“The Late Show” host Stephen Colbert says a chance encounter with a person handing out Bibles on the street is what brought him back to faith when he was an atheist.
Colbert, a Roman Catholic, spoke last week with the Rev. James Martin, a Jesuit priest and editor at America magazine, and said he was a convicted atheist in his 20s.
“I had lost my faith in God, to my own great grief,” Colbert said. “I was sort of convinced that I had been wrong all this time, that I had been taught something that wasn’t true.”
In past interviews, Colbert has opened up about the tragedy of his childhood, describing how his father and two brothers died in a plane crash when he was 10 years old.
In his interview with Martin on the "Faith in Focus” program, he said that it was a cold night in Chicago, Illinois, when one stranger handed him a little green pocket Bible. He was 22 then.
That Bible was indexed by topics, and so Colbert turned to the page about anxiety. Jesus’ words at the Sermon on the Mount were presented:
“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? ... Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?”
The talk show host revealed that he was “absolutely, immediately lightened” by Christ’s words.
“I stood on the street corner in the cold and read the sermon. And my life has never been the same,” he added.
In another exchange posted online, Martin asked Colbert to tell him “who is God for you?”
“It’s Jesus Christ,” Colbert immediately replied. “Not an old man with a beard."
The comedian went on to say that physically, he thinks of Jesus when someone asks him that question, but “that image dissolves, as I try to subsume that image into the Trinity."
He added that one of the things he prays about is the ability to love.
"If I can love, I can be free,” he said. “When I think of love, I think of God, and when I think of God, I think of love."
Colbert has featured several segments and comedy bits revolving around religion on his CBS "Late Show” program. He has also debated some notable atheist celebrities, such as comedian Ricky Gervais, on the topics of Creation, God, science, and religion.
He has also challenged some conservative Christian leaders, such as megachurch Pastor Robert Jeffress of First Baptist Church in Dallas, Texas.
After Jeffress suggested last year that God has granted U.S. President Donald Trump the authority to "take out" North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un, Colbert featured a comedy bit where a white-haired spoof version of God suggested that he agreed with Jeffress' comments.
"Oh yeah, I'm always on America's side when it comes to blowing stuff up," the spoof version of God said. Colbert then pointed out, "But that goes against your whole message of peace and forgiveness," to which the character said that such thinking comes from his "hippy" son Jesus.
Watch Colbert's interview on faith here.