Entering in plain blue jeans, a black blazer, and bright red nails, Edward J. “Eddie” Izzard flaunted his observational humor as he accepted the sixth annual Outstanding Lifetime Achievement Award in Cultural Humanism in Memorial Church on Wednesday. Though comedic in tone, Izzard’s acceptance speech—delivered as part of Harvard’s Atheist Coming Out Week— delivered a serious message encouraging audience members to believe in each other instead of an “invisible person.”
“Science is full of theories. Religion is just full of stories,” Izzard said. “They’re stories, in which case Lord of the Rings is the same.”
Izzard questioned the religious figures present in many faiths, taking issue with the notion of a religious leader who demands human sacrifice and constant praise, but does not make an appearance in times of extreme suffering.
“No God has ever turned up. No God has ever, ever turned up,” he said.
Izzard poked fun at the lack of this “invisible figure” in the lives of both believers and non-believers.
“Don’t send a bush down...and set it on fire,” Izzard said, referencing religious “stories” which he contrasted to scientific theories.
Izzard also made light of recent growth in the number of followers of the Catholic Church.
“People say that Catholicism is the fastest growing religion, and that just cannot be. Even the Pope’s getting out,” he said.
In his introduction, Harvard’s Humanist Chaplain Greg M. Epstein said that the members of the Humanist community at large believe in a simple truth: “good without God.”
Epstein said that this belief and the values of the Humanist community are among many things that have contributed to a society of humanists that has grown “too big for little spaces.” These values include “compassion, creativity, justice, awareness, feminism, science, and progress,” Epstein said.
Izzard also discussed the growth of the Humanist community.
“Humanist Society, it’s the fastest growing, not religion, thought process...fastest growing sensibility in the world,” he said.
Epstein described Izzard as a product of the culture of the growing Humanist community.
“Culture is what we create to remind us in every aspect of our lives to love, laugh, cry, feel...connect,” Epstein said.
Izzard expressed a similar sentiment about humanism.
“I believe in us, I believe in other people,” Izzard said. “I think Heaven and Hell are here on Earth and [are] what we make of it. I’m happy to be proved wrong on this, but until then... I’m going to stand by this.”
Throughout the speech, Izzard repeated a short statement that encapsulated the central point of his talk: “It’s just us, guys.”
—Staff writer Zohra D. Yaqhubi can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @zohradyaqhubi.