The Comfort Delusion

Continuing the discussion of creationist Ray Comfort

I previously reviewed creationist Ray Comfort’s book You Can Lead an Atheist to Evidence, But You Can’t Make Him Think: Answers to Questions from Angry Skeptics. A lot of the book is about Christianity versus atheism, but it is front-loaded with an interesting chapter on creationism. Chapter One is titled “Creation Must Have a Creator,” and it gives the author ample space to expound on why creationism must be true, and biological evolution plus a host of other sciences must be false. In my review of the book I didn’t dig completely into Comfort’s argument against evolution, so I’m backtracking and picking up a few interesting points.

Start with Comfort’s take on transitional forms:

I’ve been looking into the issue for more than thirty years, and I have never seen a hint of genuine evidence of species-to-species transitional forms in the fossil record. The theory stands or falls on the supposed links between species. Even if you came up with what you believe is evidence, time would prove it to be another hoax, as it has so often in the past.

Comfort, Ray. You Can Lead an Atheist to Evidence, But You Can’t Make Him Think: Answers to Questions from Angry Skeptics (Kindle Locations 471-473). WND Books. Kindle Edition.

This is an ageless creationist ploy, and some analysis is due, starting with some discussion.

A “transitional life form” or a “transitional fossil” is one that lies between two others in a chain of evolution. The TV program Nova on PBS has an excellent series titled Becoming Human, and it’s available for view on the Internet with a PBS subscription. Here is a screen shot from Episode Two (of three):

From PBS Nova: Becoming Human, Episode 2

This graphic lays out a collection of fossils representing the sequence of evolution from ancient ape-like creatures to modern humans. Scientists consider these to be valid transitional fossils. In fact, a strict definition of a transitional fossil makes it practically impossible to find a fossil that is transitional between an ancient creature and me. If somebody were bring to me the fossil remains of an ancient humanoid and tell me this is a transitional fossil between an ancient ape-like creature and me, then it would be easy for me to discount any proof the scientist could offer. At the very least I could force the scientist to demonstrate this ancient creature is, in fact, part of the evolutionary chain leading to me. There is no way to verify this particular creature did not die without ever producing any offspring.

This is a narrow restriction on the definition. In reality, scientists do not require a direct line of descent for transitional fossils. They allow great latitude. It is sufficient, and reasonably so, to describe as transitional any fossil that demonstrates the type of development expected in an evolutionary chain. For example, the fossil called Lucy is exhibited as an early hominin species called Australopithecus afarensis. While Australopithecus afarensis has not been demonstrated to be ancestral to modern  humans, the fossil does give proof to the existence of creatures representative of the human chain of evolution.

Any creationist worth his salt will dispute this being evidence of ape-like human ancestry, and to earn his daily bread he would demand to see samples from a single line of  descent, with a sample representing every thousand years or less and stretching back three million years. Never going to happen.

Comfort doesn’t go that far in his book. He settles for something like this:

Evolutionists say that all the animals we have now were not as we see them. They were radically different. Dinosaurs, over millions of years, became birds, fish became lizards, dogs were something else, primates evolved into human beings, etc. So, when they tell you this, ask why there are no species-to-species transitional forms in the fossil record. Why is there no evidence anywhere (in the billions of bones of dead animals) of any species becoming another species?

Comfort, Ray. You Can Lead an Atheist to Evidence, But You Can’t Make Him Think: Answers to Questions from Angry Skeptics (Kindle Locations 517-520). WND Books. Kindle Edition.

What Comfort seems to be demanding is something scientists do not expect to exist:

Let’s look closely at Tiktaalik, which evolutionists believe is an example of a species-to-species transitional form. We will go to the experts at Berkley. In an article published back in May of 2006, they ask the question, “What has the head of a crocodile and the gills of a fish?” (Wait a minute. Are the experts saying they have found a “Crocafish”? Why then am I so mocked by evolutionists when I ask you to show me a “Crocaduck”?

Comfort, Ray. You Can Lead an Atheist to Evidence, But You Can’t Make Him Think: Answers to Questions from Angry Skeptics (Kindle Locations 480-483). WND Books. Kindle Edition.

