Ricky Gervais v Stephen Colbert – The Real Answers- An Open Letter

gervias-colbert

This article is now on the Premier Christianity website

Dear Ricky,

Loved your appearance on the Stephen Colbert show – two of my favourite entertainers discussing the most important subject in the world – what’s not to like?!   I would like to answer some of the questions you raise in the clip below.  I have heard you raise them several times before as though they were slam-dunk unanswerable questions.  Let me at least do you the courtesy of assuming that they are genuine questions and not just accusations.

The whole thing resurrected some memories (of which more later)…I’m really sorry that you got that obnoxious tweet about going to hell and the various things that the Tweeter wanted done to you.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m not personally apologising, or apologising on behalf of the church or God, anymore than I expect you to apologise for the numerous tweets I get from atheists who tell me where to go!   No – I’m sorry that there is such ignorance and hostility in the world, and I thought I would write you, in the vain hope, that you might actually read this, in order to bring in some light and love!

 

Why is there something instead of nothing?   You stated that the question didn’t make sense and that that is not the two choices.  I’m afraid that your answer doesn’t make sense.  The question itself is the oldest and deepest philosophical question – and of enormous significance to everyone of us.  Avoiding it, is not really answering.  It’s ok to avoid questions like ‘does the Loch Ness Monster exist’? , because it’s not really that important, unless you go scuba diving in Loch Ness!, but you cannot just dismiss the whole question of existence!  And I would love to hear what the third choice is…1) something 2) nothing 3)…?  (fill in the blanks…)..

The Question is not Why, but How?  You dismiss the question of why, I suspect because you have no answer.  Forgive me saying this but only regarding as legitimate those questions to which you have an answer, is neither humble nor intelligent.   I realise that you are following the standard atheist doctrine as espoused by Dawkins but I’m afraid it is very weak.  For Christians both the Why and the How are vital.  Today a friend of mine is being buried after a tragic death.  I know How he died, but what is far more important to me is Why.  We may not know the answers, but the question goes deep.  Don’t be so dismissive of the very questions that make us human.   Humans are the only animal who ask the why question.  Please don’t dehumanise us.

Outside Science and Nature I don’t Believe So –   Thanks for this comment.  By it you show your faith and your belief system. You don’t believe that there is anything outside science and nature.  You of course have no evidence or proof for that.  You just believe it.  You have faith.  It’s a philosophy that is sometimes called scientism (note not science which we all accept) or naturalism or logical positivism.  Logical positivism states that the only things that are true are those things which can be empirically or mathematically proven.  The trouble is, as AJ Ayer (the prime founder of that philosophy) admitted towards the end of his life – it is a self-contradicting philosophy.  Why?  Because the statement ‘the only things that are true are those things which can be empirically or mathematically proven’ is itself not empirically or mathematically provable.   You claim to have a belief based on science and evidence – and yet that belief itself has no evidence!  Speaking of self-refuting statements, lets move on to your next gem!

I’m an Agnostic Atheist who is convinced there is no God – An agnostic (Greek for no knowledge) is someone who doesn’t know.  And yet you say you do know or at least are convinced that there is no God. To be convinced of something on the basis of ignorance isn’t exactly the smartest way to go is it?

Atheism isn’t a Belief System – Again you are contradicting yourself.    I know this is part of the atheist creed, repeated ad nauseam online and in debates as though it were a devastating soundbite.  But it is completely superfluous.  If atheism is not a belief system, 51yr-cyidgl-_ac_ul320_sr240320_how come that Dawkins and you, manage to spend so much time expounding a system that doesn’t exist?  I am reminded of my good friend Dr Andy Bannister’s book The Atheist who Didn’t Exist.  Happy to send you a copy if you want!    The fact is that your atheism (belief there is no God) is based upon your belief system (as outlined above), which is itself atheistical.

