Ricky Gervais Defends His “Thank God For Making Me An Atheist” Golden Globes Remark

Here is a full clip of the portion of his recent Piers Morgan interview that dealt with religion:

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About Daniel Fincke

Dr. Daniel Fincke  has his PhD in philosophy from Fordham University and spent 11 years teaching in college classrooms. He wrote his dissertation on Ethics and the philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche. On Camels With Hammers, the careful philosophy blog he writes for a popular audience, Dan argues for atheism and develops a humanistic ethical theory he calls “Empowerment Ethics”. Dan also teaches affordable, non-matriculated, video-conferencing philosophy classes on ethics, Nietzsche, historical philosophy, and philosophy for atheists that anyone around the world can sign up for. (You can learn more about Dan’s online classes here.) Dan is an APPA  (American Philosophical Practitioners Association) certified philosophical counselor who offers philosophical advice services to help people work through the philosophical aspects of their practical problems or to work out their views on philosophical issues. (You can read examples of Dan’s advice here.) Through his blogging, his online teaching, and his philosophical advice services each, Dan specializes in helping people who have recently left a religious tradition work out their constructive answers to questions of ethics, metaphysics, the meaning of life, etc. as part of their process of radical worldview change.

  • Jude Jones

    I’ll begin by saying, as you know Dan, that I adore Ricky Gervais. And I have zero problem with his being an atheist and saying so with a bit of irony at the end of an awards show where people are wont to thank God that the foreign press, or the Academy, or whomever voted for them for a metal statue and some reputation-boosting.

    I do think, though, that Ricky either has a blind spot about the way his relationship to religion squares, or how it comes off, OR he’s being insincere when he denies seeing how his sign-off comment seems mocking. Since I generally think he’s a pretty sincere guy, I think there is a bit of a blind spot on his part where his atheism is concerned. I frankly don’t think he’s completely thought it through carefully but does insert himself publicly into the discussion about ‘belief’.

    His comedy contains frequent open and deliberate lambasting of religion, religious beliefs, and religious practices. That’s a simple fact. So he DOES mock religion, even if he didn’t think he was mocking it by saying “Thank God for making me an atheist”. But just as Hume was mocking religion when he said that he who continues to believe in miracles despite their rational disproof is ‘conscious of a continued miracle in himself’, Ricky was mocking religion (even if unintentionally at the conscious level) when he thanked God for being certain there is no God.

    In one of his audiobooks, Ricky launches into a bit about the ridiculously violent image of God that is gleaned by some Baptists as a reading of the ten commandments and the punishments one can find in the Bible for violating them (genocide, in many cases). Except the source he used to set up the bit was a document on the Westboro Baptist Church website, taking it as if it were a real religious community’s distillation of Exodus’ moral law teaching. This is either careless or a deliberate sleight of hand. Since, again, I don’t see Ricky as genuinely deceptive, let’s say it’s careless. But if you want to be a serious and non-offensive player in the atheism/religion debate, you need to be more careful about the subject matter. I’m not saying this instance proves anything one way or another, but that it denotes a careless demeanor on Ricky’s part that undermines the solidity and substantiality of his counter-religious claims. He needs to do more homework about theology if he wants to be party to the conversation in a way that’s not open to the charge of gratuitous attacking. I say this as someone who has ALL of his audiobooks, all of the podcasts, listens to them REPEATEDLY the way some people listen to music repeatedly. There is an absence of knowledge on his part regarding theology, however funny (and sometimes right) he is about this or that foible or nonsense about ‘religion’.

    Having said all that, I think he’s absolutely right that “I am the judge of what’s good”–that is a solid foundation for ethics, and he does not mean it in a relativistic sense (from my own knowledge of his overall attitude in his various published materials). I think he’s on solid rational ground in claiming that one does not need a religious foundation for a good life, even if he is a little sloppy when it comes to his take on the religious foundations themselves.

  • Derek

    Seems to me that rather than mocking religion he was mocking those who thank god for giving them a movie award. This ranks for me up there with both armies in a war believing god is on their side. It’s less mocking of religion and more mocking people’s vanity and self-centeredness.

  • Chaim Paddaman

    Ricky Gervais the liberal humanist who exploits the mentally disabled and vulnerable for commercial and comedy purposes. He thanks God that he is a atheist. So do we…..