Atheist (Sincerely) Thanks Ray Comfort February 28, 2010

Atheist (Sincerely) Thanks Ray Comfort

Ziztur claimed one of Ray Comfort‘s food gift certificates and has a sincere thank-you post about it.

Ray and I completely disagree with each other theologically, and I am against a lot of the things he stands for. We’ve obviously come to completely different conclusions about the nature of morality and how the universe operates. At the same time, It is clear that Ray sincerely believes what he preaches. He sincerely believes that his god is real, that we have souls, and does not want to see said souls spend an eternity in maximal punishment.

I’ll echo something similar to something Penn Jilette said — if I sincerely believed that a meteorite were going to crush your house with you inside of it, I would do everything in my power to get you out of your house. I would not care if you believed a meteor were coming. I would not walk away because I felt it would disrespect your beliefs to drag you kicking and screaming out of your house. To leave you in your house and not bother to pull you out would make me a terrible person.

Think about that… If Ray Comfort went away, he’d be a terrible person. The other option for him is to remain annoyingly persistent.

… I’m going to go sit in the fetal position in my room and cry now.

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  • Greg

    I’ll take my chances on the meteorite, Banana Man can just go away.

  • bud

    It’s one thing for Ray to believe as he does and sincerely want to save souls. But can he and his ilk do so without lying and misrepresenting science and the position of atheists? At least a meteorite crashing into earth can be verified.

  • Joy

    “…I’m going to go sit in the fetal position in my room and cry now.”

    Well, just let it out, then. Everything’s gonna’ be alright.

  • Dave B.

    It’s ok to warn me about an incoming meteor if you sincerely believe one will hit my house. You become an asshole when you start telling me about how great it is that the meteor will hit my house, but you want as few people as possible to be there at the time.

  • Steven

    Way back in the day when I was still a Christian, I felt the same way. I felt obligated to “convert” others in order to save them, because I didn’t want them to suffer an eternity in the pits of hell. My intentions were entirely good, as I am sure the intentions of (most) other followers of religion are. One of the things that led me on the road to atheism/agnosticism was when I realized that my parents, who are Asian Buddhists, were bound for hell if I didn’t convert them. But as a second generation American, I only knew how to speak English and knew there was no way for me to effectively communicate with them and change their minds. I knew them too well, and that it was impossible to get them to become Christians.. they were old and firmly set in their ways, and I felt it grossly unjust that they should go to hell when I felt that they were genuinely good people who have led a good life. And then I started thinking, if there are about 1 or 2 billion Christians in the world, there would be around 5 billion people in the world who would be going to hell for not believing in Christianity. Something didn’t seem right about that. Especially since there are people in remote reaches of the world who would have absolutely no means of learning about Christianity; surely they couldn’t be destined for hell for reasons beyond their control.

    I’m actually rather glad I used to be religious before I became an atheist. I remember the mindset I possessed as a Christian, and though my intentions were good, my critical thinking on the matter remained flawed. I always keep that in mind when dealing with a person who is religiously inclined. I know quite a few other atheists who can be rather hostile to followers of religion, and I find it disappointing that they should treat them in a sometimes condescending and malevolent manner. When I was a Christian and met such individuals, I naturally refused to listen to anything they had to say (would any of us really want to speak or listen to a raging, hostile Christian belittling and damning us?). It was when I began speaking with others who were “gentle” in their agnosticism, who encouraged me to think critically and suggested profound questions on these matter, that I truly began to see the truth. Gently nudging the religious into questioning their faith won’t work all the time (the success rate will likely still be rather low, sadly), but it’s better than trying to shove it down their throats. For those who used to be religious in the past, please keep in mind that you were like them at one point too… that they are not all bad folk, they’re people just like you and me.

  • Jim

    It’s the fallacy of the golden rule.

    Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

    Ray Comfort believes that he would want people to proselytize to him if he were to turn from his god, therefore, he believes that his duty to all humanity is to proselytize to prevent them from turning from god.

    I’ll do without his help, thanks.

  • I totally agree with the sentiment expressed here. Once anyone truly believes the Bible is the inspired word of the one true God, then the only thing left to do is ensure everyone is following its instructions as closely as possible.

    Ray (as bat shit crazy as he is) honestly believes he is doing the right thing. He will not cease as long as he continues in this belief, and due to the nature of his affliction he is unlikely to realise he is wrong. I am afraid we are stuck with Ray for a while yet.

