Gervais on God   1 comment

Comedian Ricky Gervais

Following his ‘unique’ hosting of the Golden Globes earlier this month, Ricky Gervais appeared on Piers Morgan’s CNN chat show.  Some of the award ceremony audience had been left flabbergasted by his jokes about Robert Downey Jr’s murky past (namely his problems with drug and alcohol misuse) so, naturally, Morgan wanted to address that issue.  However, I – along with my fellow atheists – was much more interested in Gervais’ comments concerning his lack of religion.

I’ve always thought of Gervais as not just a good comedy writer and actor, but also as someone who is brilliant at expressing his opinions and how he has come to hold those opinions.  Evidence of this exquisite articulation can often be found in his stand-up shows and in interviews such as the one with Piers Morgan.  I just want to now pick out five key points Gervais made in an attempt to show how he perfectly captures my (and a lot of other people’s) thoughts on life as an atheist.

Firstly, Gervais is asked about whether or not he is worried that he is potentially offending a lot of people in America whenever he makes reference to religion in his jokes and he rather sensibly points out the hypocrisy which exists here: “When someone thanks God, I don’t get offended.” He is successfully implanting the idea that – especially in America – ‘God’ is praised and remembered in a very positive way a lot of the time and atheists have had to come to terms with phrases such as “Thank God…” being used liberally in everyday life.  If we atheists can manage to not get offended by that, then how can religious people get so offended by a joke that is meant to be a harmless bit of fun for those who aren’t religious?

Gervais also points out that: “People’s beliefs aren’t my concern at all.” He doesn’t let what he does for his audiences be restricted by what people do or do not believe in.  We shouldn’t have to live in fear of being judged by others because we have a different belief system to them.  The most important thing is that you are true to your own beliefs and opinions, arrived at by your own life experiences.

The most brazenly truthful statement Gervais made was: “Unlike religious people, I look at all religions equally.” This sounds quite harsh, but it is actually correct for the most part because all religions require their followers to accept one religion as the ultimate path to truth at the expense of all other religions.  Most modern religious believers will say that they see other religions as perfectly acceptable alternatives, but it is difficult to think deep down that all religions can lead their followers to the path of righteousness if they have contain contradicting beliefs and religious practices which will help a person maintain a holy life.

In a similar vein, Gervais also tells us: “They [Christians] haven’t got the monopoly on good.” This is one of the most prominent debates between the religious and the non-religious: whether or not you can be moral without religion.  Religious believers argue that it is the desire to follow the instructions of your faith and to please your God which makes a person act morally.  However, in recent times we have seen that religion can be used to make what is normally morally unacceptable become justified in a believer’s mind.  Also, atheists tend to argue that they do good for their own personal desire to act in a way they want others to act towards them and they do so with no ‘selfish’ motive of being moral just so they can get a reward in the afterlife.  I personally think that both religious and non-religious people have the capability of doing good or bad things and it is something within the mind’s subconscious which decides what we will do in a given situation.

Lastly, Morgan asks: “When you die, what do you think happens?” and Gervais replies: “People who liked me will remember me.” This is something every person – religious or not – should be hoping for.  It seems to me that the human fear of death led in the past to belief systems about various afterlives developed; but isn’t it about time that we grew up, enjoyed the one life we actually have right here, right now and stopped worrying so much about what’s going to happen when we die?  In the words of my favourite author, Douglas Adams, “Isn’t it enough to see that a garden is beautiful without having to believe that there are fairies at the bottom of it too?”

<span style=”font-size: medium;”>If you want to watch the ‘atheism and religion’ portion of the show, here’s where I found a video of it posted on YouTube:</span>


Posted 22/01/2011 by thinkmindy in belief, Media, Morality, Religion

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