Ricky Gervais: ‘They Haven’t Got the Monopoly on Good’

Comedian Ricky Gervais appeared on “Piers Morgan Tonight” to talk about his “controversial” stint hosting the Golden Globes.

Of course, atheism came up in conversation.

Gervais says that religious people shouldn’t be offended at his recent pro-atheism talk. After all, he doesn’t get offended when they thank a god in their acceptance speeches.

Gervais added that religious people “haven’t got the monopoly on good.”

This is why it’s a boon to have strong spokespeople for our outlook. Gervais just appears calm, sincere, and certainly not anti-religious. He’s just stating the facts as he sees them and he sounds like he genuinely can’t understand what all the uproar is about. Though, smart as he is, he has to have an idea…

Meanwhile, he can crack all the religion jokes he wants. The media can’t stop talking about them, and each one just gets more attention than the last.

(Thanks to Jason for the link!)

  • http://hoverfrog.wordpress.com hoverFrog

    I would have thought that challenging the existence of gods would be welcomed by theists if they honestly thought they were right about the existence of gods. Think about it, something that you believe in sincerely, that you could almost say that you know is real, that you have a personal relationship with, that brings you joy and fulfillment and even gives your life meaning is being challenged. What a wonderful opportunity to explain to the apparently ignorant denier how much you get out of your very real faith and how all the evidence supports the existence of your particular god. Instead people are offended and upset at the very idea that others don’t share their view. It makes me think that theists aren’t that sincere, that they protest too much.

  • sven

    Wow.. some wonderful quotes here.
    “Unlike religious people, I tread all religions equally”

    Q- “What happens after you die”
    A- “People who like me will remember me”

    Best answer ever!

  • Tizzle

    I am trying to remember what I would have thought of this (the simple act of one atheist proclaiming it) when I was a Christian. I was never offended by anything, personally, but did my old church imply I should be? I don’t know. They must, right? Or people wouldn’t be so thin-skinned.

  • Mr Ed

    Fundie: I have been blessed because I have accepted Jesus Christ as my personal lord and savior. I have been born again in his loving grace and the holy spirit has has filled me. I will join him in heaven.

    Skeptic: I don’t believe in god.

    Fundie: Help, help my religious freedoms are being repressed.

  • http://fitz42.net/atheism Indy

    Hoverfrog — excellent post. That sums it up nicely. I’ve never met an angry religionist yet who could answer those questions. I think you’re right, that some religious people actually don’t believe in what they claim as strongly as they claim it, or at least they have doubts lurking in the backs of their minds. But I’m sure some of them realy do ardently believe in it. My theory is that those types of deeply religious people have two basic tenets: first, they don’t want anything they know and embrace to ever change; and second, they want everyone else to believe and think just as they do. Since religion is one of the most important things they “know” and embrace, they REALLY don’t want that to change; and when someone who absolutely disagrees with that, they just don’t seem to be able to handle that person’s refusal to agree with them.

  • Erin
  • http://theehtheist.blogspot.com The “Eh”theist

    It was very telling when Morgan laughed after Gervais said that he doesn’t get offended when someone says “Thank god”.

    It had obviously never occurred to Morgan that if it’s legitimate for believers to be offended when athiests mention non-belief, then it would be equally valid for an atheist to be offended at every mention of belief. In bringing this up, Gervais accomplished two things:

    1) he helped Morgan see the world through atheist eyes;

    2) by showing how his response differs from that of a believer, Gervais planted the tiniest seed of doubt about the validity of the believer’s offense. You could see the wheels spinning in Morgan’s head at this point.

    Gervais’ further answers about the utilitarian use of religion to “vaccinate” poor children against future violence and his thoughts on “goodness” and the afterlife, were also thoughtful responses that many likely not expect from him. Some “official spokespeople” could learn a lot from repeated viewings of this interview.

  • http://www.correntewire.com chicago dyke

    i recently checked out this guy via youtube and i’m glad he’s popular and gets media attention. so few of us do. and so many people form their opinions via visual media, so people like this guy really advance the cause.

  • Claudia

    I think Gervais is incredibly valuable to us, and I’m really glad he’s becoming more overt about his atheism (plenty of showbiz people are atheists, few speak up).

