What happens when comedians Stephen Colbert and Ricky Gervais debate atheism on the late show? Great TV! It’s also an awesome opportunity to better understand what you believe and why you believe it. In this episode, we will analyze some of the slogans and soundbites that came up between atheist comedian Ricky Gervais and Stephen Colbert on the Late Show. We’ll explore questions like: Can you prove God exists? Why is there something rather than nothing? Is Atheism the rational starting point for the conversation about God? And more…

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Read the Full Transcript of Stephen Colbert vs. Ricky Gervais on Atheism

Stephen Colbert (SC): We were talkin’ about hello before, about this tweet about you going to hell.

Ricky Gervais (RG): Yeah

SC: And, I know that you are an atheist, correct?

RG: Yeah


SC: That’s the devil waiting for you in hell by the way. [laughter] Did you want to debate the existence of God? So Ricky Gervais, why is there something instead of nothing?

RG: That makes no sense at all. That’s not the two choices.

SC: That’s the two choices I am giving you. I am the host. Do you want to concede the debate? Why is there something instead of nothing?

RG: Hold on. What do you mean?

SC: Why is there something instead of nothing? Why does the universe exist at all? Why is there something?

RG: But, surely the bigger question is not why but how? Why is irrelevant.

SC: Okay fine, how is there something, because if you think of God as the prime mover, how is there anything instead of nothing.

RG: But wait, I don’t.

SC: Is there a demiurge that started everything?

RG: Well, outside science and nature, I don’t believe so because this is the things right? I am an agnostic atheist technically. Agnostic means, no one knows there’s a God so everyone is technically agnostic. We don’t know.

SC: That’s true.

RG: An agnostic atheist is someone who doesn’t know there is a God or not, as no one does.

SC: So you are not convicted of your atheism?

RG: Well, I am. No I am because atheism is only rejecting a claim that there is a God. Atheism isn’t a belief system. This is atheism in a nutshell. You say, “there is a God”. I saw, “can you prove that?” You say, “No.” I say, “I don’t believe you then.” So, ummm, you believe in one God I assume.

SC: Uhhhhh, in three persons but go ahead.

RG: So, okay, but there are about 3,000 to choose from..

SC: I’ve done some reading, yeah.

RG: So basically, you believe, 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.

SC: Right.

[applause & laughter]

SC: Do you ever have a feeling of great gratitude for existence?

RG: Of course. I know the chances are billions to one that I am on this planet as me and never will be again.

SC: I know that I can’t convince you there is a God, nor do I really want to convince you that there is a God.

RG: No

SC: All I can really do is explain to you my experience which is that I have a strong desire to direct that gratitude towards something or someone and that thing is God.

RG: Of course, we want to make sense of nature and science and it’s too unfathomable. That everything in the universe was once crunched into something smaller than an atom..

SC: But you don’t know that. You are just believing Stephen Hawking and that’s a matter of faith in his abilities. You don’t know it yourself. Your accepting that cause someone told you.

RG: Well, but science is constantly proved all of the time. You see, if we take something like any fiction, any holy book, and any other fiction 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.

SC: That’s really good.

RG: So, I don’t need faith in science. I don’t need faith to know that probably if I jump out of a window, every other time people have jumped out of the window they have smashed to the ground because of this thing called gravity.