British comedian and actor Ricky Gervais told CNN's Piers Morgan on Thursday that telling a child that gays will go to hell is "child abuse."
When asked by Morgan how his atheist beliefs impact God-fearing Americans, Gervais responded by saying, "Why should they take offense that I don't believe in their God or any other god? And I say to them, 'Tell me the reasons you don't believe in all the other gods, and that's the reason I don't believe in yours.'"
During his response, the image of Gervais on the cover of New Humanist magazine from September/October 2011 appeared on the screen. The image shows Gervais standing in the shape of a cross, with his shirt off and the word 'atheist' written across his chest, while his arms are outstretched and tied to a microphone stand.
"And I've got nothing against people believing in God, at all. In fact, if it did make you a kinder person, if you really did good things in His name, then great," Gervais continued. "But there's the rub, it's when I see some of these religious fundamentalists saying that they've told their five-year-old children that if they turn out gay they will burn in hell. That, to me, is child abuse. That has nothing to do with religion or spirituality. That's child abuse."
Morgan also asked him about the current political race between Republican presidential candidates and what he thought about the candidates who are against gay marriage because of their religious beliefs.
"Just because they're offended by someone being gay doesn't mean they're right," said Gervais, who believes that people can't choose to be either gay or straight.
Patricia Jones, pastoral counselor and founder of Dove Christian Counseling, told The Christian Post on Friday that what Gervais sees as abusive, she sees quite differently.
"Ricky Gervais, he would probably think most of the scriptures in the Bible were abusive ... because God has many, many scriptures on many topics that are warnings to us about what will happen if we disobey what He sets out," said Jones.
She said God has given His laws to humans, and has laid out the consequences for disobedience, so it is up to each person to decide whether or not they will obey Him. Despite what Gervais suggests, Jones says no one is born gay.
"The thing is, God does not lay down as the law something that's going to send you to hell, and then contradict Himself and have you born with it," she said.
Gervais' comments also come after the head of Exodus International, Alan Chambers, expressed his firm belief that all, including homosexuals, who accept the free gift of salvation, are Christians.
He made the remarks at the Gay Christian Network conference earlier this year and acknowledged that the statement is controversial but he stressed that the gift of salvation is irrevocable.
"As an adoptive father, my children are irrevocably mine. They may disown me, stop talking to me and sin against me, but that does not change the fact that they are mine and always will be. I believe the same is true of God with His adopted children," he stated.
During Thursday's interview, Gervais also discussed his use of Twitter with Morgan. He said that, while he sometimes gets into heated arguments through the social networking site, he is always smiling on his end of the conversation.
"When someone's arguing with me that the earth is 5,000 years old, yes I'm smiling ... the fundamentalist view of the creation of the earth is rather like an episode of 'The Flintstones,' so ... I have to laugh at those sort of things," said Gervais.
Despite his persistence in joking about religion, the comedian said he would defend religion for the sake of freedom of speech.
"Even though I don't believe in God ... if someone said, 'We're banning religion,' I'd march to not have it banned because it's your right to believe what you want, and it's your right to be wrong. And I'll fight for that right," he said.