By AUSTIN NICHOLS
May 05, 2010
The first YouTube video I watched by British comedian Pat Condell was titled "What have I got against religion?" After watching it, I was hooked; there was no way I was going to turn away from a slick-talking, ball-busting, matter-of-fact, hilariously offensive master of the English language with a smooth British accent who just so happened to say, without flinching, one of the funniest (and painfully honest) lines I have ever heard uttered in my short life:
If you're looking at the Bible for a guide to living a compassionate, wise and humane life, well, frankly you've got more of a chance of finding a lap dancing club in Mecca…
Aside from his loud, wisecracking tendencies (he is a comedian, after all), Condell has a certain subtlety in his words, a haunting honesty in his rants. He brings up important issues that we rarely see discussed in an open forum–issues that, for whatever reason, either piss off or offend the dogmatic adherers who hear his words. An example of his brutal honesty can be in another video of his, titled "The Water of Life:"
Somebody said to me recently, "Clearly you don't understand what a person's faith actually means to them. For me," she said, "it's like the water of life." And I thought, what a great phrase, the water of life, without which, of course, there can be no life. But even the water of life needs to be contained and properly managed or it can run out of control, get into places where it doesn't belong and cause real damage. For example, if the water of life gets together with the water of other people's lives and they form a deluge, a rushing torrent of righteous certainty that sweeps all before it–including reason–well, then it's not so much the water of life anymore, is it? It's rapidly turning into the water of death, as everything in its path is crushed. Original thought, rational inquiry, free speech and their tattered remnants are strewn across the rocks of scripture and blind dogma. What's needed here, obviously, is a dam to contain this water of death, to convert it back into the water of life and give us all a chance to switch on a light bulb in our minds. And that's where secularism comes in. It's everybody's friend, believer and non-believer alike, which I think makes it the real water of life.
But despite the offense these words can incite, these aren't words of some sinning deviant bent on tearing apart Christianity and introducing godlessness to the world. Rather, I tend to believe these are the words of a concerned man, one whose "faith" lies primarily in the human race–he is simply pissed off at the fact that society hasn't rewarded his faith. And, really, who can blame him? The two of us can't be the only ones that are sick and tired of righteous, grandstanding creeps and their perverted take on sanctimony, whose vile platitudes continuously pass for wisdom and whose homophobic and downright sexist take on social issues are accepted by too many Americans.
However, I wanted to say a few things about kind Christians, the ones that actually have a true sense of morality and compassion for humanity: keep it up. I grew up in a relatively conservative Mormon household, and I had the best childhood imaginable. And it's because I have loving parents that taught me to think for myself, to experience the world as it comes, and to make my own individual decisions and judgments. They helped instill a strong moral structure that remains–and will always remain–in my core being, and I can't thank them enough for that. I couldn't have had better parents if I was allowed to choose them, and I am beyond grateful to have them in my life. Because of their convictions and love, I belong to a close family that is diverse and unique in every way. Just because I may disagree with them on religion and some aspects of political theory, doesn't mean they didn't do a hell of a job raising their children. It is because of them that I am who I am, and I love being me. I wouldn't change a thing.
And that's part of the point I believe Pat Condell is trying to make–that no matter what your religious beliefs may be, as long as you embrace reason, compassion and inquiry, you're on the right path. And so, seeing that this post was dedicated to a comrade, a teammate, a fellow humanist, I am going to give him the last words. Go on, Mr. Condell, preach:
Freedom of thought, freedom of speech, freedom of identity. This is my Holy Trinity, each one an intrinsic aspect of my God: Freedom, the Holiest of Holies. Yes it bloody well is. It is absolutely sacred and inviolable, beyond any negotiation or compromise, now and forever. Amen.
Amen indeed, brother.
Austin Nichols is currently a student majoring in journalism and political science at Ohio State University. His articles have appeared in numerous publications, both local and national. He has recently finished writing his first novel and is currently working on its publication. Austin has a blog at outspokenlibertarian.blogspot.com.