In an interview with Debra Ollivier of the Huffington Post, actress Cloris Leachman identified unmistakably as an atheist:
Well, when I was six years old I heard that God was watching me, and I thought, “No, no, no, we’re not going to have any of that.” And then for many, many years I thought that God would get even with me or punish me because I didn’t believe in him, or her, or them. And nothing ever happened except for good things. So I don’t believe at all in God and I’m very relieved that I don’t.
So you would you consider yourself an atheist?
Leachman, as a senior citizen, represents a very underrepresented group of atheists so this is a welcome admission. As a celebrity, we know her statements tend to carry more weight with the general public, so maybe it’ll propel those who have been fans of hers since The Mary Tyler Moore Show (or at least Comedy Central’s Roast of Bob Saget) to come out as well.
Later in the interview, Leachman took a stab at those who say that God is the only acceptable answer to all of the unexplainable things that happen in people’s lives:
So whatever your religious convictions — or lack thereof — you’ve lived a sort of blessed life.
There’s something extraordinary that we’ll never understand, it’s just beyond anybody. Extraordinary miracles, billions and trillions of them, happen all the time but not because there’s a God.
So where do all the millions of miracles come from?
Is the answer God? It’s beyond belief. There are 7 billion people on the planet. Is He hearing 7 billion people at once?
That’s a good question. I don’t have an answer, but I don’t believe that there’s nothing out there.
I didn’t say there’s nothing out there, but there certainly isn’t any God. The stuff that’s made up about Jesus — that you have to go through Jesus to get to God and if you’re lucky, after you die, if you’ve done everything right, the reward is you get to sit on the right hand side of God. All that is made up by men. People made it up.
Having such an adamant female figure behind those words is powerful for anyone who is struggling with their disbelief. In the interview, Leachman also discussed growing up the daughter of an Episcopalian minister, so she has come to these conclusions after being immersed in a “fire and brimstone” culture. She is an incredible example of moving past painful or scary church experiences to see those who use fear as a motivator for what they really are: liars.
Thanks to Cloris for coming out so strongly and being a source of inspiration for those in her demographic who may be struggling to find solidarity among their peers.