Rev Dr Giles Fraser, St Mary’s Newington

The statue of the Bristol slave trader, Edward Colston, has been toppled and tossed into the sea. Rather than discuss the rights and wrongs of honouring a man who enslaved 100,000 people, branded them with his company logo, dumped 20,000 of their dead bodies in the ocean and made a fortune in the process, I’d like to address the much more important theological point of statues of the Invisible Magic Friend.

The Invisible Magic Friend used to live up in a mountain and got upset about statues of him. You can’t make statues of the Invisible Magic Friend because he’s ineffable and invisible and lives up a mountain. You must be really thick to think you can make a statue of an Invisible Magic Friend that lives up a mountain.

And this is where the history of western critical thought comes from.

7 thoughts on “Rev Dr Giles Fraser, St Mary’s Newington

  1. Classic Giles; casually discussing absurdly fantastical stories as if they were actual events, and theology as if it has some kind of academic credibility, and mistaking the loudness of that semi-ranting intonation for a powerful argument, and expecting to be taken seriously.


  2. “and theology as if it has some kind of academic credibility”

    I must admit it always surprises me just how seriously it does get taken as a general rule, given that it conforms to none of the standards of rigorousness which would be expected from any proper academic discipline (minor things, such as ‘evidence for assertions…’).


  3. I suspect that the whole issue of idolatry comes down to us for no better reason than the religious practices of rival tribes that the ancient Israelites had to be ordered not to get involved with. I quite like the way that the making of images of any kind, not just idolatry, is spelled out in detail in the Ten Commandments. Christians seem to have said ‘Err that commandment is a bit stupid oh Lord, so we’ll just ignore it if that’s ok with you.


  4. Giles tiptoed round the awkward fact that slavery was long accepted as an inevitable part of the human condition, both in legendary Israelite times and in first-century Palestine, and indeed pretty well up to the 18th century, when the first serious anti-slavery movements got going. Instead he asserted, ludicrously, that religious people invented the idea of criticising religion, and implied that only they could do it properly.

    He also asserted that we mustn’t “turn God into a creature of our imagination”. There is perhaps more in this comment than he would care to admit.


  5. Giles; how can we take you seriously when you start an opinion piece with “Perhaps the most pivotal encounter between god and humanity takes place in the wilderness of Sinai, where god calls Moses to meet him at the top of a mountain. This encounter happened in dense cloud, for even Moses is not allowed to see god directly”. Really? What, you think this really happened? Truly; honestly? And they let you on the radio to give your opinion on serious matters. Tch.
    Slave traders made loads of money out of the trade and then, as has always happened in religious societies (and still does), gave lots of that money to whichever religion they believe in with the hope it will get them into heaven. They are then seen as men (usually) of largesse by the church who ensure that the people are rightfully thankful to them. See
    Soon after their death they then get a statue in thanks for their largesse probably organised by other wealthy people, who too will want a statue when they die. In the meantime they will have built a massive house to show off to all their other rich friends, funded whichever political party maintained the laws in their favour and given away a little bit of their fortune to fund a hospital, school, alms house, park ect as long as it is named after them.
    Edward Colston’s Wikipedia page asserts that Colston was a “strong Tory and high-churchman” and “Colston constituted his charities to deny their benefits to those who did not share his religious and political views” – typical
    So today’s challenge to Giles is, although we can’t judge people from the 17th century by today’s moral standards, doesn’t that completely negate any argument for god’s message being unchangeable and eternal?


  6. “…given away a little bit of their fortune to fund a hospital, school, alms house, park ect as long as it is named after them.”

    Particularly true of Colston in Bristol.

    Shades of Doug & Dinsdale Piranha (

    Presenter:Clearly Dinsdale inspired tremendous fear among his business associates. But what was he really like?
    Gloria:I walked out with Dinsdale on many occasions and found him a charming and erudite companion. He was wont to introduce one to eminent celebrities, celebrated American singers, members of the aristocracy and other gang leaders,
    Interviewer (off screen): How had he met them?
    Gloria:Through his work for charities. He took a warm interest in Boys' Clubs, Sailors' Homes, Choristers' Associations and the Grenadier Guards.


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