Saturday, June 21, 2008

UK Papers report utter crap - no-one surprised

Terry Pratchett is a brilliant author. While some may read this and disagree, I would like to gently make the point that I'm the one writing this and you can bugger off. He has stated many times during his career how he is an atheist, and "blames god for not existing" and he was recently diagnosed with Alzheimers. If you've read any of his novels he takes the idea of gods and puts it in its proper place of comedy and ridicule. But recently my attention was drawn by Moogs to an article in the Times about TP finding god, and he asked what I thought about it. I'll admit, my first reaction was unfavourable.

I mean, the temerity of the man - how dare he! But after a few seconds I calmed down and wondered if it was indeed true - it didn't really go with everything else he has said about religion. So I did a wee bit of research, read the article on Times Online and did a search for any other bits of info surrounding TP and his conversion to god bothering. What did I find? Not much - the article points to an "unexplained experience" he had when he was first diagnosed with Alzheimers.

“I’m certainly not a man of faith, but as I was rushing down the stairs one day . . . it was very strange. And I say this reluctantly, because I am trying to deal with this situation in as hardheaded a way as I can. I suddenly knew that everything was okay, that what I was doing was right, and I didn’t know why.”

"It was a thought that all the right things are happening in the circumstances; and I thought, ‘Well, that’s all right then.’ I don’t actually believe in anyone who could have put that in my head – unless it was my dad, and he’s been dead a few years.”

“It is just possible that once you have got past all the gods that we have created with big beards and many human traits, just beyond all that, on the other side of physics, there just may be the ordered structure from which everything flows.

“That is both a kind of philosophy and totally useless – it doesn’t take you anywhere. But it fills a hole.”

Ok, time to get the deconstruction stick out.

The first point to make is that all of these statements have been made in different interviews. He said some of it an interview as reported on Times Online, and in another interview in the News Review. Two separate interviews, probably about two completely different things, and bad quote mining = stupid Times Online article.

Secondly, he doesn't ever say "I've found god, I'm off to bash some bibles". The headline for the piece in Times Online was "Alzheimers leads atheist Terry Pratchett to appreciate God", and in the Telegraph it was "Terry Pratchett hints he may have found God". No he doesn't - he says he had an unexplained experience. The closest he comes to saying god is "I'm not a man of faith". So does this mean every time someone proclaims that they are not of faith, they actually are? What sort of bizarre and twisted logic is that?

And thirdly, the phrase "unexplained experience" does not mean god. Nor does it mean the flying spaghetti monster, or Ramadama Ding Dong had anything to do with it either. In fact, usually when people use the word "unexplained" people immediately leap into the UFO category, and its surprising they didn't this time. He says that he felt "everything was ok" and that "all the right things are happening in the circumstances". So what he's saying is that he felt at peace with himself at that particular time, and happy with the way things are going. I see no god in that. I feel happy frequently, and at peace with my decisions in life - but at no time do I interpret a divine hand in my life. Just because everything is going your way, does not mean some benevolent beardy weirdy sky god has his eye on you.

Its a load of bollocks in my opinion - a sloppy peice of journalism created by some nancy in between his sessions at the boozer. And the other papers have just copied it verbatim because its mildly interesting, and they can't be bothered checking the facts. What rubbish.

As an aside, even if this were accurate (and I have no way of verifying this unless TP decides to respond to my email) who cares? I don't care if he suddenly clutches at the rosary, and heads down to the local guilt merchants for a session in "all the things he's done bad". That's his prerogative. It has no bearing on my opinion of him as a writer and I will continue to buy his books until they stop becoming good books to read. I hope he continues to write for many years to come, and his "embuggerance" of an illness goes into recession, or is cured (no thanks to the NHS). Sure, it would be disappointing to see someone with a serious brain disease succumb to religion, but again - who am I to say what he should believe in?

I think the best indicator of the veracity of these articles is something he said during the interview :

“Faith in what? If I get pushed in this corner, I believe in the same God that Einstein did. Einstein was a clever bloke."

And what did Einstein have to say on the subject?

If something is in me which can be called religious then it is the unbounded admiration for the structure of the world so far as our science can reveal it.
Albert Einstein, 1954, from Albert Einstein: The Human Side, edited by Helen Dukas and Banesh Hoffman, Princeton University Press

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