Can you prove there is a God? You say no. So I don’t believe you.   Actually it depends what you mean by prove.  In the strict terms you are now using this phrase I doubt you can ‘prove’ anything.  Can you prove there are minds other than your own?  Can you prove that we did not all come into existence yesterday?  Can you prove that we are not all wired into the Matrix?   But what you are doing is a mental slight of hand.  What you should be asking is ‘is there evidence for God?’.  And the answer is yes – overwhelming.  The trouble is that you have already pre-determined that there can be no such evidence and therefore because of your atheist faith (see above) you automatically dismiss or explain away any such evidence.  You remind me of the atheist on the Dawkins website who told me that it was impossible to have an intelligent discussion with someone who believed in God.  When I asked why, he said “intelligent people don’t believe in God, someone who believes in God therefore cannot be intelligent, you can only have intelligent discussion with intelligent people, therefore you cannot have an intelligent discussion with someone who believes in God”.  A superb example of circular reasoning.  But one you seem to have bought into hook, line and sinker….Maybe its time to break out of that very closed-minded circular outlook?

You Don’t Believe in 2,999 gods, I just don’t believe in one more  – I think what amused me about this was the fact that the audience laughed and clapped as though this were a brilliant, original thought which they were hearing for the first time!  Again its a standard oft-repeated doctrine of the NFAs (New Fundamentalist Atheists).  The trouble is that its such a dumb argument because it is arguing against polytheism not monotheism.  By logical definition there cannot be two (never mind two thousand) Almighty, Eternal, Omnipotent, Omnipresent, Supreme Beings who created everything!  There is the Creator and from that Creator comes all created things.   If you stopped and thought about what you were saying and stopped repeating it as some kind of mantra delivered from on high, you would see the illogicality of your own statement.

We want to make sense of nature and science and its unfathomable – Forgive me but this is again a self-contradictory statement.  You have been arguing that science works precisely because it is fathomable and now you are saying it is unfathomable.  Of course I know what you are doing – you are indulging in the ‘God of the gaps’ argument (yet another part of the NFA creed).  People only believe in God because of what they DON”T know, and the more they know, the less they are likely to believe in God.   It’s a bit superior and patronising and also untrue.  I think of people like Francis Collins, the scientist behind the Human Genome project, who pointed out that we believe because of what we see, not because of what we do not see.   (by the way have a look at this clip which demonstrates the weakness of the philosophy of scientism).

 

But Science Works – Religious Books in a Thousand Years would not come back, Science books would – Cue lots of clapping.  I’m sorry that Colbert let you off with such a demonstrably false statement.   You see there have been science books from a long time ago which have been found to contain things false – as there will be science books today.   Even some of the tests have been shown to be false.  Real science has a humility which your philosophy of scientism does not.   Instead you do a disservice to science by indulging in a kind of ‘science of the gaps’, in which you assume that the only questions worth asking are scientific ones, and that anything worthwhile we do not know, one day we will discover ‘Science did it’!  Such blind faith!

Another enormous error is in your view of the Bible.  It has been around for 2,000 years and many people like yourself have mocked, attempted to disprove, and to destroy it – and you have failed miserably. Jesus said that ‘heaven and earth will pass away (science agrees) but my words will never pass away’ – so far he has been right!    In fact there are more people on earth today who believe that Bible than there have ever been before!    The Bible has been tested – and it has not been found wanting. Maybe you should rethink?

I loved the comment about gravity.  Who do you think is disputing that?   I suspect that most people know that if they jump out of the window they are going to fall to the ground.  (unless they have bought into the post-modernist 21st Century myth that you can be who/whatever you want to be, and they think they are a bird!).  But the trouble comes back to your original statement that the Why question doesn’t matter.

Lets return to our ‘jumper’.  When the police discover a body at the foot of a twenty storey building, do they say ‘if only that man had known about gravity!  We must get government to educate everyone about gravity, then this kind of thing won’t happen again!’?   The How question is easy.  But the Why question is more important.  Maybe he jumped because his wife was having an affair after believing that sex is just an appetite to be indulged?  Maybe he had just been fired?  Maybe he was wracked with guilt about something?  Maybe he was suffering from depression?   Maybe he was high on drugs?  Maybe he was a religious freak?  There are a thousand different possible reasons, which we need to understand in order to seek to help those in similar positions.  When you sit in the comfort of your well off life-style and pontificate about science, religion and the existence of God – when you dismiss in such a cavalier fashion (without any evidence at all) the Why questions that God has set within the heart and soul of humanity, you are depriving people of the very thing that makes us human.    We are made in the image of God.  We are made for God.  Our hearts are restless until they find their rest in him.  The Why is what makes life worth living.

