30 Renowned Writers Speaking About God: From Isaac Asimov to Margaret Atwood

Back in 2011,  Jonathan Pararajasingham, a British medical doctor specializing in Neurosurgery, created a montage of 50 renowned academics talking about their views on the existence of God. Then came Part II about a month later – Another 50 Academics Speaking About God. The videos mostly featured scientists, figures like Richard Feynman, Steven Pinker, Oliver Sacks, Stephen Hawking, and Richard Dawkins. Noticeably missing were the liberal artsy types. But then … hold the phones … came Pararajasingham’s 2012 video: 30 Renowned Writers Speaking About God. Running 25 minutes, the clip brings together comments by Nobel Laureates José Saramago and Nadine Gordimer, sci-fi legends Isaac Asimov and Arthur C. Clarke, and important contemporary novelists: Philip Roth, Margaret Atwood, Ian McEwan, Salman Rushdie, to name a few. You can find the complete list of authors below the jump.

All of these authors question the existence of God. Some are doubtful. Others roundly reject the idea. That’s the slant of this video. To theists out there, let me just say this: If you find a montage that features thinkers of similar stature and caliber making the case for God, send it our way. We’ll happily give it a look. Speaking for myself, I don’t have much of a dog in this fight.

1. Sir Arthur C. Clarke, Science Fiction Writer
2. Nadine Gordimer, Nobel Laureate in Literature
3. Professor Isaac Asimov, Author and Biochemist
4. Arthur Miller, Pulitzer Prize-Winning Playwright
5. Wole Soyinka, Nobel Laureate in Literature
6. Gore Vidal, Award-Winning Novelist and Political Activist
7. Douglas Adams, Best-Selling Science Fiction Writer
8. Professor Germaine Greer, Writer and Feminist
9. Iain Banks, Best-Selling Fiction Writer
10. José Saramago, Nobel Laureate in Literature
11. Sir Terry Pratchett, NYT Best-Selling Novelist
12. Ken Follett, NYT Best-Selling Author
13. Ian McEwan, Man Booker Prize-Winning Novelist
14. Andrew Motion, Poet Laureate (1999-2009)
15. Professor Martin Amis, Award-Winning Novelist
16. Michel Houellebecq, Goncourt Prize-Winning French Novelist
17. Philip Roth, Man Booker Prize-Winning Novelist
18. Margaret Atwood, Booker Prize-Winning Author and Poet
19. Sir Salman Rushdie, Booker Prize-Winning Novelist
20. Norman MacCaig, Renowned Scottish Poet
21. Phillip Pullman, Best-Selling British Author
22. Dr Matt Ridley, Award-Winning Science Writer
23. Harold Pinter, Nobel Laureate in Literature
24. Howard Brenton, Award-Winning English Playwright
25. Tariq Ali, Award-Winning Writer and Filmmaker
26. Theodore Dalrymple, English Writer and Psychiatrist
27. Roddy Doyle, Booker Prize-Winning Novelist
28. Redmond O’Hanlon FRSL, British Writer and Scholar
29. Diana Athill, Award-Winning Author and Literary Editor
30. Christopher Hitchens, Best-Selling Author, Award-Winning Columnist

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  1. Jaycer17 says . . . | October 21, 2013 / 9:18 am

    It’s hard for reason and God to coexist.That doesn’t invalidate His existence or the opinion of these extremely talented writers. The problem comes when you reject someone for believing in Him or for deying He does. I love this site and about 90% of all the erudites and scholars and generally awesome people that are frequently featured here; I just hope that one day we can all agree to live and let live, as long as it doesn’t hurt anyone.

  2. Ekama says . . . | October 21, 2013 / 9:38 am

    Live and let live mentality will always hurt people because the world becomes victim to the masses’ stupidity.

  3. Jaycer17 says . . . | October 21, 2013 / 9:44 am

    I agree with the “masses’ stupidity” part, but I must confess I don’t understand why do you think it would hurt people.

