Why Would Evangelist Ray Comfort Make a Documentary About John Lennon…?

Last week, evangelist and Banana-man Ray Comfort released a 30-minute documentary called Genius about… John Lennon.

It coincided with the anniversary of Lennon’s death on December 8th.

If you’re like me, your first reaction was “Wha….?” That seems like an unusual topic for Comfort. Why a movie about the former Beatle?

But once you start watching the movie, you realize the hidden agenda.

For example, watch the 7:45 mark, where Comfort begins to ask people whether they think Lennon is in Heaven…:

It’s really a ploy for Comfort to challenge the strangers with his “Good Person” test, in which he gets you to confess that you’ve lied or stolen something or lusted in the past… and tells you that you’re destined for hell unless you accept Jesus.

Minutes later, Comfort asks people if they would kill someone else for $10,000,000 if there was no chance of being caught — to see if they have morals. If they say they wouldn’t, he asks where their morals come from (Spoiler alert: God. It’s always God).

Oh. And there’s some stuff about John Lennon in there. Like the fact that he wrote the song “Imagine” (“Imagine there’s no heaven…”) and once proclaimed that the Beatles were more popular than Jesus. As far as I can tell, bananas don’t make an appearance anywhere.

(via Mother Jones)

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the chair of Foundation Beyond Belief and a high school math teacher in the suburbs of Chicago. He began writing the Friendly Atheist blog in 2006. His latest book is called The Young Atheist's Survival Guide.

  • Raising_Rlyeh

    I think Lennon himself would be surprised if he was in heaven. From what I know of the man, and I am probably wrong, he did not believe in heaven. Could someone confirm or correct me on that. 

    • TheTrueScotsman

      Just check You Tube for John Lennon’s song ‘God’ to see what is concept of a deity was. Its also worth checking out ‘Working Class Hero’.

      • Gus Snarp

        I’ve heard quotes from it, but don’t think I’d ever actually heard that song before. I like it a lot. It makes one wonder, many people liked to blame Yoko for the breakup of the Beatles, but maybe they just grew apart. It seems hard to imagine the man who wrote that song not having some serious conflict with George Harrison.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=597605006 Mary Driftwood

    My mother recommended this documentary to me because she knows I like the Beatles. She hasn’t actually seen it yet, but it aligns with her politics, so that’s probably how she heard about it. I told her to watch it and let me know if it’s any good. Hopefully she will be able to tell that it’s not.

    • Gus Snarp

      I like your approach.

  • rob smith

    Comfort also says that “imagine there’s no heaven” is proof that Lennon believed in heaven, since he had to imagine it didn’t exist. Yeah, Ray, right. These childish semantic games would be very slightly more worthwhile if you didn’t routinely contradict yourself.

    • cathouseumbrella

      It’s not even an accurate reflection of the lyrics. Lennon isn’t saying “I’m imagining there’s no heaven”. He’s asking believers to entertain the possibility for a moment that there’s no heaven. 

    • Sharon Hypatiia

       So, if I imagine there is no Zeus, that  means…….

  • GeraardSpergen

    I’d love to take this test.
    Ray:  ”Well. where do your morals come from then?”
    Me:  ”Well, sure isn’t God – because he’s FAKE!”

    • Gus Snarp

      Of course we all think this, but that’s the beauty of doing his kind of man on the street interviews: he’s guaranteed to get mostly people who are utterly unprepared for his BS and fall into his traps. And he’s even guaranteed to get a few who are atheists, maybe even really good skeptical thinkers, but just aren’t prepared to be confronted this way and he’ll get some kind of concession out of them he can use. Meanwhile, selective editing means that every person who skewers him will simply be edited out, and he’s already shown that he’s immune to reason, so the good answers will have no effect and simply be thrown out in the editing process.

      What would I say to Ray Comfort? 

      Do I think John Lennon is in heaven? No, I don’t think John Lennon exists. There’s probably some remnant of the remains of his body somewhere, but since there’s no living brain tissue, there’s no person.

      Oh, and Ray, I really enjoyed your appearance on the Atheist Experience where you admitted that there’s no independent evidence for God and that all your arguments are easily refuted by sound logical reason, but that you still believe because of some personal revelation. I especially liked the bit where you said that anyone who is argued into believing in God isn’t a real Christian, because they haven’t had the personal experience. Does that mean you think that all the people who watch your videos and are convinced by your arguments aren’t real Christians? Funny how you’re happy enough to take their money anyway.

