"Redemption," he says, little eyes gleaming, "is my favourite thing. As an atheist, I think forgiveness is the greatest virtue... In every good comedy or drama someone represents us. If they're redeemed, we feel we've been liberated, or saved. If it's done well, you're part of the journey. That's why everything begins or ends with empathy... I don't think there's any real altruism. But you want to be in a society where everyone's all right, otherwise it's not OK for you."
This reminds me very much of Oscar Wilde. I expect Gervais has read it actually:
The chief advantage that would result from the establishment of Socialism is, undoubtedly, the fact that Socialism would relieve us from that sordid necessity of living for others... The majority of people spoil their lives by an unhealthy and exaggerated altruism - are forced, indeed, so to spoil them. They find themselves surrounded by hideous poverty, by hideous ugliness, by hideous starvation. It is inevitable that they should be strongly moved by all this... But this is not a solution: it is an aggravation of the difficulty. The proper aim is to try and reconstruct society on such a basis that poverty will be impossible.
I don't really agree with them about altruism, but I used those quotes to show how similar the arguments are.
The other thing I wanted to point to was this insane article by Melanie Phillips. I remember when she was a nice if slightly vinegary lady. Now she's mad.
I see this financial breakdown, moreover, as being not merely a moral crisis but the monetary expression of the broader degradation of our values – the erosion of duty and responsibility to others in favour of instant gratification, unlimited demands repackaged as ‘rights’ and the loss of self-discipline. And the root cause of that erosion is ‘militant atheism’
So obvious now she points it out.