Ricky Gervais Discusses His Atheism with James Lipton January 22, 2009

Ricky Gervais Discusses His Atheism with James Lipton

Comedian Ricky Gervais recently appeared on Inside the Actors Studio with host James Lipton.

He discussed the origins of his atheism in the way only he can 🙂 (The relevant portion begins at the 4:33 mark.)

Here’s a rough transcript of the exchange:

Lipton: What are the lessons that you learned [from your family]?

Gervais: That the truth doesn’t hurt. Whatever it is, it doesn’t hurt. It’s better to know the truth.

I remember… My mom only lied to me about one thing… she said there was a God. And… but that’s because when you’re a working class mom, Jesus is like an unpaid babysitter. Do you know what I mean?

It’s just sorta like she wants you to be good… where I grew up, she wasn’t hoping I would be a doctor or lawyer; she hoped I wouldn’t be stabbed to death in a bar room fight.

You know, so the best thing to do is, if he’s God fearing, then he’d be good.

Good rule of thumb, because… I went to Sunday school, from about the age of four to eight — just great teachings of Jesus. I loved Jesus. He was my superhero. He really was. God was magic, right? But Jesus was just a man, and what I loved about Jesus was he was kind, and he was brave, and I thought, he was amazing… absolutely.. brilliant guy, you know…

So I was about 8, and my brother must have been 19. He came in once, and I was doing something from the Bible, and he said, “What are you doing?” And I said, “Drawing Jesus.” And he went, “Um, who is Jesus?” And I said, “Well, he was the Son of God” And he went, “Why do you believe in God?” And my mom went, “Bob… shut up.”

And I knew she had something to hide… and he was telling the truth.

And I knew, I knew from body language and I worked it out and I was an atheist in an hour.

Lipton: In an hour?

Gervais: It’s true. I wish there was a God. I wish there was. It would be great. From what I’ve heard, he’s brilliant, you know.

But… You can’t believe in something you don’t.

Also, if there is a god, why did he make me an atheist?

That was his first mistake.

Well, the talking snake was his first mistake…

(Thanks to Deanna for the link!)

"The way republican politics are going these days, that means the winner is worse than ..."

It’s Moving Day for the Friendly ..."
"It would have been more convincing if he used then rather than than."

It’s Moving Day for the Friendly ..."

Browse Our Archives

What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • Gervais is a funny guy – I just started watching the BBC version of “The Office.” But Garth is no Dwight Shrute.

  • Mriana

    He is funny, but I question whether that is really how he became an atheist though. 😆

  • Joanna

    I love his comedy bit about the Bible that I found on YouTube…I think it was an HBO special? Anyway, he was hilarious. I’d like to see one of his live comedy performances some day. I wonder if he waters down his athiesm in front of American audiences compared to those in the U.K. I hope not.

  • llewelly

    Gervais: That the truth doesn’t hurt. Whatever it is, it doesn’t hurt. It’s better to know the truth.

    The idea that truth doesn’t hurt, whatever it is, is nonsense. There are many extremely hurtful things that are nonetheless true. The first catch catch is – the truth can hurt whether or not you know the truth. Cancer can kill, whether you believe it’s due to malfunctioning cells, or a witch’s curse. However – if you have access to modern medical technology, that knowledge – which is in part a result of the ‘true’ causes cancer – your knowledge that modern medical is probably able to address your cancer can greatly reduce the hurt. That’s the second catch.

  • Truth doesn’t hurt

    What a wonderful and clear idea and so obvious. Truth may hurt us from time to time but it doesn’t harm us. we can use the truth to learn and make things better. As llewelly says “Cancer can kill, whether you believe it’s due to malfunctioning cells, or a witch’s curse.” but if you understand the truth you can look for a cure.

    Ricky Gervais once again tells a wonderful truth in his understated and amusing way. Genius.

  • Mathew Wilder

    A written version of this appeared in some skeptic or humanist mag a couple years ago. If it’s not the true story, at least he’s consistent in his lies. Don’t know why one would think that isn’t how he became an atheist, though.

  • It’s totally believable that Ricky Gervais became an atheist in the way he described. Just think about the first time you realized that there was no Santa Claus (or Tooth Fairy or Easter Bunny or any other imaginary character)!

  • >Jesus is like an unpaid babysitter.

    Classic. So is Santa, by the way. At the same time, you can tell that something has been taken away. As a former believer (Catholic), I have the sense that I was promised, I don’t know, a pet dinosaur or something, only to find out that no, there’s no such thing. I still really would have liked that baby stegosaurus. You have a sense of loss for something that was never there in the first place. That’s the long-term effect that religion has had on me, and I’m bloody annoyed.


  • Shoe

    @ Mriana What about the story strikes you as implausible? It seems pretty run-of-the-mill to me.

    My friend says it like this – “By the time I was old enough to ask myself the question, I already knew the answer.” It sounds like Ricky had a similar experience, and it was his brother and mother that first sparked the question.

  • But Garth is no Dwight Shrute.

    Ahem… Dwight is no Gareth! Dwight was based on Gareth and if you ask me Gareth is a more believable strange guy than Dwight is – Dwight has just become some kind of running gag with his beet farm and everything.

    The genius behind The Office was that you could watch it and say I know people like that… I AM like that!

    I’m not sure about the American Office whether this is the same but then I’m not American.

    Gervais is brilliant. I find it interesting that though he is an outspoken atheist, he has no problem with faith in general and wishes there was a God – that it would be “great”. Refreshing change from the usual “if God exists he’s a big meanie”.

  • It makes me so happy that people are more and more open with their atheism. This makes me like Ricky even more.

error: Content is protected !!