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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6 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

  6. MOHAMMED KHOKON Jun 10, 2017

    An Atheist is desperate about freedom………Atheism is rooted to concept of freedom
    An Atheist is desperate to eleminate existance of God for freedom .but not aware concept of Self cannot be established without a God….so Atheist concept of existance falls in nihilism… that we come from nowhere and disappear to nothing….since you are trapped in a process of eating and shitting there no such freedom without God………you must except universal harmony that a mango tree must prodce mangoes and banana as banana….So what is definite proof that God Exist ??? That is a great american word, BULLSHIT….A PIECE OF BULLSHIT CANNOT BE CONFIRMED WITHOUt A BULL, SO HOW YOU JUSTIFY EXISTANCE OF THIS MAGNIFICENT UNIVERSE PASSING BY INFRONT OF YOUR EYES WITHOUT A GOD.
    Latest thinking comfirm Evolution is invalid or false .SOMETHING over writes Time. (Destiny)
    “I am in your individuality but you do not observe” ( sura dahriyat.Quran 51:21) EVOLUTION is An attempt to change humen thinking in wrong direction based on Time. Humen or Water (h2o) is not product of Time, Time will not change water (h2o). Atomic and molecular weight of all elements or compounds will remain same on earth or distant planets in universe. There is SOMETHING permanent in universe.
    Evolution Theory succumb in concept of Time. Time is relative standard…..(Einstein). In reality Time does not Exist. Time is illusion or 4th Dimension. What will be definite proof that Evolution Theory is invalid or False….?? It is water H2O … In billion years Water H2O remained unaffected by Time…… Water H2O is not a product of Time..Whooooo created water ??No Water, no life, No evolution, No natural selection..Water is a phenomena out of time, a rule over nature. When Time fails Evolution fails. An instant knock out of whole Evolution theory, so called Darwinism.

    If life is an accident Then every incident happening in this world will demand an accident. Even existance of a piece of Bullshit cannot be confirmed without a Bull…So from where two cars will come to cause an Accident. What will be definite proof that life is not an accident, Just throw a bag of rice mixed with vinegar in a dark warm place, within 48 hours you will see bag of rice turned into full of life, ( worms) Throw it again if it happens again then this incident ( life ) is not an accident, example is silly but it points out a big mistake in evolution history. is not an Accident but conditional (Confirmed)

    H20 ( water) is a permanent condition in nature which caused diversity of life on earth. Scriptures says life is created not evolved from water” And God created every animal from water ” ( Quran 24:45 ) . What will be definite proof that life is created and not evolved ?? It is water H2O. Water suffered no evolution from another source as a product of time thus Water lack co ordination and stability with time to aid a billion years evolutionery process . If water is found in another planet, still water cannot be designated as product of Time, H2O is A permanent law or command written by PEN in nature (destiny) which will contnue to display any where in universe where oxygen and hydrogen is available. If life is an Accident then Life may be found in another planet even that planet is made of copper. For An accident cannot be dependent on another factor like water..if a Pre-condition like water is a requirement for an accident (life) to happen,then this life must be A divine plan.

    Time is not a cause Time is not a real entity or quantity. Time is nooothing.. Null…00.. Nada (void of self). To validate evolution theory you must establish A definition of Time, it is not possible. Did you ever think or ask yourself a question WHAT IS TIME ??? your mind will go blank, Time will create a delusion in your psyco, beacuse Time itself is illusion, In mathematical term time is variable,Relative and unstable .To understand Einstiens space time theory you need to grow wrinkles on your forhead likeEinstein.

    1 Kg, 1 Lbs, 1 Km, 1 Mile, 1 Minute, 1 Hour, 1 Year ,100 Years, Million years, Billion years, Time is a relative standard (Einstein) Water is not a product of time, Atomic and Molecular weight of all elements and componds will remain same unaffected and unchanged by Time until eternity. Even number of smallest praticle electrons and protons, will remain same on this earth or another planet. . TIME FAILED HERE AS ETERNAL CAUSE………. Evolution is invalid or false (confirmed).
    Astronomy says,universe has a begining (BIGBANG) and this ever expanding universe will end up on a reverse massacre when gravitational point is zero..(.00)…Since universe has a begining and universe has an end there must be CREATOR. An american scientist said give me time and technology I will create A Man. His intention was to claim A God is not necessary to create a Man, in that case is it not true that american scientist will be creator or God of that Robot. So origin cannot be denied.”Looook” Watch out” what Richard Dawkins a british biologist, an evolution scientist saying “Darwin made it possible to be an intellectually fulfilled atheist.”I am my own god. Richard Dawkins is actualy confirming God in his own self like pharooh of anciant Egypt,
    so Existance of God cannot be denied,
    Why monky look like Man ?? We know the root confusion is there than observation of species. …Answer is Beacuse God wanted that way,or Man came from God and desperately trying to return to God Amighty.. There is a similarity and contest in creaton or species beacuse they came from same origin and trying to return same origin so Monky looks like Man and Man looks like God or represent God by mastering nuclear power. Superior inferior brain dogma does not fit between an Ant and An Elephant. Yet there is an inbuilt similarity common in all creatures, We all see and hear beacuse God Almighty see and hear all things, it will be more appropriate to say humanity came from a Godlike origin not a monky beacuse our thinking does not support that humanity will ever evolve into a new species diffrent than human . Jesus is a sign from God Almighty that evolution is False and singing of million billion years(evolution) not required for creation of Man…..Prophat Mohammed peace be upon him said Allah The Almighty said:” The son of adam abuses Me. He curses Time and I AM TIME for in My hand is night and day”( Narrated Authentic by Abu Huraira may Allah be pleased upon him.(book of bukhari and muslim

    Allah is the Light of the heavens and the earth. (quran)
    Let there be light ( genesis) It is confirmed in scriptures that cause of creation started from light, Also science relates BigBang appeared from A POINT OF SINGULARITY
    which was intense light.

    Say: He is Allah, the One and Only;
    Allah, the Eternal, Absolute;
    He begetteth not, nor is He begotten;
    And there is none like unto Him.(Quran 112:1-4.)
    Humanity, will keep searching God in every click, civilization, technology,invention will be product of his searching, perhaps only few will conclude reflection of truth was in his own Self, Darwin in remote galapagos island was not searching origin of species but origin of his own Self. Ameen.