People will then often say, 'But surely it's better to remain an Agnostic just in case?' This, to me, suggests such a level of silliness and muddle that I usually edge out of the conversation rather than get sucked into it. (If it turns out that I've been wrong all along, and there is in fact a god, and if it further turned out that this kind of legalistic, cross-your-fingers-behind-your-back, Clintonian hair-splitting impressed him, then I think I would choose not to worship him anyway.)
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I think that growing up in a crowded continent like Europe with an awful lot of competing claims, ideas, cultures, and systems of thought we have, perforce, developed a more sophisticated notion of what the word freedom means than I see much evidence of in America. To be frank, it sometimes seems that the American idea of freedom has more to do with my freedom to do what I want than your freedom to do what you want. I think that in Europe we're probably better at understanding how to balance those competing claims, though not a lot.
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It was none the less a perfectly ordinary horse, such as convergent evolution has produced in many of the places that life is to be found. They have always understood a great deal more than they let on. It is difficult to be sat on all day, every day, by some other creature, without forming an opinion about them.
Time, we know, is relative. You can travel light years through the stars and back, and if you do it at the speed of light then, when you return, you may have aged mere seconds while your twin brother or sister will have aged twenty, thirty, forty or however many years it is, depending on how far you traveled. This will come to you as a profound shock, particularly if you didn't know you had a twin brother or sister.
We're not obsessed by anything, you see," insisted Ford. "..." "And that's the deciding factor. We can't win against obsession. They care, we don't. They win." "I care about lots of things," said Slartibartfast, his voice trembling partly with annoyance, but partly also with uncertainty. "Such as?" "Well," said the old man, "life, the Universe. Everything, really. Fjords." "Would you die for them?" "Fjords?" blinked Slartibartfast in surprise. "No." "Well then." "Wouldn't see the point, to be honest.
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The world is a thing of utter inordinate complexity and richness and strangeness that is absolutely awesome. I mean the idea that such complexity can arise not only out of such simplicity, but probably absolutely out of nothing, is the most fabulous extraordinary idea. And once you get some kind of inkling of how that might have happened, it's just wonderful. And . . . the opportunity to spend 70 or 80 years of your life in such a universe is time well spent as far as I am concerned.
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There's no point in acting surprised about it. All the planning charts and demolition orders have been on display at your local planning department in Alpha Centauri for 50 of your Earth years, so you've had plenty of time to lodge any formal complaint and it's far too late to start making a fuss about it now. ... What do you mean you've never been to Alpha Centauri? Oh, for heaven's sake, mankind, it's only four light years away, you know. I'm sorry, but if you can't be bothered to take an interest in local affairs, that's your own lookout. Energize the demolition beams.
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I don't really have any advice, other than to say it's the most appallingly difficult thing I've ever tried to do and I wish I had a better idea of how to do it. In my experience what you end up with is the by-product of your failure to achieve what you set out to do. It may turn out OK, but it wasn't what you meant and you've no idea how you got there.
He almost danced to the fridge, found the three least hairy things in it, put them on a plate and watched them intently for two minutes. Since they made no attempt to move within that time he called them breakfast and ate them. Between them they killed a virulent space disease he'd picked up without knowing it in the Flargathon Gas Swamps a few days earlier, which otherwise would have killed off half the population of the Western Hemisphere, blinded the other half, and driven everyone else psychotic and sterile, so the Earth was lucky there.
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It is known that there are an infinite number of worlds, simply because there is an infinite amount of space for them to be in. However, not every one of them is inhabited. Therefore, there must be a finite number of inhabited worlds. Any finite number divided by infinity is as near to nothing as makes no odds, so the average population of all the planets in the Universe can be said to be zero. From this it follows that the population of the whole Universe is also zero, and that any people you may meet from time to time are merely the products of a deranged imagination.
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The lights were off so that his heads could avoid looking at each other because neither of them was currently a particular engaging sight, nor had they been since he had made the error of looking into his soul. It had indeed been an error. It had been late one night-- of course. It had been a difficult day-- of course. There had been soulful music playing on the ship's sound system-- of course. And he had, of course, been slightly drunk. In other words, all the usual conditions that bring on a bout of soul searching had applied, but it had, nevertheless, clearly been an error.
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In the end, it was the Sunday afternoons he couldn't cope with, and that terrible listlessness which starts to set in at about 2:55, when you know that you've had all the baths you can usefully have that day, that however hard you stare at any given paragraph in the papers you will never actually read it, or use the revolutionary new pruning technique it describes, and that as you stare at the clock the hands will move relentlessly on to four o'clock, and you will enter the long dark teatime of the soul.
