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loose canons
There's a thin line between saintliness and madness. Here are inspiring tales of holy folly that laugh in the face of human wisdom... and also breathtaking examples of religious stupidity that fly in the face of common sense.

As told by Stephen Tomkins

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9: The Vegetarian's Vegetarian
OME OF ROBERT CRABB'S contemporaries were unsympathetic enough to connect his unorthodox religious career with the fact that his skull was cracked open by a battle axe in the English Civil War.

In fact, it had already started by then. The Spirit put him on a diet of vegetables, water and celibacy in 1641. Not the first person to go that way, but in Catholic-hating Puritan circles it was seriously unexpected.

Next he moved to Uxbridge, where he became a hermit and dispensed herbal remedies to a constant stream of visitors, mostly women. He made his own clothes and enjoyed the humble art of prophecy rather more than the next person, getting denounced as a witch in the process.

His next career move was to start selling homemade hats. His inner light revealed that it was a sin to make a profit, but somehow, his business survived for three years, during which time he may well have bequeathed to the English language the saying, "as mad as a hatter". A further reading of the Bible convinced him to sell everything he had and give the money to the poor, which didn't help his reputation, or the poor all that much, to be honest.

Next he felt convicted to eliminate the carnal extravagance of potatoes and carrots from his luxurious vegan teetotal lifestyle, and ended up on bran soup, turnips and bean pudding. Yet still he was not satisfied. Not many people would be, I suppose. But further revelation persuaded him that his problem was still, surprisingly enough, self-indulgence. He spent the rest of his life on dock leaves and grass, and an income of a penny every four months.

Regrettably, he only ever had one convert to this rather demanding way of life. His name was Captain Northwood, he was from Philadelphia, and he died shortly afterwards of malnutrition.

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