  • Allow me to tread the middle path. I agree with the sentiment here only to a certain extent.

    I think it is true that if Ray were correct about his beliefs then he is doing the best and most loving thing he can by acting as he does.
    Alternatively, if Ray is wrong about his beliefs then he is being a moron. A persistently annoying moron, in fact.

    The key factor is: Ray doesn’t acknowledge the possibility that he may be wrong. If he did, then he would actually go away when people asked him to. After all, if we weren’t sure that a meteor really WAS going to hit my house then – even if Ray believed it were more likely – he would presumably allow me the benefit of the doubt enough to leave me to remain in my house in peace.

  • Pustulio

    Well just how far should you go to save someone from this hypothetical meteor?

    Would you…

    Resort to blackmail?
    Try to drag them out against their will?
    Threaten to set the house on fire?
    Actually set the house on fire?

    Where do you draw the line? At some point it doesn’t matter how noble your intentions may be, your actions still make you a bad person.

  • Kyle

    So what happens to my right to not believe you, give you a nice kick in the gonads and call the police there’s a crazy person trying to drag me out of my house? Even if a meteor were about to crash into my house and send me into bloody oblivion, I don’t have to believe you.

    Besides, I live in an apartment with a unit above me. It’ll hit my upstairs neighbor first and he’s someone I could live without. (Guess that makes me a bad person, eh?)

    I’d need a damn fair amount of solid evidence before I’d let someone coerce/threaten/push/shove/blackmail/etc. me out of my house, though. I’d need to see facts, pictures, peer reviewed papers, and so forth. If you can’t produce anything more than a musty old bronze-age book that says that one day in the far-flung and undreamt future there might be a meteor coming to smite me down where I live, then I’m not buying it.

  • The god that Ray Comfort sincerely believes in is the same god who will punish me for eternity in everlasting torment. He’ll do this not because I’m a bad person but because I lack a belief in something that I have no evidence for. It is fine for him to belief in such an arsehat deity and to sincerely worship him. If he actually succeeds in getting me to believe in such a god then I’m going to have to start doing something to fight such an evil being.

  • Greg

    No, he’s possibly not a ‘terrible’ person for trying to convert people.

    That doesn’t let him off the hook for his intellectual dishonesty, arrogance, dogmatism, self imposed ignorance, etc., etc…

    You know, all the things that made him a terrible person in the first place. It was never merely his wish to convert people! 🙂

  • gwen

    Okay, a meteor is about to hit my house. SHOW ME THE PROOF! That is the same thing I ask for when people try to convince me of the existence of their ‘god’. At least the meteor is real and would be very easy to prove.

  • gski

    The meteor is about to strike. You have told me so and you’ve made it clear I will be killed. Fine you’ve done your part now leave. You’ve given me all the information I need. Now it is up to me to decide what I want to do, this is called free will. If I’m squashed that was my choice. Note this also applies to real life scenarios, floods, volcanoes, fires … If my children are in danger I would say you have the obligation to rescue them. Provided you have proof of the danger. This would be analogous to a situation in which parents are substituting prayer for medical treatment to cure a child. The community has the obligation to intercede as the child’s health outweighs the parents rights.

  • Rick M

    Yep, Ray used a $25 gift certificate as bait. And look what he reeled in: a blog post trumpeting his sincerity. Expect to see the Ziztur post, carefully edited, quoted in some future Comfort publication.

  • Can’t say I agree with Ziztur’s comment. Knowing the basis of somebody’s belief system does create empathy for them, but it does not automatically justify their actions.

    I always thought bible literalists were bats**t insane… HOW could somebody actually believe that a book written by a bunch of men over thousands of years be an actual history of the world when so much science (and common sense) contradicts that viewpoint? But then I spoke with a friend who is a bible literalist. His simple comment of “god can create the universe, the earth, along with man in his image – don’t you think he can find a good publisher?” allowed me to empathize with their belief. I still don’t believe that is the truth, but I do have a greater understanding of where they are coming from.

    Think of this ridiculous scenario: Your neighbor comes up to you and tries to convince you that other races are truly inferior to whites, and that the resulting prejudice is justified because of that. “They’re mud people! Look at their skin. Look at the color of mud! WHAT MORE PROOF DO YOU NEED!?!” Although you might gain an appreciation for how the neighbor’s thought process works (as well as start questioning their sanity and how they made it past the 3rd grade), THAT DOES NOT JUSTIFY THEIR ACTIONS. That neighbor’s prejudicial acts and his attempts to make you act the same way would be just as vile as if you did not know why they felt that way.

