Comedian Ricky Gervais knows exactly the moment he stopped believing in God. His mother had instilled in her son a belief in Jesus—looking back, he thinks the hard-working woman just needed some help. The son of God was a perfect invisible babysitter for Ricky: When I can’t watch you, He will. And believe he did until one single, short, unlikely word tipped him off that his mum was hiding something.
“Bob.” Not normally a word to bring a lifetime of faith crashing down, but, hey, Gervais is nothing if not perceptive. It’s what drives his comedy, consequences and audience feelings be damned. Gervais’ reputation for sometimes-brutally fearless commentary is part of what makes his tenderness here so endearing.
Religion and spirituality? Two different things. The comedian lives by Christian values because it’s the most logical way to spend the limited time we get. “I should enjoy it and be part of it and celebrate it and be nice to everyone ‘cause we’re… we’re animals, we need to be loved and lead a decent life.”
It’s true he’s got no patience for organized religion since its purpose is so often someone’s personal gain. “Religious fascism,” the use of religion to manipulate people to do un-Christian things, infuriates him. And for him, the impossibility of a god is “overwhelming. ”
But, “If you believe in God and that gets you through and it makes you a nicer person, then," he says in the video, "So be it.” It’s probably the sweetest, kindest thing he’s ever said about a lie.
Headline image: Mike Coppola