You are an intelligent man. Don’t go for the low hanging fruit – mocking an illiterate, ill-tempered ignorant,pseudo-religious person (thereby implicating all religious people – it’s cheap and patronising ad hom).  Your telling anti-religious jokes in front of a largely anti-religious audience is a bit like a racist comedian telling racist jokes at the BNP Alt-Right dinner party!  Why not discuss and debate with someone who offers you more of a challenge?   Maybe it’s time for you to come out of that wee celebrity ‘safe space’ you inhabit and actually start to engage with the most fundamental questions of all!  I look forward to hearing from you,

Yours etc

David

Ps. Your tweet reminded me of a wee twitter spat I had with you.   I was involved in a discussion about abortion when someone made the claim that the baby in the womb, the fetus,  was just a collection of eggs!  To which I responded

so you would have no problem in having scrambled fetus on toast?

For some reason unknown to me, you read this tweet and thought it was hilarious (result!) and then retweeted it.  I was conducting a wedding in the Scottish Borders in a lovely hotel, with my phone set on buzz, when it vibrated constantly.  You asked me in the course of that conversation to provide proof for God – so I did….I wrote Magnifi51mi0errnpl-_sx326_bo1204203200_cent Obsession setting out the evidence for Jesus and would be very happy to send you a copy – you are referenced in it a couple of times (see the extracts below).

 

 

It was 27 April 2013, and as I was sitting writing, Ricky Gervais, the comedian who uses his fame and media pro le to push an aggressive form of atheism, tweeted me. We exchanged several tweets about the subject of this book, the evidence for Jesus, during which he said that what I was saying was ‘twaddle’. From that point, every couple of minutes my phone beeped to let me know of another tweet from an irate atheist/follower of Ricky Gervais (he has 4.5 million followers). These tweets tended to refer to my lack of intelligence, evidence, sanity and goodness, and to rejoice that one day all the followers of Jesus Christ will become like followers of Ricky Gervais. The hubris, arrogance and ignorance were matched only by the emotive and angry language. Why are people so angry about a God they do not believe in? The motto of the New Fundamentalist Atheists seems to be, ‘ There is no God, and I hate Him’!

Ricky Gervais asked me about the evidence for God. When I told him that I was writing this book precisely about that subject, he suggested that if I had proof of Jesus Christ, then it would be the greatest scientific discovery ever, and I would deserve the Nobel prize. Even allowing for the fact that he is confused about the whole question of evidence, I am really looking forward to my Nobel prize! But for me, a far greater prize would be if anyone came to believe because of what they read here. I pray for you all. Mr Gervais is at the top of my prayer list as well. e church could do with a few more comedians and a few less clowns!

 

 

 

 


31 thoughts on “Ricky Gervais v Stephen Colbert – The Real Answers- An Open Letter

  1. A very good retort to, as you say, very old and tired arguments.

    Only one small point. Why are we today so frightened of telling people that without faith in Jesus Christ they will be going to hell? Jesus was perfectly happy to do so, it is true, and people need waking up to the immediacy AND THE SIGNIFICANCE of the danger they are in.

  2. It tends to be negative anyway, so let’s just ackowledge that Atheology is basically an unbelief system, though it’s maybe being charitable to call it a system. Here are the major tenets of Atheology:

    1. God (probably) does not exist.
    2. There are probably many, many universes but we can only access this one.
    3. Human Dignity is autonomous.
    4. The Bible is a badly written, inaccurate, man-made book.
    5. Religion is a death-dealing virus that spreads by contagion.
    6. The Crucifixion of Jesus was (at best) just a waste.
    7. There is no (need of) Salvation.

    It is enough to convert Theology from a bore into a battlecry.

    Yours,
    John/.

    1. John – your ‘Atheology’ makes seven statements which cannot be proved and are either guesses or mere opinions, so it must be a faith-based belief system which has even less evidence to support it than Christianity does.