  • Salford3lad

    Kudos to the Americans who knew how John died, the rest just confirmed typical ignorance of the world outside America!! Yes, I’m English and certain that John is not currently residing in a non existent heaven!!! Only skimmed through but loved the redhaired woman!!!

    • jdm8

      Just to make sure there isn’t any confusion, Ray Comfort is from New Zealand.

      • LesterBallard

        Yeah, what a fucked up part of the world; New Zealand gave us Comfort and Australia gave us Ken Ham. What the fuck?

        • Gus Snarp

          Maybe it’s not that New Zealand is fucked up for producing a couple of dimwits, but rather that we’re fucked up for embracing them. Either way, the jokes on us, we’re stuck with them.

          • LesterBallard

            Immigration reform, now.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=13709847 Bryan Johnson

       I love that Comfort tried to cast the red-haired woman as an angry, hysterical, crazy (Woman: “I’m Buddhist!” Comfort: “Huh?”) atheist. Instead, I ended up applauding her. She was better than the hand-picked douche-bros sprinkled throughout the rest of the video.

    • LesterBallard

      When Comfort talks about evolution it’s almost always with those who don’t really understand it (when he talks with someone like Aron Ra he gets schooled and shows that he doesn’t even know what arboreal means); so when he talks about John Lennon, it’s with those who think Lennon wrote Here Comes the Sun. Comfort finds those who are more ignorant than he is, which is quite a feat.

    • cathouseumbrella

      I’m confused by this comment. What does John Lennon’s murder have to do with Americans’ knowledge of the world outside of America? The man was killed in New York.

  • Patrik W

    I was once tricked into watching Comfort’s “180″ (wasn’t told it was Comfort’s movie). When I saw his face within the first few seconds, I blacked out. Woke up 2 days later, naked in a tree, throwing tuna cans at passing cars.

    Not expecting anything else from this one.

    • Octoberfurst

      Thanks Patrik, you gave me the best laugh of the day!  :-)

    • http://www.facebook.com/don.gwinn Don Gwinn

      I don’t want to sound callous, but . . . . I think you’ve been hasty.  Maybe you owe it to the world to watch this one so we can see what happens.

      • Mark W

         You just want to youtube some naked guy, throwing cans of tuna at cars from a tree don’t you.

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Adam-Patrick/100000027906887 Adam Patrick

      Weird. I drove by a tree once and some naked person threw a tuna can at my car.

    • Coyotenose

       …how did the tuna cans get up there if you were naked and had to climb? OhgodIjustrealizeddon’tanswerthat

  • viaten

    The baby at 1:27 had by far the most intelligent response to Comfort.

  • Louis Mattioli

    Why are the women wearing bikini tops blurred in the background?

  • Gus Snarp

    I wonder if he’s all squared away with the legal rights to the footage he’s using…

    • LesterBallard

      He’ll cite fair use for, get this, “educational purposes”.

    • Trickster Goddess

      From my past experience doing these kind of streeter interviews for a tv station, if they are talking to you while you are holding a microphone and pointing a camera in their face, that is legally taken as implicit consent.

      • amycas

         Yep, you can snap a photo of anyone as long they’re in public view. That means I can stand on the public sidewalk outside somebody’s home and legally take pictures of the inside of their living room–so long as use a regular camera lens.

      • Gus Snarp

        It’s not the street interviews, it’s the historical footage. Someone owns those films of Lennon and the Beatles and they’re exactly the kind of thing that people use without realizing that they have to secure rights to before using. LesterBallard below may be right about fair use though. But DMCA takedowns have been executed in cases where fair use was far more evident, and if he’s selling the video in another format he may still have a problem. Or he may have actually secured the rights, but who knows.

  • SeekerLancer

    My response to Comfort would have simply been, “John Lennon doesn’t care and neither do I.”

