Stephen Colbert is arguably the most famous practicing Catholic working in the entertainment industry, and Ricky Gervais is one of its most outspoken atheists.
So, when Gervais appeared on The Late Show With Stephen Colbert, it was always likely that the duo would end up debating religion in some form. What transpired was an intelligent and rational debate between two individuals that didn’t have the same opinion, but were still able to listen and discuss their differences in a calm and reasoned manner.
Stephen Colbert was rather polite about getting the discussion started, too, because he simply asked his guest, “Do you want to debate the existence of God?” before they then both went at it.
Colbert kicked things off with a relatively simple question for the co-creator, writer, and star of The Office, as he quizzed, “Why is there something instead of nothing?” But Ricky Gervais was immediately non-plussed with the question as he responded with, “That makes no sense at all… Surely, the bigger question is not why but how. Why is irrelevant, isn’t it?”
When Colbert asked Gervais whether or not he believed there was a “demiurge” that created and started everything, Gervais responded with, “Outside of science and nature, I don’t believe so.” Gervais then started to go a little deeper into his own point of view, describing himself as an “agnostic atheist,” before insisting, “no one knows if there’s a God… So technically, everyone’s agnostic. We don’t know.”
But Stephen Colbert wasn’t sold on this, as he explained, “An agnostic atheist is someone who doesn’t know if there’s a God or not, as no one does. Atheism is only rejecting the claim that there is God. Atheism isn’t a belief system” Ricky Gervais then looked to sum up atheism in another way, remarking, “You say there’s a God. I say, ‘Can you prove that?’ You say, ‘No.’ I say, ‘I don’t believe you, then.”
When the discussion turned to the number of Gods that they both believed in Ricky Gervais told Stephen Colbert that he actually only believes in one less God than him. “There are about 3,000 to choose from,” Ricky Gervais remarked about Gods, before then adding, “Basically, you deny one less God than I do. You don’t believe in 2,999 Gods. And I don’t believe in just one more.”
Stephen Colbert looked to explain that his faith and his belief in the existence of God comes from a “strong desire” to try and direct his “gratitude” for life “towards something or someone.”
Ricky Gervais then brought up how some people find it impossible to believe in the Big Bang Theory, which provoked Colbert to compare that level of faith to an atheist that can’t understand the theories and work of Stephen Hawking but still believes it’s definitive proof. But this was when Ricky Gervais seemingly came up with a comprehensive answer regarding science over faith.
“Science is constantly proved all the time. If we take something like any fiction, any holy book, and destroyed it, in a thousand years’ time that wouldn’t come back just as it was. Whereas if we took every science book and every fact and destroyed them all, in a thousand years they’d all be back, because all the same tests would be the same result.”
That answer thoroughly impressed Stephen Colbert, who decided to lean back in his chair, and just respond with, “That’s good. That’s really good.” But while Ricky Gervais might have stumped Stephen Colbert is this round, their discussion showed exactly how to debate, listen, and learn without being aggressively partisan about your issue.
[Featured Image by CBS]