Friday, December 28, 2012

Ray Comfort irritates me

Actually, both sides in these debates tend to irritate me, since I'm always thinking of what Ray Comfort's opponent - in this case, Jim Underdown of CFI-LA - should have said.

But this one is particularly bad. In this video, Comfort must talk nearly 90% of the time. He just preaches his familiar lines - I've heard them many times before - while Underdown occasionally tries to object. This isn't a balanced debate, or even a reasonable conversation.

Admittedly, I'm easily irritated.  :)  Also, it's always easier to think back on conversations, imagining brilliant responses we could have made, isn't it? Finally, I'm sure my responses wouldn't have been any better. Certainly, there wouldn't have been a different result.

(As an aside, note that Ray Comfort is the guy who released the most unintentionally hilarious Creationist video ever, when he described the Cavendish banana as proof of God, apparently not realizing that the banana is a domesticated fruit with a very long history of artificial selection. He removed the original video from YouTube, but you can still find excerpts. It's pretty funny.)

Anyway, I thought I'd take this brief video and imagine my own responses to Ray Comfort, as follows:

"Why do you get out of bed in the morning?"

I normally get out of bed because I have to pee. Other people usually have things they want to do or need to do. Who'd want to spend all day in bed, anyway? That might sound appealing when the alarm goes off, but it wouldn't be. As human beings, we need a certain amount of sleep, but why wouldn't we get out of bed, eventually?

Of course, what Comfort is saying is that he really, really wants to believe in his God. But wanting something doesn't make it true. That doesn't make it untrue, either, necessarily,... but it's always very easy to believe what we really want to believe. We should have evidence for all of our beliefs, but we need to look most skeptically on those things we really want to believe, because that's where we're more likely to let our emotions cloud our judgement.

"The god that Richard Dawkins doesn't believe in doesn't exist. That's your problem, your understanding of God."

Damn, we were so close there, since I completely agree with that first sentence. :)  But, obviously, the problem isn't his understanding of God. After all, atheists don't claim to know what 'God' is, since we don't have a god. We don't just disbelieve in particular gods, in specific gods. Even Ray Comfort does that. No, we let believers tell us about the god they believe exists,... and then ask them if they have any evidence for that.

Do you have a good reason for believing that your god exists? If so, what is it? If not, why should you - or anyone else - believe that he/she/it does exist?

"God stopped him [Abraham] from killing his son."

According to Christian mythology, God commanded Abraham to sacrifice (i.e. kill) his son as a test of obedience, and Abraham passed the test by demonstrating his willingness to do it. Now, yes, it might be a good thing that 'God' stopped it in the end, but it was still a horrible thing to demand of a parent and a terrible thing for a parent to agree to do.

Would you kill your child just because you thought some authority figure - a god or not - wanted you to do it? I hope not! Neither God nor Abraham come out of that story looking good.

"God doesn't send you to hell. A judge doesn't send a criminal to prison."

I've heard this before, and it's one of the stupidest things believers say. As you know, criminals don't decide for themselves what's legal and what isn't. Society does that. Judges and juries determine whether or not a law was broken and what the punishment should be (within certain guidelines established by society).

In Christian mythology, God has set up that whole system, deciding what's a crime and what the punishment should be, himself. He decides that people should burn in hell for eternity for saying "Goddamn." He decides that everyone is born deserving hell, with everyone - even children - being guilty of something.

And he's got the same punishment for everything! There's no fine for littering in Christian mythology, or even for just thinking about littering. You burn in hell for eternity for every single transgression, no matter how slight. Unless, of course, you agree to worship your judge, in which case you get off scot-free. How crazy is that?

"Jesus said that, if you look at a woman and lust for her, you commit adultery with her in your heart."

And how stupid is this, too? Yet, Ray Comfort claims that this means God's standards are "very high." And when Underdown says that his standard for being good is how you treat people, Comfort says that he shows very low standards. Incredible, isn't it?

As Christopher Hitchens used to say, Heaven is worse than North Korea. God punishes you for even thinking about things he considers a crime, he'll torture you forever for the least transgression, and you can't even die to escape. Yeah, I'd take North Korea any day!

"Do you think you're a good person? ... How many lies have you told in your whole life?"

Obviously, you can be a good person without being perfect,... especially since Ray Comfort considers even little white lies, which we do to make people feel good about themselves, make you a "liar." No, they don't. They just make you human. In fact, they might make you a good person, since you apparently don't want to hurt someone else.

He also mentions, several times, blasphemy - "saying God's name in vain."  That's a crime? Would you put up with a law like that? That would only be a crime for a celestial dictator! And even in North Korea, you could think such things about the dictator, if not actually say them out loud. Again, Heaven comes out of this looking worse than North Korea - far worse.

"Did that [the Flood] happen?"

Of course the Biblical Flood didn't actually happen - there's absolutely no evidence for it, and lots of evidence against it - but they're debating Ray Comfort's 'God,' and Comfort does believe that it happened.

