Lade Inhalt...

Religion and atheism in Douglas Adams' "Hitchhiker's guide to the galaxy"

Seminararbeit 2003 20 Seiten

Theologie - Sonstiges


Table of Contents

I Introduction
1. General Introduction
2. About the Author

II Sideswipes on Religion
1. Two Thousand Years after One Man Had Been Nailed to a Tree
2. The Bible and other Best-selling Books
3. A Proof for the Non-Existence of God

III Evolution or Creation?
1. Remarks on Evolution
2. Mankind: The Masterpiece of the Creation

IV The Quest for Meaning
1. Deus Ex Machina
2. “Life, the universe and everything“ = 42

V Conclusion

List of Works Cited
List of Works Consulted
List of Internet References
Table of Figures


Summary of the Story

I Introduction

1. General Introduction

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams first appeared as a BBC broadcast in 1978, which was also turned into a TV series. The most successful publication was that of the book, which appeared one year later. It was a best-selling novel in the UK, the United States, and Germany. Douglas Adams had the idea for the book on a trip to Europe during which he read The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Europe.

Although it is a very funny and entertaining story over and over, it receives a large extent of its jokes from a serious background that is rather expected to annoy the readers of such literature instead of giving them a good laugh. Adams draws lots of his humour from theology and philosophy by employing their theory in the protagonists every day’s life, which is completely upside down.

Douglas Adams says about himself that he is not just a confessing atheist, but rather a radical atheist. This attitude leads us to the task of this seminar paper. It will examine some of the theological and philosophical elements, which appear in the text, and how the author’s personal confession influenced their use. Furthermore as a result we will see in how far this piece of literature can be regarded as serious criticism of religion.

2. About the Author

Douglas Noel Adams was born on the 11th of March in 1952 in Cambridge (UK) where he studied later at St. John’s College. In 1974 he gained a Bachelor and afterwards a Master in English Literature. He died in May 2001 of a sudden heart attack in Santa Barbara/California.

He described himself as a committed Christian while he was a teenager and he even used to work for the school chapel. At the age of eighteen he met a street evangelist and stopped to listen to him, but what this man had to say seemed to be complete nonsense for Adams. In the years he had spent learning History, Physics, Latin, Math, he said, he had learnt something about standards of argument, proof, and logic and he could not find these things in religious matters at all. One cannot “apply the logic of physics to religion, […] they [are] dealing with different types of ‘truth’. I now think this is baloney […].”[1]

Adams had the opinion “that the arguments in favour of religious ideas were so feeble and silly next to the robust arguments of something as interpretative and opinionated as history”[2], which is why he became an agnostic. But after years of thinking he did not come to any finding. God still was the only sufficient “explanation for […] life, the universe and everything.”[3] At his early thirties Douglas Adams encountered evolutionary biology for the first time in Richard Dawkins’ books The Selfish Gene and The Blind Watchmaker and found therein “a concept of such stunning simplicity [… that] gave rise […] to all of the infinite and baffling complexity of life.”[4] Right at the beginning of The Selfish Gene one can read that, in the author’s opinion, “Darwin [… had] put together a coherent and tenable account of why we exist.”[5] Evolutionary theory provided enough facts and explanations for Adams that he no longer needed God to fit in the gaps of his nescience about the meaning of human existence. He did not believe that there is no God, but he was convinced that God does not exist.[6]

In the progression of this paper we will come across several allusions to Douglas Adams’ affectation to evolutionary theory, which he often uses to oppose religious concepts of the becoming of the world. This proves that these affectations already existed before Adams had read Dawkins’ books. It is a funny but suiting coincidence that his name is often found abbreviated as DNA (Douglas Noel Adams), which also means Deoxyribonucleic Acid - the human inherited material. “I just want to mention one thing, which is completely meaningless, but I am terribly proud of – […] my initials are D N A!”[7]

During an interview Adams made a confession that clearly shows that his attitude towards religion influenced all his writings:

“I am fascinated by religion. […] It has had such an incalculably huge effect on human affairs. What is it? What does it represent? Why have we invented it? How does it keep going? What will become of it? I love to keep poking and prodding at it. I’ve thought about it so much over the years that that fascination is bound to spill over into my writing.”[8]

II Sideswipes on Religion

For Douglas Adams loved to pick at religion it is not surprising that he does not only assimilate fundamental elements of religion and philosophy; he also refers to religion in general, religious philosophy, the Christian church and profane philosophy in several sideswipes, which are spread all across his writings. Some of the most striking examples therefor are chosen in this chapter.

1. Two Thousand Years after One Man Had Been Nailed to a Tree

“This planet [the earth] had […] a problem, which was this: most of the people living on it were unhappy for pretty much of the time. […]. And then, one Thursday, nearly two thousand years after one man had been nailed to a tree for saying how great it would be to be nice to people for a change, a girl […] suddenly realized what it was that had been going wrong all this time, and she finally knew how the world could be made a good and happy place.”[9]

Besides several alternatives, the Christian calculation of time is the most commonly used in today’s world; we count the years from the birth of Jesus Christ. This is just a small one of the “huge effects [religion had] on human affairs” (cp p. 5). Now Adams alters the expression A.D. (Anno Domini) to “after one man had been nailed to a tree.”[10] Neither Jesus Christ, nor the Messiah, nor the Son of God, but just “one man” is the centre of the event that constitutes that we are actually living in the year 2003. Adams thereby denies the divineness of Jesus Christ and reduces his being to that of an ordinary human. He also avoids using the word “cross” as the principal symbol of Christian beliefs and simply replaces it by “a tree”.

He furthermore reduces and summarizes Jesus Christ’s doings and lifework as “saying how great it would be to be nice to people for a change”[11]. Adams thereby shows his appreciation for the core of Jesus Christ’s message, namely charity, and his rejection of how men often deal with each other, but his choice of words also indicates that a religious confession is not an essential pre-condition of humane ethics.



[2] ibid.

[3] ibid.


[5] Dawkins 1976: 1

[6] cp.



[9] Adams 1992: 15

[10] Ibid.

[11] Adams 1992: 15


ISBN (eBook)
ISBN (Buch)
540 KB
Institution / Hochschule
University of Glasgow
Religion Douglas Adams Hitchhiker Literature Atheismus




Titel: Religion and atheism in Douglas Adams' "Hitchhiker's guide to the galaxy"