The other night a good friend of mine (who also happens to edit this blog, thanks Paul) came over and we sat down and forced ourselves to sit through all 62 minutes of Ray Comfort’s latest film, The Atheist Delusion. Comfort is well known in the Christian community for his books, tracts, and films on apologetics. Previous films include Audacity, Noah & The Last Days, and Evolution vs. God. I’ve had the displeasure of seeing some of these other films, so I had an idea of what I was getting myself into.
Paul and I started drinking right from the start, as we figured we would need the liquid courage to make it though without throwing something at the TV. We were right. I’m not going to go minute by minute on this one, but I am going to hit on several of the main points where Comfort fails miserably.
- The beginning of the movie starts with Comfort interviewing college students, asking them about nature and evolution. He hands them a book, and asks them if the book could have put itself together by chance. That’s right, kids; it’s the watchmaker argument! Comfort has simply repackaged an all too familiar and thoroughly denounced fallacy, and claimed it as his own. He uses a false analogy to try and claim that since a book can’t create itself, neither can anything in nature. This is the one scientific question that Comfort claims will “destroy atheism” and sets up the premise for the whole film.
- He then moves right into talking about DNA, claiming that like the book, some Intelligent Designer (ID) must have created it – it didn’t just come from nothing. It’s ironic that Comfort uses DNA to try and prove his point, as DNA is unequivocal proof that evolution is true, a point that he conveniently ignores. He uses a common metaphor that DNA is the “instruction book for life” and then goes on to claim that since the Bible talks about writing the “Book of Life”, then DNA is proof of ID. Again, using a false analogy, he attempts to claim that “book – book designer, DNA – intelligent designer, i.e. God”. The problem with this is that the idea of DNA “encoding” information is purely an analogy, since the DNA precedes the information rather than vice versa.
- Comfort asks a lady if DNA happened by accident and she rightly replies that it developed over the course of many thousands of years of evolution and development. Not getting the answer he was hoping for, Comfort moves the goalpost and response with, “The origins don’t matter”. Yeah, they fucking do, Ray! Isn’t that what we’re talking about here – evolution vs ID and the origins of all living things? Like all living matter, DNA also evolved from simpler simpler molecules.
- Comfort asks one guy if he thinks that the eyes of mammals could have come about by chance. Again, eyes are a clear example of evolution at work.
- Comfort spends an inordinate amount of time asking people if “something” can come from “nothing”. This is what’s commonly know as the Cosmological Argument, a fallacious argument that has been debunked six ways from Sunday.
- In one of my favorite scenes from the film, Comfort uses an old riddle to try and prove ID. It goes something like this: “What came first, the chicken or the egg? If the egg came first, what fertilized the egg? The rooster did. Therefore – GOD!” Yes, that is really his argument. Once again, Comfort’s ignorance and denial of evolution are apparent. Neither a chicken or an egg just popped into existence, they both evolved over time.
- The egg riddle leads into a confusing series of questions regarding eyes, brains, lungs, the heart, blood vessels etc. Comfort falsely assumes that these things couldn’t have simply evolved (hint, hint -they did) and must have been created together just as we see them. He then asks a strange question, “Do you know of anyone who isn’t fully evolved? Anything on earth?” His assertion is that everything is created perfectly just the way it is. There are two problems with this claim. First, there is no end-point with evolution. Second, there are species that are continuing to evolve, in fact most species do, including humans. This has been observed in numerous species, everything from e coli bacteria to elephants. Oh, and to Comfort’s claim that we don’t see people who have half-evolved legs or other extremities because we are “perfectly evolved”; explain this.
- Comfort makes the very bold assertion that Richard Dawkins “isn’t really an atheist, he’s an adulterer.” (Almost threw something at the TV at this point. Thanks you alcohol) His reasoning is that Dawkins (like all non-believers) has the wrong idea about God because he cherry-picks the Old Testament and therefore doesn’t understand the true nature of God. Comfort doesn’t actually address Dawkin’s point, however, regarding God’s character.