      1. Please, not ‘my’ Atheology,
        I’m not an Atheist.

        Yes, Atheism is a belief ‘system’ and that needs to be said when an Atheist denies it, but if there is the oportunity to avoid a semantic argument about what an Atheist thinks religious faith is, by talking about Atheology being an unbelief system then it allows us to deal with other issues. To say that Atheology is an unbelief system is not a denial that it is a belief system.

        To my mind, Atheists are in trouble if they attempt to make the move from ‘soundbite’ to ‘system’ and exposing that fact is worth doing.

        Yours,
        John/.

  3. Atheists do believe in a god! They believe in a god who doesn’t exists! Sounds rather idiotic, I realise, but I’ve never had an atheist deny the fact.

  4. Yeah – love Ricky Gervais’ joke about the sword and the horse.

    But really – celebrities ought to stick to what they are good at with entertaining and leave the theology to the boys that know what they are talking about.

    Atheism is not a neutral position. As shown by Ricky Gervais. Clearly and obviously there will never be any indefatigable and objective proof for the existence of God and therefore requiring such is closing the mind to the existence of God. Therefore it is an expression of a prejudice. And I don’t use the term prejudice pejoratively. Everyone has prejudice.

    He talks of there being constants in science and claims the bible to be a work of fiction. Well, there are constants too within the bible. Let’s take for example what Paul addressed in the church at Corinth. Now I don’t wish to suggest that every church has people with lawsuits against each other, with someone sleeping with his fathers wife, having sex with prostitutes, etc. But show me a church without pastoral issues such as divorce, people facing issues over marriage and singleness and a need for love to be paramount and I will show you a church that is living in fairyland. Of course these kind of issues exist, just as they do in wider society and Paul addresses them.

    As for Ricky Gervais’ claim that the bible is a work of fiction, it is an opinion without substance. And any opinion without substance requires no “evidence” to dismiss it.

  5. I understand why you have written a letter. I personally think that you have misunderstood almost all Ricky’s arguments. You are not getting the point of them. Perhaps I am not getting the point of yours and I am wrong, but I suspect you would be unwilling to debate Gervais or Dawkins face to face because your arguments are easily exposed as refutable. I think you are in the business of trying to baffle people with faux philosophy and create overly wordy answers in the hope that many others who read them won’t understand the words or will bow down to someone who seems intellectual. I’d love to see you face to face with Ricky in a proper debate and I’m sure he would accept if you offered it to him. I would also be happy to debate with you live so we could discuss all your arguments in turn. Alternately, if you are willing to publish my open letter back to you, I would be very happy to send it to you.

    1. Oh Robin….just stick with the facts and leave aside the amateur psychology! You clearly don’t know me at all….I would love to debate both Dawkins and Gervais and have offered to both. Dawkins has said that he would never debate with me. We have offered a debate discussion to Ricky – we will see if you are right!

      To say my ‘arguments are easily exposed as refutable’ without refuting any of them is easy. So here’s a wee challenge for you…feel free to refute ONE of them. That should not be too hard a task for you….go ahead…

    2. May I quote what fellow atheists like philosopher Michael Ruse say about Ricky Gervais and his ilk.

      Philosopher professor Michael Ruse from Florida State University, an atheist, condemns the New Atheists in the strongest of terms:
      [4] But I think first that these people do a disservice to scholarship. Their treatment of the religious viewpoint is pathetic to the point of non-being. Richard Dawkins in The God Delusion would fail any introductory philosophy or religion course. Proudly he criticizes that whereof he knows nothing. As I have said elsewhere, for the first time in my life, I felt sorry for the ontological argument. If we criticized gene theory with as little knowledge as Dawkins has of religion and philosophy, he would be rightly indignant. … Conversely, I am indignant at the poor quality of the argumentation in Dawkins, Dennett, Hitchens, and all of the others in that group. … I have written elsewhere that The God Delusion makes me ashamed to be an atheist. Let me say that again. Let me say also that I am proud to be the focus of the invective of the new atheists. They are a bloody disaster and I want to be on the front line of those who say so.
      It is worth noting that the author quoted above is not merely drawing attention to the ridicule and mockery in the writings of the New Atheists, but to their lack of understanding of the very subject they are criticising and their poor scholarship in general. Perhaps worst of all is the charge that their approach is just like the extreme forms of religion of which they are so critical.
      [4] Michael Ruse ‘Why I Think the New Atheists are a Bloody Disaster’. From the blog Science and the Sacred (retrieved: 30/10/10).

