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Alzheimer’s leads atheist Terry Pratchett to appreciate God

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Alan H
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Joined: July 3rd, 2007, 10:26 pm

Alzheimer’s leads atheist Terry Pratchett to appreciate God

#1 Post by Alan H » June 8th, 2008, 3:19 pm

In today's Sunday Times:
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Alzheimer’s leads atheist Terry Pratchett to appreciate God - Times Online
http://entertainment.timesonline.co.uk/ ... itted=true
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Alzheimer’s leads atheist Terry Pratchett to appreciate God
undefined
Robert Watts

TERRY PRATCHETT, the fantasy writer suffering from Alzheimer’s disease, has suggested he may have found God after years of atheism.

The 60-year-old creator of the Discworld series has spoken of an unexplained experience shortly after his diagnosis with the condition.

“I’m certainly not a man of faith, but as I was rushing down the stairs one day . . . it was very strange. And I say this reluctantly, because I am trying to deal with this situation in as hardheaded a way as I can. I suddenly knew that everything was okay, that what I was doing was right, and I didn’t know why,” Pratchett said.

“It was a thought that all the right things are happening in the circumstances; and I thought, ‘Well, that’s all right then.’ I don’t actually believe in anyone who could have put that in my head – unless it was my dad, and he’s been dead a few years.”

In an interview in today’s News Review, the author also said: “It is just possible that once you have got past all the gods that we have created with big beards and many human traits, just beyond all that, on the other side of physics, there just may be the ordered structure from which everything flows.

“That is both a kind of philosophy and totally useless – it doesn’t take you anywhere. But it fills a hole.”

Previously, Pratchett has said he was “rather angry with God for not existing”.

The novelist, who has sold more than 55m books, described his diagnosis with Alzheimer’s last year as an “embuggerance”. He believes he may be able to write another two or so books before his condition becomes too severe.

He has also expressed his anger that some people of his age are considered too young to be treated with the drug Aricept on the NHS.

“If I ate myself into obesity I could get pills for that for nothing,” he said. “If I wanted Viagra I could get that for nothing. But I can’t get a drug that gives me that little bit of extra edge. I can afford £90 a month, of course, but there may be someone who can’t in his fifties.”

The author has pledged more than £500,000 to fund research into the disease.

* Have your say

I was sppeaking to a Sally Army chap yesyerday who was an atheist and eventually heard the voice of God. It happens to us all eventually.

Good luck Terry !!!

ian payne, walsall,

Perhaps it was the Devil who created Alzheimer's disease, and we should ask why God didn't invent an affordable cure.

Charles Bockett-Pugh, Sandhurst,

Mr :Pratchett, as a person who has come to enjoy your writing late in life, in audio book form specifically, I confess to surprise that you simply fail to relate your new "religious" experience to the progress of your condition.
The "answer" hides in plain sight, the law of conservation of energy.

Quinbus Flestrin, Hartlepool, UK

So why did God create Alzheimer’s in the first place?

tony freeman, tampa, usa

Second thoughts on theism is not an unusual reaction when faced with personal mortality - come on now TP, stick to your guns!
What's the big deal if there's nothing after the end! Why is that unsatisfactory, unsettling, unpalatable? Just a question of settling your mind in to acceptance.

ROHAN, Solihull, UK

Well they do say there are no athiests in a trench.
Good on him.

Phill, The Wirral, England

[Captured: 08 June 2008 15:17:27]

###################
Alan Henness

There are three fundamental questions for anyone advocating Brexit:

1. What, precisely, are the significant and tangible benefits of leaving the EU?
2. What damage to the UK and its citizens is an acceptable price to pay for those benefits?
3. Which ruling of the ECJ is most persuasive of the need to leave its jurisdiction?

