One big shortcoming of Twitter is its limited space to express views. Ultimately, 140 characters will never be enough to truly convey great ideas; after all, items like the Constitution, Declaration of Independence, Gettysburg Address, “I Have a Dream” speech, and others sure couldn’t fit in Twitter-imposed barriers.
Maybe that is why certain statements seem so off. Comedian Ricky Gervais is a good example. As religiously-engendered violence continued in Muslim countries, Gervais remarked “I see Atheists are fighting and killing each other again, over who doesn’t believe in any God the most. Oh, no..wait..that never happens.”
While Gervais’ comment may require further explanation, it seemed sufficient a statement for many as it got posted on Facebook, receiving over 20,000 likes and over 6,000 shares.
Yet his remarks are bizarre in light of history. Gervais was born in 1961, meaning the first 30 years of his life there existed the Soviet Union. This was a regime that had its share of large-scale killing to stamp out religion and whose leadership violently punished those who did not adhere to their atheism-based worldview sufficiently enough.
In early twentieth century Mexico, here was plenty of secularist-driven violence against the Catholic Church. The extent of violence, especially in the rural areas, by the revolutionary government was so intense that it sparked a counter-revolt, the Cristero Revolution.
Eighteenth-century France saw the Reign of Terror, a perpetual executing of supposed anti-revolutionaries headlined by individuals who believed that superstition and Christianity were enemies of the republic. In other words, people who felt about religion much in the same way that Gervais does.
To say nothing of the Afghan Communist government of the late 1970s and 1980s, whose body count nears one million or Cambodia under Pol Pot, which killed as much as a third of that nation’s population.
With these and other examples of atheists or agnostics using brutal force against religious believers over their religious beliefs, one wonders how Gervais could be so oblivious. It cannot be a question of intelligence. The comedian has earned several well-deserved accolades for his witty material and his remarks at the Golden Globe ceremonies were classic.
Rather it has to do with basic near universal ideological biases. As an atheist, Gervais is never going to consider the bad apples of his lot to be exemplary of how atheism really is. Gervais does not consider atheist dictators like Joseph Stalin and Benito Mussolini as proof that atheism is a malevolent entity; this even though had the two tyrants been Christian, Gervais would have likely seen them as proof of religion getting out of hand. Conversely, had Gervais been Christian it’s possible he would see these atheist dictators as proof that atheism is always the violent tyrannical ideology and religious belief never results in similar behavior.
Twitter is a problematic venue to express views. A Tweeter is oft confined by an absurdly low count of 140 characters. One wonders how anyone thinks it measures up to Facebook, which allows for far more literary expression both good and bad. The only real benefit in that respect would be using the limited character space to post links to intellectual remarks far greater in length.
Perchance Gervais’ remarks would sound better and make greater sense if given a greater volume of words. Or maybe they would sound just as partisan and oblivious as they did under the 140 character restriction.