    The well known figures of the secularist movement are totally dominated by academics and intellectuals of various stripes. Though this is great and all successful movements need intellectuals backing them up, they often encounter difficulty communicating with non-academic or not academically inclined audiences. We need comedians, singers, sports figures, movie stars, politicians. Not to defend the intellectual validity of atheism, we have plenty of professors for that, but to be out there as out, happy, healthy, admired atheists, that can’t be ignored due to their fame and show what a lie the immoral, unhappy, “empty” atheist stereotype really is.

  • mimi

    I did not watch the Golden Globes and am not that aware of his comedic routines, but seems to me that he expressed himself well, was sincere and did *this* atheist proud. His replies were thoughtful, polite, honest and he did not hesitate to state his beliefs. I do not get to watch much TV (2 young boys take away from my TV time) so thank you for posting the link.

  • Zac

    I’m not sure why you put controversial in quotes. It was very controversial, there’s no denying that.

  • http://miketheinfidel.blogspot.com/ MikeTheInfidel

    It’s a manufactroversy – i.e., it’s controversial because the media says it is. Had they not blown it all out of proportion, I doubt anyone would have cared.

    Here’s a nice thought experiment for you: A Christian presenter, as the credits are rolling (as in this case), thanks Jesus for giving him salvation and eternal life. Suddenly, the media is in an uproar about how he’s shoving his views down everyone’s throats. He’s called onto chat shows to be interviewed about whether or not he was remorseful for insulting the millions of Americans who don’t believe what he does. His innermost beliefs and motivations are called into question and he’s forced to defend them on the spot.

    Can’t picture this happening in the mainstream media? Yeah, me either. But it sure points out an interesting bit of American religious privilege.

  • Danielle

    Very nice quotes, love this guy. :D

  • Robert W.

    Mike,

    Here’s a nice thought experiment for you: A Christian presenter, as the credits are rolling (as in this case), thanks Jesus for giving him salvation and eternal life. Suddenly, the media is in an uproar about how he’s shoving his views down everyone’s throats. He’s called onto chat shows to be interviewed about whether or not he was remorseful for insulting the millions of Americans who don’t believe what he does. His innermost beliefs and motivations are called into question and he’s forced to defend them on the spot.

    Maybe , maybe not, but there is one certain Alabama governor who was berated into apologizing for saying close to the same thing in a church just this week.

  • http://miketheinfidel.blogspot.com/ MikeTheInfidel

    Bit of a false comparison, isn’t it? The sum total of what Ricky Gervais did was say he was an atheist. The governor in Alabama said that non-Christians couldn’t be his brothers and sisters. Gervais insulted no one (well, not in that bit at least; let’s leave the rest of the presentation out, where he was insulting plenty of people for non-religious reasons). The governor insulted everyone who doesn’t believe what he does. Gervais also isn’t in any position of authority; even if he did insult everyone else’s beliefs, it wouldn’t be relevant to his job. The governor is supposed to act in the best interests of the people of Alabama, but he said something that indicated he was biased against certain people. Imagine the uproar he would’ve caused if he’d said that black people couldn’t be his brothers and sisters! Yet because it’s about Jesus, somehow some Christians feel comfortable supporting him…

  • http://www.bluefrogdesignstudios.com/thebluefrogsays/ The Big Blue Frog

    The morning crew on Shade45 was talking about this. I called in and told them basically the same thing. Christians have had a monopoly on the media for so long. If we have to sneak a comment into the end of a prime-time show to get the message across that we’re here and we’re not going away, then so be it.

  • Steve

    Did anyone mention that the reason believers get offended is because when we say “I don’t believe in God”, they are usually hearing: “I don’t believe in God, you are all wrong and wasting your life with your foolish beliefs”. When we say, “I’m a Humanist” or something along those lines we are stating something positive and to the human psyche saying I’m a Buddhist or a Humanist or whatever offends a lot less than stating “I don’t believe what you believe”.

    Should people be offended? No, of course not – but Should is really about “What’s my opinion” in this case. Fact – people are offended when you point out you don’t believe there silly almost universal superstitions. People aren’t going to change easily, but with people like Ricky I think we can put a dent in it, humor is a great communicator!