  4. zevgoldman says . . . | October 21, 2013 / 10:09 am

    If you wish to be taken seriously it is your responsibility to remain objective, therefore, it is your responsibility to find those of a counter view. Placing that task on your viewers is self-serving laziness.

  5. Matas says . . . | October 21, 2013 / 11:02 am

    One way… where is discussion?… imprinting right view?… strange….

  6. Bryan Richards says . . . | October 21, 2013 / 2:39 pm

    belief without reason often hurts people… idk why you’d think it’d be ok

  7. stojadinovicp says . . . | October 21, 2013 / 3:04 pm

    There is no discussion because the other side is a fairy tale. No logic, no reason, no arguments. Whats there to discuss?

  8. Jaycer17 says . . . | October 21, 2013 / 8:12 pm

    So does cold reason. With no heart, just brain. Not trying to be offensive here, just in case.

  9. Peter Brand says . . . | October 21, 2013 / 11:49 pm

    Religions impose their views on the world daily. Their voice is massive and they are given huge leeway in media and popular culture to espouse their views, which they claim must be respected and protected.nnThis tiny bit *is* the counter view. This tiny bit is people who use reason in their daily life showing people of faith that it is not the only way.nnIf you want to be taken seriously, it would be a good idea not to tell people how they should live their lives, don’t you think?

  10. Peter Brand says . . . | October 22, 2013 / 12:00 am

    Religious thinking does hurt people, think suicide bombing, denial of medical treatment (Catholic run hospitals), genital mutilation rituals, harmful ideas about abortion and condom usage that leads to death, death by attempted faith healing and other superstitious practices, murder of girls for attending school or owning a cell phone, sentencing of women to be raped to restore “honor”, “honor” killings of daughters and sisters. Do I need to go on? Madeline Laundries, protection of priest child rapists.nnAll that harm in the world originates from people not using their reason on how to best live their lives and treat others, just using dogma and faith instead. God(s) and Reason don’t coexist, they haven’t even been formally introduced.

  11. Hanoch says . . . | October 22, 2013 / 7:38 am

    Of course, the most brutal and deadly phenomena in modern (and possibly all) history, responsible for destroying the lives of hundreds of millions, that is to say Nazism and Communism, were derived from reason, not religion.

  12. Ron Pavellas says . . . | October 22, 2013 / 9:03 am

    A basic problem is to place a word on the undefinable, unknowable force that pervades the universe. Another is that of conflating any word given to this force (*God’; ‘Allah’; ‘Jehovah’, ‘The Dao’, etc.) with the idea of ‘religion’. A religion is an organization, not the entity it presumes to worship or acknowledge as holy. We can believe in God (by any name or non-verbal perception) without being a member of any given religion. I belong to no religion; I perceive there is an unknowable force that is greater than man. Am I religious.? I don’t know. Do I want the government to take a position for or against anything I hold sacred? No. Do I want anyone else to see things the way I do? No. The learned people who deny God (by any name or concept) are believers in something, or they wouldn’t argue so strenuously.

  13. Peter Brand says . . . | October 22, 2013 / 12:42 pm

    According to Godwin’s law you just lost the debate by bringing up the Nazis.nnIt is also nonsense to suggest that they used reason. They used ideology, which is a form of closed minded thinking akin to religion. Nazism wasn’t arrived at by careful examination of evidence and debate about ethics or international relations. Why single them out. Take any war and figure out what inspired them. Reason ends wars not starts them.

  14. Peter Brand says . . . | October 22, 2013 / 12:45 pm

    The other side of the debate have been imprinting their view for centuries, and closing down debate by claiming that we have to respect their views by basically shutting up. About time these views got an chance.

