MELBOURNE INTERNATIONAL COMEDY FESTIVAL 2010
God is Bullshit: That's the Good News
31 March 2010
It's unlikely you'll be sitting next to a Christian at Catherine Deveny's God is Bullshit, but you will find those who watched Dawkins V Fielding on Q&A and still have their jaws on the ground.
Deveny was brought up so Catholic that even their windscreen wipers didn't have rubbers and she happily ticked Catholic on her census forms, until reverting to atheism at 38. She didn't have a crisis of faith or remembered being fingered by a priest; she started telling her children about their family's faith and saw glaring consistency issues and a morality that went against too much of what she believed.
Her born again atheism comes with the passion of someone struck on the head by the bloody obvious, who is happy to scream to the world that she was wrong. Like ex-smokers, there is none as willing to talk about their reversion as one who used to believe. (As an ex-animal-eater, I know that desire to preach.) Given the age, intelligence and education of her audience, Dev is preaching to the choir, but who doesn't like hearing their beliefs affirmed?
I haven't read the Christian Bible properly, but I do read Deveny's columns religiously. (Don't tell her that I meet with friends on Sundays and we read her book and sing.) Her columns are one of the few reasons left to read The Age and her writing, attitude and ability to insult knobheads continue to inspire me. And, just like her, I don't believe everything she writes either.
It's odd how people believe that written in print stuff must be true. Just between us, writers sometimes bend the truth to tell a better story or make a point ... and ... some even make stuff up! Gospel truth really means that you can write anything and someone will believe you. Religious writings really have a lot to answer for.
Like Ms D, I went to a religious school, but we were Anglicans – who are kind of like Catholics, but without the guilt and the virgin fetish, and we were allowed to be alter chicks (I was), use condoms (I do) and lithurgical dance was optional (I didn't). I also won a series of Religious Education prizes. It wasn't because I wanted Jesus to make me a sunbeam; it was because I'd win a book voucher if I drew good pictures of camels, needles and burning bushes. The book vouchers were for the university bookshop, so I was able to use my faux-faith bounty to further my mind.
Even with its abundance of contradictions, Christianity doesn't offend me. Some of my best friends ... Really. Faith gives many people comfort and hope and perhaps a belief in miracles is better than a belief in alcohol or Tony Abbott. (According to the gospel according to Facebook, one of my friends believes in TA. Never say terrific people, can't have odd beliefs.)
Avoiding the obvious arguments of sexism, xenophobia, homophobia and war mongering, think of all the fabulous stories that would never have been without religious guilt, faith or characters. Neil Gaimen and Terry Pratchett might have had to write a book about earthworms.
And Christianity lets me be god-damned lazy when it comes to language. Jesus may have been a top bloke, but he's useful with an explanation mark. Without the phrase "Oh my fucking god", I would have had to yell "Oh dear, this gets the adrenalin flowing" when I had the bejesus scared out of me on the bungy ride at Moomba. Without our Judeo-Christian morality, perhaps fuck wouldn't be a swear word and no one would blink at cunt, gay and anal because we'd live in a society where sex and sexuality were accepted.
Which leaves the most convincing pro-Christian argument. I let Saint Catherine stamp "God is Bullshit" on my wrist so that I could touch her robes and because she was giving us an Easter egg with our stamp. Chocolate shaped like an egg and wrapped in shiny foil is brilliant. And without egg-shaped chocolate, we may not have the more-wonderful rabbit/bilby-shaped chocolate. I know Easter was a pagen spring festival long before the Christians hijacked it - but dammit, the Christians made it popular thus ensuring that choccy goodness fills our supermarket shelves from the day after Christmas. I can live without religion, but if it meant no more Haighs chocolate bilbies or Lindt rabbits, well I just don't want to think about it.
This review appears on AussieTheatre.com.