Tag Archives: god

When Gay Met God

Famous Twitter user, Apple enthusiast and idiot’s thinking man Stephen Fry was this week the subject of slightly more inane internet chatter than usual as his verbose response to a theological question described a graceful arc amidst a profusion of beheadings, Ebola and water protestors, to the top of whatever collective noun is used for viral videos.

The video of Fry saying some words had stiff competition in the online news world from another which featured the fiancée of a tennis player saying some words, but the internet quickly decided that the former was far better suited to sharing on social media in lieu of opinions, especially when paired with accompanying epithets such as “Legend!” or “What a hero!”.

Videos such as this have begun to permeate and even dominate the colloquium of internet news in recent times; indeed why waste time writing lengthy articles outlining opinions and facts when the words “Watch What Happened when Noun Verb Noun” carry such inherent journalistic weight?

Given the video’s proliferation and the somewhat unflattering nature of Fry’s words concerning the individual known as God, it seemed natural to expect a reaction from the maligned party. And so it came to pass that on this week’s episode of The Meaning of Life, Gay Byrne sat down with God himself to discuss the issue, and many others besides. The following are excerpts taken from that interview.

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Gay: Hello, and welcome to a very special episode of The Meaning of Life. My guest tonight has, quite literally, seen and done it all. It is of course, our Lord and Creator, God. Welcome, God. Can I call you God?

God: Of course Gay, and thanks for having me. Sorry I’m a bit late, I had to appear in a cracker in Guatemala.

– Understandable, no problem at all.

– And before we begin I have to say I’m a big fan. I never missed an episode of The Late Late when you were presenting. Of course I’m omniscient so I never miss anything.

– Of course.

– The new fella though, I don’t really care for him. I know I’m supposed to love you all equally but it’s hard sometimes, you know?

– I can imagine. So let’s get right into it then God. What do you think of Stephen Fry? Do you like him?

– Well I followed him on Twitter there a while ago, but he never followed me back. I tried to add him on Facebook too but he blocked me. It’s like he refuses to acknowledge my existence. It’s a bit mean really, I was a bit upset about it.

– From what I hear this story goes back further than his comments last week on this show.

– Yeah, there was an incident at the BAFTAs a few years back. He was presenting them for the first time and he was a bit nervous. I was there obviously, because I’m everywhere, as you know.

– Naturally.

– So anyway, I had been drinking Schnapps all night with Jason Isaacs and Helen Mirren, and we got a bit raucous. We started shouting stuff at Stephen, innocent enough stuff to begin with, but then Helen took it up a level, and I didn’t stop it.

– So you were heckling him?

– I’m not proud of it. Those were some difficult years for me, kind of a mid-life crisis I suppose. I filled his dressing room with locusts after the show too, just for a laugh. Made the walls drip blood, that kind of thing. It was around that time he started to ignore me. I suppose I can’t blame him.

– He called you a capricious bully last week. How did that make you feel?

– Look Gay, don’t go all Oprah on me now. This isn’t Sinead O’Connor you’re talking to. Deities aren’t comfortable talking about their feelings, that’s more of a mortal thing.

– Okay, let’s talk about the book. It’s coming out next month, is that right?

– That’s right yeah, that’s what I’m here to talk about really.

– Why did you feel that now was the time for an autobiography? Do you feel your life’s work is mostly behind you now?

– Not at all Gay, it’s more that I’m sick of being misrepresented by that other book. I mean, that’s not the real me, you know.

– So this one’s called Stairway from Heaven. It’s a nice title, why did you choose it?

– I suppose I wanted to let people know that I’m not always just sitting up in my ivory tower, that I’m down here on Earth with my people too.

– Do you actually have an ivory tower up there?

– It’s a metaphor Gay. I told you before the show Heaven was off limits. Why would you bring it up?

– You’re right, I’m sorry. So what kind of time period does the book cover? Do you go right back to the start, back to your childhood?

– I don’t really get into it in too much detail, my childhood was fairly ordinary.

– Ordinary?

– Yes.

– Eh, okay…so the book is twelve thousand pages long. Did you think of trimming it down a bit?

– My editor at Penguin kept telling me it was too long, until I smote him. Look there’s a lot to tell, it’s 14 billion years we’re talking about here. My first draft was a page per year, so it’s been cut down a lot as it is.

– I’m sorry, just to go back, when you say ‘smote’?…

– It was a joke, Gay. I do have a sense of humour you know.

– Ha, of course. Good one, God.

– Okay, don’t go all Jonathan Ross on it Gay. Let’s move on.

– Let’s talk about the new Pope. What do you think of him?

– Hmmm. He’s alright I suppose, a bit soft maybe but that’s the modern world for you. Stephen VI, now he could pope with the best of them. Mad as a brush of course, but some man for the craic all the same.

– So Pope Francis isn’t much fun then? Do you talk often?

– I try to keep it professional, send him the odd memo about this or that. He’s a bit too friendly though, he keeps sending me links to YouTube videos and inviting me to play Candy Crush Saga.