  15. Harry Jamesbr says . . . | October 22, 2013 / 12:51 pm

    Of course, the a lot of barbarous and baleful phenomena in avant-garde n(and possibly all) history, amenable for antibacterial the lives of nhundreds of millions, that is to say Nazism and Communism, were acquiredn from reason, not religion. mensagens para celular | Torpedos sms de amor

  16. Harry Jamesbr says . . . | October 22, 2013 / 12:51 pm

    Of course, the a lot of barbarous and baleful phenomena in avant-garde n(and possibly all) history, amenable for antibacterial the lives of nhundreds of millions, that is to say Nazism and Communism, were acquiredn from reason, not religion. mensagens para celular | Torpedos sms de amor

  17. Peter Brand says . . . | October 22, 2013 / 1:04 pm

    Ron, of course if you keep your ideas and guesses about the “unknowable” to yourself, then no one should have a problem with that. That is not what religion and the religious do. They insist that we live life according to their rules without question or reason, that we accommodate their delusions, that we have to “respect” their views.nnAtheists are not “believers in something”. They argue against religion because they hold truth and reality in high regard. Why is it that as soon as they speak up, it has to be labeled “strenuous” or “militant” even when done in the most mildest manner. Why do you suspect they “must have” an ulterior motive?nnI’d say you probably are ‘religious’ if you think people ‘deny God’ by not believing people’s ideas about what it is.

  18. Heinn says . . . | October 22, 2013 / 2:24 pm

    You assume that people of faith don’t use reason – people of faith do use reason to defend their faith and show that there is a moral, rational and coherent foundation for believing (they are called apologists). I can give a very long list of thinkers of very high stature that will put a very solid case forward for God. Whether you believe or not, you still have a worldview and set of values according to which you judge people’s behavior – and hence tell them how they should live.

  19. Heinn says . . . | October 22, 2013 / 2:35 pm

    I can submit a long list of thinkers of great stature that will put a very solid case forward for God. Great examples of many are Proff. John Lennox (http://johnlennox.org/), Proff. Ravi Zacharias (http://www.rzim.org), Alister Mcgrath (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alister_McGrath)…and how can you leave out CS Lewis (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/C._S._Lewis)?

  20. Hanoch says . . . | October 22, 2013 / 6:57 pm

    I am at a loss as to how you can assert that Nazism and Communism were not arrived at by examination of evidence and/or debate. How can you possibly speak for the leaders and adherents of those movements in claiming what they did or did not examine or debate? I am also mystified how you can assert that “reason ends wars not starts them”. History has repeatedly shown the opposite. Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait because he saw the opportunity for huge profit and calculated that he would not be stopped. That decision was based on his reasoning process, not his religious views.

  21. Nate MacHardy says . . . | October 22, 2013 / 7:13 pm

    Have to agree with Hanoch here. It is blatant obfuscation to attribute reason to good and religion to evil. The thought of that conclusion alone is confusing and lacks empirical evidence. nnFrom Marx to Pareto and Hegel to Nietzche, reasonable secularist have provided the foundation of data driven destruction. Granting average persuasive individuals the power to convince the naive to ignore the amoral solutions imposed on themu2014 such as, communism, fascism, and malthusianism. nnnNot to mention Darwin’s theory of natural selection basically grants a reasonable argument for the strong to overpower the meek. nnnOne would truly need to look at Hammurabi to see the origin of moral law in the mind of the reasonable human.

  22. Ron Pavellas says . . . | October 22, 2013 / 8:48 pm

    What is ‘Truth’? What is ‘Reality’? How can one hold either in ‘high regard’ if one cannot precisely and with complete confidence define either? Here is my attempt at ‘Reality’: http://wordsafew.com/2010/02/24/get-real-what-is-%E2%80%98reality%E2%80%99-really/

  23. Bryan Richards says . . . | October 23, 2013 / 1:19 am

    Denying an aspect of human nature is not reasonable… so cold reason does not rule out emotional issues. It factors them in.

