This Friday, Ray Comfort will release his latest apologetics film called The Atheist Delusion. The trailer shows Comfort chatting with a number of atheists who, after their conversation, are no longer so confident in their non-belief.
I haven’t seen the film yet, but as you can imagine, I have plenty of questions about it… so I sent them to Ray. Over the past few days, he took the time to answer them all.
Our lengthy interview is below, with minor edits for formatting/grammar. I added links where I thought they’d be helpful.
FRIENDLY ATHEIST: Your website for the movie says that “Having to prove the existence of God to an atheist is like having to prove the existence of the sun, at noon on a clear day.” If the existence of God is so obvious, why do you think so many atheists reject Him? Do you think we haven’t thought this through?
RAY COMFORT: I’m sure most atheists have given it thorough thought and then made a calculated decision. It’s obvious that many atheists are very intelligent. But that’s not the issue. There’s another reason that they reject the very thought of God, and one that I go into in depth in the film. It’s actually the focal point of the movie and the reason we called it The Atheist Delusion.
FA: How will you judge whether this film is a success?
RC: That’s a really good question. To answer it I will have to ask you to step into my shoes for a moment. I believe with every ounce of my being that Hell is a very real place. I know that is offensive and that it almost always brings scorn with it. It was Penn Jillette who asked how much we would have to hate someone if we believed that Hell was real and didn’t warn him [Link — HM].
So with that thought in mind, what is “success” to me with this movie? I’m not sure that I can adequately answer that. If you were a firefighter trying to save ten people from death and managed to save two, is that a success?
FA: Obviously, a lot of atheists (myself included at times) enjoy “hate-watching” your movies and videos. We like to pick them apart and point out what we believe are logical flaws. I’m sure you come across those videos and podcasts at times. What’s your reaction? Are you upset the message didn’t get through? Do you enjoy that people are engaging with your film, even if they’re on the other side of it?
RC: I’ve been preaching in the open air for over 40 years. This doesn’t mean yelling at people with a bull horn as they pass by. It’s when a crowd [is] there because they are interested in what’s happening. To the unlearned, it may look like I’m speaking to a colorful heckler, because he obviously isn’t interested in what I’m saying. He’s loud and disagreeable, but every now and then, he’s kind enough to let me have a few minutes to speak. I’m happy to do that, because I’m confident that in the crowd there are some who are listening to what I’m saying beyond mere entertainment.
That is the same reason I don’t mind atheist’s ripping into our productions. When I see 100,000 views on a video, I trust that some of those are thinking about what I’m saying as regards their eternal salvation. And that’s my consolation.
Now and then I read the comments under videos. Most of them are pretty harsh, but they don’t worry me because I’ve been mocked for years. That’s part of being a Christian. It’s a cross we have to carry. I read where one said that my name was like “a dial in a sun tanning booth.” That made me laugh.
FA: You filmed part of this movie during the Reason Rally in June. What sort of interactions did you have with the atheists you met there?
RC: Not as many as I would have liked. We had $25,000 worth of Subway cards to give away to atheists as a token of our love [Link]. When about a thousand Christians registered to help us, the DC police stopped that by saying that we couldn’t interact with atheists, and if we did, we would be arrested.
So we cancelled the giveaway and went to the rally as a small film crew. When someone reported that I was there, the police tracked me down and kicked us out. Then they moved our filming location, even though we had a permit, to about a half a mile away from where we’d advertised we would be, so that atheists who wanted to be on our TV program couldn’t find us.
However, I got to meet and chat with Penn Jillette for about 30 minutes. That was a life-highlight for me, and I was honored that he even took the time to talk about our meeting on his podcast [Episode 224]. He seemed to enjoy the exchange. What he doesn’t know was that a few years ago I saw a clip of him saying that he couldn’t figure out why any reasonable and intelligent human being would seriously believe what are clearly stupid Bible stories. He said something like “I know I’m missing something here! What is it?” I knew the answer to that question and longed to speak with him about it. I emailed him through a mutual magician friend, but Penn didn’t want to have anything to do with me.
Fast forward a few years. Penn approached me outside the hotel in which we filmed the interview with Professor [Lawrence] Krauss [Link], and began asking me questions about the banana clip [Link]. That morphed into a conversation about the existence of God, in which I forgot to tell him why intelligent people believe dumb Bible stories. So, hopefully we can pick up on that sometime in the future, God willing.
