Donal is questioning his mentor Fred about the nature of the relationship between God and morality. Father Mac sleeps in his chair, the foot of which is strewn with empty bottles of various kinds of booze, while Fred and Donal talk. Mrs. Boyle is in the kitchen, making coffee, cake, sandwiches, etc.
Donal: “I still don’t get it Fred.”
Fred: (a little exasperated) "What, Donal?”
Donal: “Well, you know how as kids we were brought up to believe that God created everything and sent his son to die for our sins, and how when we die we don’t really die, we live on forever in heaven or hell depending on whether we’ve been morally good or bad?” [i]
Donal: “Well, that’s the part I’m having a problem with.” [ii]
Fred: “Don’t be too hard on yourself Donal. You see, that’s the beauty of religion. It’s so mysterious and nobody has a clue what any of it actually means.” [iii]
Donal: “But Fred, aren’t we as priests supposed to know what religion’s about, so we can give moral advice on the basis of that? I mean if we don’t really “get” [iv] religion then aren’t we just like fascists? You know, telling people what they morally should and shouldn’t do just on the basis of our own personal prejudice?”
Fred: “Now Donal, there’s a big difference between priests and fascists. Fascists put on black clothes and go around telling people what to do, but priests . . . ” [v]
(Mrs. Boyle interrupts, briefly poking her head around the kitchen door, into the room where Fred and Donal are talking.)
Mrs. Boyle: “Coffee’s nearly ready Fathers!”
(Fred, grateful for the interruption that temporarily prevents his embarrassment at trying to explain the difference between being a fascist and being a catholic priest, pretends to want a cup of coffee in order to change the subject of conversation):
Fred: “That’s great Mrs. Boyle, thanks! Fantastic. I could murder a cup of coffee right now.”
Donal: (innocently) “How could you do that, Fred? In the microwave?”
Fred: “No Donal - I was speaking metaphorically. I just mean I’d really like a cup of coffee right now. Anyway, what’s on t.v.?”
Donal: “I think it’s Father Flan.” [vi]
Fred: “Ah yes, excellent! That’s the fictional show where the characters mirror characters with similarly sounding names from a different but real television series. [vii] That kind of ironic self-referential comedic device always strikes me as being hilarious but at the same time completely normal. It’s the sort of device that might crop up in almost any literary context, isn’t it? For example, I’d imagine it could easily appear in a boldly different kind of humorous introductory philosophy text, or something like that. If that happened, I wouldn’t be surprised at all! In fact, it would probably all be fantastically funny!” [viii]
Donal: (Skeptically) “Actually Fred, I don’t think it would be as funny as all that, now. Be realistic.” [ix]
Fred: (Thinking he has avoided having to answer Donal’s question) “Maybe you’re right. Anyway, never mind Donal, we’ll never know.”
(Hesitatingly, realizing the absurdity of what he is about to say:) “Let’s just watch the eh, fictional show.”
Donal: (Donal looks around for the fictional remote control for the television.) “O.K. Fred, the fictional remote’s around here somewhere – I’ll find it in a second now, just hold on a minute . . . I saw it around here yesterday. Here it is, oh no, that’s not it, wait, Ulrika! [x] I’ve found it - no, it’s not under there . . . it’s no use Fred . . .”
(singing, to the tune of “I still haven’t found what I’m looking for” by U2) [xi]
“I still – haven’t found – what I’m looking for. Anyway, what were you going to say just then about the difference between being a fascist and being a priest?”
(Mrs. Boyle enters the room bringing in some cake.) [xii]
Mrs. Boyle: “Here we are Fathers. Would anyone like some cake before I serve the coffee? There’s marijuana in it!” [xiii]
Mrs. Boyle: (thinking, pausing slightly) “No, not marijuana – what are they called – oh yes: onions.”
Fred: “Onions? Why would you put onions in a cake Mrs. Boyle?”
Mrs. Boyle: “For the vitamins, Father.”
Fred: “I don’t think people generally eat cake for its nutritional value, Mrs. Boyle. I think I’ll pass.”
