Thursday, October 19

A 'Celebrity Deathmatch' worth watching

There are two people who have been bringing me giddy joy this week: Stephen Baldwin and Richard Dawkins.

Obviously, each brings me a different kind of joy.

Stephen Baldwin is a born-again evangelical and member of the royal Baldwin family. He has a sordid history of drug abuse and womanizing, but his world changed on Sept. 11, 2001, when he realized that his ass was grass if he didn't start repenting because the tuhrrists were after him. And, oh, repent he did.

Richard Dawkins is Everyone's Favorite Atheist Rockstar, who goes around saying things like, "Everyone's an atheist when it comes to Zeus and Thor. I just take it one god further*." He argues that moderate religiosity emboldens the kind of fundamentalism and zealotry the results in Crusades and Inquisitions and suicide bombing and a host of horrific things done in the name of What God Wants.

Baldwin is a bleach-blonde, sleepy-eyed California boy whose oeuvre includes, notably, Bio-Dome and The Sex Monster. Okay, and The Usual Suspects, a good movie.

Dawkins is a greying, soft-spoken middle-aged Brit with a generous, nearly grandfatherly laugh. His works include The Selfish Gene and The Blind Watchmaker, plus his newest, The God Delusion. He coined the term "meme."

I want to see these two put in a room -- an enclosed, dome-shaped biosphere of some sort, even? -- and made to debate the various pros and cons of religion. And then I want to see them push each other around a bit. You know Baldwin would throw the first punch. Or at least shove Dawkins around a bit. After all, he is "ready to kick ass in the name of the Kingdom."

Seriously, you need to read that Radar interview. It's unintentionally hilarious again and again. So much so that I am actually pondering buying this dude's book just to gain entry into the glittering mine of comedy gold that is Stephen Baldwin's psyche.

Some greatest hits from the Radar interview:

Radar: We did a little homework. Which deadly sin have you been most guilty of in your life?
SB: Wow. What's sloth?

Radar: Total laziness.
SB: Hold on, I have a dictionary right here. I carry one because now I'm getting into ministry and I gotta know what I'm talking about. So let's look it up and be little Poindexters. Here it is: Slow-moving nocturnal mammal. Dude, that's it.


I love that he has to look up sloth because it's one of those newfangled religious terms he hasn't yet acquainted himself with. I mean, all he had to do was watch Seven back when everyone was all like THIS IS THE BEST MOVIE EVER.

SB: Just because I'm born-again doesn't mean I have to have the Ten Commandments memorized. See, that's the bad rap the born-again thing has gotten. What being born-again means for me is that I'm having so much fun in this interview that we're not going to go out and get an 8-ball of blow tonight and go crazy. That's what born again means to me: Inasmuch as I'd like to do that, gosh, I'll just go home and read some scripture with the wife.


I swear to God, give this man a quote wall all his own: "What being born-again means for me is that I'm having so much fun in this interview that we're not going to go out and get an 8-ball of blow tonight and go crazy." Talk about lowering your standards. I'm pretty sure most people qualify as born-again, devout Christians in that case. Not a lot of work involved in declining the lure of an 8-ball.

Radar: In your book, you take issue with Bono, and there's a passage where you suggest that he should be preaching the gospel on MTV and let God take care of Third World debt relief. How can you fault a guy for advocating Third World debt relief?

SB: I'm not faulting the guy for that. The problem I have is this: Let's say those poor people in those poor countries are relieved of their debt, but they don't know Jesus. Okay, so their life's more comfortable, but then what happens, according to the Bible? You tell me what the point of that is.


Uhhh huh. Huh. There's more here.

And then, from the refreshingly unstupid side of the room, there's Dawkins, who's been all over the media lately publicizing his new book. He's out there saying very reasonable — yet very frightening — things like:

I think there's something very evil about faith, where faith means believing in something in the absence of evidence, and actually taking pride in believing in something in the absence of evidence. And the reason that's dangerous is that it justifies essentially anything. If you're taught in your holy book or by your priest that blasphemers should die or apostates should die -- anybody who once believed in the religion and no longer does needs to be killed -- that clearly is evil. And people don't have to justify it because it's their faith. They don't have to say, "Well, here's a very good reason for this." All they need to say is, "That's what my faith says." And we're all expected to back off and respect that. Whether or not we're actually faithful ourselves, we've been brought up to respect faith and to regard it as something that should not be challenged. And that can have extremely evil consequences. The consequences it's had historically -- the Crusades, the Inquisition, right up to the present time where you have suicide bombers and people flying planes into skyscrapers in New York -- all in the name of faith.


And, while I am no great follower of Dawkins -- in fact, I find his strident dismissal of the possibility of a supernatural realm that transcends science to be as dogmatic as religion itself -- I am grateful that he brings up these points because religious dogma and zealotry is at a fever pitch these days, and instead of everyone looking for moderation, everyone seems to feel that if their faith is just a little more rigid, a little less tolerant, they will reap the benefits from their narcissistic, mean god. And Dawkins calls out this bullshit for what it is: Insane evil.

So if these two ever get together and debate the merits of religion, I got dibs on front row seats. Let the hilarity ensue.

*Paraphrased from his interview on "The Colbert Report"

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