Let me start by saying something nice about Ray Comfort’s movie, The Atheist Delusion: Why Millions Deny the Obvious (2016). It’s not that I have something nice to say, but I’ll quote praise from another makeshift evangelical, Ken Ham:
Ray shows the foolishness of the religion of atheism and helps the young people he speaks with to come to the realization that their atheism is not based on an intellectual position but a heart issue.
Who doesn’t want to hear about the foolishness of atheism and how there are no intellectual obstacles to believing Christianity?
The style is trademark Ray Comfort as he interviews a dozen or so atheists, mostly 20-somethings. We follow them as Ray works through his arguments, and at the end they’re all left with either a lot to think about or a commitment to follow Jesus. Throw in some nice graphics, take a few tangents, overlay some stirring music, and he’s done. Any subject who saw through Ray’s thin arguments and made him look foolish was cut from the movie to give the impression that this approach is devastating to the brittle worldview of any atheist.
The production quality was good, but one consequence of the high-quality audio caused a problem. You almost never see Ray himself, just the atheist of the moment. Often Ray would speak a seamless paragraph while we see the video cut between two or three subjects listening patiently. I see how that makes things visually more interesting, but it brings to mind old charges that in previous movies Ray had mixed and matched video segments to line up pleasing answers in response to questions, distorting what the subjects had actually said. When a subject says, “Yes,” what are they answering? Maybe it’s the “Have you changed your mind?” you hear in Ray’s voice. Or maybe it’s “Are you still an atheist?” spliced in from another part of the interview. (The Friendly Atheist pressed him on this question here in an interview about the movie.)
“Atheism destroyed with one scientific question . . .”
That got your attention, right? It’s the tag line for the movie’s trailer. Ray may be a science-denying apologist who refuses to be corrected on his childish understanding of evolution, but surely he’s not going to make a claim like that without something pretty compelling.
Or not. He gives people a book and asks, “Do you believe that book could’ve come about by accident?” That’s the scientific question. He then talks about how marvelous human DNA is and concludes that if the book had a maker, then DNA must have, too. It’s the Argument from Incredulity: “Golly, I can’t imagine a natural explanation for this, so it must be supernatural!”
Let’s revisit the “by accident” part. DNA didn’t come about by accident, it came about through mutation (random) and natural selection (not random). How many times has this guy been corrected on this? He can’t be that stupid, so I can only see willful ignorance. Telling the accurate story doesn’t suit his agenda, so he makes up an inaccurate one.
In fact, the sloppiness in DNA nicely defeats Ray’s Design Argument (more here).
“Could DNA make itself?”
Here’s another of Ray’s probing strawman questions. He lives in a simple world: DNA either made itself or God did it. But DNA didn’t make itself; chemistry made it. DNA was simply the result of unguided processes. Again, I have to wonder if this wording was clumsy or calculated.
He talked about how nicely fit we are to our environment, but of course that’s backwards. Remember Douglas Adams’ puddle that marveled how well its hole had been fit to itself.
“You’re an atheist, so you believe the scientific impossibility that nothing created everything.”
Wow. Where do you begin with this black hole of bullshit?
- An atheist has no god belief. That’s it. Atheists can have any views on cosmology they want.
- Cosmologists don’t say this.
- “Scientific impossibility”? Show me. Pop philosophy is not helplful at the frontier of science.
- What’s the problem with something coming from nothing? Isn’t that how you say God did it?
- You’re still stuck on “created.” You imagine a cause, but there might not have been one. The Copenhagen model of physics argues that some events don’t have causes.
In an odd attack, he claims that Richard Dawkins says that nothing created everything. Analyzing the hamster wheel that drives Ray’s brain is tricky business, but here’s my theory. Richard Dawkins says it and he’s the pope of the atheists, so therefore all atheists must believe that nothing created everything. Conclusion: “You’re an atheist, so you believe the scientific impossibility that nothing created everything.”
I could begin by saying that I’m not bound by what Dawkins says, but Dawkins didn’t even say this. Ray’s evidence for his charge is a video of Dawkins speaking about physicist Lawrence Krauss’s A Universe From Nothing. Dawkins says, “Of course it’s counterintuitive that you can get something from nothing” . . . but how did we get from Comfort’s charge of “nothing created everything” to Dawkins’ defense of something possibly coming from nothing? Only in the hamster wheel are these equivalent.
“Which came first, the chicken or the egg?”
In interviews years ago, I heard Ray explain his idiotic understanding of evolution. Say you have two lizards, and because of mutations, they give birth to a healthy monkey (cuz that’s what evolution says happens, right?). The monkey matures and looks for a mate, but since monkeys from lizards is quite rare, it can’t find a monkey of the opposite gender, so it dies without making more monkeys. Cue sad trombone sound.
In the movie, Ray goes down a similar line of “reasoning” to ask whether the chicken or the egg came first. He wonders where the rooster came from to fertilize the egg to continue the line. Then he asks whether it was the heart or the blood that evolved first. If the heart, what was it doing without blood? If the blood, how did it move with no heart? Ray’s questions are useful because they sometimes get a “Gee—I’ve never thought of that” from a layperson, not because they’re effective against a biologist, which would actually count for something.
Come to Jesus
The last third of the movie moves from “intellectual” arguments to the usual evangelism. You’re avoiding your conscience, you have selfish motives for denying what you know to be true, morals come from God, you just want to keep sinning, imagine if you died today, and more.
Several reviewers said they needed tissues. I needed a barf bag.
Then there’s Ray’s old standby, the Ten Commandments Challenge® (patent pending), in which he convicts people based on their failure to satisfy the Ten Commandments. Ray, did you forget that they don’t think the Bible is binding since they’re atheists?
(How the Ten Commandments don’t say what Ray thinks they do here.)
Ray’s project was, “Atheism destroyed with one scientific question,” but that was just clickbait. I didn’t notice a single correct scientific statement from Ray in the entire movie. The entire thing collapses into a pretentious pile of elementary emotional arguments, which, unfortunately, may be effective on people who haven’t thought much about these issues.
they could have changed place with the contents of a pie
and nobody would have been the worse off for it but the pie.
— Mark Twain, Life on the Mississippi
(This is an update of a post that originally appeared 7/29/16.)
Image credit: Living Waters