Ricky Gervais

Ricky Gervais has provoked the rage of fundamentalist Christians after getting into a row about God on Twitter.

The spat began when a user called GodsWordIsLaw tweeted: “Thank God for Christopher Hitchens’ death.” The writer and committed atheist had died a day earlier.

Gervais replied with a sarcastic “Perfect”, adding: “This is in the world at the moment people. Can we change it a bit?” - suggesting that intolerance was rife and that people should adopt a less extreme stance.

The seemingly innocuous comment was met with a barrage of abuse from GodsWordIsLaw, who wrote: “Atheism is poison, may God have mercy on your soul before he dropkicks you into HELL.” He added: “˜Ultimately it will lead to your eternal damnation. Enjoy this life because it goes fast. Next one is for ever.”

The fundamentalist’s attention was then drawn to the cover of the September/October 2011 edition of New Humanist magazine, which featured Gervais in a Christ-like pose with a microphone stand and the word atheist across his chest. The tweeter was so angry that he filmed himself burning a copy of the magazine - the kind of treatment usually reserved for the American flag by radical Muslims in the Middle East.

He uploaded the video to YouTube, where it has been viewed more than 300 times.

Others then joined in the abuse.

Over eight days the writer and star of The Office was branded “as evil as they get” and accused of using his celebrity to “indoctrinate thousands of lost souls into a Godless life”.

His attackers included a Twitter user called MargieJPhelps, from extremist Christian website godhatesfags.com.

This is run by the Westboro Baptist Church in Kansas, which blames gay people for the deaths of U.S. servicemen. Another of the group’s members tweeted: “Any you ask why did God harden Hitchens in his sins? Read: ‘...to show his wrath, and to make his power known...- Romans 9:22.’”

In an interview with the magazine, Gervais said that he had stopped believing in God by the age of eight.

In his Twitter responses, he flipped between provoking his critics and calling for peace.

In one tweet aimed at GodsWordIsLaw, who represents “Minnesota’s Christians for a Moral World” and has called for a boycott of The Hobbit film because it features gay actor Sir Ian McKellen, he said he was not anti-Christian but that he was “anti-bigot”.

He wrote: “I don’t believe in ANY god. I treat all religions equally. And all good people.” He added: “To all sane Christians. I know you’re not all like these evil fundamentalists. I don’t believe in your God but I believe in your kindness.”

Gervais was involved in a previous Twitter row when he used the word “mong” - a derogatory term for people with learning difficulties.

He was forced to apologise after coming in for a string of criticism.

The comedian also landed himself in trouble after hosting the last two Golden Globes award ceremonies, during which he mocked a number of A-list celebrities including John Travolta.

His performances met with a huge backlash. But despite this, he has been called back to host the ceremony for a third time on January 15 next year. - Daily Mail