BY MARK GREAVES
COMEDIANS from Eddie Izzard down are “at the forefront of the new atheism”, Simon Mayo has claimed.
The broadcaster made the remark in an interview with the Daily Telegraph after he was appointed as the voice of BBC Radio 2’s Drivetime programme.
He also said that the BBC was increasingly driving Christianity “to the margin”.
Mr Mayo, who has worked for the BBC since 1981, said: “I’ve just listened to David Tennant on Desert Island Discs. His father was a minister and that was seen to be a problem [by Kirsty Young, presenter]. Religion is increasingly driven to the margin.
“I was listening to a BBC news bulletin during Easter 2008 about services to mark ‘the rebirth of Christ’, a line clearly written by someone who had no contact with or understanding of the concept of Resurrection.
“My brother works for the BBC religious affairs unit and I told him I couldn’t believe it.” In spite of Mr Mayo’s claim that television comedians are “at the forefront of new atheism”, many of Britain’s most famous comedians are Catholic – or at least Catholic-educated.
Frank Skinner, for instance, returned to the Church after reading a work by the liberal theologian Hans Küng. Johnny Vegas attended as a junior at
Upholland, near Wigan, Lancashire, and Armando Iannucci, the writer of The Thick of It, also considered becoming a priest.
Chris Morris, who wrote The Day Today and Brass Eye, was educated at the Jesuit private school, Stonyhurst College, in Lancashire, while Julian Clary went to the independent St Benedict’s school in Ealing.
Catherine Tate, made famous by The Catherine Tate Show, was raised a Catholic, as was Paul Merton.
Comedians most closely associated with atheism, on the other hand, are Ricky Gervais and the American Bill Maher. Both have produced films that make fun of Christianity. Gervais has even argued on the radio with the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, about the existence of God – incidentally on Mr Mayo’s BBC Radio Five Live show.
Mr Mayo, an Evangelical, has never talked in great detail publicly about his Christian faith. When he was asked about it by the Guardian in 2008 he said: “Sometimes I boot up as Richard Dawkins and sometimes I boot up as Rowan Williams, and I’m never quite sure which way I’m going to go.” He will be leaving Radio Five Live, where he has presented an afternoon show for eight years, and will replace Chris Evans on Radio 2, who has taken on the morning show.