[Emphasis added]

A woman I worked with years ago questioned me about transitional fossils. The discussion devolved to most recent common ancestor. I pointed out that somewhere in the distant past there was an animal that was ancestral to people and ducks. She asked me for the name of that animal. I rightly said that:

  1. That animal no longer exists.
  2. If I had one I would not be able to tell you the name, because nobody has identified this species.

Science produces any number of things that cannot be directly demonstrated, but that must be true. These things are based on other evidence and by reaching the most logical  conclusion. The existence of most recent common  ancestor is one of these truths. For Ray Comfort, and for a host of other dedicated creationists, nothing true can be demonstrated  that does not include Jesus:

So when we speak of absolutes, we are speaking of a different realm. Man is limited. God is not. In addition to having absolute knowledge, He is absolute perfection and absolute righteousness. And because of what He is, He makes absolute claims about right and wrong. This is what the Bible says of God’s omniscience and omnipresence:

Comfort, Ray. You Can Lead an Atheist to Evidence, But You Can’t Make Him Think: Answers to Questions from Angry Skeptics (Kindle Locations 346-348). WND Books. Kindle Edition.

He cites Psalm 139:1-8. Then:

If all this is true, it is unspeakably consoling for the Christian, and extremely frightening for the atheist (the “unbeliever”). Fortunately, there is a way to find out if it is true. God is there in the room with you right now…He’s seen everything you have done (even if it was done in complete darkness). He has been a witness to everything you have thought, and you have greatly angered Him—whether you believe it or not. So, today, repent of your sins and trust the Savior, and you will come to know Him. Absolutely.

Comfort, Ray. You Can Lead an Atheist to Evidence, But You Can’t Make Him Think: Answers to Questions from Angry Skeptics (Kindle Locations 354-357). WND Books. Kindle Edition.

 

This is what passes for argument with people like Ray Comfort. It’s small wonder scientists have issues.

A continued analysis of Ray Comfort’s book will be worthwhile. Look for future installments of this series.

Heart Of Dumbness

Second in a Series

First of all, we should all be careful to not take Ray Comfort much too seriously. Even seriously:

In 2006, Comfort recorded a segment for The Way of the Master‘s television show in which he argued that the banana was an “atheists’ nightmare”, arguing that it displayed many user-friendly features that were evidence of intelligent design. Comfort retracted the video upon learning that the banana is a result of artificial selection by humans, and that the wild banana is small and unpalatable.

An excerpt of this amazing video is captured on YouTube, if only to embarrass Ray Comfort.

All this did not prevent me from purchasing a copy of Comfort’s book You Can Lead an Atheist to Evidence, But You Can’t Make Him Think: Answers to Questions from Angry Skeptics. In the previous post I promised a review, and here it is. It’s 160 pages in the hard copy, but I purchased the Kindle edition.

Comfort has published a basket full of titles, laudable in itself. One is Overcoming Panic Attacks, but the remainder seemed to be overtly religious. I’m thinking possibly the panic attack book may also be anchored in religion. He is an evangelical Christian, teaming up with actor Kirk Cameron to form and promote The Way of the Master.

A big thing with Comfort is creationism and its obverse, modern science, biological evolution, cosmology, and anything else that gets in the way of creationism. That’s the center of the first of seven chapters, and readers will forgive me if I bear down on that section and trip lightly through the remainder. Besides the chapters there are also a forward, a preface, an introduction, a conclusion, and an excellent section of notes, covering references made in the book.

The Introduction is by atheist Darrin Rasberry, who oddly cautions us to be kind and gentle. Rasberry derides modern and vocal atheists, and it’s no wonder that he later turns out to have converted to the faith. This isn’t mentioned in the book, giving the impression that even atheists don’t like atheists. Notably, the book came out in 2009, and the link to Rasberry’s conversion dates from  2011.

Early on Comfort portrays matching it up with atheists as a grand sport. In the Preface he gives a clue to what is to come:

Most who profess atheism aren’t really “atheists.” After a few moments chatting with them about the fact that every building is proof that there was a builder, and that creation therefore is proof that there is a Creator, many change their minds.