  • Gus Snarp

    I’m deeply disturbed by the footage of the red haired Buddhist woman. I’m not going to watch this whole video, but I’m betting there’s some important stuff cut out of that exchange that got her so angry. I expect she may be into all sorts of spiritual new age stuff, but anyone who’s that pissed at Comfort and is telling him there’s no Heaven is OK in my book. But I feel like he’s exploiting her terribly in an attempt to make her and all Buddhists and Atheists (we’re all the same in his book) look bad. And capitalizing on the emotional trauma in her past that she alludes to in her first clip. I’ve always disliked Comfort’s brand of glib proselytizing, but this really shows his dark side. I’m disgusted.

    • Gus Snarp

      And of course at the end of the video Comfort shows footage of her behind him while he talks about atheism, justifying my statement that he is using her as an example of how evil atheism is even though she says she’s not an atheist.

      She does really nail him when she says it’s all made up by people before anyone knew anything about science. And it’s despicable, but par for the course, the way he tries to twist her words. She holds her own valiantly, though. It’s actually worth mousing over the progress bar on the video to find the long clip of their argument.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Adam-Patrick/100000027906887 Adam Patrick

    I actually watched that. Where does this loon come up with “atheistic evolution”? I thought there was just evolution. He also tries to claim that evolution means no morals. When will these people learn that evolution has nothing to do with morality? My guess is never.

    • C Peterson

      Actually, there is every reason to think that the sort of core morals shared by most people and societies (e.g. strong tabus against murder, theft, lying) are very much shaped by evolution.

      • Coyotenose

         There are reasonable theories as to how they could be related, but you know what he’s saying: Evolutionary Theory doesn’t imply morality or lack thereof in regards to anything.

        • C Peterson

          …you know what he’s saying: Evolutionary Theory doesn’t imply morality or lack thereof in regards to anything.

          And that’s what I’m disagreeing with. Believing evolution over biblical alternatives certainly has no relationship to morality. But actual theories of evolution do, and very much so.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Adam-Patrick/100000027906887 Adam Patrick

    The sex deprived fundies might lust after them. 

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Adam-Patrick/100000027906887 Adam Patrick

    Wow, this is exactly how I feel about Comfort and his tactics. The only thing you didn’t mention is his semantic games. 

  • Seladora

    I wouldn’t kill someone for ten mil because I can put myself in the other’s shoes: I wouldn’t want someone to kill ME for ten mil. It’s empathy, plain and simple. No god involved. Shocker!

    • C Peterson

      What if the other person was Hitler? The Pope? A serial killer?

      There are always interesting twists possible when inventing morality tests.

      • Mike Higginbottom

        Yeah. I don’t think I’d be morally righteous enough to overcome my selfish squeamishness enough to kill someone so I could use the ten million to save thousands of lives which would otherwise be lost by my unwillingness to take the moral course of action in killing someone. I think.

        • Gus Snarp

          That, and there may be other options than killing, people are fallible, and we can’t predict the future of human behavior.  

          Could the serial killer be stopped another way? 
          How sure can I be that I’m killing the right guy? 
          Would killing Hitler have prevented all that slaughter? 
          At what point would he have had to be killed? 
          We could save more lives by killing Stalin and Mao, conceivably, but Hitler gets the rap. Who’s to say a worse dictator wouldn’t have taken his place? Maybe one who was more constrained in his ambitions and therefore more successful?

          Yeah, I suck at hypothetical “who would you kill” questions because I refuse to submit that anything as important as the life human beings is amenable to a simple binary hypothetical proposition.

      • Siamang

         Exactly.  Just say this “Our soldiers kill people for a lot less than that. “  Killing is done for lots of reasons.  Even killing in the Bible.  Reducing it to “Murder someone for money” is a reduction that removes all context, in order to make a simplistic point.

        The advantage is that you can stick your own particulars in and trip him up.

  • C Peterson

    I expect it was Lennon’s rejection of traditional religion that was partly responsible for making him more popular then Jesus. He was just a little ahead of his time, that’s all.

  • Kirby_G

    The original quote:

    “Christianity will go. It will vanish and shrink. I needn’t argue with that; I’m right and I will be proved right. We’re more popular than Jesus now; I don’t know which will go first – rock ‘n’ roll or Christianity. Jesus was all right but his disciples were thick and ordinary. It’s them twisting it that ruins it for me.”

    So he was talking about how Christianity is messing up Jesus’s message and is therefore dying.

