Wit Is Educated Insolence, the Richard Dawkins Award, Stephen Fry Mark Gura and CW Brown

Wit Is Educated Insolence, the Richard Dawkins Award, Stephen Fry Mark Gura and CW Brown October 28, 2018

Wit is Educated Insolence” -Aristotle
                                                   Photo by Brian Engler

Mark Gura: “Doesn’t it seem like skeptics are an endangered species? Atheist Alliance of America has been fighting indoctrination for more than 26 years and we’ve been giving away the Richard Dawkins award for more than 15. Some people, even atheists, have told me that our work is complete, and we shouldn’t concentrate on atheism anymore. “Done, finished, the work is complete.” The consensus is that it’s all about politics right now—politics are important—but politics are based on beliefs, and the CORE problem is that there are still too many people who make decisions because they think they have contact with the supreme being of the universe. As you know, we need more critical thinkers who don’t rely on superstition, otherwise, our laws will favor faith, and not evidence or science, and this will continue to affect our lives.

This is why promoting atheism is our primary goal. The Atheist Alliance of America differentiates itself by being an incubator for secular activities, atheists and atheist organizations. We look for people and orgs. Who have passion and talent, and we support them. We have more than 600 volunteers now, and we run programs that champion people and not beliefs. We have a program that helps Secular Buddhists who are weaning themselves off religion, we’re developing an LGBTQ program, and we help the homeless in more than a dozen states. We also work with the main atheist organizations around the world, such as the Center for Inquiry which includes the Dawkins Foundation, and many others—thank you, Dr. Dawkins, Robyn Blumner, Barry Karr, Timothy Binga, all the great people here, who help us so much.

People assume that religion is needed because individuals require a community, hope & meaning in life, altruism, and transformative experiences. Atheists Alliance of America maintains committees that facilitate these needs—without requiring religious beliefs. Our community meets in person and online (Thanks for the great work CW Brown, he’s our social media director). We also provide programs that teach secular meditation techniques that transform lives. We do good for the sake of doing good. And since there’s no evidence for an afterlife, we encourage living well, here and now. Primarily, the Atheist Alliance of America is a start-up accelerator for talented and passionate individuals. We are supporting and nurturing the next Dawkins and Fry.

I often wonder what makes a Stephen Fry and a Richard Dawkins so unforgettable. Is it their DNA, their upbringing, a combination of both? Maybe it’s the accent?

Kelli Cooke is just one of our board members, who couldn’t forget him. She called me every day to ask if Stephen Fry had been approved for the Dawkins Award. Of course, he was, it was a secret at first. You have to know Kelli, though. She can barely get out of bed; she can barely eat because she has a very rare genetic condition called Mast cell disease which is puzzling the medical community, so they offer almost no resources. This is why I urge you to share the link atheist alliance dot org slash care for Kelli. Kelli so wanted to be here with us, today.

But like I said, Kelli is allergic to just about everything—including the sun—literally, she gets hives. She gets hives. Also, can you imagine only being able to eat two different foods, nothing else? She can’t even drink water that is not distilled because she is allergic to regular water. But, she’s not allergic to Stephen Fry.

Obviously, he’s a genius-writer, comedian, and actor. We love the: Blackadder, Harry Potter and V for Vendetta, all his work. So I asked Kelli what she liked the most about him. She said, “He is a true renaissance man who does it all, is able to meet people with gentleness and humor, rather than frustration. Instead, he strives for the positive, with grace.” Unique talent and passion, hmmm?!! Talent and passion!!!

Well, you now know, the Atheist Alliance of America looks for people to work with who have talent and passion, right? So, Mr. Fry, we do have openings for interns, if you ever feel the need to find work.

Now, I’d like to ask our Executive Director CW Brown to hand me the award.

Dr. Dawkins and Mr. Fry, you are an inspiration to me. You are icons of our community (Not in a religious way of course). I’m so honored to be here with you! Thank you.”