  24. Peter Brand says . . . | October 23, 2013 / 2:04 am

    I make no such assumption. People use a mixture of various types of thinking, reason, intuition, ideology, stereotypical etc. Faith by its nature is belief in the absence of reason and evidence. That’s what makes it ‘faith’, in that sense of the word.nnYou can judge people and yet not tell them how they should live. Your judgement is that the thinkers of which you speak are “high stature” and put forward a “solid case”. Mine is that they are making stuff up and there is no reason to believe them. Since I don’t force people to abandon their religion, I expect them not to try and force me to accept or respect their beliefs. Simple as that.

  25. Peter Brand says . . . | October 23, 2013 / 2:12 am

    I make no such connection between good/evil with religion.nnDarwin’s theory talks of fitness in terms of suitability to environment. It has nothing to do with strength. Parasites have evolved their survival strategy not by overcoming their hosts with strength. This is very basic understanding.

  26. Peter Brand says . . . | October 23, 2013 / 2:16 am

    My assertions are based on evidence and reason, that is why you fail to follow.nnHussein’s lust for power was not ‘reason’. The opposite of ‘religion’ is not ‘reason’. Try not to think in such simplistic terms.

  27. rg57 says . . . | October 23, 2013 / 2:49 am

    “very solid case” nnnnThey’d be the first.

  28. rg57 says . . . | October 23, 2013 / 2:49 am

    “very solid case” nnnnThey’d be the first.

  29. Heinn says . . . | October 23, 2013 / 3:05 am

    No – they are not the first – it goes back centuries since the first great philosophers..

  30. Heinn says . . . | October 23, 2013 / 3:38 am

    Everyone uses a mixture of thinking, reasoning, intuition, etc to describe, interact and understand the world we live in. Your statement or definition of faith is not true, but a generalization or stereotypical perception on faith. Surely there are people who believe in things without reason or evidence like superstitions, etc. But my faith is supported by evidence and based on good reasoning – I don’t just believe something because I feel like it.nnnSurely you believe things which has not yet been proven, but for which you have evidence for or have good reason to believe (like you mention Darwin’s Theory in one of your other posts)? – that is, you have faith in Darwin’s Theory..

  31. Heinn says . . . | October 23, 2013 / 3:49 am

    ..and on the matter of telling people how they should live.nnYou say: “If you want to be taken seriously, it would be a good idea not to tell people how they should live their lives, don’t you think?”nnnIf you subscribe to a set of moral values and someone tries to steal an old lady’s money because she is an easy target, would you approve of that? I mean, that fits in perfectly with ‘Survival of the Fittest’ – if that is what that person believes to be acceptable, will you be ‘ok’ with that? And if it was your mother? And if he kills her?nnnSurely you would expect someone to intervene and tell that person that that is not the way he should live his life…

  32. Heinn says . . . | October 23, 2013 / 5:38 am

    Indeed very strange – makes me suspicious of the motives of the writer. No objectivity, no discussion – just one sided view…

  33. Nate MacHardy says . . . | October 23, 2013 / 8:59 am

    @ Pete – Cognitive dissonance?nn”God(s) and Reason don’t coexist, they haven’t even been formally introduced.”nnMy Darwin reference was meant to imply that one could use his science and reasoning to rationalize hurting people. Think eugenics.

  34. Bill says . . . | October 23, 2013 / 3:48 pm

    “Speaking for myself, I donu2019t have much of a dog in this fight.”nnnWhich clearly places you with the anti-theists! LOL! You can’t win for losing with the evangelicals on the rampage throughout the land! You might as well just throw your hat into the ring along with all the other thinking folk and put the rabid religious Right to bed without their supper.