  6. I was intrigued by Ricky’s response to the big ‘Why?’ question, by saying surely it should be ‘How?’. Surely the best response to that would be – to somebody who’s a staunch believer in science and reason – to ask the question in a different way, by asking ‘What is the *reason* for the existence of everything?’

  7. This article gave off an appropriate mix of both light and heat. Thanks for writing it, David. I’ve enjoyed listening to your appearances on “Unbelievable” as well. Question: how familiar are you with Van Tillian apologetics?

  8. Years ago, I happened upon the Office on TV , but didn’t continue to watch it, as it was so excruciatingly near reality, that it was unfunny. Not really watched anything with in it since then.

    Atheism, to him, and mocking Christianity seems to part of his way of supporting his fan base and extracting applause. Anything for a laugh. but to deconstruct laughter would be to remove his purpose in life, his reason, non scientific reason for his life, his why submerged, why am I here question.

    His avoidance of the Why question is, per se, an acceptance of defeat.

    At a simple level you could give a scientific explanation to the what, where, when and how of a boiling kettle, but not the why – to make a cup of tea (if you’re English).

    And why do people laugh… at him? It needs to be communicable.

    Prof Brian Cox has recently explained on BBC radio that science is not static, its always looking for explanations, a conflation of the why and how question.

    And good science today is bad science tomorrow, sometimes jettisoning what has gone before.

    But we’ve been here before.

  9. Another enjoyable blog, easy to read with explainable answers. Going to add your book onto my birthday wish list.

    Do you have a Q&A page / website? I’ve a number of questions but this isn’t the forum for them?

  10. Great article David. I too wished that Stephen pushed back more, especially on the first issue of “Why is there something rather than nothing?” If only he could have presented the Leibniz Contingency argument! I enjoyed their discussion and hope it caused many people to think about the important of whether or not God exists. Keep up the good work and I the debate happens!

  11. Oh, I’ll be your huckleberry.

    1. What evidence do you have that there was ever nothing? That is entirely a faith-based claim on your part. Science doesn’t know and even staunch atheist Cosmologists make no definitive claim.

    2. Again you assume that there is a “why” question. There can only be a why if there is a causal reason and you haven’t established there is.

    3. This really is a tired old chestnut of yours. It is entirely reasonable to believe that Naturalism and Empiricism are probably true, and on that basis have proved fundamental to the advancement of mankind’s knowledge of the nature of the Universe. Yes, many great scientists were theists, but they still employed the scientific method.

    4. An agnostic atheist is somebody who cannot know whether gods exist but does not believe arguments offered by theists for them.

    5. Yes this is repeated ad nauseum. You (and Bannister) make the claim that it is the worldview that defines an atheist. No, it is the lack of belief in the theists’ argument.

    6. Mere humanity may not be able to prove anything, but an omnipotent God must be able to. He must be able to make mankind aware of his existence, even if it then chooses to ignore him.

    7. “You shall worship no other Gods than me”. Why would he say that if he knew there were no other Gods, especially ones to make him jealous? Lascivious mankind might create a Golden Calf but he knows it isn’t a God.

    8. This goes to Plantinga’s Evolutionary Argument Against Naturalism. It may well be that mankind developed adaptive behaviour to enable it to predict potential danger in unfamiliar situations. This process could easily have given rise to a belief in greater powers that were unknowable (the Sun and stars etc.).

    9. You return to asking why, but it is here that religious hypocrisy is at its worst. The difficult questions of why are always avoided: Why did God create the Universe? Why does he permit innocent suffering? Why does the Devil exist? Why does he order the death of children and women?