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Alan H
Posts: 24067
Joined: July 3rd, 2007, 10:26 pm

Re: Alzheimer’s leads atheist Terry Pratchett to appreciate God

#2 Post by Alan H » June 8th, 2008, 3:30 pm

...and also:
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Terry Pratchett, Lord of Discworld, fights to save his powers - Times Online
http://entertainment.timesonline.co.uk/ ... 085858.ece
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Terry Pratchett, Lord of Discworld, fights to save his powers
Author and Alzheimer’s sufferer Terry Pratchett tells Bryan Appleyard how he is controlling the progress of the disease
Writer Terry Pratchett

Writer Terry Pratchett

‘Do I,” says Terry Pratchett suddenly, “have a small yellow moustache at the moment?” He does. His wife Lyn has just given him a turmeric drink.

“There is some evidence from America that it has some effect on Alzheimer’s, slows it down, but anyway I like it. She had me on that from the word go.”

The “word go” was spoken on December 11 last year when Pratchett told the world - a great deal of which reads his books - that he had Alzheimer’s. It was early onset; he’s only 60.

It was a globally significant moment. Pratchett has sold 60m books. He writes an average of two a year and he earns £1m from each. Discworld, in which almost all his novels are set, has become an alternative reality for Pratchett fans around the world. Millions are bereft, many sending him “cures”.

We meet in his “chapel”, a cluttered studio in the grounds of his Wiltshire house. It’s stuffed with technology minded by his assistant Rob. In one room he works on an array of five computer screens. The other room is a seemingly chaotic library.

“We’ve had mice,” he says, apologising for the mess, though I suspect it’s usually like this. Small, black clad with a startling domed head, he addresses me from a grand throne-like chair next to a preposterously elaborate lectern.

He is universally liked for his easy, entertaining style. Announcing his diagnosis on the internet, he called it an “embuggerance”, though he affects to be dismayed by his own good humour.

“The day after I had been diagnosed I was working in the garden and I suddenly realised I was whistling, and I thought regretta-bly there is this sort of inner well of humour or good nature, there is some kind of insuppressible source of good humour that I can’t actually manage to get rid of.”

He was genuinely angered, however, to find that he and others of his age are too young to get the Alzheimer’s drug Aricept on the NHS.

“If I ate myself into obesity I could get pills for that for nothing. If I wanted Viagra I could get that for nothing. But I can’t get a drug that gives me that little bit of extra edge. I can afford £90 a month, of course, but there may be someone who can’t in his fifties with early-onset Alzheimer’s with dependants - anything that gives an extra edge must be worth it.”

Last week’s Sunday Times story that patients who paid for their own cancer drugs would be denied NHS treatment enraged him. “In the early days of the NHS, if someone had a bit of spare cash they would hand it over to their doctor and he’d say thank you very much. I cannot see how paying for their own drugs undermines the NHS.”

Feeling that the disease is ignored, he has given more than £500,000 to Alzheimer’s research.

Anger aside, Aricept and/or turmeric seems to be working for him. His condition has improved since December. In the car, he no longer has to keep stabbing away with the seatbelt; he can fasten it in one. Dressing, he’s no longer baffled by his clothes; he just puts them on.

Aricept means he can’t drink, but he’s taken up snuff “because it has an interesting historical background; it’s made of ground-up churchwardens, you know”. The fact that it might harm him is a perverse consolation.

“I take the view that it may be bad for me in the long term. On the other hand, if it is bad for me that is because I havea long term, and from where I am sitting, the long term seems like a very good idea. This may be the time to take up free-fall parachuting.”

Bad typing - the first sign that something was wrong - remains a problem. His productivity is affected. He’s easing down from two to one book a year. The danger is that the embuggerance will be seen in everything he writes. Although he’s probably had Alzheimer’s for three years, however, his last book, Making Money, was well up to scratch; and Rob says his next, Nation, due in the autumn, is first-rate.

Anyway, to the point of our meeting: Discworld is 25 years old this year. “Good heavens!” he cries, relieved that we can get off the subject of Alzheimer’s, “Yes, we can actually talk about me as a writer!”