  35. Alison says . . . | October 24, 2013 / 2:25 am

    I posted this elsewhere recently. As I see this thread is turning into the usual nonsense (aside from the original post being nonsense of course), I will copy it here. There is absolutely no point in debating the gawdly, so now I just post the truth, and leave. I think this covers most of the usual angles. Any passive aggressive “I’ll pray for you, gawd luuuurves you, you were brought here by gaaaawd’s will” and etc would only have made me chuckle anyway, but if it comforts anybody, do feel free. I won’t be coming back to check. I explain at the bottom why I took the time to post it.nn”Religious apologists complain bitterly that atheists and secularists are aggressive and hostile in their criticism of them. I always say, look, when you guys were in charge, you didn’t argue with us, you just burnt us at the stake. Now what we’re doing is, we’re presenting you with some arguments and some challenging questions, and you complain.” A.C. Grayling.nnnInside your head your beliefs are free from ridicule. Once you start spouting them, they are just as open to disagreement and ridicule as anybody else’s. Disagreement – even robust disagreement – does not equal attack. Rational thinking people respect your right to believe whatever you want, but not the ludicrous belief itself. You’re quite entitled to believe the earth is flat. We don’t respect that either. nnnAtheism/non-theism/secularism/rationalism is a belief like off is a TV channel, or not playing golf is a hobby. If you think a person who doesn’t believe in your gawd has a faith or belief in that, then you must have thousands of faiths and beliefs, since you don’t believe in the nearly 3,000 other gawds we know of that have been invented. Non-theists simply believe in one less gawd than you do.nnnThere very definitely are atheists in foxholes. It makes as much sense and is equally truthful to say they suddenly become religious on their death bed as it does to say all religious people actually decide, with their dying breath, that gawd is not real and religion is a crock. Even if the no atheists in foxholes insult were true – and it is not – all it really means is that the only reason a person would believe in gawd is that they are terrified and irrational. Here is a link to the American Military organisation of atheists and freethinkers: http://militaryatheists.org/ – there are many atheists in foxholes all over the world.nnnIt is interesting how many people just happen to believe in the faith which is predominant in their geographical location and/or that they were indoctrinated into at an early age. It never seems to occur to militant Christians – for example – that if they had been born elsewhere they would be militant Islamists (cue the “I was never indoctrinated! I am a rational thinker! I lived in a bubble and only became a xian through hard work, education and study at the age of 30! My parents are atheists!” etc etc comments. About as verifiable and believable as the “I’m an ex atheist who found gawd claims.” But whatever gets you through the night.)nnnBurden of proof is ALWAYS on the person making the outlandish claim. Nobody has to disprove your belief, you have to prove it. Just as with Russell’s teapot. I know of no non-theist who claims to know for sure there is no god. Some may, I have never met one. We will find out when we die, or otherwise. In the meantime, filling the gaps with god putty instead of just admitting “I don’t know” is neither helpful nor rational.nnnOccasionally I have seen people ask (face palm) Well, what was before the start of the universe then?! As though playing a trump card. They do not seem to understand that creating a creator to fill that void in our knowledge only leaves the question “What was before your gawd then?” If the answer is, my gawd existed forever, the same answer can be applied to the universe. No creator required.nnnA brief aside for any of our less intelligent cousins who might try to leap in with some silliness about how things like gravity are just a theory – a Hypothesis is an idea, opinion or hunch. A scientific theory is evidenced fact. “a well-substantiated explanation of some aspect of the natural world, based on a body of facts that have been repeatedly confirmed through observation and experiment.” On the subject of thinking “there is no such thing as absolute knowledge”, this is entertaining and educational: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HhGuXCuDb1UnnnPlease don’t embarrass yourself by asking what harm religion has caused. The citations would take many, many pages. Please don’t embarrass yourself by stating that religion does good too – “With or without religion, you would have good people doing good things and evil people doing evil things. But for good people to do evil things, that takes religion.” [Steven Weinberg]. nnnPlease also avoid embarrassment by trying to claim atheism causes similar harm. Religion