    His comments on the furor afterwards 
    “Well, originally I pointed out that fact in reference to England. That we meant more to kids than Jesus did, or religion at that time. I wasn’t knocking it or putting it down. I was just saying it as a fact and it’s true more for England than here. I’m not saying that we’re better or greater, or comparing us with Jesus Christ as a person or God as a thing or whatever it is. I just said what I said and it was wrong. Or it was taken wrong. And now it’s all this.”

    He wasn’t being egotistical or arrogant.  He was pointing out how badly Christians have messed up their message.

  • Sindigo

    What is wrong with me? Why do I have to read the Youtube comments and why do I feel the need to argue with people there?

    I recognise a few of the commentariat from here over there too. Is there some sort of support group we could join/form?

    • sam

      That is a good question, Sindigo.  I feel the same way.  Part of me enjoys it.  Most of me recognizes that argument is futile.  It takes way too much of my time & is affecting my work.  If you find such a support group, let me know, please.

      • Sindigo

        What’s that adage (which I oft-repeat and think I heard on here first)? “Arguing with bigots is like wrestling a pig. You both get covered in shit and only the pig enjoys it.”

        The same could be said for the majority of Youtube commentors. Of course, they are overlapping sets in the Venn diagram of nonsense.

  • Randomfactor

    Wasn’t Lennon’s murderer a fundamentalist Christian?

    • dwight

      Jesus said love your neighbor. killing someone is not loving. murder is not a Christian value despite what Christians have attempted to do in Jesus name (ex the Inquisition). therefore, Mark David Chapman was not a Christian.

  • LesterBallard

    Ka-ching! That’s the reason. The Living Waters’ bottom line and the Comfort Clan’s salaries.

  • DougI

    As Jesus as my guide I’d do a crime for $10 million, since somebody else would spend three days in jail for my crime.  I wouldn’t kill anyone though, unlike fundamentalists, I have morals.

  • http://twitter.com/TominousTone Thomas Lawson

    Would I kill someone for $10 million? No. Would Dinesh D’Souza kill someone if God told him to? Well, if he was sure that it was God, of course. That actually happened, folks. He said that to Dan Barker during a debate.

    • C Peterson

      The claim that “God made me do it” (or the Devil, an angel, a demon…) is a standard element of an insanity defense. And if the defendant is convincing enough, it works. We recognize the claim, made in court, as insane.

      So why don’t we recognize similar claims, made in non-criminal contexts, as insane? (Well, perhaps many of us do… but most of society does not.) “God told me to give to the homeless” is no less insane than “God told me to kill him”.

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/A37GL7VKR3W6ACSIZPH7EID3LI rlrose63

    Yeah, I didn’t make it past the “they won’t murder because they have a belief in god” nonsense.  Did he ask the ones who said they would murder if THEY believed in god?  If he did, he didn’t show it, and I’ll bet the majority of them would say they believe in god or are Christian.

    Then to argue about the beginning of the universe with some nimrod off the street… yeah and Ray’s own nonsense about evolution… I just can’t.  It makes me incredibly sad.

  • Ibis3

    I’d kill someone for no money if the circumstances were right.

  • Troels Jakobsen

    My morals come from God? You mean the guy who killed all firstborns in Egypt to prove a point; who sent bears to tear up kids; who ordered multiple genocides and drowned an entire planet; who murdered an innocent family to win a bet with Satan; who will allegedly torture you forever and ever simply for not believing in him?

    I’m pretty sure my moral standards are not that low.

  • MartyM

    Of course I couldn’t make it through the whole thing.

  • http://profiles.google.com/noyourgod Tim Miller

    Posted on my Facebook page (sorry – too lazy to do anything but cut-and-paste and type this lame introduction)…

