Iran, Iraq, Syria, Sudan, Libya and the United States: An Axis of What? an Axis, as It Happens, of Countries That Wanted to Ban Sex Education for Adolescents

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Whether I acted out of devilment, curiosity or perversity, I am not entirely sure, but the other day I became a priest. Some websites charge for the privilege of being ordained, but others do it for free. They even provide certificates. I am now legally entitled to minister in the US and can perform funerals, marriages and baptisms, though not, as my certificate points out, circumcision. Which is probably for the best, given my dearth of whittling skills.

Now, before the good, God-fearing readership of the New Statesman decides to get out the ducking stool, let me say that I reck on if I an Paisley has got the right to put the academic and caring title "Doctor" in front of his name, then I have the right to put "Reverend" before mine.

It was only after becoming a priest that I realised some of the advantages, apart from the more obvious ones, such as getting free jam at fetes and no longer fearing lightning. As a priest, you can apply to have your home registered as a place of worship. Once again, the internet can provide you with all the documentation, for a small fee. Having one's home turned into a place of worship may not suit everyone. But it should be noted that places of worship are exempt from council tax. So the inconvenience of having to hold the odd service is soon outweighed by the savings incurred. Plus, you get to keep the collection.


Becoming a priest might not seem very fashionable, but it can provide opportunities for social change. For example, if lots of gay men were to become priests, they could form their own church and insist that heterosexual ministers have the right to be heterosexual, but must abstain from straight sexual practices. To be fair, though, the Catholic Church has already beaten them to this one.

The very basis of personal religious beliefs has to be that you believe in the one true God and that therefore, by default, everyone who has another god is second-rate heathen scum and will burn in the pits of hell. So if David Blunkett introduces his proposed law to make religious hatred illegal, we should all become priests, imams, rabbis or whatever. We could then be as rude as we liked about everyone's religion safe in the knowledge that we were merely engaging in theological debate. We could even swap religions, choosing the imams' light robes for the summer months, then opting for the warmth of the brazier-loving Zoroastrians as winter draws in.

The proposed law is pure electioneering. …