Ricky Gervais And Stephen Colbert Prove You Really Can Have A Respectful Debate About Religion

"Why does the universe exist at all?"

Wednesday night on The Late Show, host Stephen Colbert and his guest, actor and comedian Ricky Gervais, proved it's possible to have a respectful discussion with someone you disagree with — even about something as frequently divisive as religion.

Colbert, a devout Catholic, starts off by asking Gervais, an outspoken atheist, "Why is there something instead of nothing? Why does the universe exist at all?"

For Gervais, the question isn't "Why?" It's "How?" 

"This is atheism in a nutshell," he explains. "You say there's a God. I say, 'Can you prove that?' You say no. I say, 'I don't believe you then.'"

To put things into perspective, Gervais brings up just how many gods have been worshiped in various belief systems throughout history. "You don't believe in 2,999 gods, and I don't believe in just one more."

Colbert says he knows he can't convince Gervais that there is a God, nor does he want to. "I can only explain my experience, which is that I have a strong desire to direct that gratitude [for existence] toward something or someone."

Gervais acknowledges that humans "want to make sense of nature and science." When Colbert then suggests that trusting scientists to have the answers is also a form of faith, Gervais gives a thought-provoking (and relevant) response.

"If we take any holy book, and any other fiction, and destroyed it, in a thousand years' time, that wouldn't come back just as it was," he says. "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."

"That's really good," Colbert admits.

Several viewers commended the pair for how they conducted themselves. "An atheist and a Catholic CAN have a great conversation," one YouTube commenter wrote.

Watch their full debate in the video below:

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