The Rant – Robin Ince

Welcome to The Rant, the place where comedians let rip about the things that have been getting right on their wick.

And who better to be the inaugural LiF ranter than Robin Ince? Here, he responds to the criticism he has received for organising a secular, Christmas-time celebration.


robin_ince1In quiet moments, which I try to limit by taking on more work than I can manage and living in constant fear of deadlines, I come up with dumb ideas that I think might be fun.

This year’s second dumb idea* was to put on a show entitled Nine Lessons and Carols for Godless People, a rational celebration for Christmastime. It takes place at the lovely Bloomsbury Theatre and the bill includes some brilliant comics – Stewart Lee, Josie Long and Mark Thomas – the singer-songwriter, Robyn Hitchcock; writer and documentary-maker, Simon Singh; writer of the Guardian’s Bad Science column, Ben Goldacre and acclaimed evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins.

The first show went on sale and soon sold out, a second was hastily added and did the same, and so I am full of joy. The only annoyance now, because to keep my heart going I have to be stroppy about something, is the criticism of dullards and nitwits. The main one is: “Oh, I bet they won’t have a go at Islam blah blah blah.”

To end this repetitive criticism, here is my rejoinder:

The word ‘godless’ does not merely refer to the mythical Christian God, it refers to all the gods of the major world religions and the minor ones too. The night is a celebration of the rational and of science so any Christians that are worried they’ll have another chance to leap on their bandwagon of victimhood spread the word, make room on your bandwagon for the Hindu and the Jew and the Muslim too. Why not take this opportunity to forget your petty inter-religious squabbling and unite against this gathering of children pointing at all your nude emperors.

Wounded dogs

Whatsmore this wounded dog approach of Christian fundamentalists grates. It’s much the same as the yelping of the majority right wing media of the US and UK about the liberal media bias. If there is a liberal media bias, then why are you bastards spewing out all over the place. People who yelp about all the liberals are the sort of people who believe that you are liberal if you don’t titter at the images of lynching in Billie Holliday’s Strange Fruit.

You fundamentalist Christians are still doing alright, just because a few philosophers and scientists have pointed out the sand foundations of your beliefs, it doesn’t mean that bookshop shelves aren’t aching under the weight of all your crappy books about How to Spot Your Stigmata and Cooking with the Healing Blood of Christ. If you’re very lucky we’ll be back in the dark ages in no time.

And so I say again, if you want to be insulted and hurt that your man-invented deities are being besmirched, then put on your hair shirt and yelp away. But we can’t even be bothered to bring up your god (whichever one it may be) because we’ll be talking about something far more interesting – the majesty of the universe, the beauty of nature and why baby sloth drop out of trees.

Much as I enjoy being facetious about religion, I believe that the way forward is to point out just how amazing our existence is, not that we were made on a whim by a deity who gets his kicks watching child death and slaughter and then shrugging his shoulders and saying, “it’s not my fault, you did eat that apple.”

No harps, no virgins

My hope is that the next year will see a spate of events similar to Nine Lessons and Carols and Godless People during all manner of religious events and also to have a regular Sunday Science Service where children and interested adults can go and watch comedians, scientists and musicians being entertaining about big bang theory and the human genome.

I would like to see a world without gods, but it’s not enough just to point out the ludicrousness of religion so people smile with relief and say, “great, that’s an extra hour of shopping every Sunday, I always knew that vicar was a lying prick, Geminis so often are.” We have to demonstrate to people the statistical improbability of being alive and how your years on earth are all you’ll get. There are no clouds and harps with your name on them and no virgins or dried fruit waiting for you after that bus explodes. So I have set the sights for this year’s stupid project pretty high, but it’s a start.

Ed note: Robin would not reveal this year’s first dumb idea

Nine Lessons and Carols for Godless People is on December 18/19 at the Bloomsbury Theatre. Both nights are sold out, but a third very special show takes place on December 21 at Hammersmith Apollo.

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