Freethought Almanac

Lighting a candle in toxic air.

June 25: Ricky Gervais (1961)

GervaisIt was on this date, June 25, 1961, that English comedian, writer and actor Ricky Gervais was born Ricky Dene Gervais in Whitley, Berkshire, England. He attended University College, London, to study biology but changed to philosophy and earned an upper second-class honours degree in the subject. Gervais achieved mainstream fame with his television series “The Office” and the subsequent series “Extras,” both of which he co-wrote and co-directed with Stephen Merchant and in both of which he co-starred. In addition to sell-out stand-up comedy tours, he has starred in the Hollywood films Ghost Town (2008) and The Invention of Lying (2009), the latter co-written and co-directed by Gervais. Along the way, he has won seven BAFTA Awards, five British Comedy Awards, three Golden Globe Awards, two Emmy Awards and the 2006 Rose d’Or.

In his film, The Invention of Lying, Gervais plays a man in an alternate realty in which he is the first person to tell a lie. His character goes so far as to invent religion, telling people, through “ten rules,” that he talks to a “Man In The Sky” who controls everything and promises great rewards in the good place after you die, as long as you do no more than three “bad things.” Gervais has made no secret of his own religious skepticism, stating he lost his Christian faith at the age of eight, becoming an Honorary Associate of the National Secular Society in 2008 and writing an editorial for The Wall Street Journal defending his atheism in December 2010.

Many of his remarks about religion are pithy enough for Twitter, and Gervais has shared a plethora with his many followers. Here is a random sample of tweets—

“I see Atheists are fighting and killing each other again, over who doesn't believe in any God the most. Oh, no… wait… that never happens.” (16 Sep 2012)

"For someone so against religion you talk about God an awful lot" Yeah, I know a detective who talks about crime a lot. Mad isn't it? (14 Oct 2012)

“If you believe in a god, just tell me why you don’t believe in all the other gods. The reasons you give will be why I don’t believe in yours” (23 Nov 2012)

“A Christian telling an atheist he is going to Hell is about as scary as a small child telling an adult they wont get any presents from Santa” (19 Aug 2012)

"People confuse the right to have an opinion with the right to have that opinion respected. The latter doesn't exist. The former does." (10 Sep 2012)

It’s almost as if The Bible was written by racist, sexist, homophobic, violent, sexually frustrated men, instead of a loving God. Weird. (26 May 2013)

“Why don’t you pray just in case there is a God?” For the same reason you don’t cover your doorways in case there are vampires? (22 July 2013)

In his Wall Street Journal piece (12/19/2010), Gervais goes a little deeper: “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.’”

Not everybody takes his atheism as lightly as Ricky Gervais does. As host of the Golden Globes in 2011, Gervais created a stir by thanking God “that he made me an atheist” during his closing statements. In an interview with the Daily Mirror (London), Gervais said, “I’m basically a ‘do unto others’ type person. I don’t have any religious feelings because I’m an atheist, but I live my life like there’s a God. And if there was he’d probably love me.”

Ronald Bruce Meyer

Our Fearless Leader.

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This Week in Freethought History (June 9-15)

Read about peace activist Bertha von Suttner, the Treaty with Tripoli, the religion of Alexander Bain and Hugh Laurie, Wat Tyler’s Rebellion, the religion of William Butler Yeats, adding religion to the Pledge of Allegiance, condemning Martin Luther from a glass house, and more …

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