Sabbath sermon: Ricky Gervais on faith and Bill Clinton screws up a yarmulke

Instead of Readers’ Wildlife today, we’ll have a new ten-minute interview (courtesy of reader Barry) of comedian Ricky Gervais on religion. He is, of course, an atheist. And although the YouTube video is labeled “Ricky Gervais destroys religion funny interview,” there’s no humor in it: it’s a serious and thoughtful dissection of the follies of faith.

I particularly like the distinction he draws between scientific truths and religious “truths” at 5:32, and his statement, which I’ve often made, that if you profess agnosticism toward God, then you must also say you’re agnostic about Santa Claus and (as I add) the Loch Ness Monster. “Nessie?. . .Well, I just don’t know. She may exist, or may not.” Nobody says that for, like God, there’s simply no evidence for Nessie. People are willing to dismiss her as “Nessie-Atheists”, but not so with God. That’s irrational.

And reader Ivan, an old friend, fellow grad student at Rockefeller, and lanzmann, sent me this photo with the caption, “Bill Clinton sure does know how to don a yarmulke at Shimon Peres’s funeral.”

Doesn’t he have advisers to help him with stuff like this?

If you can’t see what he’s doing wrong, do some Google imaging. It’s like wearing a hijab around your neck!

image1

49 Comments

  1. Barry Lyons
    Posted October 1, 2016 at 8:23 am | Permalink

    What is that “hiding lips” thing that Clinton is doing there? All politicians do it. You can find photos Obama and GWB doing it. Is it supposed to indicate sadness or gravity of a situation? It’s as if politicians are trained to do this. Bizarre.

    • GBJames
      Posted October 1, 2016 at 8:27 am | Permalink

      Non politicians do it, too. It is a human facial expression, not a political facial expression.

      • Barry Lyons
        Posted October 1, 2016 at 9:06 am | Permalink

        Perhaps. But what’s the unconscious “motive” (instinct) for doing it? There’s probably some evolutionary explanation for it.

        • GBJames
          Posted October 1, 2016 at 9:12 am | Permalink

          At a funeral of someone you felt close to, I think grief would be a pretty good bet.

  2. Randall Schenck
    Posted October 1, 2016 at 8:24 am | Permalink

    Very smart blok that Ricky. Like the thought, everyone is born an atheists. I was and never changed.

    With Clinton – you can take the boy out of Arkansas but you can’t take Arkansas out of the boy.

  3. Joseph Stans
    Posted October 1, 2016 at 8:24 am | Permalink

    Sorry, I think it is supercilious to expect non-believers to know the fine points of ridiculous religious vestments.

    Sort of like Episcopalians or Catholics ridiculing someone for not knowing when to kneel or flagellate themselves or whatever.

    • Dave
      Posted October 1, 2016 at 8:55 am | Permalink

      I assume his mistake is to put the thing square on top of his head rather than siting it over the back. At least that’s how Jews always seem to wear it.

      Exactly why Yahweh, the All-Powerful, All-Knowing Lord and Creator of the entire Universe should care about such a minor detail is beyond me – but evidently he does.

      • Brujo Feo
        Posted October 1, 2016 at 9:45 am | Permalink

        Hats and religions…

        • Ken Kukec
          Posted October 1, 2016 at 11:21 am | Permalink

          Great bits by Mr. Carlin. His piece about hats and piece about swearing on the bible intersect in the old Three Stooges routine “Disorder in the Court.”

      • Gregory Kusnick
        Posted October 1, 2016 at 11:04 am | Permalink

        Seems to me Clinton did what any sensible person would do who is unaccustomed to wearing a yarmulke: lacking pins to hold it on, he put it where it was least likely to fall off.

        • Joe Lykins
          Posted October 6, 2016 at 1:34 pm | Permalink

          Any sensible (sane, rational) person would tell the Jews to f*ck off with their silly hat rules. Maybe it was Clinton’s passive-agressive way of raising a middle finger to them. But I am not very culturally sensitive to religious people nowadays….

          • Gregory Kusnick
            Posted October 6, 2016 at 7:44 pm | Permalink

            Clinton was at the funeral of a friend and colleague. Where I come from, the sane and rational thing to do in that situation is to show respect, not to tell the bereaved family to fuck off.

            • GBJames
              Posted October 6, 2016 at 7:48 pm | Permalink

              Indeed.

    • Kevin
      Posted October 1, 2016 at 9:21 am | Permalink

      I feel fortunate for not knowing what was wrong with the way that hat sat on Bill’s head. There is something to be said about what Ricky said that not knowing anything about religion can be a good starting point.

    • Posted October 1, 2016 at 9:48 am | Permalink

      Thank you for your insulting comment.

      • harrync
        Posted October 1, 2016 at 4:55 pm | Permalink

        Please explain why that comment was insulting.

        • Randall Schenck
          Posted October 1, 2016 at 5:11 pm | Permalink

          At first I thought…never mind. But I have to ask if you understand the meaning of supercilious?

