Famous Freethinkers- Adams, Phillip

Marx was wrong. Religion is not the opiate of the people. Opium suggests something soporific, numbing, dulling. Too often religion has been an aphrodisiac for horror, a Benzedrine for bestiality. At its best it has lifted spirits and raised spires. At its worst it has turned entire civilizations into cemeteries.

— Phillip Adams, Adams vs. God

Phillip Adams is an Australian broadcaster on the Radio National network of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC), filmmaker, author, archaeologist, controversialist, Humanist, social commentator and satirist. He is the author of over 20 books that have sold over a million copies, including The Unspeakable Adams, Adams Versus God, The Penguin Book of Australian Jokes, Retreat from Tolerance, Talkback and A Billion Voices and Adams Ark.

Personal life
Born in Maryborough, Victoria, the son and only child of a Congregational Church minister, he is a self-confessed atheist who sometimes talks about spiritual matters in his interviews. Phillip Adams lives on Elmswood, a cattle property specialising in the production of chemical-free beef, in the Hunter Valley of New South Wales. He is a collector of rare antiques, including Egyptian, Roman and Greek sculptures and artifacts.

Public life
An Australian social icon (he is one of the Australian Living Treasures) who could also be described as an iconoclast, and a left-wing radical thinker. For almost 40 years, Adams’ columns in major newspapers and magazines have provoked discussion and outrage. He is in demand as a speaker, chairman and moderator at public and private sector conferences. In his speaking engagements, broadcasts and writing, Phillip attempts to tackle serious issues in the 21st century using wit, humour and provocative opinions to challenge thought and stimulate debate.

Adams played a crucial role in breathing life back into the Australian film industry during the 1970s. The title developed from his authorship of a report that led Prime Minister John Gorton to revive the local film industry. In conjunction to this was his role, with Barry Jones, in creating the Experimental Film Fund and his strong support for the Australian Film and Television School. Additionally he devised the South Australian Film Corporation for Premier Don Dunstan, which became a model for similar bodies in all other States.

In the early 1970s Adams produced or co-produced several features which are now seen as important stepping stones in the revival of the local feature film industry, including the critically-panned but hugely popular film adaptation of Barry Humphries’ The Adventures of Barry McKenzie, directed by Bruce Beresford, which became the most successful Australian film ever made up to that time. In 1979 a painting of Phillip Adams by artist Wes Walters won the Archibald Prize, Australia’s most famous portraiture prize.

As a consultant to prime ministers and premiers, Adams played a key role in the establishment of the Australia Council, the Australian Film Development Corporation, the Australian Film Commission, and the Australian Film Finance Corporation. Adams has been Chair of the Australian Film Institute, the Australian Film Commission, the Commission for the Future, the Film Radio and Television Board, Film Australia and the National Australian Day Council. He is Chairman of the Centre for the Mind at the University of Sydney and the Australian National University in Canberra. His board memberships have included Greenpeace, CARE Australia, The National Museum of Australia, Adelaide’s Festival of Ideas and Brisbane’s Ideas at the Powerhouse.

As a broadcaster, Adams has interviewed over 15,000 prominent politicians, philosophers, economists, scientists, theologians, historians, archaeologists, novelists and scholars. His radio program, Late Night Live is broadcast twice a day over the 250-station network of ABC’s Radio National and around the world on Radio Australia and the World Wide Web. The program attempts a serious discussion of world issues, often with a humorous and satirical bent. Adams addresses all listeners to the program as “Gladys”. (This is Adams’ half-humorous and half-serious way of saying that his program is not popular, and for a single listener; but neither is the case as he also refers to listeners in the plural as “Gladdies”, a fusion of the word glad and an allusion to the Gladiolus flowers used as a prop by Dame Edna Everage, a character created by his film colleague Barry Humphries.)

Although Adams came from a business background in advertising, his politics are unmistakably progressive and he attracts further controversy because of his openly atheist and humanist worldview. Because of his views, presented in a genial, articulate and persuasive style and because of his prominent position in the Australian media, Adams has for many years been the target of consistent criticism by the political right in Australia, especially over his role as a presenter at the ABC. The “anti-Adams” campaign reached a crescendo under the controversial regime of former ABC managing director Jonathan Shier, a strong supporter of the Liberal Party who was known to have a strong dislike of both Adams and his politics.
Many conservatives — including former federal Communcations Minster Richard Alston — have repeatedly attacked Adams as a prime example of supposed endemic left-wing bias in the ABC. There have been consistent calls for the ABC to give equivalent broadcast time to a politically more conservative commentator (often referred to as a “right-wing Philip Adams”).

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