Whenever comedian Ricky Gervais appears on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, you can bet religion is going to be a topic of discussion. Last year, Gervais told Colbert, a Catholic, “You don’t believe in 2,999 gods. And I don’t believe in just one more.” He also hilariously deconstructed a tweet from a Christian troll. They’ve even debated Hell.
So you knew last night wasn’t going to be an exception.
This time, Colbert asked Gervais if, as he got older and “closer to death,” he ever reconsidered his atheism. It was the age-old question about whether atheists convert on their deathbeds. Gervais didn’t miss a beat, even pivoting the conversation into a commercial for his upcoming Netflix special.
COLBERT: … We talk often when you’re on here… We talk about God sometimes when you’re on… and it’s been, I don’t know, nine months or something since the last time you were on, and you know, we’re that much closer to death.
GERVAIS: Not just me, but the whole world!
COLBERT: Everybody! Everybody. Everybody. The whole world. Heat death throughout the universe. And people often, as the saying goes, find God as their approach their final boards. And now that you’re older, has it occurred to you again? Have you given any more thought to God and whether He might be real?
GERVAIS: Uh, yeah, I think about it every day.
GERVAIS: Yeah. He’s not. [Smiles]
COLBERT: There was a study… actually, I just read the headline, but it was just last week, but there was a study in England… they took a survey of atheists, and they said, like, when you think death is imminent, one quarter of the respondents who said they were atheists said that they prayed.
GERVAIS: Yeah, I mean…
COLBERT: Would you pray? Like if you’re in Hawaii, when the missiles are coming, okay, or you think the missiles are coming… what would you do with your 38 minutes?
GERVAIS: I would watch the first half of my Netflix special…
At least you know aging hasn’t affected his brain.
By the way, Colbert was wrong about that study. It wasn’t a survey of “atheists.” It was a survey, sponsored by a Christian organization, that lumped atheists in with others who didn’t belong to an organized religion. Most people in that group believe in God even if they don’t call themselves Christians, so of course they pray in sad situations.
But you wouldn’t know that just reading the overhyped headlines.