In 1983 he published The Colour of Magic, set in a disc-shaped world that sailed through the universe supported by four elephants standing on a turtle. Discworld rapidly annexed the real world and he was soon making millions. He was the biggest selling British author in 1996. Then JK Rowling overtook him.

Ah, JK Rowling. He got into trouble a few years ago for mocking her claim that she did not write fantasy. “I’m not the world’s greatest expert,” he said, “but I would have thought the wizards, witches, trolls . . . would have given her a clue.” Hate mail ensued.

So now when I bring up Rowling he sits there comically tight-lipped. I get round this by talking about the novelist Margaret Atwood, who displayed similar genre snotti-ness when she said that Pratchett didn’t write sci-fi but “speculative fiction”.

“Oh good! Right!” he roars, “Well, I’m writing advanced folklore, perhaps – alternative folklore!” He slips into a prissy Atwood persona – “I’m just speculating about the future. It’s got robots in it, but it’s not science fiction.”

He hates the kind of genre apartheid that sends sci-fi and fantasy to some dank bookshop location – “like the VD clinic”. In fact the genres include great writers, not least GK Chesterton, one of his heroes (and mine). Fantasy is also a term too easily applied.

“There are mainstream novels that have more fantasy than some of mine . . . The point is that any fantasy in a book will turn it into a fantasy, whereas a murder in a book will not turn it into a murder mystery. I’ve written police procedurals, romances and murder mysteries; but because the person murdered is a dwarf, it becomes a fantasy.”

Equally irritating to him is repeatedly being asked if Rowling stole something from him – or he from her.

“Magical schools or universities, elves, trolls, orcs, unicorns – they’re low-hanging fruit. These are cultural things: nobody owns them and everyone is allowed to take them down off the peg and paint them a different colour.

“I would never have been able to write Discworld without the people ahead of me. Everyone is standing on the shoulders of giants . . .”

He embraced fantasy at the tail end of the largely Tolkien-inspired Sixties’ and Seventies’ fascination with trolls and elves. Then fantasy took off again in the late 1980s.

“It really dawned on publishers very late in the day that there was a fantasy boom going on. I just happened to be there at the right time when the wave came. That was in the late 1980s; then in the early 1990s the wave withdrew a little bit and publishers started looking at their lists.

“I was high enough above the line to survive. There’s another boom right now and one of the nice things about it is that a lot of people who were out of print are now back in print.”

And here’s a thing: Pratchett may have found God. He says he is an atheist; but after his diagnosis, something happened. At the time, he was busy with all the new demands on his time and feeling that, perhaps, he ought to be writing.

“I’m certainly not a man of faith, but as I was rushing down the stairs one day . . . it was very strange. And I say this reluctantly, because I am trying to deal with this situation in as hardheaded a way as I can. I suddenly knew that everything was okay, that what I was doing was right and I didn’t know why.

“It was a thought that all the right things are happening in the circumstances; and I thought, well, that’s all right then.

“I don’t actually believe in anyone who could have put that in my head - unless it was my dad, and he’s been dead a few years. Or maybe it was just me.”

It was his first such experience. Did it make him rethink his lack of faith?

“Faith in what? If I get pushed in this corner, I believe in the same God that Einstein did. Einstein was a clever bloke . . . And it is just possible that once you have got past all the gods that we have created with big beards and many human traits, just beyond all that on the other side of physics, there just may be the ordered structure from which everything flows.

“That is both a kind of philosophy and totally useless - it doesn’t take you anywhere. But it fills a hole.”

To mark the 25th anniversary of Discworld, Terry Pratchett will be signing copies of his books at Foyles, Southbank Centre, London, on June 14 at noon

[Captured: 08 June 2008 15:29:28]

###################
Alan Henness

There are three fundamental questions for anyone advocating Brexit:

1. What, precisely, are the significant and tangible benefits of leaving the EU?
2. What damage to the UK and its citizens is an acceptable price to pay for those benefits?
3. Which ruling of the ECJ is most persuasive of the need to leave its jurisdiction?