(Mrs. Boyle, reluctantly willing to tolerate Father Fred’s strangely negative attitude towards onion-cake, takes it away and trudges back to the kitchen (off-stage). Donal, having been distracted by Mrs. Boyle’s latest interruption, switches to a different part of his general diatribe.)
Donal: “By the way Fred, here’s another thing that’s been bugging me recently. If God is omnipotent, why couldn’t he forgive people directly for their wrong doing, without requiring that his only ‘son’ [xiv] is tortured to death? Is that the least malign way that an omnipotent and perfectly benevolent being can forgive people?”
Fred: “Well you know now Donal, genuine forgiveness involves cost. Do you remember how I forgave you for flushing my winning lottery ticket down the toilet last week?”
Donal: “Fair play Fred, you did forgive me, but I don’t see why forgiving me for that meant that you had to burn all my Daniel O’Donnell [xv] records in the “hell-fire of Mrs. Boyle’s kitchen” as I think you said.” [xvi]
Fred: “Actually, I think I said “Mrs. Boyle’s hellish kitchen”.”
(Donal’s demeanor suddenly changes from righteous indignation to calm equanimity)
Donal: “Oh wait, come to think of it, you actually burnt your own limited edition signed Elvis Presley records – I forgot to tell you that I had switched the sleeves of your records with mine, just for a laugh, a while back. Sorry about that.” [xvii]
(Fred looks like he is going to do something violent, but Donal continues and distracts him just in time:)
Donal: “Anyway Fred, apart from the issue of God’s forgiving people for shite, what’s this whole connection between religion and morality?” [xviii]
(Fred is a little perturbed at Donal’s choice of words, but is more concerned with trying to answer his question.)
Fred: "OK, now just bear with me Donal. Suppose that we’re not catholic priests, and we’re just talking about the idea of God and morality and stuff, OK?”
Donal: “With you so far, Fred.”
Fred: “Right, so let’s try to be as neutral and uncontroversial as we can. We’ll only make assumptions that anybody could reasonably accept – you know, assumptions like the universe exists, it contains moral good and evil, and that at least some of that arises because of the actions of human beings who are apparently able to make free choices. That kind of thing."
Donal: “You mean like when French and former Arsenal striker Thierry Henry freely chose to handle the ball leading up to the goal that prevented Ireland from going to the world cup finals in South Africa in 2010?" [xix]
Fred: “Well yes, if you like, but that’s probably an obscure reference that most readers won’t be familiar with. Maybe we shouldn’t have included it in the book. [xx] Anyway, the point is that anybody, regardless of their faith or lack of it can agree with these assumptions – no matter whether they’re Christian, Jewish, Muslim, atheist, or agnostic. Even Father Mac could agree to them - right Father Mac?”
Mac: (momentarily waking from his slumber, upon hearing his name being mentioned) “What? Booze!!"
Fred: “Now Father Mac, you’ve had quite enough already.”
Fred: “That’s charming Father – go back to sleep!”
Mac: “Feck off!”
Donal: "That's Father Mac for you Fred. Unapologetic as usual - he just says what he wants."
Fred: (more exasperated now, but trying to focus) “Anyway, Donal, as I was saying, lets ask this hypothetical question. If God exists, how might morality be related to God?”
Donal: “Now come on Fred! You said we weren’t going to make controversial assumptions. Wouldn’t the assumption that God exists be controversial for atheists?”
Fred: “No, because we have to assume for the sake of the present discussion that God exists, in order to test the possible relationship between morality and God, OK!?”
Donal: “You’ve lost me Fred.”
Fred: “Look! We aren’t asserting that God definitely does exist! We’re just saying, if he does, how might God’s existence relate to morality?”
(Donal still looks puzzled. Meanwhile, Mrs. Boyle enters the room. Again.)
Mrs. Boyle: “A nice cup of coffee, Fathers.”
Fred: (No longer having a need for a distraction to prevent him from answering Donal’s question about the difference between fascists and priests): “Actually no Mrs. Boyle, I’m fine.”
Mrs. Boyle: “Ah you will!”
Fred: “No really, Mrs. Boyle. Thanks anyway.”