    1. 1. Scientific evidence is that the universe had a beginning.
      2. Of course I assume there is a why…its the only logical position.
      3. The scientific method is not the same as believing in naturalism or materialism.
      4. Gervais says he is convinced there is no God. How agnostic is that?
      5. And again you can’t get out of the repeated mantra. The philosophy is that on which the lack of belief is based.
      6. He can. He does. And he has.
      7. No mankind is vain and stupid at times. There is no other God which is why idolatry is not only sinful but stupid.
      8. Evidence?
      9. I have spent many years answering these questions….don’t just assume your own rather limited worldview and answers.

  12. Jon,

    Hello again.

    You continue to ask the right questions in point 9, as you have many times on here in the past and that is much deeper thinking than Gervais publically displays. You are also well aware of the answers given in the past and are answerable in a Triune God, Relationship, Rebellion, Restoration, Redemption and eternity with Him.

    The questions are far more difficult for the thinking unbeliever, like you, to answer without ever reaching a place of existential peace. And the greatest of difficult questions I have to ask myself is what do I do with the evil in me?

    Jesus as eternal God the Son, incarnate, crucified and raised and ascended encapsulates all the answers. Why? To bring us into a mystical, real , union with Him that we may share in His riches and glory, through God the Holy Spirit.

    Isn’t that something you’d want? Do you want to want it?

    So I wouldn’t start with creation, but with pre- creation of love and communion within the Trinity that God so generously wants us to be part of, to share with us in His goodness. It’s all in John Chapter 17. I recall suggesting in the past that you read it and I repeat it, Read it slowly, meditating on it verse by verse.

    I pray that it becomes living and active in your life, and you find what you are looking for. Jesus is so lovely, May He become real to you, for it is the goodness/kindness of God in Christ that turns us to Him.

    Every blessing in Christ to you, your daughter and your wife.

  13. May I quote what fellow atheists like philosopher Michael Ruse say about Ricky Gervais and his ilk.

    Philosopher professor Michael Ruse from Florida State University, an atheist, condemns the New Atheists in the strongest of terms:
    [4] But I think first that these people do a disservice to scholarship. Their treatment of the religious viewpoint is pathetic to the point of non-being. Richard Dawkins in The God Delusion would fail any introductory philosophy or religion course. Proudly he criticizes that whereof he knows nothing. As I have said elsewhere, for the first time in my life, I felt sorry for the ontological argument. If we criticized gene theory with as little knowledge as Dawkins has of religion and philosophy, he would be rightly indignant. … Conversely, I am indignant at the poor quality of the argumentation in Dawkins, Dennett, Hitchens, and all of the others in that group. … I have written elsewhere that The God Delusion makes me ashamed to be an atheist. Let me say that again. Let me say also that I am proud to be the focus of the invective of the new atheists. They are a bloody disaster and I want to be on the front line of those who say so.
    It is worth noting that the author quoted above is not merely drawing attention to the ridicule and mockery in the writings of the New Atheists, but to their lack of understanding of the very subject they are criticising and their poor scholarship in general. Perhaps worst of all is the charge that their approach is just like the extreme forms of religion of which they are so critical.
    [4] Michael Ruse ‘Why I Think the New Atheists are a Bloody Disaster’. From the blog Science and the Sacred (retrieved: 30/10/10).

  14. Yes, carmelo, NFA, can be reduced to, derided as mere populism.
    Hawking is on record as asking (The Grand Design)
    1 Why is there something rather than nothing?
    2 Why do we exist?
    3 Why this set of laws and not some others?
    They are great questions of philosophy, that he calls “The Ultimate Questions of Life,the Universe and Everything “.
    But he goes on to say that “philosophy is dead”.
    This is scientism at it’s arrogance and ignorance.
    Why?
    It is a philosophical statement that can not be proven scientifically.
    And perhaps wearing the Emperor’s suit of clothes he goes on to say to conclude “the universe can and will create itself out of nothing”.

  15. Reblogged this on A Christian Journey and commented:
    This is a nice little article which provides succinct responses to some of the standard “New Atheist” arguments. No argument or response in itself is likely to change anyone’s mind one way or another, but I hope and pray that articles like this can at least convince some people to open their minds to the possibility that they could be wrong. Every thinking person, whether a believer or not, has a duty to themselves to consider this possibility from time to time.

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