I'm biologically incapable of hating Stephen Fry.
His Harry Potter audiobook readings are the soundtrack to my generation's childhood. We young things listened to him all day, every day on the walkman.
Fry's tones are a sweetly nostalgic sedative that induce calm in even the most rabid of young women. Ancient Amazonian tribes call him the willow tree whisperer. To this day, Westfield subliminally pipes his hypnotic voice into its shopping malls during the Boxing Day sales. You can't hate someone whose baritone has become your inner voice of peace.
I don't suppose the audience of religious Irish TV programme The Meaning of Life had a similarly calm reaction to Fry's atheist soliloquy on the show this week. He called God "evil, capricious, and monstrous", if He were indeed to exist.
Say what you want about Fry, he knows how to pick a fight.
Even if you disagree with him, his pure pugnacity is worth a respectful nod.
What isn't worth respect is the rash of commentary in New Zealand from atheists, saying how this proves atheism is a firebrand philosophy.
And this is what irritates me with atheists in New Zealand. They flare up on occasions like this. Look, they cry, atheism is rebellion! We are fighters! Viva la Hitchens!
Yes, God-bashing in Ireland is rebellious. Fry is taking on the Big Man in a country with a history of religious pain and factionalism.
It's brave. It's provocative. It's rebellious. But God-bashing in New Zealand is not. In 2013, 42 per cent of New Zealand stated they had no religious affiliation. The demographic most likely to belong to that group was 20 to 24-year-olds.
Here, saying you are an atheist is just a safe way to look edgy. It's like taking a pop at private schools. They're like Auckland's bus service: safe to hate.
And yet atheists will insist on telling you how brave they are. They challenge blind authority. They don't live a life of subservience on the offchance they'll get eternal milkshakes. They aren't afraid to stick it to the Big Man, man.
But the whole point of rebelliousness is that you're supposed to punch up. It's about taking on a powerful target that can, and will, punch back. Knowing and embracing the degree of risk and retribution is what gives rebellion its swagger. You're not a rebel if you're taking on something toothless. You're just a bit of a smartarse.
If you have a bash at God, what are the immediate repercussions for you?
In general, nothing really. Not when 42 per cent of the public feels no religious affiliation. And in my experience, the remaining religious people aren't so ferociously religious that they'll spit at you, poke you, or refuse to pass the sugar. You're not going to get hate mail, lose your job, or your friends, or your partner.
Most religious people I've met are pretty quiet about their faith. I've never felt they're going to impale me with a communion wafer if I get lippy about God.
Of course, you may be risking divine retribution. You may be struck down with a thunderbolt. But God's been a bit lax on the smiting front recently; how singed does Len look?
You may be gambling on your afterlife. But really, how firm is anyone's vision of heaven? Oh, we may have a vague feeling there's something ... out there ... But is the fear of hell strong enough to moderate your actions? Probably not.
So atheists don't risk destructive, real-life repercussions from friends and family. And they don't really risk anything tangible on a personal level. They may get a twinge of guilt - Catholic schooling never really left them - but that's it.
And jumping on the atheism bandwagon is also just worshipping the God of fashion. It's highly fashionable to be a cynic. It's very desirable to be an atheist. It shows you're cool, rational and modern.
Now, I don't mind you being an atheist, as long as you don't insist that it makes you much tougher, smarter and more defiant than the rest of us. In New Zealand, it's not rebellious.
If you want to be a rebel, take on John Key. He'll have a patronising response in an instant, and a media storm ready to unleash.
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