For those atheists who have asked what we did with the Subway cards, last week we gave out $18,000 worth at the Los Angeles Union Rescue Mission. The rest will go to needy individuals. [Link. I called Union Rescue Mission this morning to confirm the donation but they have not yet returned my call. ***Update (7/28)***: Union Rescue Mission confirmed the donation. — HM]
Another huge highlight of our time at the Reason Rally was the interview with Lawrence Krauss. I really liked him and what he had to say. After the official interview, we kept the cameras rolling while he interviewed me. One of the questions he said he wanted to ask was if I was embarrassed about the infamous banana clip. I told him that I was very embarrassed by it. He then let me give my side, for which I was grateful.
Since we met, I found that we have a lot in common. We are both a little on the short side, and we both regularly talk about God. We both have Jewish backgrounds; have ancestors in Europe, and we equally have a twisted sense of humor (I saw on his Facebook page that has two rubber right hands on his desk for no real reason. For a long time I have had two rubber right hands sitting on my desk for no reason). Then there’s what we have in common on the intellectual side. He is extremely intelligent, and I am extremely jealous of that (that’s like a joke).
FA: Just in case you don’t see Penn Jillette in the near future, why do intelligent people believe “dumb Bible stories”?
RC: If you really want to know you will have to be patient with me, because it may seem like I’m sermonizing. Forgive me if it sounds that way.
Many years ago, I ran a children’s club. At the end of the club I told about one hundred kids to line up for some candy. There was an immediate rush, and the line sorted itself into what I saw as being a line of greed. The brats had made a claim at the front, and the shy and timid ones were pushed to the back. I was really disturbed by what I saw. It was so unfair.
So I told all the kids to stay in line, but to turn about face, and that if they got out of line, they wouldn’t get any candy. Everyone turned about, and no one got out of line. Then I took great delight in going to the other end of the line first and giving the candy to the shy and timid kids, much to the disgust of the brats who were now at the back. The last became first, and the first became last.
In a world of unfairness, where the rich get richer and the poor get stomped on; where the talented, the good-looking, the intelligent, and the proud are a success in life, and the humble get left in the dust, we are told that God turned the line around. He took the ultimate “candy” of everlasting life and took it to the not-so-good-looking, to the not-so-talented, and to the poor and humble.
How He did this has not only given me unending satisfaction, it has given me patience with those who get angry and frustrated with me, because I know why they’re offended.
Here now is what may be seen as sermonizing, because I have to refer to that Bronze-age Book. God turned the line around by deliberately causing really dumb things to happen, things that would be offensive to a proud condescending person. He chose things that are weak and despised by (to stay with the analogy at the risk of being offensive), the brats.
Think now of all those dumb and unscientific Bible stories: Noah’s ark, Jonah and the whale, Joshua and the walls of Jericho, Samson and his strength in his hair, Daniel and the lion’s den, Moses and the Red Sea, Jesus born in a cowshed, His riding on a donkey as a king, and the exalting of an executed person on a cross, etc.
All these are more than nonsensical stories. They are offensively childish. What person with any sort of intellect would even stoop to believe such stupid and childish stories? They are academically insulting. And there is where God turned the line around. Only the humble would stoop to believe those stories, while the proud are sickened by them, and the humble go to the front of the line. The last become first and the first become last.
Jesus told us that God has deliberately “hidden these things from the wise and prudent, and revealed them to babes.” He said that unless we humble ourselves as little children, we will not enter the Kingdom of God (that’s a nicer way of saying we will justly end up in Hell). The Scriptures say “He catches the wise in their own craftiness” (see also 1 Cor. 1:18-29 ), “God resists the proud and gives grace (favor) to the humble.”
The door of everlasting life has been set very low. That’s the missing information for which Penn Jillette is looking, and his pride will determine what he does with it.
FA: You’ve been evangelizing for decades now. What was the last thing an atheist said to you that you felt was a good argument?
RC: A good argument I often hear is the one that points out the hypocrisy seen in so much of historical and modern Christendom. They are rightly angered by the Roman Catholic crusades and their horrific inquisitions (where they tortured Christians for what they saw as heresy), the thousands of pedophile priests, the bottomless collection bags of televangelists, the many so-called pastors that are into adultery, etc., and the crazies like the Westboro Baptist church.