    “Genius
    – The Movie” showed up in my timeline for 10 minutes or so, then the
    “friend” who posted it disappeared – my guess is that they “unfriended”
    me due to my posting of a christian who killed a kid for not reading
    believing as they (the killer) did. First, I find the
    “unfriending” a bit odd, as my only comment about the killing was
    (literally) “unreal”. Second, I started to watch the Youtube video
    “Genius – The Movie”. A third of the way through, it seems like
    a mixture of basic history (documenting the early Beatles and John
    Lennon) and a pile of crap – selectively choosing “man-on-the-street”
    type interviews, leading with silly answers (“How did John Lennon die?”
    “Killed himself with a shotgun”) followed by folks who knew the answer.
    Then, the fun begins…. “Would you steal $2mm if you wouldn’t get
    caught”", followed by “Would you kill somebody for $10mm if you wouldn’t
    get caught?”. Amazingly, the folks who say “no” that they show just
    HAPPEN to say it was because of their fear of their god that prevents it
    – making is seem that those who do NOT believe in their particular god
    (or the wrong god – the film maker does show a buddhist in negative
    light) are immoral cretins. At that point it devolves (so to speak) into “evolotion vs. god-creation” baloney, and I shut the bullshit off.
    So, if you want to “unfriend” me because I take offense at so-called
    christians or other folks who kill others who kill those who do not
    believe as they do – fire away. Better yet, PM me and let ME do the
    honor of whacking you. However, if you want to have an adult conversation about belief, let’s do that.

  • http://www.last.fm/user/m6wg4bxw m6wg4bxw

    I wonder if Ray Comfort would steal or kill if his God told him to. If so, then Ray’s morality is what simply what God commands. If not, then his morality is… oh, everyone knows how this goes.

  • Ray

    Thanks Hemant. Very kind review. I hope you have a great Christmas. Ray Comfort

  • chriss65

    I am amazed at how this jerk can evade a direct question….he was asked, “then, where did god come from?”.  His answer, god is eternal…what the hell does that mean? amazing!

    • WarriorChallenger

      You can’t always (logically) revert to that question. If the evidence points to a creator of time and space, or at least to a beginning of time and space, then then logical answer is that the creator of time and space is eternal – ie. outside of time and space. It does not make sense to demand an explanation of the explanation. If I can’t explain the explanation, does that make the explanation invalid? What if there is a TON of evidence for an eternal God? Then you ask the question: “Who made God?” Does that make the evidence invalid? I don’t think so.

  • allein

    My computer wouldn’t let me watch the video. Maybe my Flash player is looking out for me. ;)

  • Gus Snarp

    I went to bed last night and something popped into my head about this video. One of Comfort’s traps is his little trick question quiz, by which he tries to prove how fallible the human mind is and that we shouldn’t trust ourselves. This had been percolating in my fallible human mind since I saw it because this very notion is actually central to skepticism, but we reach very different conclusions about the world from this same basic fact. 

    Last night I figured it out. Comfort is on record that they only real reason to believe in God is personal revelation, that he’s had such a revelation, and that’s why he believes in God. So if you’re ever asked by a weird Kiwi to do this trick question quiz on the street on camera, make sure there’s a good crowd around, then set him up by arguing a bit generally about God’s existence and get him to state that personal revelation is the only true path to Christian faith. Then take his quiz and get every question wrong. Then when he says you can’t trust yourself, ask if he can trust himself. He’ll say, “of course not”, because acknowledging his own human frailty is part of his shtick. Then simply ask him how his personal revelation, known only to his fallible human mind, can ever be trusted, how anybody’s personal revelation can be trusted. If it occurred in (as we believe) or was at least processed and remembered by (as he would surely acknowledge) a fallible human mind, then it cannot be trusted, even by the human who experienced it, let alone anyone else.

    This is the central fault of all of Comfort’s thought and arguments, which he works assiduously to keep his interlocutors from reaching, but which he has unwittingly exposed here.

    Of course, he’ll just hand wave it away, but that’s why you made sure you had a crowd around, because you’ll have just inoculated them against his semantic games and poor arguments.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1351473675 Matthew Baker

    Its good to see that Ray is keeping up with his “documentary”  making by using man on the street interviews. By spring obscured questions on people who may have been walking by you can gather miles of footage  of that you got me /confused  bewilderment look on people’s faces. Then you can scrap all the footage of people who refuse to play along with your silly word games and you can  then hone down the rest to fit whatever agenda you have planed.  Weak sauce, Ray, weak sauce.

  • The Prophet

    Let me tell you. You are deceived. I did not really know there was a God but Jesus revealed himself to me. So I know there is a God and his name is Jesus. You just don’t know Him. Your arrogant pride has blinded your eyes. But as God’s Word says: Every knee shall bow and every tongue shall confess that Jesus is Lord. You will bow one day and you will cry out to Jesus for mercy but it will be too late unless you repent…..

    • Brian Scott

      Fuck off scaremonger.


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