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George Bernard Shaw

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Playwright

George Bernard Shaw was an Irish dramatist, literary critic, co-founder of the London School of Economics, and leading figure of the 20th century theater. He wrote more than 60 plays, many examining such weighty topics as education, marriage, religion, government, health care, and class privilege. He is the only person to have been awarded both a Nobel Prize for Literature and an Academy Award. [1]
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The following is a paragraph from his will: ""My religious convictions and scientific views cannot at present be more specifically defined than as those of a believer in creative revolution. I desire that no public monument or work of art or inscription or sermon or ritual service commemorating me shall suggest that I accepted the tenets peculiar to any established church or denomination nor take the form of a cross or any other instrument of torture or symbol of blood sacrifice." [2]
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In the final paragraph of the introduction to his play, Major Barbara, he wrote, "At present there is not a single credible established religion in the world." [3]
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In a letter to a Dublin newspaper, Public Opinion, he "announced with inflexible materialistic logic, and to the extreme horror of my respectable connections, that I was an atheist." [4]
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In the 1890s, Shaw renounced his atheism (now calling himself a mystic) and stated he hadn't truly been an atheist in the past, but called himself one only "because belief in God meant belief in the old tribal idol called Jehovah; and I would not pretend I did not know whether it existed or not." [5]
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In a 1909 letter to Leo Tolstoy, Shaw writes, "To me God does not yet exist; but there is a creative force struggling to evolve an executive organ of godlike knowledge and power; that is, to achieve omnipotence and omniscience; and every man and woman born is a fresh attempt to achieve this object. We are here to help God, to do his work, to remedy his whole errors, to strive towards Godhead ourselves." [6]
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Shaw has one of the most complicated relationships to atheism of anyone in this database, but he appears to be a reluctant atheist. While he shunned that title, he seems to meet the minimum criteria of not believing in the existence of a God. This is explored in great detail in the article "The Religion of George Bernard Shaw: When is an Atheist?", which appeared in American Atheist Magazine in Autumn of 2004. [7]