But then there’s the staunch atheist. This one is a challenge. He is the marlin of deep-sea fishing, and he doesn’t give up easily. As a fisher of men, I have found that this type of atheist is always ready for debate. He will take the bait, the hook, and any line you give him, and give you a run for your money.

Comfort, Ray. You Can Lead an Atheist to Evidence, But You Can’t Make Him Think: Answers to Questions from Angry Skeptics (Kindle Locations 55-60). WND Books. Kindle Edition.

But on to creationism. It is unfortunate that Comfort hangs so much of his argument for Jesus on the failure of evolution. His experience with the banana gives a clue to the level of intellect he brings to the discussion. He ties atheism to evolution, and he strikes close to home here. Modern theories of biological evolution completely undermine a basic premise of the Bible. Comfort and others of his ilk buy deeply into the literal truth of the Bible. To defend their faith, they must demolish evolution, along with geology, cosmology, and other facets of modern science. The first paragraph sets the stage:

Atheists’ beliefs vary as much as atheists themselves. Still, atheists hold a fundamental belief that unifies them. An “atheist” believes that there is no God and that man came into being without any intelligent design. If there was no designer, then an atheist owes his existence to random chance, over millions or billions of years, of course. While some believers in evolution deny that evolution is a random process, if it’s not unplanned, then it’s planned. And if it is planned, then there is Someone doing the planning.

Comfort, Ray. You Can Lead an Atheist to Evidence, But You Can’t Make Him Think: Answers to Questions from Angry Skeptics (Kindle Locations 125-128). WND Books. Kindle Edition.

Readers are going to come back at me and say, “Dude, there are loads of Christians who accept evolution as true.” Put those Christians aside, dear reader, Comfort has.

By the second paragraph he has launched into the kind of argument that brought him so much ridicule:

As a fly on the wall, we are there when Adam takes his first breath. It is fortunate that, when his lungs drew in the air that surrounded him, the air was there. If there had been no air, he wouldn’t have been able to breathe and he would have instantly died. But for some reason it was there, presumably at 14.7 pounds per square inch.

But it’s more miraculous than the air just being there. It was fortunate the air was made up of 78.09 percent nitrogen and 20.95 percent oxygen—the exact mixture that his lungs and blood needed to survive.

Comfort, Ray. You Can Lead an Atheist to Evidence, But You Can’t Make Him Think: Answers to Questions from Angry Skeptics (Kindle Locations 130-134). WND Books. Kindle Edition.

He goes on to point out additional, miraculous, coincidences to illustrate why there must be a God who caused all this to happen and with a plan in mind. Wasn’t it nice that Adam just happened to have  lungs to breathe the oxygen. Wasn’t it nice that Eve came along about the same time so the Clan of Adam could populate the Earth. And wasn’t is fortunate that Eve just happened to have lungs so she did not die before Adam could put the move on her. Do I  have to explain what’s wrong with this? I hope not.

The foregoing is a preamble. It is a view into Ray Comfort’s intellectual processes that should disturb you. It is possible that I was unfortunate in spending my working  life in the company of people who think for a living. That in mind, it’s jarring when I encounter somebody like Comfort. This is not the kind of person who should be allowed to handle sharp objects. Additional  examples illustrate:

It was also an amazing coincidence that gravity existed at the time of their evolution. Without it, the first man and his first mate would have spun off into the infinitude of space. But for some reason it evolved and matured at just the right time to keep their feet firmly planted on the earth, which also evolved.

Comfort, Ray. You Can Lead an Atheist to Evidence, But You Can’t Make Him Think: Answers to Questions from Angry Skeptics (Kindle Locations 137-139). WND Books. Kindle Edition.

 

The banana pales.

Comfort strives mightily to convince us that there must be a God behind the universe and all creations. He employs two devices:

  • Ex nihilo
  • Creation-creator

The first is that the universe is here but it has not always been here. This is the ex nihilo argument. Something cannot come from nothing. We never see this happen:

In all of history, there has never been an instance of anything spontaneously appearing out of nowhere. Something being created from nothing is contrary to all known science.