Mrs. Boyle: “Ah you will! Its nice and hot.”
Fred: “No, honestly Mrs. Boyle.”
Mrs. Boyle: “Go on. You will you will you will you will you will you will you will you will. You will!!” [xxi]
Fred (even more exasperated than before): “I’ll tell you what Mrs. Boyle. I’ll have a cup of coffee if you tell us how in your opinion, we ought to go about thinking about the possible relationship between God and morality!”
(Mrs. Boyle, looking serious, begins a monologue while staring intently at the wall in deep concentration. She doesn’t notice that Fred and Donal get up and go to get a snack while she is talking.) [xxii]
Mrs. Boyle: “Well fathers, as I see it, we need to use logic and critical thinking, in order to see what rational conclusions about morality can be drawn on the basis of the very uncontroversial assumptions mentioned earlier. (Defensively:) I know I wasn’t actually in the room when those assumptions were described, but this play moves in mysterious ways!
Also, we should carefully distinguish between two different ideas Fathers – not being able to understand some concept, and the idea that the concept in question is self-contradictory or otherwise incoherent. I admit that given our relatively puny cognitive capacities on Rocky Island, Tea's nature will be mostly incomprehensible to us. [xxiii] However, this is completely consistent with the requirement that in order for us as Rocky Islanders to talk or debate meaningfully about Tea, we have to use Rocky Island concepts, coherently, in accordance with logic. It’s utter nonsense to claim that since the subject matter is Tea, concepts like omnipotence, omniscience, perfect moral goodness, flavor, anti-oxidants etc. don’t have to make coherent sense.
I also think that as far as the question about the source of morality is concerned, we shouldn’t assume from the start that morality is merely a matter of opinion; you know - that one person’s views about some morally significant issue are as valid as another’s. By analogy, one wouldn’t think that one person’s opinion about baking cakes was as valid as another’s if the first person isn’t trained in baking cakes and the other is! It may turn out to be the case that there is an element of subjectivity involved in moral judgments and baking cakes or making tea, but this shouldn’t just be assumed from the start.
So thanks for asking Father, that’s basically the way I’d say we should begin to think about the possible relationship between Tea and morality: use logic and critical thinking, and don’t prejudge things by presupposing that whether an action, policy, cake, etc. is morally right or wrong is just a matter of opinion.”
(Fred and Donal return (each with a packet of crisps) [xxiv] just as Mrs. Boyle is finishing her monologue. She doesn’t realize that they have not been listening to her, nor does she notice them sitting down again. Similarly, they don’t realize that she has been talking mainly about tea and cakes – or has she?) [xxv]
Fred: "Yeah great, Mrs. Boyle, thanks.”
(Mrs. Boyle leaves to prepare even more coffee, sandwiches, cake, etc.)
Fred: “Look at it like this Donal. Suppose we first of all consider the idea that moral claims are indeed objective, right? In other words, there are answers to questions about what we morally ought to do, and these answers don’t just depend on the particular culture we live in, or how we feel about particular actions, what our attitudes about them are, etc. Assuming that moral claims are objective, what is the source of this objectivity? Exactly what is it that explains why some actions are objectively right or wrong morally speaking?”
Donal: “Give me an example of the kind of action you mean, Fred.”
Fred: “Well you remember that very funny and interesting book you discovered recently, which involved a humorous but accurate introduction to philosophical arguments about the possible relationship between God and morality?”
Donal: “Ah yes – I loved that book - it was great! And didn’t the content of the book in some ways resemble a popular TV comedy show about catholic priests, called Father Ted? I think the book even had character names which rhymed with the names of the characters from the show?”
Fred: “Right. Of course, the book’s author was careful not to breach any copyright laws – the similarity of the characters, situation, and so on was just for ironic comic effect.”
Donal: “You’re right there, Fred. It was funny, but what about it?”
Fred: “Well, what if the author had just stolen ideas directly from Father Ted, without crediting the show’s writers (Graham Linehan and Arthur Matthews - excellent writers, I might add). That might be an example of something which is objectively morally wrong.” [xxvi]
Donal: “I see what you’re saying Fred – not that the author of the book actually did steal ideas from the show, or was in breach of any copyright – he wasn’t morally or even legally remiss. He was just talking about stuff in the public domain, and used character names and occasionally situations similar to character names and situations in an actual show, for ironic comic effect and as a homage to the show.”