          • harrync
            Posted October 2, 2016 at 2:29 pm | Permalink

            Look, I think Prof. Coyne is great. But I do think this particular post of his was a bit supercilious [opinions may vary]. When I act like an idiot [we all do at times] I don’t take it as an insult if someone points out that I am acting like an idiot. But I guess some people would take it as an insult, and that’s their right, of course.

    • Randall Schenck
      Posted October 1, 2016 at 10:19 am | Permalink

      I would expect the guy to not put the vestment on. Is that also too much for one to ask?

  4. Curt Nelson
    Posted October 1, 2016 at 8:48 am | Permalink

    Yes and he’s pursing his lips, too. It isn’t the classic purse, the “I’m caught screwing up” one that he knows only too well, but a “humbled” one. My theory on pursed lips is that it is mainly about immobilizing the mouth so it can’t do anything else, like smirk.

  5. John Harshman
    Posted October 1, 2016 at 9:13 am | Permalink

    if you profess agnosticism toward God, then you must also say you’re agnostic about Santa Claus and (as I add) the Loch Ness Monster

    I’ll take that one. The difference is that Santa and the Loch Ness monster are both reasonably well defined, such that we know what evidence to expect from them. If nobody comes down your chimney on Christmas and no presents (or coal) appear, scratch Santa. If you carefully search Loch Ness and there’s no large animal present, so much for Nessie.

    But god, on the other hand, is so plastic that there’s one that fits every failed test; there’s even a version of the Christian god for which there is no conceivable evidence, and therefore against which there’s no conceivable evidence. It’s worse than Russell’s teapot, because we know the conditions under which teapots happen.

    I’m quite confident there is no Santa or Nessie, Thor or YHWH, because they would be detectable. I think it’s absurd to suppose there’s an undetectable other supreme being, whatever the name, but by its nature I can’t say that I know it doesn’t exist. Still, why should anyone care? Whether you call that atheism or agnosticism seems a pointless quibble, though I do pick the former.

    • Sastra
      Posted October 1, 2016 at 12:04 pm | Permalink

      I’ll take that one. The difference is that Santa and the Loch Ness monster are both reasonably well defined, such that we know what evidence to expect from them.

      I’ll take that one. I have friends who are so enthralled with faith in faith that they actually DO profess to be “agnostic” about Santa Claus and the Loch Ness Monster.

      In fact, while the first one seems to be sheer faith coupled with the Argument from Yes Virginia and maybe some fairy legends — they have photographs of the second one. No good debunking those Nessie photos, either — they’re agnostic about science and skepticism, too. That considerably lowers the bar for knowing ‘what evidence to expect’ from anything.

      Whenever anyone uses the tried and true standby “…and yet people don’t say they’re ‘agnostic’ about THAT” I always think no, that’s not true — and yes, it’s very trying. Very trying indeed.

      I’d suggest that you and Gervais and Jerry and all the many atheists who use the ‘agnostic analogy’ tack really need to get around more, but it’s a pretty depressing journey so I make no such suggestion.

      • Zado
        Posted October 1, 2016 at 5:26 pm | Permalink

        I’ll take that one. I have friends who are so enthralled with faith in faith that they actually DO profess to be “agnostic” about Santa Claus and the Loch Ness Monster.

        I got my friend to admit that the Olympian gods might very well be real, for all we know. So I understand what you’re talking about. He also uses the word “supernatural” to mean “extraordinary,” which annoys me to no end.

        By the way, I’m a little puzzled by PCC saying there’s “no humor” in this video. I lol’d a few times.

        “This is my son.”
        “What’s he doing?”
        “He’s looking for fairies.”
        “Is he? (sideways glance) Ok we better leave.”

    • nicky
      Posted October 1, 2016 at 6:38 pm | Permalink

      The big difference between God and Nessie is that if the latter were found to exist (say, a highly improbable remnant plesiosaur population), it would not shatter my world-view.
      If God -a mind without physical substrate- were to exist, nearly everything we know, basically all of science, would have to be revised.

  6. Kevin
    Posted October 1, 2016 at 9:17 am | Permalink

    Fantastic video. Refreshing and optimistic.

  7. Thud
    Posted October 1, 2016 at 9:27 am | Permalink

    Clinton put the thing on his head, presumably since he was asked to do it, and willing to. He doesn’t need to conform to all the details, just as doesn’t need to know any details of theology. He’s no longer the president either, doesn’t represent us.

  8. Posted October 1, 2016 at 9:28 am | Permalink

    I’ve always greatly appreciated the thoughts and opinions shared by this man. Even if you don’t completely agree with Ricky Gervais, you can’t deny that he is very well spoken and makes valid points to his arguments.

  9. Ken Kukec
    Posted October 1, 2016 at 10:55 am | Permalink

    Biting the upper lip is how Bubba signifies grief; biting the lower lip is how he fakes sincerity.

