Shaun Micallef sees religious zeal in atheism
The meaning of life has fascinated writer and comedian Shaun Micallef for some time. His commitment to exploring the issue led him to make the series The Stairway to Heaven by Shaun Micallef in which he tries to penetrate the minds of various believers. He integrates with Mormons in Salt Lake City, apocalyptic Christians in the United States, and religious healers in Brazil.
He is intrigued by “this need for magic in people’s lives, this desperate need to have a man or a woman in the sky, a magical fairy, this idea of destiny or being pre-ordained”. As millions around the world dedicate themselves to particular religions, Micallef is also struck by the rise of militant atheism. Led by Professor Richard Dawkins, who wrote The illusion of God, it is an anti-religious philosophy that, ironically, is religious in its passion. “It’s almost like a religion of non-believers,” says Micallef. “They KNOW what you think is wrong. I don’t know if that’s a very good thing.”
Atheism has been around for a long time, but the fervor with which this non-belief is pursued is a recent phenomenon. “There’s a case, I think, to respond to someone zealously with that kind of argument, but I’m not sure you can go and get a fight. You can use it as armor rather than a weapon. It’s kind of similar in a way to that objection people have to gay marriage. Wait – what’s that got to do with you? It’s not going to affect you. It’s not going to affect you. devalue the love you have with someone.
Despite his best efforts, Micallef came out of the series a firm unbeliever. Rather than a particular set of beliefs, he argues that the greatest gift you can give your loved ones is to encourage them to be curious. “Encourage them to really care about other people. Anyone, if you look closely, who does that is fascinating. Our job is to find the good and see that, rather than what’s wrong. You can’t build on what’s wrong. Build on the good stuff and make it your life’s work.”