Does God exist? That is the question Catholic comedian and television host, Stephen Colbert, debated with his Late Show guest, the popular actor and outspoken atheist, Ricky Gervais. The YouTube video clip of the two men going “head to head on religion” has gone viral, quickly garnering over 2.5 million views. In this episode of The Word on Fire Show, Bishop Barron breaks down each segment of the discussion and offers helpful insights for everyone fascinated (or haunted) by questions about God. The listener question asks whether atheists or theists bear the burden of proof when it comes to these debates.

Topics Discussed

  • 0:17  – Introduction, Bishop Barron’s trip to Georgia for a Pivotal Players promotion
  • 4:00 – Colbert to Gervais, “Why is there something rather than nothing?”
  • 7:36 – What is the difference between asking why the universe exists and h0w the universe exists?
  • 12:05 – Colbert to Gervais, “Do you believe in a prime mover?”
  • 14:05 – Gervais explains what he believes an agnostic atheist is.
  • 16:57 – Gervais to Colbert, “You deny one less God than I do”
  • 20:52 – Colbert to Gervais, “Do you ever have a feeling of great gratitude for existence?”
  • 25:47 – Gervais explains to Colbert that Science is repeatable but holy books are not.
  • 29:20 – Listener Question: Do atheists or theists bear the burden of proof during debates about the existence of God?

Bonus Resources

  • Websites

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5 comments on “WOF 063: Stephen Colbert, Ricky Gervais, and the Debate About God

  1. Craig Ellis Feb 21, 2017

    The new testament would not come back per se because Jesus would not come back in the manner that he did, i.e. it would be the Second Coming. The old testament wouldn’t come back because the historical events would not be repeatable, however, the Word of God and a new Bible of that Word and God’s truths would come back because God would again inspire a new generation of prophets who would record and bring forth to the world God’s eternal truths. This would likely be a compilation of the Old and New Testament truths. Just as in science, truth will be discovered again because the basic fabric of it will always be there as God will always be there.

  2. VICENTE Manlapig Feb 22, 2017

    Awesome reasoning of Bishop Barron explaining the Catholic Faith in a very lively way ! What a gift !

  3. Thank you for your podcast. After hearing the last question/comment about the science books and Sacred Scripture being eliminated, finding that over time the science books return in their original form, while Sacred Scripture is lost forever, I expected an argument relating to nature’s speaking the Word of God as mirrored in Scripture, as well as a retrospective view of nature in science that points to both intelligent design as well as providential guidance. One would expect that just as there is a universality in nature that reproduces itself in order to be seen again and again historically, that love too, in the event that it allows itself to be erased from the record, would emerge as it always has in Truth. In effect, because love continually exceeds itself, if it could become somehow absent, it would again emerge within science because it underlies it. In other words, if all we have is science, science itself would reflect the One who in it is everywhere present and fills all things. Perhaps it is because there was elementary science, but no written word that the Word emerged inspired as “In the beginning….”. We are written according to a code that provides the archetype of God within us. All of our denial of God does not take away the search for him. Our denial and His seeming absence is the souls search for God. As Bishop Barrons mentioned, the most hardened atheists are often those most obsessed with God. It is the same in every absence, the absence creates a presence that is undeniable, especially if the presence is denied. If one is turned away from a mirror, the mirror does not stop reflecting, the reflection just fails to be seen by the one turned away. So goes the atheist imagining that Sacred Scripture would not be manifest if eliminated. Interestingly, the atheist continues to bear the Image of God just by virtue of his being, the Incarnation cannot be undone, it will continue to pass through to be read, maybe not as a type of “book” like those recording the natural sciences, but forever as the Code by which Love is known to us. God has not been present in every age because man believed in God. God’s presence has and is unfolding in every age because God believes in us despite every attempt to wipe Him out of the pattern by which we are designed. We might fool ourselves by thinking that science regenerates itself, like the new growth after a forest fire, not seeing that the seeds hidden within the soil are written with instructions. But the patterns in nature come with a purpose; to guide the observer of nature to the seed within themselves in order to see the hope of regeneration. In the end the arguments of why or how are meaningless and keep returning to themselves. If science were all that we have, according to atheists, then why aren’t we asking “what is science”…or “what is nature”, instead of the how and why questions that seem to dominate our relationship to them, seeking whether or not they could be expected to return in their knowable written forms. The question should be in tune with the intellect, which even the atheists can agree exists, asking what science and nature are that they have a written form, and what the purpose of the form is to our comprehension? Nature, like God, asks us to know it. What is nature? The question is only a precursor to asking the next question, what is God? As an example to this issue of return, destroying my historical family tree does not mean a new family history will not be written, just like the rediscovery of science if all the science books are destroyed. But similarly, in regard to the elimination of Sacred Scripture, taking away my personal identity by eliminating both learned and perceived spiritual realities does not mean my offspring will not find these same realities printed within their souls. The Faithful know that we are promised that Jesus will never leave us, but one can still pose a hypothetical as a nonbeliever and come to a reasonable conclusion about the return of Love written according to its own Code. In fact, Love is more reliable in its expression as observed in returning over time than all the scientific knowledge combined. For that we can be grateful.

  4. Good morning,

    I am deeply grateful for the amazing work of “Word on Fire.” May I suggest that among the many fine resources you provide to support various “Word on Fire Show” podcasts, you include some classic books or articles related to the particular topic under discussion. For example, on the debate with Atheists, there is Edward Feser’s “The Last Superstition: A Refutation of the New Atheism” and Fr. Robert Spitzer’s “New Proofs for the Existence of God: Contributions of Contemporary Physics and Philosophy.” Assembling such readable texts, and aligning them with the contemporary topics covered by Bishop Baron would be great fun and helpful to so many.

    Pease accept my prayers for the continued success of your apostolate.

    In Christ Jesus.

    Dom Aquila
    Provost and Academic Vice President
    The University of St. Thomas
    Houston, Texas

  5. Trevor Mar 1, 2017

    I saw the video for the final point that Steven Colbert made Albeit a little bit risky( devil rape) , turned Ricky Gervais back onto subscribing to a moral Reality(” thats why im a good boy”) which Debunked his whole argument against God

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