Stephen Colbert Debates Atheist Ricky Gervais About God, Talks Holy Trinity vs. '2,999 Other Gods'

Stephen Colbert (R) and Ricky Gervais tried to convince each other about the existence of God on 'The Late Show' on February 1, 2017.
Stephen Colbert (R) and Ricky Gervais tried to convince each other about the existence of God on "The Late Show" on February 1, 2017. | (Photo: The Late Show with Stephen Colbert video screencap)

Comedian Ricky Gervais debated Catholic "Late Show" host Stephen Colbert in a guest appearance on Wednesday night on the topics of creation, God, science and religion.

Colbert told Gervais that he is aware that the comedian is an atheist, and suggested that they talk about the existence of God.

"Why is there something instead of nothing, why does the universe exist at all?" Colbert asked.

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Gervais argued, however, that the "why" of the question isn't important.

"That makes no sense at all," Gervais argued. "Surely, the bigger question is not why but how," he added. "Why is irrelevant, isn't it?"

Gervais went on to clarify that he is an "agnostic atheist," and said he doesn't know whether God exists or not. At the same time, he said that he doesn't believe there is anything outside of "science and nature" in the world.

"Atheism isn't a belief system," he continued, adding that it only rejects the claim that there is a God.

When asked, Colbert said that he does believe in God, "in three persons," he clarified, referring to the Holy Trinity, to which Gervais responded:

"OK. 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."

Colbert explained that he is not trying to convert his guest.

"I know that I can't convince you that there is a God, nor do I really want to convince you that there is a God," the "Late Show" host said, noting that he personally has a "strong desire" to express his gratitude for life "toward something or someone."

Colbert suggested that Gervais' dependence on science is also a kind of faith, saying the comedian is choosing to "believe in Stephen Hawking" rather than in God.

Gervais argued that science is "constantly proved all the time," however. 

"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," he argued.

Colbert has engaged in debates on religion a number of times on his show, and back in November 2015 invited atheist HBO host Bill Maher to come back to Catholicism.

"Come on back, Bill. The door is always open! Golden ticket! Right before you! All you have to do is humble yourself before the presence of the Lord, admit there are things greater than you in the universe that you do not understand, and salvation awaits you," Colbert said at the time, in an interview which was largely humorous in nature.

Maher tuned down the offer, however, and responded:

"I do admit there are things in the universe I don't understand. But my response to that is not to make up silly stories or to believe intellectually embarrassing myths from the Bronze Age, but you believe whatever you want."