Saturday, September 15, 2012

"The first time I was invited to Greenbelt I was suspicious. What did these Christians want with me?"


Having attended the Greenbelt festival, comedian Robin Ince declares there is room for both religion and atheism in a paradise on Earth…

Does it matter to me if someone is
religious? No. Does it matter to me if someone justifies their oppression of
others because of their religion? Yes.
Does it matter to me if someone is a creationist? No. Does it matter to me if a creationist
insists it should be taught as an acceptable
alternative to evolution in schools? Yes.
I recently visited Greenbelt, a liberal Christian festival that celebrates the arts and hosts a multitude of discussions on human rights and the environment. Some people are surprised that I perform at the festival, as I have been described as a militant atheist, though in the media that just means someone who says they are an atheist.
Just because I am an atheist does not mean that I have no interest in speaking to Christians. When I tour I rarely go on stage and say, ‘All the Christians, Jews and Muslims in the house say yeah! Ha ha, now I’ve found you, get out of the theatre, my words are not for you.’
The first time I was invited to Greenbelt I was suspicious. What did these Christians want with me? It turned out to be a reminder of the diversity of opinion in the
Christian community.
A dialogue between those of religious faith and the faithless is vital, at the very least to ensure we have experience of each other
beyond the cartoon stereotypes that are so frequently and so crudely drawn. For
instance, despite belief in a deity, you may find that many Christians have never shot at an abortion clinic and quite a few even accept gay marriage.
The problem with many public debates set up
between godless and god-loving is they are choreographed to create drama through conflict rather than enlightenment through discussion.
When someone tells you he or she is a Christian,
it may not tell you as much as you think. Some Christians are Stephen Green, leader of Jerry Springer: The Opera-hating Christian Voice, or Ann Widdecombe, the
ballroom dancer, and some Christians are Simon Mayo or Frank Skinner. From my experience, there is a chasm between what these people believe on many issues,
despite sharing the same Abrahamic god.