I’ve become a fundamentalist atheist. I think the idea that death is not the end, that your dog’s just “gone to live on the farm”, is limiting and can prevent you making the most of all the time you have.
Jimmy Carr, Comedian
It’s a shame Jimmy Carr’s experience as a Christian was with small minded people who believed that life was little more than a waiting room for heaven (or hell depending on your commitment to naughtiness). He may think that he has made a bold statement about how mistaken he was and we are in following Jesus but he will find that Jesus believed the same as him. Jesus was constantly expanding people’s horizons and expectations about how full life could be. He was also pretty good at chastising those who sought to make life small and confined.
I suspect if Jimmy commented on this agreement with Jesus he might define his atheism more clearly as an aversion to being associated with the kind of people religion tends to attract. To be honest I could be tempted towards atheism for the same reason.
It is easy and lazy to heckle and belittle simplistic faith and stereotypes. It is dishonest to present them as the only representation of people of faith. Imagine his response if comedy was criticised as a racist pursuit because Bernard Manning was a comedian. I suspect he would laugh at that as simplistic and stupid. And he would be right. Every area of human endeavour has sects within who make everyone else cringe. Nazi scientists doing human experiments, racists comedians, corrupt politicians, , followers of Jesus who revel in exclusion and ignorance and violence. They are the ones none of us want to be defined by.
Jimmy joked once (thus provoking controversy) that due to all the maimed soldiers returning from Iraq and Afghanistan Britain should have one hell of a Paralympics team in 2012. In a radio interview he explained that his critics should have understood that the heart of the joke is the fact that the Paralympics were started by wounded soldiers who wanted to overcome how life limiting their injuries were. His critics were offended by his belief that his joke was acceptable because he believed there was a more noble purpose to his joke. If we understood that, we’d see it wasn’t really a joke, it was a statement of support. That’s clever but disingenuous.
Like so many aspects of an ill informed public life the traffic doesn’t go both ways. You should do your research so you know I am right and well intended, but I don’t need to explore your views to see if you might be right too. The problem with militants and fundamentalists in religion, politics, comedy or science is the dialogue is never two way. Weak targets are set up and then blasted away. Which ironically is what racist comics, nazi scientists, corrupt politicians and TV evangelists do.
Jimmy Carr is right in rejecting a faith that is solely about getting your ticket punched to a far off paradise when you die. Faith should be about challenging a world that is unnecessarily broken by living in a way that is abundant for ourselves and for others. Jesus said that is why he came: to offer life in abundance. Such a life should produce fruit such as love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Things in pretty short supply these days.
Surely that isn’t a bad thing is it?