Comfort, Ray. You Can Lead an Atheist to Evidence, But You Can’t Make Him Think: Answers to Questions from Angry Skeptics (Kindle Locations 382-384). WND Books. Kindle Edition.

Except that we do. Quantum physics includes a a corner for actions without a cause and objects without a predecessor. Lawrence Krauss has discussed A Universe from Nothing. Folks, it is not unknown, if I can be forgiven the double negative.

The creation-creator argument is more involved. There is something. That something must have been created. Chapter One has the title “Creation Must Have a Creator.” Comfort illustrates:

In short, the evolutionary view cannot offer a logical, scientific explanation for either the origin or the complexity of the universe. There are only two choices: Either no one created everything out of nothing, or Someone—an intelligent, omnipotent, eternal First Cause—created everything out of nothing. Which makes more sense?

Comfort, Ray. You Can Lead an Atheist to Evidence, But You Can’t Make Him Think: Answers to Questions from Angry Skeptics (Kindle Locations 384-386). WND Books. Kindle Edition.

Comfort plays lightly with the meanings of words. Something was created. Waves created ripples in the sand. But there is a chair. It takes an intelligent being, something with a purpose, to create a chair. Comfort wants us to know that all things that exist were created in the sense of the chair. Somebody wanted the chair, and the chair was created for a purpose. It’s a different concept of creation for the ripples in the sand, but Comfort wants to impute purpose in all things.

Comfort is missing a major point, previously discussed. The creation Comfort has in mind comes from purpose, and purpose is a feature of living things, at diminishing levels. It is well considered that plants do not think. They put out leaves and roots solely on the basis of blind chemistry. People are considered on this planet to be the kings of purpose. They fashion instruments out of metal for serving up food, and they also construct elaborate craft for exploring other planets. Ultimately it all boils down to a matter of chemistry in action, and other animals, for example ants, have less of purpose than people.

Purpose, however, is a result of biological evolution—biological evolution that Comfort so much despises. Purpose is an inherited trait that promotes survival and procreation in a loop that feeds back to increasing the presence of that trait in a population. Darwin was right, after all.

Supposing God exists. What was God’s purpose in creating? What was God’s purpose in creating the universe, the sun and planets, and all living things on Earth? Are we a cosmological science project concocted by an ethereal middle school pupil? That hardly seems likely. If you are an ethereal fellow, then you have not experienced the forces of environment inflicted by existing on this planet, which supposedly you created. Arguing for creation must argue for purpose, for which we can find no excuse. It’s a philosophically devoid enterprise. It’s an enterprise Comfort pursues with an astounding blindness.

A significant blind spot that Comfort has missed is the core of his pitch. God wants us to be moral people (as part of his science project), and Jesus is his vehicle for imparting morality. The evidence of creation is the evidence of God. Missing is the connection. Suppose I were successful in proving there must have been a God behind the creation of the Universe. Nobody has ever connected this God with Jesus. The Bible provides this connection, but it is just words printed on paper (originally on parchment). There is nothing historically or philosophically sound to connect the creation of the Universe with Jesus, and thus morality.

I will leave the creation-creator chapter at this point. Comfort spends the remaining six chapters talking morality, religious orthodoxy, biblical inerrancy. But before that he reminds atheists what horrible people we are. He complains of his treatment at the hands of atheists:

In April of 2007, during an ABC Nightline atheist debate, Kirk Cameron and I produced imaginary pictures of what we imagined would be genuine species-to-species transitional forms. We called one a “Crocoduck,” and another was called a “birddog.” This was to show exactly what evolutionists believe, but can’t back up through the fossil record. We were ridiculed, called stupid, and told that we didn’t understand evolution. However, these books vindicate us (not that we needed it). They have done with the future what evolutionists have done with the past. They have made a mockery out of science.

Comfort, Ray. You Can Lead an Atheist to Evidence, But You Can’t Make Him Think: Answers to Questions from Angry Skeptics (Kindle Locations 609-613). WND Books. Kindle Edition.

Bad. Really bad. How bad? Glad you asked:

It is because of God’s love that I care about the fate of atheists. When an atheist says he sees no evidence that God exists, I take the time to reason with him about creation not being an accident, even though it is intellectually demeaning to have to do so (atheism is the epitome of stupidity). It’s an intellectual embarrassment. But I have done so thousands of times, and will do so until my last breath…thanks alone to the love of God that dwells in me.