I mean, Comfort is being particularly dishonest here, don't you think? The topic is "Is God Just?" Since Underdown doesn't believe in a god, that would be a meaningless question for him,... unless they were talking about Ray Comfort's beliefs. And Comfort does believe in the Noah's Ark fairy tale.

But here's the part that got me: Jim Underdown says, "You wouldn't execute a person for being a liar," and Ray Comfort replies, "Unless you were holy and perfect and just."

Say what??? How is that a just punishment for lying? Heck, it's even worse than that. In Comfort's view, if you tell a woman that her butt doesn't look too big in that dress, and you're lying, you won't just be killed, you'll be sentenced to eternal torture. That's "holy and perfect and just"? You'd have to be insane to believe that!

"If you don't repent and trust Jesus, then you'll receive justice for your sins."

Yeah, Comfort repeats this nonsense over and over again. According to him, it's "justice" to be tortured forever for telling a lie. It's "justice" to be tortured forever for daring to say "the Lord's name" in vain. (I might add here that "God" is a particularly unimaginative name, wouldn't you say?)

How crazy is that? And yet, you can commit any crime at all - rape, murder, genocide - and get off scot-free by just agreeing to worship the celestial dictator. That's justice?

Of course, none of this is evidence that Comfort's god - or any god - actually exists. But how could you worship a god like that, even if you did believe it?

"But why bother?"

Comfort is asking why we bother to set up a legal system - courts and a system of laws. But that's a question Underdown should be asking him, isn't it?

After all, if you believe in Christian mythology, this life is just a very brief prelude to eternity. And there's a celestial judge who makes sure that everyone gets what's coming to him. Of course, that judge is insane and automatically sentences everyone to eternal torture, unless you agree to kiss his butt. But still, if that's all true, why bother with a legal system here on Earth?

If you accept Jesus, it doesn't really matter when you die, does it? After all, you're just going to Heaven for eternity. In fact, it might be beneficial if you die quickly, so you won't have time to develop doubts. (Children being inherently more gullible than adults,... well, I don't want to go down that path.)

And if you don't accept Jesus, if you're one of the five billion people on this planet who aren't Christian (or the other billion or so who don't measure up to Ray Comfort's standards of Christianity), you're going to be tortured in Hell for eternity anyway, so what's the point of locking them up now? Why even bother?

This debate is supposed to be about justice, and Comfort shows us a system that's about as far from that as you can get. Thank god (figuratively) it's just imaginary, huh?

Unfortunately, as I said before, Jim Underdown just sat there and let him preach. Ray Comfort dominated the conversation, barely allowing Underdown to reply at all. As he freely jumped from one talking point to another, it would, indeed, have been hard to pin him down, but Underdown hardly seemed to try.

And this is the other problem with debates like this. No matter what the topic is supposed to be, believers tend to flit from one talking point to another. If you've got a tough question for them, they just move on.

I prefer my own method of replying, like this. :)


Anthony G Williams said...

Good post Bill, I've bookmarked that for future reference.

You might be interested in this:

I particularly liked this comment on the article:

"There are lots of Atheists in foxholes, but none of them are killing people in the name of god."

WCG said...

Thanks, Tony. In a way, that's the other side of this, isn't it?

Ray Comfort doesn't understand that you can enjoy life without thinking it's going to last forever. But when things don't go well, when bad things happen, you don't have to think that some all-powerful god is just screwing with you, either.

Atheists don't need to fall back on idiotic platitudes like "God works in mysterious ways" to explain what makes no sense, because we know that, sometimes, shit happens. I especially liked this:

"If I believed in a god who made this shit happen on purpose, I wouldn’t be comforted. I’d be wanting to find the biggest ladder I could, climb to heaven, and punch the guy’s lights out. Either that, or I’d be wracked with guilt and confusion trying to figure out what I’d done to deserve this, or what lesson I was supposed to be learning from it."

Thanks for the link, Tony.

Patrick Oliver G. said...