Fred: “That’s it Donal.”
Donal: “Or another example could be the time the main character in Father Ted stole a lot of cash from a charity set up to help send a sick child on a trip to Lourdes.”
Fred: (a little uncomfortably) “I suppose so, Donal, if he actually did steal anything. But as I recall, it wasn’t clear whether the money was stolen or whether it was just resting in the character’s account.” [xxvii]
Donal: “Ah now Fred, I think it was pretty clear that the Father Ted character had stolen the money . . .”
Fred: (getting annoyed, wanting to change the subject) “Donal! Just try to concentrate on the main point here, about objective moral right and wrong!”
Donal: “I’m trying Fred. If only there were some sort of philosophical text that could help me think about the question.”
Fred: “Well actually Donal, Plato’s ‘Euthyphro’ dilemma is especially relevant for this issue. In this dialogue Plato, through the character Socrates, raises the question of how we should think of the relationship between religion and the idea that there is an objective standard for morality. As it happens, Plato argued that morality is indeed objective and not just a matter of opinion or personal taste."
Donal: “Did he? I never knew that Fred.”
Fred: “Yes, he did. In the dialogue, Euthyphro asked Socrates’ advice about whether he was doing the right thing regarding his treatment of his father. His father had been guilty of an act of aggression against a servant, and had chained him up and left him to die. Euthyphro brought a case against his own father in court. In their society, the whole question of what is right or wrong was bound up with the idea of what the gods would approve or disapprove of. Euthyphro assumed that he was doing the right thing, because he thought that the gods would approve of what he was doing (in bringing the case)."
Donal: “That’s amazing Fred – Euthyphro and Socrates had a dialogue, and now we’re having a dialogue too!”
Fred: (sarcastically) “Yeah ours is just like Socrates’ and Euthyphro’s dialogue. I’ll be Socrates and you can be Euthyphro. Great.”
Donal: “But wait Fred, wasn’t Socrates put to death for corrupting the youth of the time with philosophy?”
Fred: “Never mind that now Donal. The point is that Plato, via the character Socrates, poses a question for Euthyphro (which can be stated in our modern (monotheistic) terms as follows)":
Is that which is good only good because God commands it, or does God command it because it is good?
Father Mac: (completely out of the blue, wakes up and says) “That would be a philosophical matter”. [xxviii]
Donal: (stunned) “What?”
Fred: “Pay no attention Donal. Sometimes Father Mac comes out with these vague multi-purpose sayings, for no apparent reason. Sometimes they make sense, and sometimes not”.
Donal: “Oh alright so.”
Fred: “But what about Euthyphro’s dilemma, Donal. Which horn do you think ought to be preferred?”
Donal: “Horn? Why is there a goat involved Fred?”
Fred: “No Donal! I mean, which part of the dilemma do you think should be rationally preferred?”
Donal: “It’s hard to say, Fred. I mean, both parts seem like they could have problems.”
Fred: “Yes, they do. That’s why it’s a dilemma – whichever way you look at it, a problem arises.”
Donal: “Like what?”
Fred: “ Well, consider the first part of the dilemma – that which is good is only good in virtue of having been commanded by God. That idea is sometimes called a Divine Command Theory of moral obligation. According to Divine Command Theory, (D.C.T. for short, also sometimes called 'voluntarism') the only reason we have for acting morally is because God commands, or wills, that we act morally. On this view, anything that God commanded would be good simply because God commanded it, and for no other reason. For example, if God had commanded that human beings steal, lie, perform human sacrifices, etc. then those actions would have been good."
Donal: “Now hold on a minute Fred. Do you mean that “God commands what is morally good” is just the same as saying “God commands what God commands”, since on this account of D.C.T., ‘what God commands’ means the same as ‘that which is morally good’? Because if you do, “God commands what is morally good” would just be trivially true and uninformative about God’s nature. I’m no expert in theology Fred, but I thought that most theologians think that the statement: ‘God commands what is good’ isn’t just trivially true? They’re saying that the statement makes a claim about what God’s supposed to be actually like. That statement could have been true or false but as it happens it’s true (they claim), and it’s made true because of how things really are; not just because of the concept of God."