Comfort, Ray. You Can Lead an Atheist to Evidence, But You Can’t Make Him Think: Answers to Questions from Angry Skeptics (Kindle Locations 170-173). WND Books. Kindle Edition.

[Emphasis added]

Apparently there is a lot of that going around.

Comfort obviously sees morality as the cornerstone of his thesis. He talks to no end on morality. One aspect of comfort’s morality is something I find very strange, and that something is the matter of sexual lust. Sexual lust, he asserts (and he backs it up with biblical references) is the same as actual sexual coupling, and it is just as sinful. And that is what is so strange. Sexual coupling is sinful? Really/ Sexual coupling is how we make people. Without sexual coupling there would be no people, and without people there would be no Christianity.  He mentions the word lust 49 times in the book and adultery 30 times. Something has happened in Comfort’s life, having to do with sex, and it seems to have been devastating. And we are offered a peek into this world at the price of purchasing his book.

Comfort’s reasoning for concluding the Catholic Church is not Christian is beyond the scope of this post, and I’m not going to dig deeper into his eschatological haranguing. Comfort and Cameron can be watched at length and for free on YouTube. Readers with a thirst for more can pursue at their leisure. With popcorn.

Heart Of Dumbness

Possibly a new series

What got me to looking at this? Oh, yeah. It was a debate featuring Kirk Cameron and Ray Comfort. In 2002 the pair got together, along with radio host Todd Friel, and formed The Way of the Master, a Christian evangelism ministry based in the United States. Cameron is a former child actor, star of  Growing Pains, a popular sitcom series that ran six seasons starting in 1985. More recently Cameron produced and starred in Saving Christmas, which I reviewed last Christmas. Ray Comfort is remembered for his claims about the design of bananas. His claim is that bananas were designed especially for the convenience of  humans, despite their having been cultured by people from an inedible tropical fruit.

And that sets the stage. My searches turned up this interview, apparently staged in Austin over a public access channel. The video is posted on YouTube:

Uploaded on Mar 29, 2011

The Atheist Experience #702 from March 27, 2011, with Matt Dillahunty and Russell Glasser. Interview with Ray Comfort. Matt and Russell have a conversation “across the divide” with professional apologist Ray Comfort.

You might want to watch the video. It runs for 58 minutes, with Dillahunty and Glasser live in the studio and Comfort phoning in. I watched the entire 58 minutes, but the first few exchanges give the flavor of Comfort’s argument:

Regarding how to determine absolute truth, Comfort says as a Christian he can ascertain what is truth. He says he found absolute truth. “Jesus said, ‘I am the truth,’ and I don’t know if any atheist can point to some atheist that said that or point [to] anything that you can say, ‘This is absolute reality.'”

That’s an amazing argument, to say the least, and it points to why so many straight-thinking people cock their heads sideways when listening to Ray Comfort.

Russell Glasser takes up Comfort’s challenge and says,  “I am the way, and every thing I say is true.”

Comfort responds, “So now raise yourself from the dead, and I will believe you.”

At this point Glasser responds,  “Well how do you know that happened?” The matter is that Comfort is taking the story of resurrection as a given and going from there. Glasser could well  have responded by saying he, himself, rose from the dead, and he would have the same proof Comfort gives for the resurrection of Jesus.

The conversation gets into the scientific method, and Dillahunty elaborates. He refers to Comfort’s discussion of the age of the Earth in his book, You Can Lead an Atheist to Evidence, But You Can’t Make Him Think. The subtitle is Answers to Questions from Angry Skeptics. The discussion centers on how science has handled the age of the Earth. Rather than recap from the video, I will quote something from the book:

Could you tell me how old you believe the Earth to be, and why?