I don’t blame atheists for being angry. Almost daily I get angry atheists on my Facebook page (sometimes along with death threats), furious at me because they have read that I said I would rape and kill my children if God told me to [Link]. The “rape my kids” meme was written years ago by a middle-aged atheist in Chicago, who then put my face and name with his disgusting words, and spread it all over the Internet. So there’s a lot of issues for atheists to be angry about and little I could ever say to adequately answer them, particularly when I’m in agreement with most of what they say about hypocrisy.
FA: I’ve seen the trailer to your movie, but not the movie itself. The trailer makes it look like you spoke with a number of atheists who, by the end of your conversations with them, were reconsidering their views. Is that what really happened? Did you edit these interviews in a manipulative way? If I spoke to those people today, would they say your film accurately captures your conversation?
RC: We have always edited with integrity, and we do so because it’s the right thing to do. Despite this, people still make accusations. It’s inevitable.
Late in 2015, I went to a local college to produce a clip about for the publishers of one of my books called Made in Heaven. While I was interviewing an atheist, for some reason I asked him a question I’d never asked any atheists before, and to my astonishment he — and then other hardened atheists to whom I put the same question — changed their minds about the existence of God.
FA: Can you tell me any of their names so I can follow up with them?
RC: There are many people that I have filmed that I would love to follow up also. But I can’t because I didn’t get their personal contact information. How could I? Would you give me yours if we had just met?
FA: A couple of years ago, a YouTuber pointed out how you changed an interview question after the fact, when it appeared in the film, to make your atheist interviewees seem like monster. Is there an explanation for that or was the YouTuber off track?
RC: Yes, there is an explanation. First, none of the 12 people interviewed in that movie (Genius) said that they were atheists. I presume that were all theists.
I gave a scenario to two students — that a woman was wanting to murder her husband because he was a rat who beat her up. Then I asked if they would murder him for her if she paid them ten million dollars. One said he would do it for as low as one million, and the other said he would murder him at no charge. Rather than contact the police or encourage her to get out of the bad marriage, each of them said that they would take the law into their own hands and murder him. This wasn’t a scenario of them intervening to save her from a life-threatening beating, but a case of premeditated murder of a human being.
Over the months that followed, I asked the same question of numbers of other people. Would they kill for money — emphasizing that the husband was a “rat” As I did so, I didn’t bother to say that her husband was beating his wife. It didn’t seem important to me. Then, without a second thought we put the clips together in a collage.
Here now is the case for a not guilty plea:
First, we already had 11 people on film saying they would commit premeditated murder for money. We didn’t need that particular interview to further make the point.
Second, if we had conspired to add the clip to make it look as though this one man was saying something he didn’t say, we would have taken the original and damning clip offline. That fact alone should show that it wasn’t a conspiracy, but simply an unfortunate and unintentional editing error on our part.
FA: Conservative columnist Matt Barber wrote of this film that, “you managed, in about an hour, to make the case, beyond any reasonable doubt, for the Creator God.” How is it possible that you did that when so many Christian apologists before you have failed?
RC: I wouldn’t say that they failed. They perhaps just didn’t frame it using the Socratic Method. But the question I ask in the movie isn’t a magic bullet. I hope this doesn’t sound offensive, but it only works with those who are both humble and open to reason. I’m sure the movie will be thoroughly trashed by most in the atheist community, but I believe those who want to know the truth will hit it head-on.
FA: Last year, you released a movie called Audacity. The guys at The Bible Reloaded reviewed it… only to have their video taken down via a DMCA request from your ministry. They weren’t using copyrighted material in their video and you eventually retracted the request … but what happened there? Were you trying to stifle criticism of your film?
RC: Not at all! Someone at our ministry mistakenly (and without any ill intent) filed a [DMCA]. It was an innocent error. I didn’t realize how much stress it caused until I recently stumbled on a video where the TBR guys talked about what happened. I was embarrassed about it, because I want atheists to review our films, and if they desire, to rip our arguments apart. That’s healthy. So with this movie we have decided to send a screener a day before its release to any established atheist group who would like it for review purposes. They need only request a screener through my secretary Jen Thompson at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
For the next two months it’s only available as a paid download. This helps us to recover production costs. However, it will be freely available on YouTube at the end of September.
The Atheist Delusion will be out on Friday. We’ll post more about it soon. And, as Ray said above, atheists who want to review it can request a screener in advance.