Fred: “Actually Donal, that’s a good point, well done.”
(Donal looks pleased with himself.)
Fred: "You’re right that if we interpret D.C.T. in the way you describe, then in saying that “God commands what is morally good”, one would merely be saying something that is trivially true, since it would just be to say that “God commands what God commands”. This is a tautology, just as “circles are round” is a tautology (true trivially, i.e. purely in virtue of the meaning of the statement’s constituent terms). However, many theologians want to claim that “God commands what is morally good” is not a trivial, uninteresting truth; rather, it’s an informative claim about God’s nature.
But there’s a different way of interpreting D.C.T., according to which God commands whatever is good, and whatever God commands is good. On this interpretation, “That which is morally good” does not mean the same as “commanded by God”, nonetheless, if God had commanded x (where x could be absolutely anything) then x would have been morally good."
Donal: “Like if God had commanded Thierry Henry to handle the ball in the world-cup qualifying game I was talking about earlier, then that would have been good, because God commanded it?”
Fred: “Well, yes I suppose so, but I’m sure there are lots of much worse things morally speaking than cheating in a game of football! What about cruelty for its own sake?”
Donal: “Now Fred, a place in the world cup was at stake, remember!”
Fred: “Yes, yes, OK. Anyway Donal, what do you think of this interpretation of D.C.T.?”
Donal: “Well I’m a bit confused Fred. Some of the things that God could have commanded, like cruelty for its own sake, would seem morally wrong to us so it seems wrong to think that God’s commanding X (where X could be anything at all) would be sufficient for X to count as morally good. To avoid that problem, we could say that God could not (or perhaps, would not) command such things (which we think are morally wrong) because he is perfectly good.”
Fred: “But Donal, the whole point is that to appeal to some standard of moral goodness which God abides by implies that we do after all have some conception of what is morally good or right which is independent of what God commands. Otherwise we couldn’t know that a wholly good God would not command things like cruelty for its own sake. To adopt this sort of reply to D.C.T. is not to defend it, but instead, to abandon it. You see?"
Donal: (nodding, thoughtfully) “I do, Fred.”
Fred: “Do you?”
Donal: “No.” [xxix]
Fred: (looks like he might hit Donal, but restrains himself and tries to be calm) “Well, OK, maybe you need to think about it for a while. In the meantime, see what you think of this next problem.”
Donal: (smiling innocently) “What’s that now, Fred?”
Fred: “I’ll tell you Donal. Can we even make sense of the claim that God is perfectly good, given what D.C.T. says about moral goodness?”
Donal: “What do you mean, Fred?”
Fred: “Think Donal. On the account of D.C.T. we’ve just considered, no action is morally good/bad prior to God’s command, because D.C.T. claims that prior to God’s commands, there is no such thing as an objective moral standard which would make any action right or wrong. But if so, God’s own actions (remember, commanding something is an action) can’t be morally right or wrong, and if perfect goodness requires that all of one’s actions are morally good, D.C.T. can’t account for God’s perfect goodness. And if so, we can’t consistently appeal to D.C.T. and to God’s perfect goodness in order to claim that God would never command us to e.g. be cruel to each other, etc.” [xxx]
Donal: “Wow, that is a problem. Wait, what are we talking about now?”
Fred: (extremely frustrated) “DIVINE COMMAND THEORY! God almighty Donal, have you been listening at all?!”
Donal: “Yes right, Divine Command Theory. Sorry there, Fred.”
Fred: “Right – you better come up with something intelligent to say about this issue Donal, or I won’t be responsible for my actions!”
Donal: “Well now wait a second, I think I’ve got something - wait, no, ah yes – oh wow. What about this Fred – on the second interpretation of D.C.T. we considered, ‘commanded by God’ doesn’t mean ‘morally good’, yet God commands what is good, and what is good is commanded by God right?” [xxxi]
Fred: (interestedly) “Yes, go on . . .”
