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  • Writer's pictureScott Carr, Jr.

Gervais and Newbigin on Faith, Science, Religion, and Truth

Ricky Gervais says, “I think there would be more atheists and fewer Christians if we weren’t allowed to teach religion, including atheism until they’re 20.” He goes on to say that “we are all born atheists”. The assumption behind his statement is that there is a knowledge outside religion. There is a neutral territory in which religious narratives make no claims, including atheism. Instead, Gervais accepts a narrative of the world which assumes that what can be accepted and known as true is what is proved by science. Lesslie Newbigin would agree with Gervais’s rejection of a faith which never challenges belief and makes no room for tradition. "Ever since Descartes, we have been seduced by the idea of a kind of knowledge which could not be doubted” (227). Newbigin believes fundamentalism is a symptom of Descartes as an “adherence to the text of the Bible [which] frees me from the risk of error and therefore gives me a security which does not depend on my own discernment of the truth” (227). Newbigin would depart from Gervais as he sees Gervais as accepted this same Cartesian trap: “a kind of scientism which supposes that science is simply a transcript of reality, of the ‘facts’ which simply have to be accepted and call for no personal decision on my part, a kind of knowledge which is ‘objective’ and free from all bias and subjectivity” (227). Gervais demonstrates the truth of Newbigin’s words. As he listens to science as he understands it, he makes a personal choice about reality and accepts a religious narrative of the world, namely, atheism. Newbigin’s writings assume that truth presents a personal call to make a personal decision about the world (237-238). Understanding that truth is not “neutral” allows us to see that Gervais does not escape making a personal choice about the truth, despite his attempts to appear objective. Newbigin’s understanding of truth also prevents us from looking down on Gervais. We make the same personal decision regarding the call of truth. We are no more objective than Gervais.

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