Time to engage your brain - Norwich Cathedral Jesus relics aren't real
PUBLISHED: 14:26 03 January 2020 | UPDATED: 10:23 04 January 2020
When I think of church relics, I'm transported back to medieval times, when people were easily led by controlling priests - and happy to believe anything that relieved the daily grind of life.
More fool them for praying over a fingernail clipping from the hand of St Paul, or venerating honey that Samson ate from the carcass of a lion.
I didn't know this sort of strange behaviour was still going on - and right under our noses, in Norwich.
The Roman Catholic Cathedral's Christmas newsletter said: "Our reliquary contains fragments of the manger, the swaddling clothes, hay and a crumb of the cave wall. Come up after any of the Masses and the priest will say a short prayer of blessing and give you the opportunity to venerate these holy relics with a kiss."
Perhaps the newsletter is meant to be a work of fiction. For the simple response to this entry is: "No, it doesn't."
It may contain a bit of wood, a fragment of cloth, some hay and a bit of wall plaster, but I rather doubt they were at a potentially-mythical event, survived for 2,000-plus years and ended up in Norwich.
And even if these bits and bobs are the real deal, the venerators are risking the wrath of their maker, who has repeatedly stated his dislike of worshipping idols - sometimes despatching a bit of death to drive home the point.
Despite that, I gather plenty of people defied the possible thunderbolt and filed up to the reliquary, looking very sombre, to plant a kiss on a piece of hay.
It gets on my wick (which is the original wick from one of the four candles in the Two Ronnies sketch).
If you brought together all the relics claimed by Christian churches, you could make: a cross of the crucifixion about three times the size of the Angel of North; a swimming pool-sized manger; enough of St Thomas's fingers to make him an in-bred freakshow act; so many bits of swaddling cloth that it'd take an hour to upwrap the baby Jesus.
Now that I'm on a roll, here's a quick break for an advert.
In my loft I have:
■ A tuft of hair from Father Christmas' beard
■ Genghis Khan's ponytail clip
■ Leftover ambrosia made by Ganymede and served to Zeus in Olympus
■ John the Baptist's half-eaten locust
You may also want to watch:
■ Two original Van Gogh masterpieces
■ The Holy Grail
Feel free to come over and venerate my relics, but please call in advance. £10 entry fee; £5 for under-16s; £20 if you have a free bus pass (I'm clawing back some money lost in subsidising you).
Back in the room, I'm seething about the way that churches present these relics as real, thus encouraging their flocks to behave like sheep.
Museums and art galleries have to show the provenance of items and artworks that they display. They don't just thrust things in front of the public without checks - and proof of authenticity.
Of course, Christianity is based on asking people to believe in something that they cannot see. So the faithful are perfectly programmed to believe in the kind of Victorian travelling circus of the Norwich reliquary.
That's why thousands trooped up to the fragments to steal a kiss.
Shame on the leaders for staging this tawdry show.
And even more shame on the Roman Catholic Church as a whole for failing to move away from myths and continuing to mislead people.
Saying that, it is the 21st century and everyone has a brain of their own. It's time to engage it.