Ricky Gervais Explains Why He Is An Atheist

Photo: Caroline Bonarde Ucci (CC)

Photo: Caroline Bonarde Ucci (CC)

Perfectly timed for Christmas and all those other winter solstice religious celebrations, British comedian Ricky Gervais tells us why religion is rubbish, in the Wall Street Journal (you might also want to review his responses to readers’ questions):

Why don’t you believe in God? I get that question all the time. I always try to give a sensitive, reasoned answer. This is usually awkward, time consuming and pointless. People who believe in God don’t need proof of his existence, and they certainly don’t want evidence to the contrary.

They are happy with their belief. They even say things like “it’s true to me” and “it’s faith.” I still give my logical answer because I feel that not being honest would be patronizing and impolite. It is ironic therefore that “I don’t believe in God because there is absolutely no scientific evidence for his existence and from what I’ve heard the very definition is a logical impossibility in this known universe,” comes across as both patronizing and impolite.

Arrogance is another accusation. Which seems particularly unfair. Science seeks the truth. And it does not discriminate. For better or worse it finds things out. Science is humble. It knows what it knows and it knows what it doesn’t know. It bases its conclusions and beliefs on hard evidence -­- evidence that is constantly updated and upgraded. It doesn’t get offended when new facts come along. It embraces the body of knowledge. It doesn’t hold on to medieval practices because they are tradition. If it did, you wouldn’t get a shot of penicillin, you’d pop a leach down your trousers and pray. Whatever you “believe,” this is not as effective as medicine. Again you can say, “It works for me,” but so do placebos. My point being, I’m saying God doesn’t exist. I’m not saying faith doesn’t exist. I know faith exists. I see it all the time. But believing in something doesn’t make it true. Hoping that something is true doesn’t make it true. The existence of God is not subjective. He either exists or he doesn’t. It’s not a matter of opinion. You can have your own opinions. But you can’t have your own facts.

Why don’t I believe in God? No, no no, why do YOU believe in God? Surely the burden of proof is on the believer. You started all this. If I came up to you and said, “Why don’t you believe I can fly?” You’d say, “Why would I?” I’d reply, “Because it’s a matter of faith.” If I then said, “Prove I can’t fly. Prove I can’t fly see, see, you can’t prove it can you?” You’d probably either walk away, call security or throw me out of the window and shout, ‘’F—ing fly then you lunatic.”

This, is of course a spirituality issue, religion is a different matter. As an atheist, I see nothing “wrong” in believing in a god. I don’t think there is a god, but belief in him does no harm. If it helps you in any way, then that’s fine with me. It’s when belief starts infringing on other people’s rights when it worries me…

[continues in the Wall Street Journal]

majestic

Majestic is gadfly emeritus.

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40 Comments on "Ricky Gervais Explains Why He Is An Atheist"

  1. justagirl | Dec 23, 2010 at 4:46 pm |

    still… he might want to try a little prayer before his stand-up.

  2. justagirl | Dec 23, 2010 at 12:46 pm |

    still… he might want to try a little prayer before his stand-up.

  3. mrtastycakes | Dec 23, 2010 at 6:53 pm |

    Comedians are not a particularly great source when it comes to epistemology.

  4. mrtastycakes | Dec 23, 2010 at 2:53 pm |

    Comedians are not a particularly great source when it comes to epistemology.

    • Raybutlers | Jan 2, 2011 at 6:48 pm |

      wow. your response to a lucid (and completely serious) quote about logic and reason is met with an ad hominem attack. why attack the man? if he’s wrong, attack that about which he is wrong.

      • FrankRizzo | Apr 15, 2011 at 12:41 pm |

        Speaking with big words does not make you an intellectual. It makes you rude and pompous. Mrtastycakes has a point, comedians don’t give good advice, generally speaking.

  5. E.B. Wolf | Dec 23, 2010 at 7:12 pm |

    Instead of god, he could pray to comedy’s holy trinity:Carlin, Hicks, and Pryor.

  6. Manny Furious | Dec 23, 2010 at 10:00 pm |

    “So you’re asking whether it’s more plausible that everything in the known universe including man was made by a supernatural being, in 6 days…”

    As usual, the atheist has a rather small, petty and, dare I say, “religious” view of the creative force behind existence…..

    Why is the term “God” automatically a synonym for the YWH or Jehovah or The Holy Ghost or whatever Jesus’s dad likes to call himself these days? (Dude’s got more names than Diddy)….

