If you believe, as I do, that the purpose of religion is to suck all the pleasure out of life and spit it in your eye, then you might have trouble thinking of anything positive to say about it, but I think it’s important to try, if just for a sense of balance, and so that’s why I’ve decided to think of one or two nice things that I can say about each of the main religions, in particular the three monotheistic dogmas which have plagued, I mean enriched our civilisation for so many centuries. The three desert dogmas, as I like to think of them, because between them they’ve done so much to make a desert of the human soul. Let’s begin with Islam. In the current climate of intimidation and special pleading, you might think it would be hard to think of anything nice to say about Islam, but I can think of a couple of things. Firstly, I like their symbol, the crescent moon. I find it much more attractive than the cross, possibly because it doesn’t have anybody nailed to it. And also, whenever you see a large mosque full of worshippers praying together, I like the synchronised bowing. I think that’s always very well done. Also of course we have radical Islam to thank for showing us so graphically what a huge problem religion can become. If not for all the hysterical self-righteous bullying that we’ve been subjected to in recent years many of us might still be labouring under the illusion that religion is relatively harmless. So thanks to radical Islam for the “heads up” on that one. What I like most about Christianity is that it’s not Islam, which is a major bonus in my opinion. Unfortunately, it is Christianity, which kind of takes most of the shine off it for me. I like the fact that the Inquisition is over and Christian history is no longer being written in blood. I think that’s quite a positive development. And recently the Vatican hosted a conference on astronomy which is quite remarkable, given their track record in that area. It was only a few years ago that the Catholic Church finally got around to admitting that Galileo may be right after all about the earth travelling around the sun. And that too was a very positive thing because they didn’t have to say anything. They could have just kept it quiet, and then millions of Catholics would have been none the wiser. And of course you can understand why it took them 500 years to get around to it. With a question of that importance, they wouldn’t want to rush into any hasty judgments and risk making fools of themselves. What do I like about Judaism? Well, not a great deal, to be perfectly honest, except for the fact that it doesn’t preach itself into your face every chance it gets, which I think is a very underrated quality, and one which should be widely imitated. Also of course the Jews have got the oldest of the three dogmas, and yet they’re the ones who are still waiting for their Messiah. And you just know damn well that if he ever did turn up they’d nail him up for blasphemy again, which is an idea that has always quite amused me. Because one thing we should remember is that religion can be source of great humour, as well as great tragedy, guilt, self-loathing, fear, misery, cruelty and pain. Outside of the Abrahamic triangle of insanity, what I like about Hinduism is that they’re vegetarians, which I think is a very civilised way to be. I think they go a little overboard with the cows, but that’s their business. But mainly because Hinduism is not actively trying to take over the world in the way that Islam is, and I think that’s a very attractive quality in any religion that’s nine hundred million strong. As for Buddhism, well what can I say? A religion with no god. Magnificent. Like a prison with no walls. So you see there are plenty of positive things that you can find to say about religion if you look for them. Now, you can say to me: “OK, this is all well and good. You’re clearly making an effort to be positive here, but the fact remains that religion is really just a hedge against death. It’s an expensive insurance policy which will disappear in a puff of smoke the moment you try to claim on it.” And yes, you may well be right about that. In fact you may even further argue that anyone who gets their morals unquestioningly from some ancient text might as well get their personality from a microchip. And again, I’d find it hard to argue with that point of view. Religion, you tell me, doesn’t have any answers because it doesn’t ask any questions. You’ve rejected it time and time again, but it won’t take no for an answer, and you don’t want to be nice about it any more. You’re sick to the back teeth of hearing about people’s beliefs and their gods and their scriptures and their precious goddam faith, and you wish that they would take their ridiculous superstitions and all their cruel and petty stupid little rules and regulations and shove them where the sun doesn’t shine. (Some kind of black hole, perhaps, is what you’ve got in mind.) And I can certainly relate to that. I don’t like the arrogant way they try to force their narrow prejudices into other people’s lives any more than you do, but come on, this is supposed to be a positive video, and I don’t want to ruin it by dwelling on the negative things; the selective reasoning, the wishful thinking, and the shameless abandonment of personal responsibility that religious belief embraces in such a self-deceptive and cowardly way. I’d rather focus on the positive. And the most positive thing that I can think of to say, and this is something that many believers have said to me as well, is that religion gives people hope. It gives them optimism for the future, and that is definitely a very good thing. In fact it’s something that I can certainly relate to, because even after centuries of repression, bigotry, and downright bloody-minded stupidity, I’m still optimistic enough to believe that religion is just too absurd to last forever, and that sooner or later humanity’s collective intelligence will rise just enough for us to see it for what it actually is, a cruel and manipulative hoax which sustains itself not by exalting the human spirit, but by breaking it. And I just hope that when that day arrives that we’re big enough to laugh at ourselves, because laughter is the best medicine, as we know. Even according to the Bible: “A merry heart doeth good like a medicine, but a broken spirit drieth the bones.” Proverbs 17:22. Peace, especially to everybody with dry bones.