  • http://www.bluefrogdesignstudios.com/thebluefrogsays/ The Big Blue Frog

    Mike, it could be considered insulting that Gervais thanked God for making him an atheist. After all, it’s kind of a contradictory phrase, and it’s sarcastic. Of course, Christians don’t have a monopoly on the word “God” so they shouldn’t feel singled out. He could have been thanking Zeus, in an anonymous way, for making him an atheist.

    The comment left me feeling a little frustrated, because saying that he thanked God, even though we know he was being sarcastic, leaves most theists with the mistaken belief that atheists are rejecting a God that we believe in, not rejecting the existence of God. It’s a poorly worded statement of non-belief.

  • http://miketheinfidel.blogspot.com/ MikeTheInfidel

    Yes, it was contradictory and sarcastic… because it was a joke.

  • Robert W.

    Mike,

    Bit of a false comparison, isn’t it?

    I was not comparing the governor’s comments to Gervais’ but to your analogy.

    As I have explained before, the Governor’s comments were correct Christian doctrine, that once saved we are all brothers and sisters in Christ. It wasn’t said in a context of how he would govern. If he governs that way, then you have a beef.

    As for Gervais’ comments directly, I think it is disingenuous for him to claim he wasn’t attempting to mock. Sayinig he thanked a God he didn’t believe in was a direct mocking of those that thanked God earlier in the show. Not unlike his comedy routine where he mocks Christian beliefs. Just like saying religious beliefs are a scam wasn’t meant to offend.

    Certainly your right to do so , but don’t then say you didn’t intend to offend when it is clear that you did. I think you would do alot better by admitting that you intended to offend and accept it.

  • Adam

    Morgan acted extremely ignorantly in that interview. He acted as if Ricky Gervais pretends to be an atheist as part of his act, just like Dan Whitney(Larry the Cable Guy) pretends to be an ignorant redneck, or Stephen Colbert pretends to be a fundie conservative. Coming from a major network talk show, it’s disappointing, but Ricky’s professionalism shined.

    As for the awards show commentary, atheism is a big part of his comic routine, and the people that chose him as the host should have known that. Comedians always say inappropriate things at inappropriate times, and so his comment was hardly out of place. He may have mocked religious people, but if it were Dave Chappelle, he would have mocked white people, or any number of other famous comedians. It’s only offensive to people looking to be offended.

  • bernerbits

    As I have explained before, the Governor’s comments were correct Christian doctrine, that once saved we are all brothers and sisters in Christ. It wasn’t said in a context of how he would govern. If he governs that way, then you have a beef.

    So, supposing that it’s correct Islamic doctrine that non-Muslims are to be converted or killed, and a Muslim leader expresses this sentiment, as long as he doesn’t express it within the context of his governing role, you would have no concern whatsover?

  • jonezart

    Robert W., is it possible that Gervais was not so much trying to offend as he was using irony to make a point?

  • Rich Wilson

    This is a bit off topic, but Google news delivered me me an interesting small town paper piece on atheism, including the quote from a Rev. Bryan Griem

    It takes real hubris to think you’ve searched every corner of the universe and concluded unequivocally that no God can be found.

    If you’re so inclined, the full piece, and my comment are here http://www.lacanadaonline.com/news/opinion/tn-vsl-intheory-20110119,0,1558131,full.story

  • Robert W.

    BernerBits,

    So, supposing that it’s correct Islamic doctrine that non-Muslims are to be converted or killed, and a Muslim leader expresses this sentiment, as long as he doesn’t express it within the context of his governing role, you would have no concern whatsover?

    That is a strawman argument. Any person who professes a desire to kill another person is reason for concern, regardless of the motivation behind it.

    Jonezart,

    Robert W., is it possible that Gervais was not so much trying to offend as he was using irony to make a point?

    Maybe but mocking through professed irony is still mocking.

  • http://www.bluefrogdesignstudios.com/thebluefrogsays/ The Big Blue Frog

    Mike, it didn’t come off sounding like a joke. It sounded like he was trying to get away with something. Parting shots like that are just an attempt to get the last word, and his last word could leave a lot of people with the impression that he, and other atheists, believe in the God they’re rejecting. I’m an atheist, and I would never say that I thanked God for anything.