(Mrs. Boyle comes in with more coffee, gesturing towards the pot): “Go on!”
Donal: “Well, on that account of D.C.T., God’s commands would seem a bit arbitrary, wouldn’t they now Fred? I mean, there wouldn’t be any reason for God to forbid something if that something is wrong only in virtue of the fact that God has forbidden it.”
Fred: (astounded) “My God Donal, that’s actually a good point! In fact, come to think of it, that would seem to be a good criticism of any version of divine command theory! But tell me a bit more – develop your thought a little bit.”
Donal: (suddenly nervous) “Wait Fred, I’ve gone too far – it’s too much pressure! I want out!” [xxxii]
Fred: (realizing Donal’s apparent insight might just be a matter of luck rather than genuine understanding, and feeling wearied) “Maybe that’s enough for today Donal. Maybe you’ll be able to think more clearly after a good night’s sleep. We can continue our discussion at eleven tomorrow.” [xxxiii]
Donal: “Eleven o’clock?” (emphasizing the word ‘o’clock’) [xxxiv]
Fred: (exasperated, but used to exasperation in dealing with Donal) “Yes, Donal. Eleven o’clock.”
[i] “Well, you know the way God made us all, right? And uh, he’s looking down on us from heaven and everything? (“mmm-hmmm?”) And then his son came down and saved everyone and all that? (“Yes?”) And when we die we’re all going to go to heaven?” (“Yes, what about it?) Well, that’s the bit I have trouble with.” See “Tentacles of Doom” series 2 episode 3 1996, in which Father Dougal discusses religion with one of the three visiting bishops who have come to Craggy Island in order to upgrade the ‘Holy stone of Clonrichert’ to a class two relic. (Dougal: “Wasn’t somebody cured there?” Ted: “No, he was lured there.”) The ‘Holy stone of Clonrichert’ was previously alluded to in “And Grant Unto Him Eternal Rest” series 1 episode 6 1995.
[ii] For instance, perhaps Donal finds it hard to understand why someone’s having produced a finite amount of evil in their life could deserve a disproportionately ‘ever-lasting’ amount of (cruel and unusual) punishment? (See Asimov, 1995.) Conversely perhaps he wonders why anyone, merely in virtue of believing that some person was the ‘son’ of god, should thereby morally deserve an unlimited reward?
[iii] Ted: “That’s the great thing about catholicism – it’s so vague. No-one knows what it’s really all about.” See “Tentacles of Doom” ibid.
[iv] Donal makes invisible inverted comma signs in the air with his forefingers here.
[v] “I’m not a fascist, I’m a priest. Fascists go round dressed in black telling people what to do, whereas priests . . . er . . . more drink!” from “Are You Right There Father Ted?” series 3 episode 1 1998
[vi] The introductory theme song from Father Ted (performed by a band called The Divine Comedy) and some initial scenes from some random episode of the fictional but similar show Father Ben appears at the start of “The Plague” series 2 episode 6 1996
[vii] Alexius Meinong (1904) argued that there are nonexistent objects. Although different defenses of this notion have subsequently been put forward, Meinong focused on the ‘principle of intentionality’, i.e. that mental states are characterized by their being about (directed towards) some object – acts of imagining, desiring, fearing, loving, hoping, wishing etc. are always related to something. Meinong proposed that even such mental acts that are directed towards fictitious entities (e.g. the fountain of youth, Pegasus the winged horse of greek mythology etc.) are about something, i.e. nonexistent objects.
[viii] See “A Christmassy Ted” (extended Christmas special) series 2 episode 11 1996
[ix] “A Christmassy Ted” ibid. A woman leaves a baby on the priests’ doorstep, but takes it away again after realizing she was leaving it at the wrong house. “God, Ted, could you imagine what would have happened if she’d left it with us!” “Ha-ha, yes! We’d have been looking after it and everything and getting into all sorts of hilarious jams! The whole thing would have been very very funny.” “Well eh, it wouldn’t have been that funny Ted.” “Actually, no.”