  7. Manny Furious | Dec 23, 2010 at 6:00 pm |

    “So you’re asking whether it’s more plausible that everything in the known universe including man was made by a supernatural being, in 6 days…”

    As usual, the atheist has a rather small, petty and, dare I say, “religious” view of the creative force behind existence…..

    Why is the term “God” automatically a synonym for the YWH or Jehovah or The Holy Ghost or whatever Jesus’s dad likes to call himself these days? (Dude’s got more names than Diddy)….

    • This is what I never got but people believe what they want and well let em because theres nothing u can do about it, or should do about it. Just because someone doesn’t believe in something doesn’t mean its not true (or vise versa). I take this philosophy in lief, and so should alot of readers here.
      Let people believe what they want. It makes them feel like they understand. Take that away and u just gotta hear em bitch, and that doesnt help anyone.

      • Raybutlers | Jan 2, 2011 at 6:54 pm |

        nobody, particularly atheists, is attempting to stop others from believing as they wish. however, we MUST respond when they force their beliefs in the form of laws, rulings, and systems that coerce us to behave as if they have a right to control all of us.

    • The term God is automatically a synonym for a Judeo-Christian model of divinity because we live in a cultural context where the majority of people mean a Judeo Christian God when they say the word “god.” Easy peasy.
      Furthermore, the religions whose influence most Atheists and non-theists fear adhere to the big-mean-daddy in the sky model of God, in at least the lay context. Not every christian is a Kierkegaard or even a CS Lewis.
      Lastly, atheists tend not to talk about the social influence of people with more nuanced views about God and spirituality, because a. those people are in the minority and have little social effect, and b. those people tend to be smart and sincere enough not to fuck the whole world up over a belief system that they know by definition cannot succinctly and accurately describe the ineffable nature of true divinity.

      • Tuna Ghost | Dec 24, 2010 at 9:52 pm |

        Holy shit, was that a lucid and succinct answer to a religious question on Disinfo??? Jesus god I thought I was going crazy for a minute, this whole comments section nobody has called anyone retarded…where am I

  8. This is what I never got but people believe what they want and well let em because theres nothing u can do about it, or should do about it. Just because someone doesn’t believe in something doesn’t mean its not true (or vise versa). I take this philosophy in lief, and so should alot of readers here.
    Let people believe what they want. It makes them feel like they understand. Take that away and u just gotta hear em bitch, and that doesnt help anyone.

  9. Tuna Ghost | Dec 24, 2010 at 12:40 am |

    I think he’s working with a very rigid, very “magical old man living on a cloud throwing lightning bolts” definition of God. Even so, it’s better to hear this than those atheists who use Patton Oswalt as their argument.

  10. Tuna Ghost | Dec 23, 2010 at 8:40 pm |

    I think he’s working with a very rigid, very “magical old man living on a cloud throwing lightning bolts” definition of God. Even so, it’s better to hear this than those atheists who use Patton Oswalt as their argument.

    • So are a lot of people who believe.

    • Raybutlers | Jan 2, 2011 at 6:51 pm |

      Speaking as an atheist, I’ve never heard one of us back up what we think based on Patton Oswalt. What did Oswalt do that so offended you?

      do you ever wonder what those atheists think about the arguments used by believers?

      • Tuna Ghost | Jan 3, 2011 at 10:13 am |

        Its only offensive intellectually, and it wouldn’t even be that if I didn’t suspect these were Oswalt’s (a comedian I enjoy watching) actual views. I won’t attempt to sum up his entire comedy bit here but I’ll wager you can find it on YouTube if you search for “Patton Oswalt Sky Cake”. Its essentially him proposing that the only reason religion came about is was as a way to get stronger people under the thrall of weaker people way back in the stone age. Oswalt has many talents, but anthropology is not one of them.

      • Tuna Ghost | Jan 3, 2011 at 10:15 am |

        I’m as furious at the ignorance trotted out as “reasoning” by hard-core believers as anyone, probably more because I’ve had to put up with it most of my life (having grown up in a religious household in a very religious part of the US). I just can’t see how adding more ignorance will help anything.

  11. ohyouknow | Dec 24, 2010 at 1:48 am |

    ooooh. burn.

  12. The term God is automatically a synonym for a Judeo-Christian model of divinity because we live in a cultural context where the majority of people mean a Judeo Christian God when they say the word “god.” Easy peasy.
    Furthermore, the religions whose influence most Atheists and non-theists fear adhere to the big-mean-daddy in the sky model of God, in at least the lay context. Not every christian is a Kierkegaard or even a CS Lewis.
    Lastly, atheists tend not to talk about the social influence of people with more nuanced views about God and spirituality, because a. those people are in the minority and have little social effect, and b. those people tend to be smart and sincere enough not to fuck the whole world up over a belief system that they know by definition cannot succinctly and accurately describe the ineffable nature of true divinity.