    So, it is nice to know what drives evangelists – it really is. However, their vile acts that they justify with their holy book and their incessant pestering to believe what they believe, as well as their degradation of anybody who does not believe as they do, are still vile acts.

  • Actually it’s more like that meteor is arriving “tomorrow” and every day it never comes, but it’s always coming “tomorrow”. How many times has Christ’s return been predicted and not occurred?

  • Hitler, Pol Pot and Stalin also “cared”. Jim Jones also “cared”. Homophobes and bigots of all flavors and types “care”.
    They ALL “care(d)”…about control.
    Anyone who states otherwise is deluding themselves.
    Don’t read so much into the motives of others, especially stupid or crazy people. It’s a waste of time and you can better understand their motivations by what they do and say instead of projecting your own motives and personalities on them.

  • Alz

    Depends on the source of evidence. Did someone with a large telescope track this meteor and calculate where it might hit? Or did someone have a dream about a bad Hollywood movie and lucky numbers on a fortune cookie that happened to match my address? Which of these two categories does Comfort fit?

  • @ Alz,
    How many guesses do I get? 🙂
    Great point.

  • The god that Ray Comfort sincerely believes in is the same god who will punish me for eternity in everlasting torment. He’ll do this not because I’m a bad person but because I lack a belief in something that I have no evidence for. It is fine for him to belief in such an arsehat deity and to sincerely worship him. If he actually succeeds in getting me to believe in such a god then I’m going to have to start doing something to fight such an evil being.

    That is one of the most brilliant posts ever, hoverfrog. I wish there was a way I could sig this like a forum.

  • It’s good that Ray wants to prevent people from suffering an eternity in hell.

    The flipside of that is that he views a God who’s willing to inflict such eternal torment as morally perfect.

    Such Christians are a candy-coated shell of kindness over a core of the most vile cruelty imaginable.

  • Jim H

    @NoYourGod: regarding god finding a good publisher, I once read a description of the bible:

    It has some excellent writing and some truly awful writing. What the bible really needs is an editor. (The source is J. Michael Straczynski, who created Babylon 5 and writes a lot of TV/movies.)

  • What would Comfort do if my house were about to be destroyed by a giant banana?

  • StarScream

    While I can understand the reasoning behind Ziztur’s post, I do not agree. The “what” of a belief is not the important aspect in determining its ethical or moral character, but rather it is the “how” or method that the belief was formed.

    Ray’s beliefs are formed solely upon personal experience (betraying an arrogant solipsism), logical fallacies (the Bible is true because the Bible says itself is true), and prideful, willful ignorance (he admitted to reading only a handful of books on biology and then he writes books and introductions purporting to disprove the entire scientific discipline).

    I could assent to Ziztur’s and Penn Jillette’s reasoning in many cases such as individuals who are honestly ignorant, but not in Ray’s case. Ray is just as some have already cast him as in this thread: a rotten and dim individual with merely a thin sugar coating of illusory sheen.

    To use the same metaphor: if you came to the conclusion that there was a meteor heading right for my house and you deduced this through careful observation with a telescope and consultation with the appropriate astronomical texts to double check for trajectory, etc then that is defensible and ethical. However, if you came to such a conclusion by consulting a shaman who tosses chicken bones and because you “know in your heart” that there is a meteor, then your method is laughable as well as verging on the unethical – especially in cases such as Ray who is a semi-public figure.

  • There’s a mindnumbingly simple escape between the horns of this dilemma. Ray believes that his God is benevolent, right? Then obviously God wouldn’t send us to hell for being who he made us to be. All a benevolent deity would care about is that we’re good people, not whether we pay homage to him. If Ray can be made to realize this, he can stop annoying us without being a bad person. It doesn’t even require him to stop believing in his God. And no fair changing the definition of “benevolent” to mean “willing to torture his children for eternity as punishment for falling for a really good practical joke”. That’s doublespeak and we will have no truck with it.

  • Ron in Houston

    Personally, I’d be upset if old Ray went away.

    He’s provided more set-ups for banana jokes than anyone else on the planet.

