Ricky Gervais is a British comedian who some consider more influential among atheists than the famed Richard Dawkins. I guess that means the time had to come when I would respond to him here.
He had a short conversation with Stephen Colbert recently about God. He probably thought he scored some points on Colbert, a devout Catholic. Maybe so for entertainment value, but not much else, I’m afraid. He makes the usual atheist mistakes.
Let’s look at some of his main points.
“Not a Belief”
At 1:10 Colbert asks, “Why is there something rather than nothing?” Gervais ducks the question, calling it irrelevant. Not much there.
At 1:36 Colbert asks, “Is there a prime mover that started everything?” It’s a great question that’s motivated tons of discussion among thinkers down through the ages. Gervais ducks it, too, answering simply, “outside science and nature I don’t believe so.”
But he doesn’t explain why; he only goes on to tell what kind of atheist he is: “Atheism isn’t a belief system; it’s only rejecting the claim that there is a God.”
That’s an all-too-common answer among atheists. “Atheism isn’t a belief, it’s a lack of belief.” The problem is, though, that for the great majority of atheists in the Western world, their atheism includes a belief in a purely materialistic reality, which makes it a belief system after all. Among other things, it’s the belief that:
- Every religion is wrong.
- The universe exists without any morality or intelligence at its foundation. It is a happy accident
- There is no soul, so death is final; therefore there is no ultimate justice, no accountability beyond what we can see with our own eyes.
There’s a whole lot more I could add, but that gives you an idea of some of the kinds of beliefs most atheists hold but don’t want to admit to.
The Arithmetical Argument
At 2:20, Gervais says: “You believe in one God, I presume… But there are about 3,000 to choose from, so basically you deny one less God than I do. You don’t believe in 2,999 gods, I don’t believe in just one more.”
I’ve heard this one dozens of times, too. I’m going to call it what it is, okay? It’s silly. Let’s look at it two ways.
Atheists love to tell Christians we’re just about as atheistic as they are. We’re atheistic about thousands of gods; they’re atheistic about thousands plus one more. The difference between their atheism and Christians’ atheism is mere fractions of a percent!
So then if God exists, then God is an atheist toward all gods but himself, and he knows about a lot more supposed gods than any of us ever have. That makes him atheistic about many more gods than any human. And therefore, if there is a God, then by the percentages he must be considerably more atheistic than any human but the purest anti-believer among us.
See, I told you it was silly. But the problem isn’t in the reasoning I’ve applied to it here. The reason the logic lands in such an absurd place is because it starts from an absurd place to begin with.
And there’s another problem. The difference between one God out of 3,000 and zero gods out of 3,000 isn’t just an arithmetical difference. The two views describe infinitely different sorts of reality altogether. One sees us as living under a wise, holy, loving, powerful Creator God, the other says we live in the uncaring, impersonal universe of the atheist belief system I talked about above. This is definitely not the inconsequential difference atheists want you to think it is.
Science vs. Holy Books
At 3:40 Gervais tries this zinger.
Science is constantly proved all the time. 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.
Danielle Camorlinga, writing at Youth Apologetics Network, answers this wisely. If a history book were destroyed, it wouldn’t change the facts of history. It wouldn’t change the truth of what happened. Christianity is a religion based in what happened in history: the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ above all. So Christianity would still be true, even if there were changes in the way we know about it.
I would add this: How does Gervais know the Bible wouldn’t be back? He can’t. He has to assume God wouldn’t restore it for us all. Of course that’s easy to assume, if start by assuming there’s no God. But that’s called arguing in a circle:
- Let’s assume there’s no God.
- Since there’s no God, then if the Bible were destroyed it wouldn’t come back like science books would.
- Since the Bible wouldn’t come back, there is no truth in God like there is in science.
- Therefore we should assume there is no God.
Colbert thought his holy books argument was “good, real good.” But Gervais is a whole lot better at comedy than he is at logic. Or religion.