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Wednesday, 3 September 2008

Antony Sher's thoughts on God

In the current issue of the Radio Times, Antony Sher is interviewed as part of promoting the Auschwitz drama God on Trial, in which he plays a Polish rabbi:

[It’s] a brave piece of television, when everyone is talking about dumbing down […] What’s so good is that it presents all sides of the argument.

Sher was born in South Africa, and I have a novel by him (his third, published in 1995) called Cheap Lives, which tells the story of Yusuf, a would-be intellectual “coloured” on Death Row in Pretoria who’s convicted of murdering one and a half people, and Adrian, the “half” that got away, having survived Yusuf’s assault during an afternoon of casual sex. Though I knew, of course, that Sher was gay, I didn’t know he was a nonbeliever before reading the RT interview with him.

As Sher’s a non-believer, God could not be on trial for him, although he admits, “I’m surprised at how moved I can be by the sound of Jewish prayer. It’s in my blood, however much I turned my back on it. In my lifetime, some of the worst atrocities have been committed in the name of religion – Northern Ireland, people flying planes into skyscrapers, the Middle East. Religion is back with a vengeance – 20 years ago God was off the agenda – and I believe we’d be better off without it. God must be terrible, destructive.”

The one-off drama, which will be shown in the UK this evening on BBC2 (9–10.30pm), depicts Auschwitz POWs putting God in the dock for breaking his covenant with the Jews.

According to Jack Searle’s preview in the Radio Times, the drama is likely to be controversial:

God on Trial remains fair and reverent even as it lists all the best arguments against the existence of a benevolent god, but for those who balk at them anyway, it also asks: when inquiry, reasoning and debate are so central to being human, how can they be profane, even if God is the subject?

Indeed! Unfortunately, “reason” is often the last thing on the minds of those religionists who would want there to be no debate about religion at all.

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