By Diana Hsieh
Last month, comedian Ricky Gervais published a statement in the Wall Street Journal entitled A Holiday Message From Ricky Gervais: Why I’m an Atheist. I'd heard that it was good, but when I read it, I enjoyed it more than I expected. Here's a taste:
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.”And:
The dictionary definition of God is “a supernatural creator and overseer of the universe.” Included in this definition are all deities, goddesses and supernatural beings. Since the beginning of recorded history, which is defined by the invention of writing by the Sumerians around 6,000 years ago, historians have cataloged over 3700 supernatural beings, of which 2870 can be considered deities.Christians, in fact, used to be called "atheists" by the pagan Romans, because they denied the existence of so many gods.
So next time someone tells me they believe in God, I’ll say “Oh which one? Zeus? Hades? Jupiter? Mars? Odin? Thor? Krishna? Vishnu? Ra?…” If they say “Just God. I only believe in the one God,” I’ll point out that they are nearly as atheistic as me. I don’t believe in 2,870 gods, and they don’t believe in 2,869.
Of particular interest to me was just how small of a suggestion he required, as a young boy, to reject Christianity. But you can read the whole thing for that.
The follow-up -- Does God Exist? Ricky Gervais Takes Your Questions -- was even more fun. Here are my favorite bits:
Woody Allen is widely quoted as having once said: “You cannot prove the nonexistence of God; you just have to take it on faith.” Is being an atheist as unscientific a stance as believing in God? Isn’t it more intellectually honest to be agnostic?And:
Well Woody Allen was being facetious but makes a good point. Is being an atheist as unscientific a stance as believing in God? No definitely not. How can not believing in something that is backed up with no empirical evidence be less scientific than believing in something that not only has no empirical evidence but actually goes against the laws of the universe and in many cases actually contradicts itself?
People who believe in God sometimes have moments of doubt about their faith. Have you had any moments of doubt about your atheism?To top it off, here's Gervais mocking Genesis:
Atheism isn’t a belief system. I have a belief system but it’s not “based on” atheism, it’s just not based on the existence of a god. I make none of my moral, social, or artistic decisions based on any god or superstitions. Saying atheism is a belief system is like saying not going skiing is a hobby. I’ve never been skiing. It’s my biggest hobby. I literally do it all the time. But to answer your question I am constantly faced with theories of God, and angels, and hell. It’s everywhere. But unless there is an ounce of credibility to it, I reject. I have to. You can’t lie to yourself. If you do you’ve only fooled a deluded person and where’s the victory in that?
Like many atheists today, Gervais' weakness is his acceptance of the morality of altruism. Yet he doesn't seem as deeply committed to that as many of the new atheists, and overall, I came away impressed... and amused.