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My answers to atheist Ricky Gervais on Stephen Colbert

Atheist comedian Ricky Gervais debated the existence of God on prime-time TV recently. David Robertson publishes an open letter in response.

Dear Ricky,

I 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 systemhow 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


This was first posted at https://theweeflea.com/

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