(By Mark W. Gura. Edited by @Kelli Cooke, @Rosi Guastella, Michelle W. Gura
Photo Credit: Brian Engler)


Dr. Richard Dawkins:

What can one say about Stephen Fry? The phrase, “living national treasure,” although though to be of Japanese origin, might have been invented for him. But the adjectives erudite, witty, charming, and gracious could be ostensibly defined simply by pointing to him. Erudite, witty and charming speak for themselves. Gracious sprang to my mind yet again when he was invited to contribute to forward to the Four Horsemen book, which the Richard Dawkins Foundation is about to publish. The transcript, the only meeting between Christopher Hitchens, Dan Bennett, Sam Harris and me. Stephen sprang to the task of writing the forward with gracious alacrity and turned in a sparkling gem of an essay. I won’t recite his life’s story because you can read it in his two autobiographies, “Moab Is My Washpot,” and “More Fool Me.”

As this audience would have instantly recognized,  “Moab Is My Washpot,” comes from Psalm 60. “Moab is my Washpot, over Eden will I cast out my shoe.”  It’s the bizarre song that my father used to sing at the top of his voice while driving his tractor. I strongly recommend both books, when you read them you might be quite surprised at Stephen’s colorful past. As his friend Dr…. might have put it, he has an extensive Pulverbatch.

Anyone know what a Pulverbatch is?

Dr. … in his book, The meaning of lift, coined the words that he told the English language lacked. The pulverbatch is that biography on the back of a novel where the author is described as having been a bouncer at a nightclub, or been a rugby forward or something like that. Improbable things. Well. Stephen has a very good Pulverbatch.

It includes all the things which he’s justly famous for but it also includes having put in a stretch in prison and he’s not proud of having been put in prison, but he’s not even ashamed that he’d been put in prison. It’s just a fact about him. He values facts, like all of us. It was Douglas Adams who introduced me to Stephen in the first place. They are two of the tallest man I’ve ever met. I’ve looked up to them ever since. He’s so distinguished in all sorts of way, as an actor, as a mimic, as a… just a general charming man, that one forgets he’s is also a novelist of distinction. And if he wasn’t all of these things,  you’d think Stephen Fry was just an actor. He’s a very distinguished novelist. I’ve read I think two novels or more. I’ve read “The Liar / The Hippopotamus.” Hippopotamus, for example, is a detective story. But the crime is not a murder. The crime, if it is, in fact, a crime, is something that might interest Csicon attendees, to unravel the truth about an alleged faith healing, is a fascinating novel. It’s a detective story about the very topic of this conference. Stephen has the sagacity and the ability of Jeeves and he not only played Jeeves so perfectly that nobody else can ever play Jeeves again.

He is also the best authority I know on the works of the master, P. G. Wodehouse. I strongly suspect he’s going to agree with me that the actual scriptwriter of Jeeves and Wooster series should be shot…as an authority won Wodehouse. Stephen was invaluable to me when I was writing my two parodies of P.G. Wodehouse, in one of which Jeeves explained evolution to a somewhat bemused Bertie and Stephen helped me to say whether I got the style of the master right.

Stephen Fry is one of those people, very few people of whom it could be said that everybody literally everybody loves him. The only other person I could think of, who qualifies for that accolade is probably David Attenborough.

But anyway he’s here today. We are here honoring him today because of his role in the world of skepticism, atheism, rationalism. He’s just about the only real celebrity we’ve got. Who could forget his magnificent put down of God on Irish television?

A splendid broadside which rocked the gentlemanly interviewer back on his heels. Let’s play a video of it. I know you will want to burst into spontaneous applause after every sentence, but may I encourage you to hold your applause until the end so you can appreciate the shocked expression on the Irish host’s face.  

I am, of course, honestly honored that this award has been given in my name. The inscription on the award is a quote from Aristotle,  “Wit is educated insolence,” I didn’t choose it, it was chosen by Atheist Alliance of America. I suspect that Stephen would be delighted by it. It seems to me to sum up exactly his eloquent put down of the fictional character known as “God.” And the award itself, a Grecian helmet pays tribute to Stephen’s knowledge of classical antiquity. Stephen Fry,  thank you for accepting this honor in my name.

(By Dr. Richard Dawkins. Transcribed by Rosi Guastella and Mark W. Gura)


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  • Sastra

    Excellent speeches, both. Fry is certainly a deserving recipient of the Dawkins Award.

    And kudos to Kelli Cooke for such grace under pressure. I believe she came up with the very apt Aristotle quote.

  • MuttsRule

    “Moab is my washpot; over Edom will l cast out my shoe.”
    Can anyone hum a few bars?

  • Mark W Gura

    Thank you Sastra, and thank you for the most wonderful Dawkins award trophy ever, as always!!!

  • Khara Tina Hamilton