Stephen Colbert has always displayed a willingness to try and hear other viewpoints. And rarely has that been more on display than when he had Ricky Gervais on the show last February.
See, Colbert is devoutly Catholic. Gervais, on the other hand, is a proud atheist. And neither of them waited to jump into the debate—a fact The Late Show was quite proud of.
In a wide-ranging conversation, Colbert and Gervais discussed most of the standards when it comes to the debate on the existence of god (or gods): the definition of atheism, for instance, the First Cause, and even how trusting in the facts of science does not constitute faith, or a belief, because it’s fact-based.
Even better, the conversation was civil, polite, and respective, never combative, unlike how many of these debates often go.
Consider a few of the talking points below, for instance, which are kind, respectful, and insightful:
GERVAIS: … Atheism is only rejecting the claim that there is a god. Atheism isn’t a belief system. So this is atheism in a nutshell. You say there’s a God. I say, “Can you prove that?” You say no. I say, “I don’t believe you then.” So you believe in one God, I assume?
COLBERT: Uhh…. in three persons, but go ahead.
GERVAIS: Okay. But there are about 3,000 to choose from… 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.
Gervais isn’t at all what many religious individuals think of when they stereotype atheists. He isn’t ungrateful for his life, for instance, instead admitting he feels immense gratitude for his existence because “I know the chances are billions to one that I am on this planet as me and never will be again.”
When Colbert replied that that sounded a bit like faith in science, Gervais was ready, as you can see by his response below:
GERVAIS: … Science is constantly proved all the time. You see, 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 [produce] the same result.
COLBERT: That’s good. That’s really good.
GERVAIS: 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 somebody jumps out of the window, they smash to the ground because of this thing called gravity.
These aren’t new points, of course; plenty of atheists (including Richard Dawkins and Bill Maher, for instance) have made these same points (in fact, Maher made several of them on Colbert’s show back in 2015), but the courtesy with which Gervais was able to make them was, in some ways, unusual.
Unfortunate though it may be, many atheists have come off as condescending in these debates. Gervais didn’t do that at all, instead consistently treating Colbert with respect.
That’s a much more effective way of making your point.
You can watch the entire exchange below: