Ian McKellen | News

Ian McKellen on Life and Death

Sir Ian McKellen speaks to Men's Journal on a variety of topics, including religion:

Ian_mckellenI don't understand religion. I don't get it at all. I understand why people need it, but I think they're wrong. They don't. I do see that on a crude-ish level, when someone dies, it's nice and comforting to think that they're going to heaven and that they're going to be wrapped up warm for eternity. But they're not. Heaven doesn't exist. If you just think about it for a minute, the person is dead, they're gone, they're not coming back, and you'll never see them again. And when you go, you'll never see anybody again. Just face it. I feel stronger because of it. Knowing that I can't lean on religion to get through life. If you are leaning on it, you won't be living your life to the fullest.

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  1. Words of wisdom

    Posted by: JP_Lisbon | Nov 23, 2013 7:49:13 AM

  2. I feel the same as him. And quite frankly I just tolerate others who feel they need religion. If thats what makes them feel better,then so be it. But I will not be sitting in another god damn sermon again. Makes me sleepy more than anything.

    Posted by: Mr. M | Nov 23, 2013 8:10:14 AM

  3. Nice to hear somebody put into words the way I feel.

    Posted by: Ben Nevis | Nov 23, 2013 8:12:41 AM

  4. I've always thought it weird when people think they'll be reunited with departed loved ones after they die.

    Won't all the baggage they created on earth follow them to heaven? Won't it be awkward when the Menendez brothers meet Mom & Dad at the pearly gates?

    Posted by: JonnyNYNY2FLFL | Nov 23, 2013 8:26:58 AM

  5. Yeah, the whole concept of religion I think initially was to make us better people, you know, laws to abide by before there were nations to codify good and bad. Separate us from the animals because we could do good.

    But now, I think it's a way to feel at peace while alive, knowing that death is coming some day. Separates us from the animals again, as the only species who (we suspect) knows death is inevitable.

    I pity people who believe in god because the entire planet has progressed since the middle ages. But religion hasn't. And people still believe now what people in the middle ages believed about religion.

    Posted by: the other Ken | Nov 23, 2013 8:33:34 AM

  6. religious folks forget that god is only a hypothesis, and a stupid one at that.

    Posted by: ascanius1 | Nov 23, 2013 8:49:56 AM

  7. Heaven yes, unicorns no; angels yes, santa no; virgin births yes, zombies no; magic water yes; polyjuice potion no; pray yes; wishing wells no; walking on water yes; flying on brooms no; gays bad, BJs from your BF good-really good. I just have so much trouble keeping it all straight. I agree with Sir Ian, I just don't get religion.

    Posted by: terry | Nov 23, 2013 8:57:41 AM

  8. Most religious people know heaven is make believe- otherwise why do they try so hard to avoid death and pray to be healed or to survive some disaster? If they truly believed in a heaven they would welcome death and the ability to see their dead relatives/friend/Jesus.

    Posted by: homer | Nov 23, 2013 9:20:18 AM

  9. Quite right Sir Ian McKellen;

    the notion of a heaven that would contain me, Frothy , that anorexic birch Anne Coulter , Palin the Dumb, Green Ball$ and Spam Cruzie, or any Republican whatever is clearly nonsense.

    As for the other side, hell, that's even more medieval.....all those little red devils with forks !

    No, I guess we have to grow up and admit the inexorable logic of mortality......it is mortality not a half-way house.......
    PS : and dear Islamics, no 73 virgins or dear Hindus no reincarnations in to exotic rebirths.
    Mortality.....the end......over.....nothingness.

    Posted by: JackFknTwist | Nov 23, 2013 9:23:50 AM

  10. I am certainly skeptical of organized religion. McKellen''s certainty of the nature of death, on the other hand, strikes me as a little arrogant. A bit of humility in recognizing man's ability to fathom the complexities of the universe might be wise.

    Posted by: j.martindale | Nov 23, 2013 9:45:08 AM

  11. His words could be my words. His statements on religion are the same as mine have always been. Even as a little boy I never believed in religion of any kind. I've never believed you are going to 'meet up' with people you knew when you die or that there was a heaven to go to. You die you are dead. It is that simple. That's what life is all about.

    Posted by: Mike Ryan | Nov 23, 2013 10:12:28 AM

  12. Well, even physics states that energy never dies, it only changes form. As an agnostic, I find his certainty a bit intellectually lazy. Plenty of people living "full" lives who believe in God. My atheist friends also seem to live a life of fulfillment. Does religion seem silly at times? Sure. But it seems equally silly to assume that all religious people are unfulfilled.

