very fickle. However it didn’t take long to seduce me and so my love affair with Facebook began. I changed my profile picture many times to get it right. Decided in the end on a picture painted by my six year old granddaughter. A cheery black haired girl with no nose. A bit like Snow White. Without an actual photo I could still pretend I was young and attractive. Deceitful I know but hey ho! That little red light at the top of my timeline had my heart beating faster. It surely knew how to get to me. The anticipation that I had a message or that someone wanted to be my friend was so exciting. I did try to ignore it but the flesh is weak and with the bribe that I could gossip, see silly photos and endless words of wisdom I warmed to its charms.

After a short flirtation I was in love, well at least I thought I was. Always one to take an interest in what’s trending, I became aware of Twitter. Subliminally to start with. TV programmes now gave out Twitter handles. Never take off, I said. Too complicated, I thought. Oh, ok I’ll have a look, I conceded. And that’s when my relationship with Facebook began to suffer. I was more and more attracted to Twitter. Twitter offered excitement. New people. New followers. I could follow people who weren’t friends and people I thought I would never meet followed me. When Eamonn Holmes and Marian Keyes became followers my life was complete. They would never have been my friend on Facebook. There are of course downsides. . No one says nasty things on Facebook. We are all loved up. Twitter, however, like the jealous lover can be hurtful, spiteful or just do the huffing bit. I put something out there, bare my soul and Twitter just ignores me. Then I feel spurned and return to Facebook to seek reassurance that I’m still loved. There I cringe over some of the sugary posts giving out advice like modern day Nietzsche’s but like them anyway so as not to offend my other love.

Tension is high in the evenings. Hubby is jealous of my flirtations with social media. We use the same email address. He has an iPad and iPhone. I have an iPad and iPhone and when a tweet, email or Facebook alert comes in, it’s a bit like the 1812 overture. All the alerts are different and they all come in at intervals of a nano second.

“Feck  off ” he mutters, as I relish the fact that one of my lovers is calling. So to whom shall I stay faithful? I think I’ll string them both along. They fulfil different needs and I am loathe to let either go. Just have to make sure they don’t find out about each other and I’m sure Skype would have me back.