Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Gore Vidal: The Death Of An American Legend

Gore Vidal
(October 3, 1925 - July 31, 2012)

Gore Vidal, one of America's greatest essayists, screenwriters, playwrights, and novelists, died Tuesday at the age of 86. He was a contemporary of other American legends such as Norman Mailer and Truman Capote.

Here are a few things that Vidal had to say about religion over the years:

  • "Religions are manipulated in order to serve those who govern society and not the other way around." (1979)

  • "The idea of a good society is something you do not need a religion and eternal punishment to buttress; you need a religion if you are terrified of death."
  • I regard monotheism as the greatest disaster ever to befall the human race. I see no good in Judaism, Christianity, or Islam — good people, yes, but any religion based on a single...frenzied and virulent god, is not as useful to the human race as, say, Confucianism, which is not a religion but an ethical and educational system that has worked pretty well for twenty-five hundred years.

  • "I'm a born-again atheist."

  • Once people get hung up on theology, they've lost sanity forever. More people have been killed in the name of Jesus Christ than any other name in the history of the world."
  • "God is blackmailer. God is a warden of the prison. He created this all in his image - probably a mistake - and then allows us to run wild and punishes us or rewards us with his beaming vision of himself. This is no God I really want to have any traffic with at all. The idea that good behaviour only depends upon your fear of what will happen to you after you die, that you will be punished, well it excludes all of philosophy. It excludes Plato, it excludes the mystery cults of Greece, it excludes the Roman idea of what is a good man. There goes Marcus Aurelius, there go the Stoics. These are all better thinkers than anything the Christian church has come up with in 2,000 years.

Vidal certainly didn't limit his remarks to religion, and he often had a scathing tongue and acerbic wit. But he often cut right to the heart of the matter especially when it came to politics.  Here is a later-in-life interview from the CBC, during the George W. Bush presidency: