(Photo: REUTERS/Phil McCarten)
Actor and comedian Ricky Gervais has outdone himself again, gracing the covers of New Humanist magazine with a controversial photo many are deeming “blasphemous.”
The September/October issue of the magazine features Gervais shirtless, but in jeans, holding a mic stand across his back as if he was being crucified. The words “atheist” in all capital letters are written above his chest in blood. A crown of thorns also adorns his head.
Searching for the perfect image to use as a poster for his next tour dubbed “Humanity,” the well-known English director debated between the crucifix photo and another photo rejected by the Rolling Stone magazine where he painted his face like a clown and held a gun to his mouth.
New Humanist decided to publish the crucifix photo in their latest issue, which reads on the cover, “You have the right to be offended, and I have the right to offend you,” spoken by Gervais.
The feature will highlight an interview with the actor, where he discusses everything from his newest show “Life’s Too Short” to his loss of faith as a child.
Gervais, an atheist, has never shied away from speaking about his beliefs. He has written and spoken on numerous occasions about Christianity, Jesus, and his thoughts on religion.
Concerning his crucifix image, Gervais wrote on The Huffington Post, “I thought the caption ... could be ‘Stand up for what you believe.’”
For the 50-year-old actor, this included science, evolution, and the facts, which he substituted for Jesus and “the Christian God,” both of which he once believed in as a young boy.
Claiming not to judge or mock any religion, Gervais affirmed that everyone had a right to believe in what they wanted to believe in, whether “the Christian God” or not.
“I can’t help what I believe any more than you can,” he shared with Piers Morgan in a previous interview. “It’s up to you what you believe in. This thing about not believing in God, there are 2,798-odd gods, and if you’re a Christian you believe in one and not all the others.”
Despite his claims of not judging any religion, however, Gervais has on several occasions pointed the finger at Christianity, painting Christians in a harsh light.
He was avidly against the practices of so-called Christians who persecuted those who did not share in the same beliefs as them.
“I have seen such cruelty and prejudice performed in the name of Christianity (and many other religions for that matter) that it makes me wonder if there has been a bit too much selective reading and reinterpretation of the doctrines,” Gervais penned in an article for The Wall Street Journal.
In the controversial piece entitled “Why I’m A Good Christian,” he criticized Christians for not looking or acting like the man they claimed to follow – Jesus Christ.
“Jesus was a man. His message was usually one of forgiveness and kindness. These are wonderful virtues but I have seen them discarded by many so-called God-fearers when it suits them.”
“They cherry pick from their ‘rulebook’ basically,” he added.
Exposing many Christians for their intolerance and attitudes unlike Christ, Gervais continues to return to the subject of Christianity time and time again.
What Gervais hopes to accomplish with his latest crucifix image, even he appears unsure.
“Don’t get annoyed,” he told readers on The Huffington Post. “Just ignore [the images] if they offend you. Or is that the right thing to do?”
“Obviously as an artist it’s important to evoke a strong reaction. But should I care beyond that how it affects people? Should art have a social conscience?”
Wondering if his work had its own conscience, Gervais also questioned whether his art, or any art in general, was amoral or able to cause anything, let alone harm to others.
Not answering his own questions, however, the actor left the discussion open-ended.
One commenter on The Huffington Post, Mary Linda CorsonHaynes, seemed to imply that Gervais’ art was harming others. “If you chose to be an atheist that is your right of course but why does it have to involve disparaging other people’s beliefs?...I just don’t get why being an atheist means you have to insult someone else’s beliefs.”
Terribyte, another reader, shared that only Gervais knew the answer to the questions he posed. “Art represents the human endeavor to communicate, predating language and eclipsing, even now, all other attempts at succinct replication of mind, emotion and state of being. In a nutshell, you’re asking a question that only you know the answer to.”
And lastly, Rangers 30 wondered whether the English comedian would die for his beliefs.
“I do agree with [Gervais] when he states as the 2nd caption of him crucified, ‘to stand up for what you believe in’ as he acknowledges that atheism is simply another belief system no matter how much one wants to claim otherwise. But I also think he’s lying when he implies he would die for his belief. I don’t think he would.”
With no certainty of what Gervais would or would not do, the only fact is that his “art” continues to provoke controversy, whether negative or positive.
Regardless of the nature of the reviews, however, the comedian seems to gladly welcome all commentary on his work. After all, to him, opinions are merely opinions, and facts are facts.
Gervais is currently promoting his new show “Life’s Too Short” and “An Idiot Abroad 2.”