It's not often that a CNN anchor declares America a "very Christian nation," but that's what new host Piers Morgan did on Thursday while debating atheist comedian Ricky Gervais. Morgan chided the entertainer for a joke he made while hosting last Sunday's Golden Globes.
Morgan critiqued, "...I know American culture quite well now and they're a very Christian nation here in America." During the ceremony, Gervais sarcastically announced, "And thank you to God for making me an atheist." Morgan derided this as "poking fun," adding, "But you must be aware that a lot of people in America would potentially find that offensive."
Morgan later described himself as a Catholic and probed into Gervais' atheism: "The problem for atheists, it must be so doom and gloom. When you get to, like, 70, 80, to think, well, hang on, that's it. That's the end of everything."
[See video below. MP3 audio here.]
After Gervais retorted that such an argument isn't a reason to believe, Morgan replied, "That's not why I believe, but certainly it's a very comforting thought to think that I don't think it all ends in the box under the ground."
A transcript of the discussion, which aired at 9:19pm EST, follows:
PIERS MORGAN: But the joke I thought was nearest the knuckle, simply because I know American culture quite well now and they're a very Christian nation here in America, was what you said right at the end that almost got phased out. I just want to play this back to you.
GERVAIS: Thanks to everyone in the room for being a good sport. Thanks to NBC. Thanks to the Hollywood Foreign Press. Um, thank you for watching at home. And thank you to God for making me an atheist. Thank you.
GERVAIS: What's up with that?
MORGAN: Well, if you are- if you're a believer in God, if you're a Christian, as many tens of millions in America are-
MORGAN: -you could see you as poking fun at their religion.
GERVAIS: Not at all. Loads- How many people thank God every time? They say, "Thank God." I don't- I don't- I don't get offended, do I?
MORGAN: All right. But you must be aware that a lot of people in America would potentially find that offensive.
GERVAIS: What, because I'm saying I don't believe in God?
MORGAN: Yeah, because you're kind of mocking them there.
GERVAIS: No I'm not. I'm not mocking them. People's beliefs aren't my concern at all. And I certainly don't differentiate between religions either. I look at all religions the same. Unlike religious people, I look at all religions equally.
MORGAN: You were religious until you were about eight years old. Is that right?
GERVAIS: Yes. I was brought up Christian, yeah.
MORGAN: And what happened to change your mind then?
GERVAIS: I used to go to Sunday school all the time, I believed in- well, you've got to realize that when you're a working class kid- I came from a very poor, working class background. My dad was a laborer and my mom was a housewife. I lived in a poorer state, like the projects. And so, a working class mum who- her hope isn't that you become a doctor or a lawyer or an international comedian, it's that you don't die in a bar room fight. And they think the best way to do that is to take on Christian values, which, you know, preach morality. And- but they haven't got the monopoly on good. This is my point. I'm not a Christian, but I live my life in a good way. And some people say, well, who says what good is? Well, you know what? I do. I'm good to people because it's the way I want to be treated. And I don't believe I'll be rewarded in Heaven, but I do-
MORGAN: What do you think will happen to you?
GERVAIS: I'll be rewarded now.
MORGAN: But when you die, what do you think happens?
GERVAIS: Um, people who liked me will remember me.
MORGAN: Are you a spiritual person, do you think?
GERVAIS: Well, not in that sense. I get- I get a funny feeling when I see a friend or a mountain or an animal. It fills me with joy. My first love is science and nature. But it's explainable. And just because I don't think that I'm going to go to Heaven, I don't think my life's worthless. I don't think-
MORGAN: It's not only that, I always think with atheists, because I do believe, because I grew up a Catholic and I remain so. But, you know, I think everyone is entitled to their own beliefs, whatever they may be.
MORGAN: The problem for atheists, it must be so doom and gloom. When you get to, like, 70, 80, to think, well, hang on, that's it. That's the end of everything.
GERVAIS: Oh, of course. That's right. Yes.
MORGAN: So, you must fear your death tens time more than Christians.
GERVAIS: I don't believe there's anything after.
MORGAN: Because it's the end.
GERVAIS: But you're saying you believe because the alternative is too terrible.
MORGAN: That's not why I believe, but certainly it's a very comforting thought to think that I don't think it all ends in the box under the ground.
GERVAIS: But I can't help what I believe any more than you can. And it's up to you what you believe in, you know? And this thing about not believing in God, there are 2,798 odd (ph) gods. And so, if you're a Christian, you believe in one of them and you don't believe in all the others.
— Scott Whitlock is a news analyst for the Media Research Center. Click here to follow him on Twitter.