  10. Jenny Haniver
    Posted October 1, 2016 at 10:58 am | Permalink

    I’m neither Jewish nor male, but he should be wearing his kippah on the crown of his head, secured with orthodox bobby pins or pin curl clips (barring those, some mysterious, unholy parietal gravitational pull keeps it there), though I think it would be more cheeky and stylish if he’d worn a shtreimel or kolpik, and worn an overcoat with zocken to show off his legs. And horrors! must admit that I find bord und payes a bit of a turn-on (but only if the wearer is handsome).

  11. Posted October 1, 2016 at 11:34 am | Permalink

    Poor Billy… that’s surely mis-misappropriation, ain’t it? Or is he wearing it in the fashion of the Chinese? 🙂

  12. Alpha Neil
    Posted October 1, 2016 at 12:13 pm | Permalink

    Bill definitely screwed up. A proper beanie has a propeller on top.

  13. Addie Pray
    Posted October 1, 2016 at 12:21 pm | Permalink

    Clinton isn’t doing anything wrong- it looks dopey but there is no distinction as far as I know religiously between how he is wearing it and pinning it more on the back of the head. I’ve seen religious Jews wear it more on the side of the head too. As long as it is on his head, I am pretty sure it is kosher.

  14. Marilee Lovit
    Posted October 1, 2016 at 12:56 pm | Permalink

    I like Gervais’ thought that we should not need a word for atheist. I am partial to “irreligious.”

    • GBJames
      Posted October 1, 2016 at 1:29 pm | Permalink

      I think “atheist” and “irreligious” are semantically nearly identical. Both contain negation at the beginning of the word, “a” and “ir” meaning “not”. One is in opposition to gods, the other to beliefs about gods. Both are as unnecessary as “afairyist”, IMO.

      I prefer “atheist” because it excludes the “spiritual but not religious” nonsense whereas “irreligious” is agnostic on that angle. So to speak.

      • Marilee Lovit
        Posted October 1, 2016 at 2:51 pm | Permalink

        Good point, but to me irreligious is nice because it means that religion is irrelevant.

  15. FromAJew
    Posted October 1, 2016 at 1:34 pm | Permalink

    It’s fine where he is wearing the kippah. There is no place to wear it. Its not a religious item either. Ask a rabbi. It’s a hat. Any hat will do. It shows devotion, but no one is getting beheaded for not wearing it. Shalom.

  16. Christopher
    Posted October 1, 2016 at 3:41 pm | Permalink

    So how exactly did Jewish men keep this things on top of the head before the invention of bobby pins? My knowledge of the history of religious headgear is a bit thin, I must admit, but it has always seemed a wee bit impractical.

  17. ThyroidPlanet
    Posted October 1, 2016 at 3:45 pm | Permalink

    Great quote from Gervais for today:

    “The greatest privilege of free speech comes with the right to use your voice for those who don’t have one”

    … he’s referring to wild animals – non-human – but it makes you think.

    • ThyroidPlanet
      Posted October 1, 2016 at 4:13 pm | Permalink

      Quote correction:

      “The greatest privilege that comes with free speech is the right to use your voice for those who don’t have one”

  18. infiniteimprobabilit
    Posted October 1, 2016 at 5:56 pm | Permalink

    If female chess players shouldn’t be required to wear hijabs in Iran, why should Bill Clinton be required to wear a yarmulke in Israel?

    cr

    • GBJames
      Posted October 1, 2016 at 6:22 pm | Permalink

      Who says it was required? I’d be very surprised if it wasnt’ voluntary.

      • infiniteimprobabilit
        Posted October 1, 2016 at 6:54 pm | Permalink

        Maybe it was voluntary, in which case I’d have no quibble. (I certainly wouldn’t wear one, I think they look stupid, but that’s my personal opinion).

        Someone upthread said ‘any hat will do’, which I would be okay with (though strictly, as an atheist, I should object to that too – but I’m a bit accommodationist that way). But only at the funeral, not anywhere else.

        cr

  19. blotsalot
    Posted October 2, 2016 at 11:04 pm | Permalink

    Maybe, just maybe, Clinton is wearing the yarmulke improperly intentionally. He’s a damn smart guy, surely he know Jewish customs. Disrespectful respect, perhaps?

  20. Posted October 3, 2016 at 12:03 pm | Permalink

    I didn’t know what to do either the two times I was handed one to wear – one at a small Chanukah gathering, one at a wedding. At the former, there was even a tiny debate over whether as a non-Jew (by any interpretation) I should even *be* there, never mind wear the clothing. Answer was apparently just that “adult males wear”, which seems to have been the rule at the wedding too. (Same friend and his parents involved, I might add, so the anecdotes are independent. I too wondered about it falling off (and also when to remove it, etc.)

    That said, BC should have been told, you’d think. But which is more “offensive”? Having it fall off, or wearing it in the wrong place? 😉


%d bloggers like this: