Ricky Gervais, Derek, and The Failure of Religion

I recently had a strange experience I'd like to share with all of you. Hopefully, you can help me understand what is happening in this situation. A few days ago I posted a photo/message to my Facebook page, the gist of which was, you can be a good person and do good things whether or not you are religious. I didn't receive any comment on the post itself, but did receive more than a few private messages. Let me share a few excerpts with you:

  • "If you think anything gets done without GOD, your [sic] a fool. Without HIM nothing is good."
  • "You and Derek can do good things without god, then talk about your accomplishments while you burn in hell."
  • "This is the most stupid thing! You can't just be good! Only the bible teaches good!"
  • "This is from the God hating athiest [sic] Ricky Gervais. He'a [sic] not funny and neither is this post. You can burn along with him if you think this is ok."

Let me clarify a bit. The photo I posted was of Ricky Gervais in the role of Derek, from the wonderful new series of the same name. In fact, this is the exact image I used:


After receiving those messages, I was dumbfounded. I could not understand why anyone would have that kind of reaction. But thinking back on my meetings over the previous years, that same attitude arose several times. It is the 'what I've been taught trumps everything' attitude.

And there is fear there as well. The identity is so intertwined and ever-reaching, if one loses hold of what they have been taught to believe, they hurt themselves. After all, the destruction of belief does not bode well for the believer (it is not as if they are separate, anyway). It is a fear of annihilation, whether realized or not.

But I do not have all of the story. Or perhaps even most of the story. Some of what these people have said must be heavily tied up in what was taught to them. But I know very little about the Bible. Of course, having this website has introduced me to all manner of "experts", although I don't necessarily trust them. Certainly not as much as I trust my readers. ;-)

When Akiko and I delivered food to families in a city half-destroyed by the great earthquake and tsunami of 3/11/2011, was the food somehow less nourishing because I have no religion? When we delivered toys to children spending their New Year's in a labyrinth of newly built shelters overlooking the ruins of their former houses, was their joy lessened because I have no god? It would be gratuitous to answer such questions.

Is this a failure of religion? A failure in the interpretation of religion? A failure in the deeper structure of belief? None of these? Have I seen this in the wrong way?

This experience has re-ignited the fires of my curiosity. I am very interested in your responses here.

How does this appear to all of you?

The Fear of the Blind

NOTE: I should mention, I did receive messages from other religious folks who had nothing negative to say at all. Hopefully, I am not painting a one-sided picture in this post. ~ Takuin