    Posted by: datlaw214 | Nov 23, 2013 10:22:11 AM

  13. @ DATLAW214 :

    Science also requires evidence to verify any hypothesis.
    That's why the study of "Theology" has always struck me as about as useful as studying alchemy !.........it just seems to be the study of an invented mythology.
    I mean religion comes up with concepts like "original sin" or "Limbo"...entirely invented.....later abolished !
    And then there's "infallibility".......no that's really scientific.

    Posted by: JackFknTwist | Nov 23, 2013 10:29:59 AM

  14. It's unfortunate that so many gays have become atheists and religion haters.
    Yes religion has done some bad stuff - but so has politics and just about everything else.
    Don't throw the baby out with the bathwater.

    Posted by: David From Canada | Nov 23, 2013 11:23:29 AM

  15. with religion there is no baby. there is only dirty bathwater. whatever good things religious folks do is in spite of their religion, not because of it.

    "Religion is an insult to human dignity. With or without it you would have good people doing good things and evil people doing evil things. But for good people to do evil things, that takes religion."
    Steven Weinberg

    Posted by: ascanius1 | Nov 23, 2013 11:32:26 AM

  16. All organized religion is evil because all of it is based on lies. It began as a way to explain and protect yourself from the incomprehensible universe, but, especially as we continued to comprehend the universe, it became what it is today: a way to control the masses. No more, no less.

    And this is what puts the lie to the meme the idiotic right wingers started a few years ago: we are tolerant of them. Every damn day. We don't have any choice because they won't shut the hell up about their fairy tales. I just want them to keep their fairy tales out of my life.

    Posted by: oncemorewithfeeling | Nov 23, 2013 11:45:49 AM

    " Religion has done some bad stuff....."

    Seriously ?
    The very basis of 'faith' instead of 'reason' to advance and develop human civilization has been the greatest impediment to humankind through all the ages.
    Imagine the advances civilization would have made in science alone if Christianity had encouraged it instead of seeing science as a threat to 'belief'.
    BTW I do not mention the Crusades, the Witchcraft Craze, the Inquisition, Catholicism and Franco........and anti-gay propaganda current in the Catholic Church.

    Posted by: JackFknTwist | Nov 23, 2013 12:01:57 PM

  18. David From Canada?


    More likely a Trolling Lincoln Lounger Goper from a texas blog boilerroom. You know 'David'... Judas took his pieces of silver too.

    From Canada?

    Liar, Liar, Right-wing Fright-wig on Fire!

    Posted by: Jenny 0 | Nov 23, 2013 1:36:48 PM

  19. I always get annoyed at the "energy never dies" argument… it's doesn't apply. the chemical and electrical energy stays with the dead body until it it consumed in the decomposition process. "Energy" isn't some cloud or mysterious force. It is simple the physical ability to do work. Our minds are not composed of "energy". He has a good reason to feel certain, there are zero reason and zero evidence to suggest any part of us survives death, except in the memories of others.

    Posted by: Vincent-louis Apruzzese | Nov 23, 2013 1:45:01 PM

  20. I'll defer to Simone Weil on this, who wrote:

    "Religion in so far as it is a source of consolation is a hindrance to true faith; and in this sense atheism is a purification.

    "I have to be an atheist with that part of myself which is not made for God.

    "Among those in whom the supernatural part of themselves has not been awakened, the atheists are right and the believers wrong."

    Posted by: Distingue Traces | Nov 23, 2013 2:15:04 PM

  21. If you understand why people need it, then don't be a jerk about it. These are awfully condescending statements he's making. Also, "just think about it for a minute"? I'll need a little more time.

    Posted by: Mike | Nov 23, 2013 2:18:02 PM

  22. lol. when there's evidence of a supernatural part which can be awakened, get back to us. that does not include wish-fulfillment fantasies and feelings of immortality.

    Posted by: ascanius1 | Nov 23, 2013 4:15:42 PM

  23. @MIKE: "These are awfully condescending statements he's making". Correct. He's sounds pessimistic and down - I wonder if he suffers from depression?
    Many atheists are intellectual, know-it-all airheads who are full of hot air, and it sounds like Sir Ian has joined that dark rank.

    Posted by: David From Canada | Nov 23, 2013 4:17:56 PM

  24. In my personal experience religion can be very comforting when dealing with death.

    Posted by: jarago | Nov 23, 2013 5:18:06 PM

  25. there's nothing pessimistic in his statement.

    it sounds like the religious folks are the ones who are pessimistic and down and use their childish fantasies as a way of not dealing with their emotions and the reality of their existential condition. they're the ones who are too immature to accept limitations and they have instead an infantile greed for immortality and omnipotence. that's a sad way to live.

    Posted by: ascanius1 | Nov 23, 2013 6:31:16 PM

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