– You don’t like the game?

– It’s not that I don’t like it Gay, it wouldn’t be fair for me to play it. I’d win every time. Because I’m omnipotent, you see.

– I see, of course. So before we finish God, can you give us any hints as to what the future holds in store for mankind?

– Well, something big’s going to go down in the year 3196, but I can’t say much beyond that without giving it away.

– Okay, you can’t give us anything a bit more short-term?

– That’s the blink of an eye in cosmic terms Gay.

– Of course, of course. Well, I’ll let you go God, I know you’re busy.

– Thanks Gay, I’ve to get back up there or the young lad’ll have the place wrecked. Take it easy, see you soon. Not too soon says you, ha?

– Ha, thanks again God.

(God disappears with a loud bang, leaving just a puff of white smoke)

– Well, that’s all for this week. Join us next time when we’ll be talking to the prophet Muhammad about privacy in the modern age. Until then, good night and God bless.

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Abusing my Religion

An Austrian man has won a long battle with local authorities for the right to wear a pasta strainer on his head in his driver’s license photo. While this may sound like the act of a babbling lunatic, it is in fact a satirical commentary on the special importance given to religion in society. No, really. In Austria any garment which is considered important to one’s religion is allowed to be worn in such photos, and Niko Alm, the man in question, regards himself as a member of the church of Pastafarianism.

Pastafarianism was set up by atheist and agnostic secularists to highlight the ridiculous nature of religion and lobby for separation of religious and state matters. Their deity is a Flying Spaghetti Monster (an updated version of Bertrand Russell’s teapot) and they celebrate festivals like Pastover and Ramendan. Have a look at their Wikipedia page if you have a few minutes, it’s very entertaining. They don’t just make excellent puns, they have also been involved in successful campaigns against the introduction of the teaching of intelligent design in schools.

This case raises the tricky question of what exactly constitutes a religion. As long as states continue to give special treatment to religious groups, it is only logical that people of no particular faith will feel aggrieved, and in extreme cases, invent their own belief system. We may yet see the birth of Matholocism, the world’s most eminent scientists coming together to worship the almighty Pi and the Feast of the Three Decimal Places. Or how about Rizlam, a group of devout ‘rollie’ smokers who reject the way of the pre-manufactured cigarette? Or the followers of Paul Ruddhism, who believe above all in the divine art of understated comedy and being extremely likeable?

While the matter of the pasta strainer was but a small victory for secularists, the issue is much bigger than that, and is now more divisive than ever; countries like France are taking bold, some would say excessive, measures, to ensure the state is fully secular, such as the ban on the wearing of niqabs and burqas in public. At the other end of the spectrum you have Islamist factions in the Middle East fighting to introduce their own interpretation of Sharia law, much of which is an outrageous imposition on human rights, as well as on common sense.

The US is, as always, full to bursting point with extreme opinions from both sides of the argument. Most liberals want to ensure that religion is kept out of schools, government, and the law, and in some southern states in particular, they appear to be fighting a losing battle. On the other side of the debate are the members of the conservative religious right, a scarily massive group of people, many of whom describe themselves as evangelists and espouse creationism, among other things. This group fears the rise of Islam and Sharia law, while without a hint of irony campaigns against evolution, the right to abortion, homosexuality, Harry Potter (seriously), and pretty much anything else that people might want to enjoy. How Christian of them.

Quite how someone who believes the Earth is a mere 6,000 years old is able to breathe without assistance, is just one of the multitude of puzzling questions we’re left with when examining the case for and against secularism. As long as religion remains such a sensitive subject, beyond reproach or ridicule, it will be difficult to excise its influence. Personal faith should, of course, be an inalienable right, but the imposition of religious ideals or convictions on societal matters is wrong, simply because of its biased and subjective nature. Superintendent Chalmers had it right when speaking of Springfield Elementary: “God has no place within these walls, just like facts have no place within organized religion.”

The problem with secularism, even in liberal Western countries where most people agree it is something worth striving for, is how to approach it. The heavy-handed methods of the French, which basically amount to censorship, will likely do more harm than good. Castigating people for their beliefs by forcing them to alter their appearance is a bit much, and will only lead to resentment. While the government’s intentions in this case are understandable, devout believers tend to see this push for fairness as an attack on their faith, and as long as that attitude exists it is hard to see how secularism can become the norm.

At the same time, however, many religious people need to grow up a bit and accept the fact that while they’re free to practise their faith, they do not have a divine right not to be offended, and they should be subject to the same laws as non-religious citizens. The state should not have to tiptoe around certain issues and make allowances just because of some people’s beliefs on how things should be. In a democracy we shouldn’t get to decide unilaterally what other people should or shouldn’t be doing relative to our personal belief system.

So whether people want to have a big gay wedding, watch the news without listening to some contemplative bell-ringing first, or even just draw a picture of some lad who had an epiphany in a cave a millennium and a half ago, they should be allowed to do so. The Flying Spaghetti Monster would want it that way.