Griff Rhys-Jones (1953)
It was also on this date, November 6, 1953, that British comedian Griff Rhys-Jones was born in Cardiff, Wales. A partner and foil of Mel Smith, at one time Rhys-Jones had the distinction of being the richest comedian in British comedy. He is also one of the best educated: he attended Cambridge University and was vice president of the prestigious Cambridge University Footlights Club. His awards for comedy include the Laurence Olivier Theatre Award in 1984 (for Charley's Aunt) and 1994 (for An Absolute Turkey). His comedy programs include "Not the Nine O'Clock News," with Smith and Rowan "Mr. Bean" Atkinson, as well as presenter for the BBC's Restoration program.
In a group interview for a BBC program on religion and politics, broadcast on 28 July 2003, he observes that the once-Christian United Kingdom is now wholly secular:
I'd also like to observe that there is an element of Pandora's box here – that we have entered a secular age and to hope in some way that we can thrust everybody back into those churches seems to me a hopeless task.
And he goes on to say that 19th century anti-slavery campaigner William Wilberforce (1759-1833), who was a cleric, but developed his anti-slavery ideas in his skeptical youth, might have had motivations other than religion to work seventeen years for the abolition of slavery:
What I believe is that, intrinsically, there are moral people. And those moral people have, for reason or another, taken up the church, whether they're Wilberforce or whatever. If Wilberforce was only driven by his religious impulses, then somehow I think it would devalue what he did. For me. That's personally. I believe that you can take on a moral stance — and plenty of people do – without reference to, as it were, a series of precepts.
It was Griff Rhys-Jones who said, as part of a response to a reader's question, published in the Independent (a UK newspaper), on 10 April 1999, "I have no belief in god."
Originally published November 2003 by Ronald Bruce Meyer.
Wrote Burns in "Epistle to Rev. John McMath," "But twenty times I rather would be // An atheist clean, // Than under gospel colours hid be // Just for a screen."