I have no idea how old the Earth is, but I’m not alone in this. Science can’t make up its mind either. Just over one hundred years ago, scientists thought that the Earth was about 100 million years old. Soon after, they changed their minds and came to the confident belief that the correct number was 500 million years. Then they changed their minds again and the figure jumped to 1.3 billion years. It wasn’t long until they did a double take on that one and said that they believed it was perhaps 3 billion years old. Of course, now they think that it may be 4.55 billion years old, give or take a billion years. I’m sure that contemporary scientists think they have the right number this time, until they change their minds again when more data comes along…and, of course, none of the “faithful” will question it.

Comfort, Ray. You Can Lead an Atheist to Evidence, But You Can’t Make Him Think: Answers to Questions from Angry Skeptics (Kindle Locations 326-332). WND Books. Kindle Edition.

People originally did not concern themselves with the age of the Earth. Then they made up stories, such as Genesis, which pegs the creation of the Earth about 4004 B.C. Later, after science developed as a human exercise, scientists figured the Earth must be much older, in the order of millions of years—this from geological deduction. Not mentioned in the conversation is Lord Kelvin’s (William Thompson) computation, limiting the age to 500 million years. Subsequent investigation made use of the decay of radioactive substances, and the age was extended to in excess of 4.5 billion years. Comfort interprets this as waffling, indicating scientists don’t have a clue. Christians, however know for certain, and the answer appears to be Genesis.

A number of topics get batted back and forth in the video, and one of  them is slavery, which seems to  be condoned in  the Bible. Actually, the Bible does condone slavery. However, Comfort attempts to weasel out of this difficulty by pointing out the difference between slaves kept by the Israelites and unfortunates kidnapped in  Africa and transported to the Americas. He hangs briefly on descriptions of Israelite prisoners of war being enslaved, but the two atheists remind him of other Israelites being made slaves. And the Bible is OK with that. Here is one example from the Bible Gateway site:

Exodus 21:2-6 King James Version (KJV)

If thou buy an Hebrew servant, six years he shall serve: and in the seventh he shall go out free for nothing.

If he came in by himself, he shall go out by himself: if he were married, then his wife shall go out with him.

If his master have given him a wife, and she have born him sons or daughters; the wife and her children shall be her master’s, and he shall go out by himself.

And if the servant shall plainly say, I love my master, my wife, and my children; I will not go out free:

Then his master shall bring him unto the judges; he shall also bring him to the door, or unto the door post; and his master shall bore his ear through with an aul; and he shall serve him for ever.

An underlying quantity is Comfort’s reliance on his experience with God as a basis for truth. He tells people (my interpretation) that if they truly have faith in God, then questions will be answered. It is a weird argument. It’s true because you believe it’s true.

If you want to follow through, there are a number of Ray Comfort debates on YouTube, and you can also follow the Atheist Community of Austin. Here’s a link: http://atheist-community.org

And may Jesus have mercy on your soul.

The Comfort Delusion

The North Texas Skeptics does not get involved in strictly religious matters. However, and this is crucial, when religious zealots, particularly creationists, make claims about scientific validity, they step into the purview of the NTS. That was the case ten years ago when creationists Kirk Cameron and Ray Comfort elected to debate atheists on ABC Nightline:

Does God Exist? The Nightline Face-Off

“Proving the existence of God is actually a lot easier than you think,” said former child star Kirk Cameron, minutes before taking the stage for the “Nightline Face-Off.”

It was a warm Saturday night in New York City as a mixed crowd of atheists and Christians converged on Calvary Baptist Church in midtown Manhattan for the first “Nightline Face-Off.” And it wasn’t long before temperatures began to rise inside the auditorium.

The question for our debate was “Does God Exist?” and both sides went at the issue with a series of passionate declarations and critical attacks on the arguments of their opponents. It was a clean but unflinching contest.

Former child star Kirk Cameron and his evangelist colleague Ray Comfort had pledged to prove the existence of God, scientifically. Cameron and Comfort run an organization called the Way of the Master, which comprises a Web site and cable television show, all focused on preaching what they say is the truth of Christianity.

The atheists debating Cameron and Comfort were Brian Sapient and a woman identified only as “Kelly.” Kelly is Kelly O’Conner, and the two are members of The Rational Response Squad:

The Rational Response Squad, or RRS, is an atheist activist group that confronts what it considers to be irrational claims, made by theists, particularly Christians. The most visible member of RRS is co-founder Brian Sapient. The Rational Response Squad, along with the filmmaker Brian Flemming, made headlines in December 2006 with their Blasphemy Challenge.