  13. So are a lot of people who believe.

  14. justagirl | Dec 24, 2010 at 11:03 pm |

    have you seen his stand up?

  15. Tuna Ghost | Dec 25, 2010 at 1:52 am |

    Holy shit, was that a lucid and succinct answer to a religious question on Disinfo??? Jesus god I thought I was going crazy for a minute, this whole comments section nobody has called anyone retarded…where am I

  16. justagirl | Dec 25, 2010 at 3:29 am |

    memo:
    ritaard is the new retard.

  17. Anonymous | Dec 27, 2010 at 11:44 pm |

    Has anybody here read Joseph Campbell’s classic “The Hero with a Thousand Faces”? Study the pattern because it’s similar to many cultures and religions. Our minds love creating things in our image. Also, our beliefs are very fragile..one hit of acid will show you that as you experience a stream of all the thoughts/beliefs you’ve ever had..and a belief btw is nothing more than a collection of thoughts built around an idea or MYTH. God is a concept in your mind and a Christian or Jew or Muslim, etc., who gets angry when his/her beliefs are challenged is really just afraid to go insane. Because without those beliefs..what would he/she be? It still fascinates me that people take those stories literally.

  18. cosmicserpent | Dec 27, 2010 at 7:44 pm |

    Has anybody here read Joseph Campbell’s classic “The Hero with a Thousand Faces”? Study the pattern because it’s similar to many cultures and religions. Our minds love creating things in our image. Also, our beliefs are very fragile..one hit of acid will show you that as you experience a stream of all the thoughts/beliefs you’ve ever had..and a belief btw is nothing more than a collection of thoughts built around an idea or MYTH. God is a concept in your mind and a Christian or Jew or Muslim, etc., who gets angry when his/her beliefs are challenged is really just afraid to go insane. Because without those beliefs..what would he/she be? It still fascinates me that people take those stories literally.

    • FrankRizzo | Apr 15, 2011 at 12:34 pm |

      Yea, doing mind altering drugs that cause permanent brain damage is a great way to think things out. Why don’t you hit yourself in the head with a shovel too. I would love to read your thesis paper after all this “research”. You make atheists look as stupid as fundamentalists with this argument.

  19. Raybutlers | Jan 2, 2011 at 10:48 pm |

    wow. your response to a lucid (and completely serious) quote about logic and reason is met with an ad hominem attack. why attack the man? if he’s wrong, attack that about which he is wrong.

  20. Raybutlers | Jan 2, 2011 at 10:51 pm |

    Speaking as an atheist, I’ve never heard one of us back up what we think based on Patton Oswalt. What did Oswalt do that so offended you?

    do you ever wonder what those atheists think about the arguments used by believers?

  21. Raybutlers | Jan 2, 2011 at 10:54 pm |

    nobody, particularly atheists, is attempting to stop others from believing as they wish. however, we MUST respond when they force their beliefs in the form of laws, rulings, and systems that coerce us to behave as if they have a right to control all of us.

  22. Tuna Ghost | Jan 3, 2011 at 2:13 pm |

    Its only offensive intellectually, and it wouldn’t even be that if I didn’t suspect these were Oswalt’s (a comedian I enjoy watching) actual views. I won’t attempt to sum up his entire comedy bit here but I’ll wager you can find it on YouTube if you search for “Patton Oswalt Sky Cake”. Its essentially him proposing that the only reason religion came about is was as a way to get stronger people under the thrall of weaker people way back in the stone age. Oswalt has many talents, but anthropology is not one of them.

  23. Tuna Ghost | Jan 3, 2011 at 2:15 pm |

    I’m as furious at the ignorance trotted out as “reasoning” by hard-core believers as anyone, probably more because I’ve had to put up with it most of my life (having grown up in a religious household in a very religious part of the US). I just can’t see how adding more ignorance will help anything.

  24. FrankRizzo | Apr 15, 2011 at 4:34 pm |

    Yea, doing mind altering drugs that cause permanent brain damage is a great way to think things out. Why don’t you hit yourself in the head with a shovel too. I would love to read your thesis paper after all this “research”. You make atheists look as stupid as fundamentalists with this argument.

  25. FrankRizzo | Apr 15, 2011 at 4:41 pm |

    Speaking with big words does not make you an intellectual. It makes you rude and pompous. Mrtastycakes has a point, comedians don’t give good advice, generally speaking.

Comments are closed.