    Maybe next we can get him to tackle a parrot. I love parrot jokes.

  • MH

    One good thing about Calvinists is they believe it is already determined who is elected to salvation and who’s off to perdition. Given that fact evangelism is a complete waste of time. Indeed in their view only God can cause people to see the truth in scripture.

    A God that works this way sounds even worse than Ray Comfort’s God. But it has the practical benefit that they won’t bother you.

    Bin Laden and all manner of fanatics would love Ray’s argument. You can justify any finite Earthy evil when you balance it against infinite Heavenly good.

  • bernerbits

    I’d need a damn fair amount of solid evidence before I’d let someone coerce/threaten/push/shove/blackmail/etc. me out of my house, though. I’d need to see facts, pictures, peer reviewed papers, and so forth. If you can’t produce anything more than a musty old bronze-age book that says that one day in the far-flung and undreamt future there might be a meteor coming to smite me down where I live, then I’m not buying it.

    Oh hell. You just have to point up in the sky and show me the meteor.

  • Jamie

    Ziztur and Jillette are off track. At least you can verify if a meteorite is approaching or not (a la StarScream’s post). If all we were talking about were unverifiable beliefs and feelings, then sure, let’s all agree to disagree and go on with life. Try to force me to act on your beliefs and you’ve crossed the line.

    You can also leave people to their reasons without turning it into an excuse. Comfort is still wrong even if he’s persistent/entertaining in his willful ignorance. He’s wrong about what he thinks, he’s wrong about how to act on those beliefs and he’s wrong about assessing the value of his actions.

  • Penn Jilette’s analogy doesn’t work. Ray is the one flinging the meteorites at your house in the first place.

    If Comfort still believes what he says is true, despite having repeatedly asked for and duly received evidence to the contrary, the only thing he is sincere about is his commitment to failed cognition.

    Jane makes the statement, “Today there will be a car crash”. She hasn’t made a prophecy until she says where and when the crash will occur, how many vehicles will be involved, their make, model and year of manufacture.

    But if Jane further asserts that a demand for these details constitutes a lack of faith in her ability to predict the future, we don’t credit her with having identified our inflexibility to her truth-claims.

    Ray Comfort asserts falsehoods and demands an account for his wilful misunderstanding. I can not respect anyone who disrespects the truth, least of all when it is presented to them upon request and they choose to ignore it because it contradicts their pre-existing opinion.

    TL;DR – Ray Comfort is a dick.

  • I believe the appropriate saying is: “The road to hell is paved with good intentions.”

  • liz

    depending on why this man comes running into my house ranting about a meteor i would either A) stab them because they’re probably cray or B) calmly ask them approximately how long it will be until the meteor comes and how he knows it’s coming.

    if he can answer B without quoting an old piece of literature or something some religious (or other non-scientific) person said…then i’d probably believe him a bit…atleast until i went to get a second opinion about the whole meteor situation.

  • Richard Wade

    This is about paternalism, the forcing of something on others “for their own good.” In every case what is “good” for them is determined only by those who do the forcing.

    The worst things in history have been done by people who sincerely believed they were doing a good thing. Their belief was so sincere that they were incapable of ever having any doubt.

    People incapable of doubt are capable of doing anything, no matter how horrible.

    If they could, people like Ray wouldn’t stop just at dragging you out of your house from underneath their imaginary meteorite. They would also be willing, if they thought it would keep you from returning to your house, to incarcerate you and forcibly “re-educate” you to believe in the always-imminent meteor strike too. If you didn’t come around, they’d quietly dispose of you, again “for your own good.”

  • Karen

    All reasonable people agree that being in a house hit by a meteor is a bad thing. Not all reasonable people agree that not believing in the Christian god at the time of your death is a bad thing.

    The difference between the meteor example and Christian evangelizing is the reasonableness of the belief. If I tried desperately to remove someone from their house because I believed a herd of pink unicorns was about to trample it, my behavior would not be laudable but annoying (at the least), and probably insane.

    Different religious groups think different behavior/beliefs are required to avoid eternal damnation. There is no evidence (of course) to support any of the (competing) beliefs.

    Their beliefs therefore to not meet the requirements to justify harassing someone in order to ‘save’ them.

