Religion

Gervais Explains Why Atheism Shouldn’t Offend

It’s sure nice to hear a celebrity stand up for the right not to believe.
My first love is science and nature too, Ricky.
*swoon*

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Amy Roth

Amy Davis Roth (aka Surly Amy) is a multimedia artist who resides in Los Angeles, California. She makes Surly-Ramics. She is the fearless leader of Mad Art Lab. Support her on Patreon. Follow her on twitter: @SurlyAmy or on Google+. Tip Jar is here.

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24 Comments

  1. He makes a very good point. Why should anyone be offended when we say that we don’t believe in God? Stating my beliefs is not a mockery of your beliefs.

    That’s one of the weird things I noticed with all the stories about atheist billboards going up around the country. The people who did the complaining were seldom complaining about the message on the sign (minus the “You know it’s a scam” one). They were complaining that a group of atheists were stating that they exist and asking others to join them. Many of them said nothing about any religion at all yet every story had a Christian leader who was outraged because someone believed something differently than them. It shouldn’t be that way. People should be afraid to state their religious opinions for fear that it will offend someone they’ve never heard of.

  2. My take:

    As an atheist, hearing people proclaim their religious beliefs doesn’t offend me personally because I have empirical evidence to back up my version of reality, and someone else’s opinion doesn’t change that.

    Atheism offends the religious because there is no empirical evidence to support religious beliefs. Religious people rely on the fact that there is a large crowd of people out there who are also religious — Having a large crowd of people who agree with them supports their viewpoint, even if that viewpoint is out to lunch.

    When an atheist simply proclaims his or her point of view, it erodes the perception that everybody is in agreement about god, and thus constitutes a direct attack on the institution.

  3. Our family are Unitarians and really admire Ricky Gervais for standing up for aetheism. My 16 year old is a die hard aetheist and you would be surprised the looks she gets. Of course we live in the south and that makes a difference. I think people are just threatened by the reality of no God to protect them, take care of them, do for them rather than they themselves just taking responsibility for their own lives.

  4. I think just as various flavors of religion are colored by the more bombastic members of their groups, so is atheism tainted by people who misrepresent it.

    If you do a word association off the top of your head for Catholics, inevitably the scandalous issue of pedophile priests arises. But are all Catholics pedophiles? Certainly not.

    Similarly, are all atheists godless, morally bankrupt people? Godless, yes, but I have yet to meet an atheist among my circle of friends who lacks a strong sense of right and wrong.

  5. This to me is the flipside of Phil Plait’s “Don’t be a Dick” speech (though not Rebecca’s, since she meant something different by that phrase).

    To some (perhaps even many) people a mere statement of beleif is treated as offensive. In that context, the only alternatives are to offend or quit the public sphere entirely.

  6. @James K: Bzzzt. A Dick is someone who can’t tell the difference between the statement “I’m an atheist because I don’t see any compelling evidence for the existence of any supernatural forces or entities, including god” and the statement “If you believe that god exists, despite the complete lack of evidence, then you are a freaking brain-washed moron.” The 1st is a statement about yourself, the 2nd is a statement about the person you are addressing. The first statement is not dickish, no matter how much the person you are addressing takes offense at it. The second statement is dickish, even if the person you are addressing is cool with it.

  7. @Buzz Parsec: Thinking about it, and I’m not sure if this helps or hurts my argument, the 2nd statement can be phrased in much less dickish ways: “If you believe that god exists, despite the complete lack of evidence, then you are [wrong|overly credulous|deluded|stupid].” But it is still dickish, because it is still an assertion about the other person, not a statement about yourself or about reality.

  8. Gervais did a excellent job of articulating how most atheists feel about religion. It’s amazing how many people, even people that identify as liberal and have several atheist friends, have this archetype of the “angry atheist” stuck in their heads. Some theists and spiritual people have the gaul to tell me what I believe because I use the word atheist. Some people don’t realize that the atheist community, like any group of people, contains a spectrum of opinions and beliefs. Like a beautiful rainbow. Any atheist is as different from any other atheist as the color red is from the color green. Same goes for two Christians or two Buddhists or two Pagans or what have you. But when all is said and done we’re all oscillating photons.

  9. Lyra Lynx: “Gervais did a excellent job of articulating how most atheists feel about religion.”

    Thanks Lyra, until now I wasn’t sure what most atheists felt so it’s fortunate I’ve encountered The Sole Arbiter of How Most Atheists Feel.

    I’ll be sure to consult you if I ever need to feel anything.

  10. “I think just as various flavors of religion are colored by the more bombastic members of their groups, so is atheism tainted by people who misrepresent it. ”

    Are you talking theists who misrepresent it or atheists? If the latter, let’s have some examples.

    “I’m not an atheist nor am I offended by atheism any more than I am offended by religion. What I find offensive is the proselytizing, especially when done so in a condescending, ad hominem kinda way.”

    Examples, please.

    Stuff this vague criticism.

  11. @mikerattlesnake: Examples of what? Religious folks who proselytize and act like anyone who doesn’t believe in their particular (or any) flavor of God is bound for flame and generally stupid for failing to understand? Or Atheist who treat those who disagree with their conclusions with derision and condensation? Are you doubting that either are common occurrences.

  12. @latsot:
    Lyra Lynx: “Gervais did a excellent job of articulating how most atheists feel about religion.”

    Thanks Lyra, until now I wasn’t sure what most atheists felt so it’s fortunate I’ve encountered The Sole Arbiter of How Most Atheists Feel.

    You seem to disagree?
    Do you believe Ricky Gervais did NOT explain the posistion of the majority of atheists quite clearly? You think that perhaps the majority of atheists ARE trying to mock religion as loudly and offensively as possible?

    I think it’s more like loudly trying to expose the double standard. If loudly at all. Or merely striving for equal treatment. But at the very least hoping not to be villified for merely stating your non-belief in the fictional entities of ALL the world’s religions (not all except one).

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