[x] What Donal means to say here is “eureka” (meaning “I have found it”) – allegedly shouted by Greek scholar Archimedes in a bath upon discovering the reason for the phenomenon of water-displacement. Inter alia, Ulrika Jonnson has been a popular television personality in the U.K. (e.g. on “Shooting Stars” with Vic Reeves and Bob Mortimer).
[xi] From the 1987 album The Joshua Tree, produced by Daniel Lanois and Brian Eno.
[xii] Props department – coffee and cake are required here.
[xiii] “And speaking of cake, I have cake!” “No thanks, Mrs. Doyle.” “Are you sure, Father? There’s cocaine in it!” “WHAT?” “Oh no, not cocaine. God, what am I on about? No, what d’you call them - raisins.” See “Hell” series 2 episode 1, 1996
[xiv] Donal makes the inverted commas sign with his forefingers again here, perhaps referencing what he regards as the absurdity of the notion of an omnipotent and omnipresent being ‘sending’ his only son anywhere in the universe/multiverse, given the fact that an omnipresent God would already be there. Or maybe he’s thinking about why an omnipotent being can’t have an infinite number of ‘sons’ if he wants, instead of just one (which would come in handy in order for them to be ‘sent’ to all the other parts of the universe/multiverse inhabited by relevantly sentient creatures whose ‘souls’ need to be ‘saved’ (whatever a ‘soul’ is supposed to be)); not to mention non-human relevantly sentient creatures on earth which may have ‘souls’ (if it is not just to be stipulated that humans can have ‘souls’ but other relevantly similar beings can’t?) Or perhaps he is referencing what he regards as the absurdity of the notion of an omniscient and omnipotent God having to ‘supernaturally’ ‘pro-create’ with a being (Mary) whose existence he was responsible for in the first place (along with everything else) in order for his only son to be born and then ultimately be tortured to death? Or the notion that since Mary was allegedly a virgin by normal definitional standards entails that she is thereby morally unreproachable?
[xv] Daniel O’Donnell has been perceived as singing and recording songs that appeal to a wide demographic in Ireland and abroad, including grannies. He is apparently parodied via the character Eoin (pronounced “Owen”) McLove in “Night of the Nearly Dead” series 3 episode 7 1998
[xvi] “Ted, have you seen my record collection?” “Your record collection?” “Yeah.” “Here it is and uh, Dougal, you need more than one record to have a collection. What you have is a record” – from “A Song for Europe” series 2 episode 5 1996
[xvii] Ted is quite a fan of Elvis Presley, and even does an Elvis impression in the annual “priests-only stars in their eyes look-alike competition” (Ted’s impression constitutes the first part of “the three stages of Elvis” corresponding to three stages of Elvis’ career – the other two stages being performed by Dougal and Jack). See “Competition Time” series 1 episode 4 1995
[xviii] “July the 19th. Why does that strike me as important?” “ . . . I wouldn’t know Ted, you big bollocks.” “I’m sorry?!” “I said I wouldn’t know Ted, you big bollocks.” “Have you been reading those Roddy Doyle books again Dougal?” “I have yeah Ted, you big gob-shite.” “Yes well that’s all very well, but you have to remember they’re all just stories – normal people like us don’t use that type of language! Remember, this is the real world!” “Oh, you’re right there, Ted.” From “Hell” series 2 episode 1, 1996. See, for example, Roddy Doyle 1993.
[xix] “Thierry Henry” is pronounced “Tea Airy On Ree.”
[xx] See “Flight Into Terror” series 2 episode 10 1996. “Hang on – I climb out of the plane?” “Yes, I wouldn’t trust anybody else Father. You’ve already proved you can keep a level head.” “Then . . I’ll do it!” (Dougal) “But Ted!” “Dougal - I love all this. When everything’s going ok I keep imagining all the terrible things that could happen, and now that one of those things has actually happened, it’s just a rush. I feel fearless, like Jeff Bridges in that movie.” “I haven’t seen that one.” “Not many people have Dougal. It’s probably a bad reference.”