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In many of the more relaxed civilizations on the Outer Eastern Rim of the Galaxy, the Hitch-Hiker's Guide has already supplanted the great Encyclopaedia Galactica as the standard repository of all knowledge and wisdom, for though it has many omissions and contains much that is apocryphal, or at least wildly inaccurate, it scores over the older, more pedestrian work in two important respects. First, it is slightly cheaper; and secondly it has the words DON'T PANIC inscribed in large friendly letters on its cover.
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Just supposing," he said, "just supposing" --he didn't know what was coming next, so he thought he'd just sit back and listen--"that there was some extraordinary way in which you were very important to me, and that, though you didn't know it, I was very important to you, but it all went for nothing because we only had five miles and I was a stupid idiot at knowing how to say something very important to someone I've only just met and not crash into lorries a the same time, what would you say..." He paused, helplessly, and looked at her. "I should do.
Your God person puts an apple tree in the middle of a garden and says, do what you like, guys, oh, but don't eat the apple. Surprise surprise, they eat it and he leaps out from behind a bush shouting "Gotcha". It wouldn't have made any difference if they hadn't eaten it.' 'Why not?' 'Because if you're dealing with somebody who has the sort of mentality which likes leaving hats on the pavement with bricks under them you know perfectly well they won't give up. They'll get you in the end.
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Religion... has certain ideas at the heart of it which we call sacred or holy or whatever... If someone votes for a party that you don't agree with, you're free to argue about it as much as you like; everybody will have an argument but nobody feels aggrieved by it. If somebody thinks taxes should go up or down you are free to have an argument about it. But on the other hand if somebody says 'I must [not] move a light switch on a Saturday', you say, 'I respect that'... Yet when you look at it rationally there is no reason why those ideas shouldn't be as open to debate as any other, except that we have agreed somehow between us that they shouldn't be.
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If you describe yourself as "Atheist, " some people will say, "Don't you mean 'Agnostic'?" I have to reply that I really do mean Atheist. I really do not believe that there is a god - in fact I am convinced that there is not a god (a subtle difference). I see not a shred of evidence to suggest that there is one. It's easier to say that I am a radical Atheist, just to signal that I really mean it, have thought about it a great deal, and that it's an opinion I hold seriously. It's funny how many people are genuinely surprised to hear a view expressed so strongly. In England we seem to have drifted from vague wishy-washy Anglicanism to vague wishy-washy Agnosticism - both of which I think betoken a desire not to have to think about things too much.
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This is rather as if you imagine a puddle waking up one morning and thinking, 'This is an interesting world I find myself in - an interesting hole I find myself in - fits me rather neatly, doesn't it? In fact it fits me staggeringly well, must have been made to have me in it!' This is such a powerful idea that as the sun rises in the sky and the air heats up and as, gradually, the puddle gets smaller and smaller, frantically hanging on to the notion that everything's going to be alright, because this world was meant to have him in it, was built to have him in it; so the moment he disappears catches him rather by surprise. I think this may be something we need to be on the watch out for.
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But she was finding it increasingly easy to believe that God, if there was a God, and if it was remotely possible that any godlike being who could order the disposition of particles at the creation of the Universe would also be interested in directing traffic on the M4, did not want her to fly to Norway either.
Stomp stomp. Whirr. Pleased to be of service. Shut up. Thank you. Stomp stomp stomp stomp stomp. Whirr. Thank you for making a simple door very happy. Hope your diodes rot. Thank you. Have a nice day. Stomp stomp stomp stomp. Whirr. It is my pleasure to open for you... Zark off... and my satisfaction to close again with the knowledge of a job well done. I said zark off. Thank you for listening to this message.
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David Attenborough has said that Bali is the most beautiful place in the world, but he must have been there longer than we were, and seen different bits, because most of what we saw in the couple of days we were there sorting out our travel arrangements was awful. It was just the tourist area, i.e., that part of Bali which has been made almost exactly the same as everywhere else in the world for the sake of people who have come all this way to see Bali.
One of the things Ford Prefect had always found hardest to understand about human beings was their habit of continually stating and repeating the very very obvious, as in It's a nice day, or You're very tall, or Oh dear you seem to have fallen down a thirty-foot well, are you all right? At first Ford had formed a theory to account for this strange behaviour. If human beings don't keep exercising their lips, he thought, their mouths probably seize up. After a few months' consideration and observation he abandoned this theory in favour of a new one. If they don't keep on exercising their lips, he thought, their brains start working.
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