I would like there to be a God. The idea is something I find inspiring, but with the God of Abraham that I was introduced to as a child, the politics – right-leaning, selective, unmoving ethical standpoints on issues such as sexuality – bump up against my politics very quickly.
It’s the Bible, really, that has put me off Christianity. I’m talking mostly about the Old Testament. But what’s interesting is that Christians are New Testament and the writing is about Jesus and what we’re supposed to do. But what there is about God is an endorsement of the Old Testament. Jesus said ‘only through me shall ye enter the kingdom of heaven’. Well, actually, the kingdom of heaven is a place in which God is king, and for me that God is a barbaric, inconsistent, jealous and murderous entity.
Jesus seems to have been a pretty good guy but, at the core of it, the family firm is one that makes me go, ‘Mate, you still work for a pretty dodgy organisation there…’
I think the idea of belief is not by its nature mock-able or silly. The desire for belief pre-dates Christianity; it seems to have always been there and it certainly exists in me.
I wrote my show God Collar because I found myself on the atheist bandwagon and suddenly thought, ‘I don’t like where this is going.’ And I found myself a bit separate from a lot of the comedians I knew who were devoutly atheist. I spoke to a friend and said, ‘I’ve got all these ideas but I don’t have any answers.’ And he said, ‘That’s what you should write. Why don’t you write about the questions?’
Religious people have come to the show and felt able to talk to me. A funny thing happened; I went for a pee and a guy came in and said, ‘I just wanted to say that I loved your show, and that Jesus is ready for you when you’re ready for him.’ And it really gave me pause because I thought that was a phenomenal act of generosity on his part.
My friend James died quite suddenly, and that was the starting point for the ideas about faith to really gain traction in my mind. When he died it was just such a horrible shock and I was struck by the things that I said to his eldest son, my godson. I would say, ‘If you need him, if you want him to be there for you, Daddy’s with you still. He can see you, he can hear you, you can talk to him, it’s fine,’ and they were things I felt he needed to hear because he was in a storm of pain. Somehow, as an adult you don’t treat yourself with the same kindness, but that was exactly what I needed. I still talk to James, it’s like he’s there somewhere. When I look at it square on, though, I don’t believe he is there. It’s like when you look at a speck of light in an otherwise dark room. If you look directly at it, it’s sort of hard to locate where it is. When you don’t look directly at it, you’re aware of it, and that’s what it’s like for me; if I look straight at it I can’t see it, but most of the time there’s a speck of light, and that’s where James is and I can talk to him and he knows where I am.
I suppose faith is like that for me, too. I see faith, boiled down to its purest form, as a deeply admirable and beautiful thing. But again, when I look directly at it, where that’s gone, where that’s collectively taken humanity, not so much individuals, then I very quickly go, ‘Oh no. No.’ Then my brain also goes to the issues of proof – but it’s not why I don’t believe in God, really.
I don’t want to believe in the God of Abraham because I don’t like him. I don’t want that God. If when I die it turns out that I overanalysed everything and made a massive miscalculation, and in fact Jesus’ dad turns out to be the guy, and I’m held accountable by St Peter, I know I will shake in fear at the gates of heaven.
I would shake and crawl and plead not to be sent to hell, because it sounds ghastly. But at the same time St Peter would, I suspect, be able to see in me the fact that I would be almost as scared to hang out with the boss behind those pearly gates as I would to go downstairs. Because if he made the bit downstairs, and Lucifer was one of his angels and he decided never to forgive him, what chance do I stand?