- “The Argument from ID isn’t to convince people of the Christian message, it’s just to just to show them the insanity of atheism”. Bullshit. That is exactly why Comfort spends the first half of the film trying to prove ID, so that he can spend the second half of the movie proselytizing to people.
- Comfort claims that the Bible contains “scientific facts that weren’t discovered tell thousands of years later”. He first mentions the Earth hangs from nothing, but then goes on to list a number of things which the the writers of the Bible absolutely did not know about, things like germs and the Earth being round. He then says that the writers of the Bible knew that “life was in the blood”. This is hardly rocket science. People long before the Bible had figured out that if the blood leaves your body, you’re going to die. No mention of all the areas of the Bible which demonstrate how scientifically illiterate its writers were.
- Two thirds of the way into the film, Comfort changes gears and starts talking about hell. Because no good Christian witness would be complete without threatening people that their going to burn for all eternity. Comfort’s “proof” of Hell is that there has to be some sort of retribution for things like the Holocaust. “When you look at Nazi Germany, instead of saying ‘If God is good, how can He create Hell? You’ve got to come out saying, ‘If God is good, how can there not be a Hell?'” No, Ray; I still want an answer to first question, and actual evidence that Hell is real, beyond your assertion that it is.
- Then comes the “Are you a good person?” part of the film, where Comfort makes people admit what shitty people they really are. It’s honestly one of the hardest parts of the film to watch because you can see people getting uncomfortable by his questions. Comfort doesn’t care, of course, because in the Evangelical world, there’s no such things as personal boundaries. Even to the point where if they give an answer he doesn’t like he’ll keep pushing them tell they admit what he wants them to admit. More on this later.
- A couple of times in the film Comfort compares humans to other animals, by wrongfully assuming that they don’t have much of the same emotions and desires that we have. He implies that animals have no sense of morality or compassion. This is false. He also tells one person that they are not like an animal because he has a desire to live. The will to survive is literally the most foundational force in nature! Every species of live on this planet carries it.
- Pascal’s Wager makes an appearance in the film – “The Bible says that Jesus Christa has abolished death. Now, if that isn’t true, we shouldn’t look into it. But if there’s once chance in a million that it is… Your good sense should just open your heart and say, ‘I’ll check it out'”.
- The last bit of the film is Comfort trying to get people to
accept his bullshit“Allow Jesus into your hearts” by telling them that they’re going to go to hell for their sins if they don’t. He makes it very clear that Christianity is all about correct beliefs; our actions are irrelevant.
A few more thoughts about some general themes throughout the film.
Comfort spends the entire film equating evolution with atheism. He makes the case that if evolution isn’t true, then there has to be a God, and not just any god, but his God. Comfort is fond of using straw man arguments to make his points, saying things like, “You’re an atheist, so you believe the scientific impossibility that nothing created everything?” First of all, atheism and evolution are two completely separate topics. Atheism is the assertion that a God can not be demonstrated. That’s it. Whether or not evolution is true has nothing to do with it. Also, even if evolution was to be proven false, that does no automatically make ID true; it’s a false dichotomy. Nor would it prove that God exists. You still need to provide sufficient evidence for both claims. Comfort also ignores the fact many Christians accept evolution. Believing in ID is not a prerequisite for believing in God.
