I’ve just got back from seeing Eddie Izzard’s new show in London, “Stripped”. It had some great moments and lots of squirrels and tigers, but unfortunately we ended up leaving with a bit of a sour taste in our mouths. In the middle of the second half he moved onto the subject of religion and belief which, following a fairly mild heckle from the audience when someone indicated that God had given us Eddie Izzard, turned into a a bit of a shouted anti-religious rant. Now, I’m the last person to defend any sort of special status for religion, I’m an atheist and have been pretty much forever, but I don’t go to a comedy show to be lectured to about how ridiculous the entire concept is, particularly not in a fairly aggressive manner.
It seemed particularly odd being addressed to an audience in London who, I would imagine, were largely old-school Eddie Izzard fans and are pretty unlikely to have the sort of closed religious fundamentalist opinions he seemed to be attacking.
To me, attacking organised religious belief is like shooting fish in a barrel. It’s easy to dismiss as founded on ancient myths and legends in the 21st Century if you take a logical viewpoint. The days where this was a controversial issue were surely buried in the middle ages. I did wonder whether spending time in the USA, as presumably he does these days, it’s closer to the surface and perhaps I’m misguided in my judgement that the intelligent majority these days are largely non-religious. Certainly skeptics I’ve met over there are very fond of preaching to the choir to demonstrate their own non-religious superiority.
I will accept that the rise of fundamentalist Islamic belief is a cause for concern, but I still think that it is the beliefs of a relatively small number of people which are being inflated as being much more important than they actually are by religious leaders anxious for power and control.
If you’re a comedian and you want to make jokes about religion, go ahead, it’s a subject ripe for parody, but don’t insult the intelligence of your audience by preaching at them, that’s just lowering yourself to the level of the evangelists. Be funny – that’s what people have paid for.