Dan
Posts: 298
Joined: November 26th, 2007, 5:05 pm

Re: Alzheimer’s leads atheist Terry Pratchett to appreciate God

#3 Post by Dan » June 13th, 2008, 9:26 pm

The headline doesn't appear to match the content of the interview.

Dan

Heligan
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Joined: September 21st, 2008, 8:19 pm

Re: Alzheimer’s leads atheist Terry Pratchett to appreciate God

#4 Post by Heligan » September 23rd, 2008, 1:47 pm

Umm, so are they saying that if your brain doesnt work properly, it might give you an edge in finding God- or an I missing the point?

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Emma Woolgatherer
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Re: Alzheimer’s leads atheist Terry Pratchett to appreciate God

#5 Post by Emma Woolgatherer » September 23rd, 2008, 4:54 pm

There was a superb follow-up to this in, of all places, the Daily Mail. It's by Terry Pratchett [---][/---] except for the inappropriate title and standfirst, of course. Ah well, I suppose it was too much to expect them to have got that right.

Emma
I create gods all the time - now I think one might exist, says fantasy author Terry Pratchett

By Terry Pratchett
Last updated at 10:29 PM on 21st June 2008

As a child, Terry Pratchett questioned everything, but didn't always get the answers he craved. The best-selling fantasy author grew up not believing in a supreme deity - until the day the universe opened up to him as he was preparing for another spell on a chat-show.

There is a rumour going around that I have found God. I think this is unlikely because I have enough difficulty finding my keys, and there is empirical evidence that they exist.

But it is true that in an interview I gave recently I did describe a sudden, distinct feeling I had one hectic day that everything I was doing was right and things were happening as they should.

It seemed like the memory of a voice and it came wrapped in its own brief little bubble of tranquillity. I'm not used to this.

As a fantasy writer I create fresh gods and philosophies almost with every new book (I'm rather pleased with Annoia, the goddess of Things That Get Stuck In Drawers, whose temple is hung about with the bent remains of bent egg whisks and spatulas. She actually appears to work in this world, too).

But since contracting Alzheimer's disease I have spent my long winter walks trying to work out what it is that I really, if anything, believe.

I read the Old Testament all the way through when I was about 13 and was horrified. A few months afterwards I read The Origin Of Species, hallucinating very mildly because I was in bed with flu at the time. Despite that, or because of that, it all made perfect sense.

As soon as I was allowed out again I borrowed the sequel and even then it struck me that Darwin had missed a trick with the title. If only a good publicist had pointed out to him that The Ascent Of Man had more reader appeal perhaps there wouldn't have been quite as much fuss.

Evolution was far more thrilling to me than the biblical account. Who would not rather be a rising ape than a falling angel? To my juvenile eyes Darwin was proved true every day. It doesn't take much to make us flip back into monkeys again.

The New Testament, now, I quite liked. Jesus had a lot of good things to say and as for his father, he must have been highly thought of by the community to work with wood - a material that couldn't have been widely available in Palestine.

But I could never see the two testaments as one coherent narrative. Besides, by then I was reading mythology for fun, and had run into Sir James G. Frazer's Folklore In The Old Testament, a velvet-gloved hatchet job if ever there were one.

By the time I was 14 I was too smart for my own God.

I could never find the answers, you see. Perhaps I asked the wrong kind of question, or was the wrong kind of kid, even back in primary school.

I was puzzled by the fact that according to the hymn, there was a green hill far away 'without a city wall'. What was so unusual about a hill not having a wall? If only someone had explained ...

And that is how it went - there was never the explanation.

I asked a teacher what the opposite of a miracle was and she, without thinking, I assume, said it was an act of God.

You shouldn't say something like that to the kind of kid who will grow up to be a writer; we have long memories.