Having been otherwise occupied ten years ago, I didn’t catch onto this until I came across a video on YouTube. There’s going to be a link at the end of this post.

So, Cameron made a short presentation, and then Comfort gave his spiel, and then Sapient gave a short critique and turned the argument over to O’Conner. She proceeded to counter Comfort’s points in turn, and there followed a session of questions and responses. That’s all I watched of the video, because it was the presentation by Comfort I found most astounding.  ABC News printed the text of Cameron’s introduction, which I’m reprinting here for your enjoyment:

Hi, I’m Kirk Cameron and my partner and I Ray Comfort come to you tonight not as molecular biologists or rocket scientists, but simply as an author and an actor, and we want to do two things that fly in the face of convention. One, we’d like to show you that the existence of God can be proven, 100 percent, absolutely, without the use of faith. And secondly, as a former atheist myself — an evolutionist — I want to pull back the curtain and show that the number one reason that people don’t believe in God is not a lack in evidence, but because of a theory that many scientists today believe to be a fairytale for grownups.

That last bit about “a fairytale for grownups” should by now be familiar. It must be particularly noted that Cameron proposed, “We’d like to show you that the existence of God can be proven, 100 percent, absolutely, without the use of faith.” I have highlighted the critical phrase.

Comfort than proceeded to demolish Cameron’s pledge. He started off with the typical argument from design. He held up a can of soda, Coca Cola. He gave what he considered the scientific argument for the creation of the can of soda. There was a big explosion and ultimately things fell into place, producing the can of soda. Voila! Ridiculous. The can of soda must have been created. Then he displayed a painting. If there is a painting, then scientist will all agree there must have been a painter. And so on. The logical conclusion, Comfort assures us, is if the Universe has been created, then there must have been a creator.

That seems to be Comfort’s critical flaw. We should not make the assumption the Universe was created. Just because it is here does not imply a physical act of creation. Readers might want to check out Lawrence Krauss’ book A Universe From Nothing, which I reviewed previously.

Unfortunately for Comfort, after he plays out the creation-creator argument, he veers sharply into a minefield. After arguing if you want something built you need to have faith in the builder, from the video:

The same applies with God. If I want God to do something for me, then I need to have faith in him.

Deep disappointment. Comfort has thrown away the promise to avoid introducing faith.

If you realize you need God’s forgiveness, and you seek his forgiveness through the Gospel, God, himself, will reveal himself…

The pro arguments concluded, Sapient addressed Comfort’s argument from design. If you want to see the creator of this church (Calvary Baptist Church in midtown Manhattan), then you can go see the builder. You can go to the city building records and see the documentation. When you want to see the creator of the Universe, who’re you gonna call? Besides, “If all creations need a creator, then who created God?”

O’Conner took the podium and reminded that we are all atheists, including Cameron and Comfort. Neither does Sapient nor O’Conner, nor Cameron, nor Comfort believe in Zeus, Apollo, Thor, and a host of other gods. Until the creationists can show us the Universe factory, then creationism exists only in the imagination and is not science. She further pointed out that postulation of evidence for a creator has no bearing on the existence of the God of Abraham and the divinity of Jesus. Any imaginary god could have created the Universe, if indeed it was created.

And that about concludes the meat of the debate. View the debate on YouTube, and look around at the associated videos. There is a shorthand version of the debate, and there are multiple videos of Cameron and Comfort. It’s good instruction for skeptics, besides being entertaining. Bring some popcorn.

See the video on YouTube.

Exe Jesus

One of a series

Note: I am writing this in May while the movie is still fresh. You are seeing it posted on Christmas day through the magic of Word Press scheduling.

Yes, this really is the Bad Movie of the Week. However, I could not resist using that title, because the new title is what this movie is all about, exegesis. All right, I misspelled it. So shoot me.

Kirk Cameron made it big as a little kid in Growing Pains. More recently he teamed with New Zealand creationist and evangelical wack job Ray Comfort. Need I say more? In fact, I have:

People like Cameron and Comfort tend to align themselves with the conservative element of society. And that’s unfortunate for American conservatism.