Mr. Garthwright - an irritated atheist,

Well, I am sincerely sorry you are irritated. Your understanding of God apparently puts you far above me in your intellectual superiority. I would like to offer an alternative understanding of Genesis 22: 1-2, however. About the atheistic idea of this horrible, child-hating, unjust God deal. The Scripture of which you have used to condemn my God: " "Now it came about after these things, that God tested Abraham, and said to him, Abraham!' And he said, 'Here I am.' 2 And He said, 'Take now your son, your only son, whom you love, Isaac, and go to the land of Moriah; and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I will tell you,'"(Gen. 22:1-2). As a long time student of the Holy Bible, my understanding of Scripture comes from the contexts and themes outlined from Genesis to Revelaafter these many years, I have finally come to admit there has been a significant mystical/spiritual understanding that I attribute to the Holy Spirit. Firstly, God and Abraham were extremely close. Abraham is called a"friend" of God. And Abraham exhibited none of the arrogance and self-centeredness of non-believers, who place their own needs and desires above all others'. Abraham was absolutely obedient to his Friend, God. And humble. His relationship was based on an awesome love for his Creator and complete trust and respect for his Maker. And from the total context of this story it is obvious God had no intention of following through on this sacrifice of Issac. In fact, God even supplied the the necessary sacrificial lamb at the end of this exercise. Remember, God is a patient, instructing God. He had, and continues to have, man's best interest at Heart. This exercise was actually a statement about God's immense Love for us. He was given a taste of the overwhelming, and some would say impossible, task of sacrificing his only son. But it was God who would do with His own Son what he asked Abraham to do to Issac. In order to save us ,God would have to sacrifice Jesus to a horrible death,(albeit a very temporary death). This does not fit the narrative of the god you describe. This describes a God who is loving, generous, compassionate, and sincere. Selfishness, self-centeredness, pettiness, and dishonesty does not an argument make, sir. I believe that at the conclusion of your life, you will simply die an irritated man. And, there will be very few who care that you are irritated. God's laws are clearly put forth in Scripture. There are consequences either way for how we respond to His laws. "Kissing God's Butt" is not one of these laws. His requirement to love him with all that you are is a law. It's not a tough law to follow. Telling the truth is a law and is not impossible to accomplish. Lying reveals a heart that is deceptive. Why do you excuse deception? And I cannot find a reference that lying condemns a person to hell. Accepting God's redemption is what is required to join God after our death. And blasphemy is not simply saying God's name in vain. Blasphemy suggests that we assume the rights and qualities of God. That we become a god, so to speak. Blasphemy doesn't give you a ticket to hell. Turning from God does. Not too complicated to understand.
As a former God-hating, arrogant atheist, I know this irritation of which you experience. The road I have traveled to become a friend and servant of God has been excruciating and filled with irritation. But a journey most certainly worth the pain and trouble. That you are even sharing your disdain and irritation for God and His Law gives me hope that you may someday find a friend in God, as did Abraham and countless other non-believers. You may find yourself becoming a valuable asset to help other irritated and angry non-believers find the way to salvation and peace in the Arms of a loving God.

WCG said...

Well, Patrick, that's an interesting explanation, but do you see what you did? You had to twist yourself into knots, just to believe what you really want to believe.

And you know, it seems like almost every Christian who comments here is a former atheist. I didn't realize we used to be so numerous! Of course, if you really had been an atheist, you wouldn't have hated 'God,' because you wouldn't have believed that gods existed. Do you hate Mother Goose?

But here's the part I really don't understand. You say that God sacrificed Jesus to a horrible death "in order to save us." Um, how, exactly? What was the point? How did the torture and (temporary) death of Jesus 'save' anyone?

First, what was he saving us from? Just from himself, right? Since God made all the rules - according to you - God could have changed them at any time. But he had to torture and kill... himself, basically (you're a monotheist, aren't you?), in order to convince himself to 'save' us? Some friend!

And why torture and kill Jesus? If he'd wanted publicity, he'd have been better off in a more advanced, populous nation like China, rather than in a land of primitive goat-herders. And why have Jesus die at all? His divinity would have been much clearer with evidence.

Of course, the Bible is a book of primitive mythology. People back then believed in scapegoating, piling your 'sins' on a goat and then driving off or killing the goat. It's just the magical-thinking of a primitive people.

And gods liked blood sacrifices. Note that 'burnt offering' in the story of Abraham. You try to twist it to fit modern sensibilities, but that's not the message it was supposed to convey. It was supposed to mean, "Obey, or else!"

Why couldn't an ordinary blood sacrifice satisfy God this time? Why wasn't even a human sacrifice big enough? Well, only the sacrifice of a god would be big enough to overcome 'original sin,' right? Yeah, that Genesis myth, which was also very primitive thinking.

Without the Adam and Eve story - I assume you're intelligent enough that you don't take that as literal truth? - there's no point to sacrificing Jesus as a scapegoat. And even with it, the whole idea is just primitive superstition. You don't accept blood sacrifices these days, do you? You don't believe in scapegoats.

But, apparently, you think "a loving God" is going to torture me for eternity because I see no good evidence that he exists. Heh, heh. What a 'friend'! (He's not my friend. I've got higher standards than that!)

Can't you see how ridiculous that is? I'm sorry, but nothing in Christian mythology makes any sense, not these days. It's just primitive mythology, the magical-thinking of a people who didn't know any better.

But thanks for the comment.

Tony Williams said...

What bothers me, Patrick, is the self-referential nature of the Bible. We are supposed to believe it because it present's God's word. Who says it does? The Bible...

Just as the Book of Mormon claims to, or the Koran, or any one of many religious texts. But clearly, they can't all be right. In fact, by definition at least all except one must be wrong. So why should I believe that any of the holy texts is right? What reason can there be to believe in any of them?