But I'd asked the question because my mother had told me about two families she knew in the East End of London. They lived in a pair of semi-detached houses. The daughter of one was due to get married to the son of the other and on the night before the wedding a German bomb destroyed the members of both families who were staying in those houses in one go, except for the sailor brother of the groom, who arrived in time to help scrabble through the wreckage with his bare hands.

Like many of the stories she told me, this had an enormous effect on me. I thought it was a miracle. It was exactly the same shape as a miracle. It was just ... reversed.

Did the sailor thank his god that the bomb had missed him? Or did he curse because it had not missed his family? If the sailor had given thanks, wouldn't he be betraying his family?

If God saved one, He could have saved the rest, couldn't He? After all, isn't God in charge? Why does He act as if He isn't? Does He want us to act as if He isn't, too?

As a boy I had a clear image of the Almighty: He had a tail coat and pinstriped trousers, black, slicked-down hair and an aquiline nose.

On the whole, I was probably a rather strange child, and I wonder what my life might have been like if I'd met a decent theologian when I was nine.

About five years ago that child rose up in me again and I began work on a book, soon to see the light of day as Nation. It came to me overnight, in all but the fine detail.

It is set on a world very like this one, at the time of an explosion very like that of Krakatoa, and in the centre of my book, a 13-year-old boy, now orphaned, screams at his gods for answers when he hasn't fully understood what the questions are.

He hates them too much not to believe. He has had to bury his own family; he is not going to give thanks to anyone. And I watched him try to build a new nation and a new philosophy.

'The creator gave us the brains to prove he doesn't exist,' he says as an old man. 'It is better to build a seismograph than to worship the volcano.'

I agree. I don't believe. I never have, not in big beards in the sky.

But I was brought up traditionally Church of England, which is to say that while churchgoing did not figure in my family's plans for the Sabbath, practically all the Ten Commandments were obeyed by instinct and a general air of reason, and kindness and decency prevailed.

Belief was never mentioned at home, but right actions were taught by daily example.

Possibly because of this, I have never disliked religion. I think it has some purpose in our evolution.

I don't have much truck with the ' religion is the cause of most of our wars' school of thought because that is manifestly done by mad, manipulative and power-hungry men who cloak their ambition in God.

I number believers of all sorts among my friends. Some of them are praying for me. I'm happy they wish to do this, I really am, but I think science may be a better bet.

So what shall I make of the voice that spoke to me recently as I was scuttling around getting ready for yet another spell on a chat-show sofa?

More accurately, it was a memory of a voice in my head, and it told me that everything was OK and things were happening as they should. For a moment, the world had felt at peace. Where did it come from?

Me, actually - the part of all of us that, in my case, caused me to stand in awe the first time I heard Thomas Tallis's Spem In Alium, and the elation I felt on a walk one day last February, when the light of the setting sun turned a ploughed field into shocking pink; I believe it's what Abraham felt on the mountain and Einstein did when it turned out that E=mc2.

It's that moment, that brief epiphany when the universe opens up and shows us something, and in that instant we get just a sense of an order greater than Heaven and, as yet at least, beyond the grasp of Stephen Hawking. It doesn't require worship, but, I think, rewards intelligence, observation and enquiring minds.

I don't think I've found God, but I may have seen where gods come from.

Ted Harvey
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Joined: September 10th, 2007, 4:41 pm

Re: Alzheimer’s leads atheist Terry Pratchett to appreciate God

#6 Post by Ted Harvey » September 24th, 2008, 8:57 pm

Seems to me that despite what the Times so-called journalist wrote, Pratchett did not ‘find’ God, or 'appreciate' God. Pratchett did say that the notion that there is a God is “totally useless”… ‘But it fills a hole’. Then in the follow-up he says that after his recent health travails, “I don't think I've found God, but I may have seen where gods come from.”.

And as Heligan says, it seems that the article unintentionally suggests that if you are going a bit Ga Ga you find God - well at least that's a counterpoint to ‘if you have found God it means you’re a bit Ga Ga’.

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