On this date in 1949, English-born stand-up comedian, writer, playwright, secularist and atheist Patrick Condell was born. Born into an Irish Catholic family living in South London, Condell was educated in the Church of England schools, where he was treated differently from the other children. "I found myself segregated in assembly and shunted into another room while everyone said their morning prayers. I didn't mind. The whole pantomime seemed hollow to me even then. Once you become aware of the gulf between what people profess to believe and how they actually behave, it's hard to take any of it seriously" (Time Out London, magazine interview, 2006). Working various jobs, including six years in Canada as a logger, Condell started performing stand-up comedy on the London Alternative Comedy circuit in the 1980s. In 1991, he performed with the Cutting Edge Team at The Comedy Store, winning the "Time Out Comedy Award" that year. Between 1991 and 1994, Condell was a regular panelist on BBC Radio 1's "Loose Talk," as well as continuing to perform between 200 and 300 gigs around Great Britain. Feeling the need for a break, Condell began writing for other people, as well as writing some plays. In 2006, Condell performed a stand-up show entitled "Faith, Hope and Sanity: A Few Jokes About Religion Before It Kills Us All," a comedic vehicle for his nonbelief.
"I set out to write a show in order to say something, rather than just as a vehicle for stand-up. It seems to me that fundamentalist Christians, jihadist Muslims and settlement-building Jews are causing more than their share of trouble in the world. World events are being driven by people with apocalyptic delusions, while here in Britain a paralyzing liberal guilt allows religious bigots to use intimidation and violence to stamp out free speech. If you can't get laughs out of all that, you can't get them out of anything" ("Time Out London," interview 2006). In a 2007 presentation at the Beyond Belief symposium, Sir Harold Kroto, recipient of the 1996 Nobel Prize for Chemistry, used one of Condell's YouTube videos, in which he was "trying to find something good to say about the three major religions." Condell has two video sites where he has posted 39 proatheist/antireligious monologs, tallying up to 8 million hits. Condell's "The Trouble With Islam," has reached over two million hits on the worldwide web, proving "there is an enthusiastic audience for comedy ideas and opinions which are routinely censored out of existence in the UK's mainstream media, thanks to misguided political correctness," Condell has said (The Freethinker, Feb. 27, 2008). Condell concedes: "I admire anyone who's genuinely trying to achieve spiritual enlightenment and live a peaceful life. But religious dogma is a barrier to that. The last thing a dogmatist wants is for anyone to be enlightened, any more than a pharmaceutical company wants anybody cured" ("Time Out London," interview 2006). Asked what we can do to resist the growing influence of religion, Condell responded: "Use their tactics if you feel strongly enough. Make a nuisance of yourself. Make an official complaint. Take it to a tribunal. As an atheist you're part of a minority whose beliefs are constantly ignored and marginalised while religious prejudice is pandered to and encouraged, and you have every right to be offended by that . . . Remember, one person on their own can't do much, but a million people each doing a little every day can change things very quickly" (An Interview with Pat Condell, The Freethinker, Feb. 27, 2008).