[xxi] Mrs. Doyle insists that Ted, Dougal and various visitors to Craggy Island’s parochial house participate in the peculiarly Anglo-Irish custom of drinking tea several times a day, by repeating her mantra “Go on. Go on, go on, go on, go on, go on, go on, go on, go on, GO ON!” in several episodes.
[xxii] For in-class performances, two bags of crisps (i.e. ‘chips’ in North American parlance) should be ready ‘stage-left’ for Fred and Donal to go and get while Mrs. Boyle is delivering her monologue. The two priests are seen eating some crisps (‘chips’) as they return towards the end of Mrs. Boyle’s speech.
[xxiii] To Mrs. Boyle (and Mrs. Doyle), tea is divine. Substitute ‘God’ for ‘Tea’ in the text here – tea with a capital T.
[xxiv] ‘Chips’ in North American parlance.
[xxv] See “Rock a Hula Ted” series 2 episode 7 1996, in which Ted and Dougal obliviously get up to get a snack whilst Mrs. Doyle talks about her personal experience regarding the catholic church’s attitude towards women. The title of the episode is (another) reference to Elvis Presley in the show. Elvis performed the song “Rock a Hula Baby” in the 1961 movie Blue Hawaii.
[xxvi] “Have you done anything bad recently? Anything wrong?” “Wrong?” “Yes Dougal, wrong. You remember right and wrong, the difference between the two? Page one of ‘How to be a catholic’. Honestly Dougal, this is very basic stuff.” See “Old Grey Whistle Theft”, series 2 episode 4, 1996. (The title is an allusion to a classic U.K. live music show called “The Old Grey Whistle Test” presented by ‘whispering’ Bob Harris). Also relevant here is “Song For Europe” (series 2 episode 5 1996) in which Ted proposes a consequentialist justification for plagiarizing the tune of the b-side of Dougal’s vinyl record by a less well-known Norwegian band’s entry for the ‘Eurovision Song Contest’. Ted and Dougal’s plagiarized version of the song, which they intend to perform at Ireland’s ‘Song For Europe’ competition is entitled “My Lovely Horse.” See also “Think Fast, Father Ted” (series 2 episode 2 1996) in which Ted proposes that the Fathers ‘fix’ a raffle for a car so that they are guaranteed to win the prize.
[xxvii] “Dougal, something else that’s wrong is . . . is stealing. What I’m trying to say is it’s wrong to steal. Stealing is just something you don’t do.” “Right, except you.” “Yes . . . what?!” “You’re allowed to steal.” “What are you talking about?” “The money from that Lourdes thing.” “Different thing altogether Dougal. First of all, that money was just resting in my account before I moved it on!” “It was resting for a long time Ted.” “Yes, but . . .” “Good long rest.” From “Old Grey Whistle Theft” ibid. There are references to Ted’s allegedly having stolen money from a charity, the money resting in his account etc. in several episodes of Father Ted.
[xxviii] Father Jack rarely says anything other than “feck!”, “drink!”, “arse!” or “girls!”. However, in “Tentacles of Doom” series 2 episode 3 1996, Ted painstakingly trains Jack to say “yes” and “that would be an ecumenical matter” so that he can appear to be responding coherently if any of the three visiting bishops question him.
[xxix] See “Flight into Terror” series 2 episode 10 1996
[xxx] See “Basic Moral Philosophy” by Robert L. Holmes, Chapter 6 – “The Divine Command Theory”, especially section 11, p.86.
[xxxi] See Jonathan Berg’s “How Could Ethics Depend On Religion”, in A Companion To Ethics, Peter Singer (ed), p. 526 ff.
[xxxii] See “Kicking Bishop Brennan up the Arse” series 3 episode 6 1998 in which Dougal stumbles upon a surprisingly promising strategy whereby Ted might hope to escape the negative consequences (putting it mildly) of a task he is required to perform.
[xxxiii] Instructors – substitute the time your class next meets for “eleven” here, specifying the appropriate day if your class is not scheduled to meet tomorrow.
[xxxiv] “Anyway, what time are Father Rory and Father Kent coming on Wednesday?” “About six.” “Six o’clock?” “Yes.” See “New Jack City” series 2 episode 9 1996