I also find this situation so ironic in my own experience. Once in a discussion with a conservative friend I noted that the American voters did not find much favor with presidential candidate Mitt Romney. The response I received was that the voters were sheep. And that’s worth examining.

There are two popular ways to get sheep to go where you want them. One is Kirk Cameron’s way, with a sheep dog behind them. The other is with a trained sheep that the others blindly follow. Both cases do not involve initiative and understanding on the part of the sheep.

Anyhow, forget about Ray Comfort for a while. This appears to be an enterprise entirely from Cameron. And Liberty University. Here’s the opening image from the movie.

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It’s Saving Christmas, and it features Kirk Cameron as part actor – part narrator. And if you think it’s about saving Christmas, you need to take another look. Here’s Cameron telling what he likes so much about Christmas, and a big part is the hot chocolate.

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Forget the plot. This is a message, not a drama. Cameron is over at the house of his sister, whose husband is getting a little fed up with Christmas. Did I mention, this is a Christmas party? The BiL becomes so despondent he goes outside to sulk in his car. Cameron joins him, and explains why all his delusions about Christmas are just that.

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The BiL finds modern Christmas over-commercialized. Don’t we all? The symbols are all wrong. Jesus was most surely not born in December, much less the 25th. Nothing about modern Christmas can be traced to the biblical account of the birth and life of Jesus. The Christmas tree is a hold over from a pagan European celebration, for example:

While it is clear that the modern Christmas tree originated during the Renaissance of early modern Germany, there are a number of speculative theories as to its ultimate origin. Its 16th-century origins are sometimes associated with Protestant Christian reformer Martin Luther who is said to have first added lighted candles to an evergreen tree.

It is frequently traced to the symbolism of trees in pre-Christian winter rites, in particular through the story of Donar’s Oak and the popularized story of Saint Boniface and the conversion of the German pagans, in which Saint Boniface cuts down an oak tree that the German pagans worshipped, and replaces it with an evergreen tree, telling them about how its triangular shape reminds humanity of the Trinity and how it points to heaven.

Cameron explains to the BiL how the modern Christmas tree evokes the cross on which Jesus was tortured and killed. Exegesis.

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Another thing that troubles the BiL is the presence of soldiers among the Christmas toys. Pictured is a toy that looks for all the world like the nutcracker from the Tchaikovsky ballet. This is another example of Cameron’s solicitous exegesis.

The soldiers, Cameron explains, represent the Roman soldiers sent by King Herod to kill Jesus and all other Jewish babies in Bethlehem. The problem with Cameron’s exegesis is that Herod (according to Matthew and nobody else) sent the soldiers only after Jesus was born, so it’s hardly possible they were present at the birth.

To appreciate Kirk Cameron’s elaborate foray into exegesis you need to see the movie for yourself. I watched it for free on Amazon Prime Video. A subscription is required, but being the piece of evangelical propaganda that it is, and you can watch it on Hulu or possibly for free on YouTube.

Also regarding Saving Christmas, with all today’s hoopla surrounding a supposed war on Christmas, there is very little mention of the modern controversy, engineered almost completely by right leaning evangelicals, who want everybody the strike back at what they contend are attempts to eradicate Christmas traditions across the country.

If you can get past all that, the movie ends on an up note. Cameron convinces the BiL that the modern Christmas is really all right, and the two return to the party for a joyous celebration, which includes hip-hop renditions of the greatest Christmas carols by the God Squad Dance Crew.

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In the end, Cameron reminds us what Christmas is all about. It’s about getting together with family and friends on one of the darkest days in the Northern Hemisphere, eating good food, drinking good wine, and having a good time.

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And all the rest is bullshit.

Likely due to its design as a propaganda piece, it received low ratings from critics and viewers. From Wikipedia:

Three weeks after release, the film gained additional notoriety when it became the lowest rated film on the Internet Movie Database‘s bottom 100 list. Cameron later responded to the low rating, saying that it was due to a campaign on Reddit by “haters and atheists” to purposely lower the film’s ratings.