directly instructs its followers to do harm, there is a direct causal link between some harm caused and religion. Atheism, however, has absolutely no creed, doctrine, catechism, rules or good book to follow. There is no hive mind. Anyone, of any gender, political persuasion or race can be an atheist. It takes one thing only – no belief in invented gawds. Bad people who are atheists sometimes do bad things. They do not do them in the name of, or because of, atheism.nnnOn that, if your only reason for behaving in a moral fashion because you are afraid of punishment from your gawd, you are a genuinely terrifying individual and I would be much more comfortable if you stayed away from other people. nnnFurther, I have no interest in your feelpinions. It is irrelevant how offended you choose to be and I genuinely do not care how you feel about me. Don’t waste your time quoting at me from your “holy” books. This is a very good link – on bible contradictions and inaccuracies: http://bibviz.com/ – especially for those who cannot accept the overwhelming evidence that it’s just a book.nnnThe bible proves gawd is real in the same way Marvel Comics prove that Spider Man is real. The bible is the claim, not the evidence. The same can be said of any other “holy” book of fairy tales. It is painfully easy to discover that the bible is simply comprised of myths, fairy tales, legends and some scare mongering cobbled together, with some misogyny thrown in for good measure, much of which was passed down from much earlier civilisations, and mainly scribed by a bunch of tent-dwelling nomads who thought the earth was flat. Cognitive dissonance is a very real issue. http://noahbonn.com/2012/04/10/cognitive-dissonance/nnnHowever, if rationality does not suit you, you are free to believe whatever you want – debate and disagreement is in no way preventing you from believing whatever you choose. nnnSome gawdly squawk about “Militant Atheists”. Militant Christian Eric Rudolph planted explosives in Atlanta Olympics & 2 abortion clinics and a bar in 97/98. 4 dead, over 100 wounded. Militant Islamic Osama Bin Laden planned 9/11 attacks and countless other atrocities, over 3,000 dead, full toll unknown. Militant Atheist Richard Dawkins writes books and gives lectures. nnnDawkins focuses on religion the way Oncologists focus on cancer and he refuses to submit to religious privilege or give nonsensical respect to nonsensical beliefs. nnnAs with all privileged persons, the religious do not appreciate the extent of religious privilege and will argue vehemently against it being – quite fairly – revoked. Until recently, religious privilege was so vast and entrenched that religion was mainly allowed to fester undebated and unchallenged and even pointing out the irrationality of religion was considered unacceptable by many. That time has now passed.nnnI apologise for the length of this comment. However, it is inevitably a long and weary task trying to preempt the repetitive and ill considered responses of the religious as they indulge in their games of pigeon chess. I hope I covered most of the bases.nnnI have taken the time to type this because I know that it can make a difference to share education about the truth of religion. There is a very good reason the religious try snatch you early, pre-critical thinking and try to keep religion in schools and around children. Preaching dogma to a 25 year old will almost always result in laughter, not unquestioning acceptance.nnnTake heart, fellow non-theists. Inch by inch rational thinking is winning. Education is where religion goes to die.

  36. Alison says . . . | October 24, 2013 / 4:06 am

    Apologies for the words “aside from the original post being nonsense” . As I said this was a cut and paste. I should have removed those words first. And now, farewell.

  37. inspired says . . . | December 15, 2013 / 5:38 pm

    Refreshing approach to the issue…one can argue with ideas – but not experience.

  38. inspired says . . . | December 15, 2013 / 5:56 pm

    How quaint a belief system you hold! Even a cursory exploration of the issue allows one to determine that there is a clear distinction between the idea of the existence of God and the practice of religious systems. Interesting that someone that prides themselves with their superior intellectual acuity could not discern that.

  39. inspired says . . . | December 15, 2013 / 6:23 pm

    Now that you mention Darwin, doesn’t his ‘theory’- ie.not truth, but simply a hypothesis – contravene just a few of the unalterable laws of science? Hard to defend the superiority of a system that completely ignores its own rules. (And no need to retort with the “we will prove it one day!” cliche).

  40. inspired says . . . | December 15, 2013 / 6:27 pm

    My goodness! Your ability to perform rhetorical acrobatics is unsurpassed! lol It is so interesting that you accuse others of not deeply thinking!

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