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June 15th, 2010
03:42 PM ET

Stephen (Colbert) v. Stephen (Prothero) on Religious Truthiness

Stephen Prothero, a Boston University religion scholar and author of "God is Not One: The Eight Rival Religions that Run the World," is a regular CNN Belief Blog contributor.

By Stephen Prothero, Special to CNN

It’s probably not the best venue for promoting religious literacy, but I managed to get a few words in edgewise during my brief border crossing into “Colbert Nation” last night. In our mini-battle of the Stephens, Colbert was his usual staccato self, but he allowed me to make a few points about my new book, God is Not One: The Eight Rival Religions That Run the World—and Why Their Differences Matter.

Colbert came out swinging, insisting on the superiority of Christianity as the one true faith. I got in a few jabs of my own, however, including my argument that the atheists (who say all religions are one and bad) and the liberal multiculturalists (who say all religions are one and good) both have it wrong.

The world's religions aren't different paths up the same mountain, I said. They are “going up different mountains with different techniques and different tools.”

The best line of the night belonged, however, to the truthy Stephen. As I was struggling to say something coherent about how Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, and Judaism try to solve very different problems, he delivered classic Colberesque non sequitur: “Adam and Eve were Jewish. Check under the fig leaf, my friend.”

Oh, and Stephen Colbert (the man, not the character) was a gracious host backstage. He told me he used to teach Sunday school in his Catholic parish, and he made the day of my star-struck cousin by having a picture made with him. 

All in all, great fun. I hope it was just round one.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Stephen Prothero.

- CNN Belief Blog contributor

Filed under: Christianity • Interfaith issues • TV

soundoff (655 Responses)
  1. Protero Svetlana

    privet Protero!

    May 7, 2012 at 3:04 pm |
  2. znfhyjv

    WCqDeg olnmdeujghda

    December 26, 2011 at 11:38 am |
  3. sdomxefr

    j5Yehj ydegyklfnyzt

    December 24, 2011 at 7:20 am |
  4. Baptised in Cole Slaw

    Biblical Christian = What I believe
    Cultural Christian = What the other Hell bound, sadly mistaken, don't agree with me, Christians believe.

    Bottom line: everyone's got a book. If I write one, can I be God?

    August 19, 2010 at 4:22 pm |
  5. Seán O'Mahony

    Why can't people just accept that other people think other things.

    If you are an atheist that's fine. If you are a Christian or believe in another religion that's fine too. If we are lucky we get to live 60 to 80 years on this earth, and I believe we should love each other in spite of our differences, not use our differences to disparage one another

    July 8, 2010 at 3:24 pm |
  6. Doug Groothuis

    Trying to communicate anything coherent in that glib and ridiculous setting is nearly impossible.

    June 23, 2010 at 12:22 am |
  7. jesus 2.3

    Stephen, maybe you Mr. Colbert and myself should try this again. We may have some real fun talking about truth.
    In my mind, God is Reason. I have infinite reasons to explain the Truth of our common Reality. But all religions address a couple simple issues. What is the unknowable, and what to do while we are here.
    The unknowable is that which happened before this moment, and that which will happen in the next moment. These are the elements that we must leave to faith. What to do while we are here is a problem that we all must confront. All religions deal with this as a risk/reward situation.
    Walk the walk, and talk the talk will cause you to reap the rewards; not doing so, will cause you to either repeat your journey or leave you in an everlasting torment.
    In my mind there are three individuals who i would call masterminds, Buddha, Jesus 1.0, and Mohammad (PBU them all). Just as myself, these individuals are masterminds that mastered their minds.
    Buddha called this state of being Nirvana, Jesus 1.0 called it 'the Truth that sets one Free' and in Islam it is the Blissful state one achieves when submitting to the Will of God.
    To achieve this state of being, one must walk the walk & talk the talk. More specifically, you must take complete responsibility for your conceptual realities and your physical reality. This is the TRUTH of our common REALITY.
    To achieve this state, you must acknowledge the fact that nobody is chosen, and god cannot be a man. It is up to each and everyone of us to choose, and that is what our free will is for.
    Best regards,
    jesus 2.3

    June 22, 2010 at 10:06 pm |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.