    I suppose you could say that he was mocking the “playing me out parting thanks” that so many award-winners offer as they leave the mic, but it didn’t sound that way. Good comedy is based on delivery, and his delivery was off.

  • http://theehtheist.blogspot.com The “Eh”theist

    I took his final comment on the award show as a parody of award show speeches, not honest christian belief. Especially the idea behind the “god” part of the speech that for some reason the supreme being of the universe likes some actors enough to influence the awards selection process.

    By thanking god for being an atheist, Gervais was using absurdity to highlight the inherent humour in the practice.

    (of course once you explain a joke…) :(

  • http://miketheinfidel.blogspot.com/ MikeTheInfidel

    It was a joke, and you people have all killed it. Now I’m going to go run off and write an angry entry in my diary whilst eating ice cream.

  • http://religiouscomics.net Jeff P

    Once back in the late 70′s I wore a tee-shirt to high school that said “I swear to God I’m an atheist”. I thought it was kind-of witty. It caused a bit of a stir, though, with all the fundamentalist evangelical types.

  • AxeGrrl

    The “Eh”theist wrote:

    Gervais accomplished two things:

    1) he helped Morgan see the world through atheist eyes;

    2) by showing how his response differs from that of a believer, Gervais planted the tiniest seed of doubt about the validity of the believer’s offense. You could see the wheels spinning in Morgan’s head at this point.

    Gervais’ further answers about the utilitarian use of religion to “vaccinate” poor children against future violence and his thoughts on “goodness” and the afterlife, were also thoughtful responses that many likely not expect from him. Some “official spokespeople” could learn a lot from repeated viewings of this interview.

    You nailed it! I felt the very same thing watching the interview ~ it was a really good little exchange; so much so, that I when Morgan suddenly changed the subject just before the break, I was almost yelling “nooo noooo, don’t leave this topic!” at the screen :)

    The more people see how Gervais handled those questions and expressed his own atheism, the better. He did a really nice job.

  • ATL-Apostate

    Fundie: I have been blessed because I have accepted Jesus Christ as my personal lord and savior. I have been born again in his loving grace and the holy spirit has has filled me. I will join him in heaven.

    Skeptic: I don’t believe in god.

    Fundie: Help, help my religious freedoms are being repressed.

    Now you see the violence inherent in the system!

    I love Monty Python.

  • http://www.starkinsider.com Clint

    Thank God for Ricky Gervais.

  • Paul

    It’s time to start referring to Tim Minchin and Gervais as well as Dennett, Harris, Dawkins, and Hitch when we say “The New Atheists.”

  • http://chandays.blogspot.com Larry Meredith

    I like when Gervais said that nobody has the right not to be offended. At one point in the interview he was saying something about how all religious people don’t believe in all those other gods out there. I think he was VERY close to saying that everyone is an atheist and that he’s only an atheist to 1 more god than all the Christians. Sadly it was cut to commercial break before he could.

    I never knew he wasn’t officially “married”. It was awesome cause I’ve always been against the act of getting a legal document to bind me to my spouse. If I love someone and I want to be with them for the rest of my life, I shouldn’t need a piece of paper that says we are united in God’s eyes.

  • Baktru

    I loved how Ricky did that interview.

    It reminded me, once again, of an episode quite a few years ago. I was on site at a customer in Jordan, with the PM there being a devout muslim. He would always drive me back to my hotel in the evening, and one evening the conversation turned to religion. He assumed I was a christian, being European, and when I mentioned I was actually an atheist, he just couldn’t believe it.

    Many religious people can actually understand someone believeing a different faith, but atheism seems difficult. Even my fiancee hasn’t gotten her head around it completely yet. She understands the words, but it doesn’t seem to have sunk in that, no, I do not believe in god. And yes, I am this nice guy you really do like.

    It’s odd how many theists just can’t get it into their mind that not believeing is even an option.

    As such, I loved how Ricky handled that interview. It must have jiggled at least a few brains.

    B.

  • Toni

    I didn’t watch the Golden Globes but I listened to the story on NPR where they played some of the “controversial” clips. I saw nothing offensive about them and people often accuse me of being overly sensitive.


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