All but two of the people Comfort interviews in this film are under-graduate college students; just random kids he’s meeting on the street. He doesn’t interview any experts in the fields that he is discussing. If he really wants to know about evolution, why isn’t he interviewing biologists? If he wants to talk about DNA, why didn’t he interview Francis Collins, a fellow Christians and expert in the field? Instead, Comfort interviews a bunch of dumb college students, and holds them up as shining examples of what all atheists believe. This is incredibly dishonest and manipulative. Ever heard of “bearing false witness”, Ray? Ray doesn’t include anyone knowledgeable in his fields of inquiry because he knows they would have solid answers for his questions, wouldn’t buy his bullshit, and would make him look like a idiot. The only expert included in the whole film is a short, edited clip of his interview with Lawrence Krauss, in which Krauss sharply refutes his arguments. (You can see the full interview here) Of course he doesn’t pose the “something from nothing” question to Krauss, a man who literally wrote the book on the subject. The same can be said for atheist in general – why didn’t he interview one of the more well know atheist like Matt Dillahunty or PZ Myers, who he’s spoken with before? There are a number of atheists and scientists who I’m certain would have been in this film if Comfort had asked them. Instead he chooses to interview young, ignorant college kids to make his point. Comfort also has a habit of giving ignorant, but easy answers to complex questions. Subjects like DNA and evolutionary biology are fields which experts spend decades studying and can’t generally be summed up in a sentence or two. Comfort chooses to remain ignorant of these topics and instead insists that “God did it!” is a suitable answer to any topic he doesn’t understand.
Or, most likely he did interview some knowledgeable atheists and scientists and simply left those interview out of the video. As with his interview with Krauss, the entire movie is heavily edited and pieced together. It’s hard to know for sure what kind of answers the people being interviewed were actually giving. I’m willing to bet there were interviews which were intentionally left out because they didn’t provide the answers Comfort was looking for, i.e.; they don’t make atheists look stupid enough.
Comfort’s cheery nature and New Zealand accent aren’t enough to masquerader what a self-righteous, judgmental prick he can be. Around the half-way mark of the film, he accuses pretty much everyone he’s been interviewing that the real reason they’re atheists is because they want to sin, they love their porn, they love their pre-marital sex, etc. He’s fond of using that the one line that makes every atheist want to punch someone in the face, “You know deep in your heart that God exists; you’re just denying it!” This comes up several times throughout the film with Comfort insisting people believe in things they just got done telling him that that they didn’t. This is what’s know as gaslighting – a form of psychological abuse in which a victim is manipulated into doubting their own memory, perception, and sanity. When talking to people, Comfort attempts to draw out all the bad things they’ve done in their lives to show them how wicked they are and how much they deserve Hell, to the point of actually calling people names. He does all this “out of love” of course.
When it comes to apologetics, the old saying, “There is nothing new under the sun”, really strikes true. The Atheist Delusion is nothing put a repackaging of the same tired, fallacious arguments that Christians have been using for decades in an attempt to justifies their baseless claims. Everything from the Cosmological Argument, the Argument for Design, Pascal’s Wager, to the overall theme that since Evolution is false, then God must be true. Not once in the 62 minutes of this film did Comfort make a solid, plausible case for either God or ID.
But that really isn’t the point, is it? Comfort isn’t trying to convert atheist – he’s pandering to his audience of Christians who already buy into his particular brand of religion. Comfort makes a pretty good living reinforcing stereotypes, pandering to the Evangelical world-view, and remaining willfully ignorant of reality. It’s not like Comfort’s arguments haven’t been challenged before; he just chooses to ignore any evidence which refutes his position. Confirmation bias at its finest.
The only redeeming quality of this film is the stock footage that is used as filler between scenes, and to emphasize some points But it’s not worth watching the movie for, just watch Planet Earth instead. If you really want to see what the movie is about, just watch the first half to get the gist of Comfort’s fallacious arguments, and skip the sermon at the end.
One final note. At the end of the film, we get a message from the president of the company that produced the film, Living Waters, directs you too the movies website, were you can get a four session video course “that will equip you to do what Ray did in the movie, and reach atheists with the love of Christ”. If there are any Christians who have gone through this course and would like to try it out, contact me and I would be totally game, as would Paul. I’ll even buy lunch.
If you would like to check out a more in-depth and humorous review of this film, be sure to check out The Bible Reloaded’s great commentary below. Thanks for reading.