Monday, January 31, 2011

Rick Gervais, Atheism, and Offense

I know it is a bit late, but I thought I would weigh in with a comment about Ricky Gervais' statement at the end of the Golden Globe ceremonies.

He closed the ceremonies with:

Thanks to everyone in the room for being good sports, thanks to NBC, thanks to Hollywood Foreign Press, thanks to you for watching at home, and thank you to God for making me an atheist, thank you.

Most of you readers would have already known this - it made quite a storm.

I've had a habit of criticizing atheists for making comments that are inappropriate in any number of ways, so I thought I should say something about this.

A lot of religious people have claimed to have been offended by this comment.

Do you know what you are saying - those of you who were offended? You are saying that every time an award winner gets up on the stage and thanks God or Jesus that we should be offended. You are saying not only that their thanks to God is offensive, but that you believe it to be offensive and, in spite of the fact, you are going to go ahead and do this or support those who do this anyway.

The argument seems to be, "Any time you even suggest that the God I believe in does not exist, you are demeaning my beliefs and insulting me. I am offended!

Of course, doesn't this imply that any time you say your god DOES exist that you are demeaning my beliefs and insulting me, and I should be offended

Of course it does.

There is no logically coherent sense to be made of the claim that Ricky Gervais' comment is - and ought to be considered to be - offensive, wrong, and worthy of condemnation that does not make the claims of those who thank Jesus or God offensive, wrong and worthy of condemnation. If one is to be condemned, so is the other.

If, on the other hand, the other is not to be condemned, then neither is the first.

It is a sad and arrogant position to adopt - to believe that nobody is permitted to suggest that you might have made a mistake.

I am not offended when somebody says that I have made a mistake. Sometimes they are right, and I am grateful for their input so that I can evaluate and improve on my own beliefs. Sometimes they are wrong, but I do not consider their mistake to be OFFENSIVE. Everybody is wrong about something. I am no more offended by their errors than I expect them to be offended by mine.

It is utterly nonsensical to live one's life every time somebody says something you disagree with. You are going to waste a huge amount of your life being offended and, what is worse, you are going to deprive yourself of a great many opportunities to learn.

This type of offense requires arrogance requires an unimagable amount of arrogance.

Oh, but it is so much fun - and so useful - to feign offense. Questions of right and wrong, questions of a fair standard that applies to everybody versus the double standard of the hypocrite aren't at all relevant when there is political hay to be made by feigning offense.

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