  • Carlie

    To combine several of the responses: if you sincerely believe that the meteorite is coming, and I tell you that I need some more proof first, and you really care about me, what you will do is go get some more proof. One would hope that you had gotten such proof first before you believed it, but that horse is already out of the barn. Now, if you want to save me, you have to prove it to me. Sure, going and doing research is harder than just running around yelling about the meteor, but if you really cared, wouldn’t you do it? Simply repeating the same things over and over, without addressing any of my concerns, isn’t showing that you care about me; it’s showing that you only care that your God sees you yelling at people about the meteor.

    When I was a fundamentalist, I had the same contempt for moderate wishy-washy Christians that is at the basis of some bit of respect for Ray: if you honestly believe this Bible stuff, then being all moderate and tolerant and not trying to convert people makes you a monster by your own rules. At least the zealots are internally consistent. If only their zealotry was directed towards archaeology and finding out the real basis of their scriptures…

  • Neon Genesis

    Ray may sincerely believe he’s saving you in hell, but that still doesn’t justify acting in an insincere manner when he distorts scientific facts when he edits material out of Origin of Species and make up things about evolution that aren’t true. Atheists sincerely don’t believe in God but does that mean we should go around making up lies about religion? Does that still make us sincere as long as we sincerely disbelieve? John Shelby Spong is a sincere Christian too but he doesn’t believe you’re going to be tortured for all eternity for not believing him either nor does he distort scientific facts:

  • Ziztur’s logic gives a free pass to every delusional nut with Very Important Message.

    Suppose there is a gas leak, and I don’t believe you, so you forcibly drag me out of my house moments before it explodes in a ball of fire. Technically, you have committed assault, but it’s unlikely I will lay a complaint, and even if I did, it would probably not stand up in court. Even if my house didn’t explode, but the gas company and fire department verified that an imminent danger of explosion existed, you’re still probably off the hook.

    But if every week you show up on my porch screaming about a gas leak, and there is never a leak, and nothing blows up — then you’re harassing me, and you are morally and legally in the wrong. (Of course, in evangelicalism the firey explosion is conveniently moved off into the unverifiable afterlife).

    Free speech means everyone and anyone gets to ask to make their pitch — whether they’re selling salvation, vacuum cleaners, or penis enlargement herbs — to me *once*. If I say “No, thank you”, that is the last I should ever have to hear about it.

  • At least the zealots are internally consistent.

    People keep saying this, but it ain’t true. Fundamentalist theology is notorious for cherry-picking the Bible, and for papering over manifest contradictions in the text. They are inconsistent, just in a different way than the moderates. The latter, at least, allow their hermeneutic to give way before external evidence and humane values. Guess who I think is more worthy of respect.

  • Miko

    Kyle: I’d need a damn fair amount of solid evidence before I’d let someone coerce/threaten/push/shove/blackmail/etc. me out of my house, though. I’d need to see facts, pictures, peer reviewed papers, and so forth.

    If someone is trying to shove you out the door, I don’t think that you’d have time to look at evidence. Say rather that you’d require evidence before you’d evacuate voluntarily. And I doubt even that that is true; if FEMA shows up at your door and tells you to leave, I doubt you’d refuse because they didn’t bring you a large pile of documents.

    Richard Wade: Or, as C.S. Lewis put it:

    Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It would be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron’s cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience.

    Richard Wade: People incapable of doubt are capable of doing anything, no matter how horrible.

    Are you saying “incapable of doubt overall” or “incapable of doubt on certain specific issues”? If the latter, I disagree. For example, I believe without any doubt that I do not have the right to interfere in the lives of others in a way that they would object to (other that you’re-about-to-get-hit-by-a-bus situations in which there’s no time to get consent ahead of time). I could be wrong, but by its very nature I don’t see how this belief could lead me to do horrible things. Absolute belief is a necessary, but not sufficient, condition to being a monster. One also must believe that one has the right to substitute one’s own judgment for that of another person.

  • muggle

    Let’s say that Ray’s motives are that he gives a fuck (I don’t think he does but more on that below) so the fuck what? Who gives a shit that he gives a fuck? He’s still trying to harm me.

    Jillette’s argument is horse shit. It really is. Not only are the two not comparable but, no, he doesn’t have the right to drag me kicking and screaming out of my house for my own good.

    The only way this would be justifiable would be in clear and present danger. This means something like seeing a kid about to step onto the highway in front of a speeding Mack truck. You know you’ll be quick enough and the truck doesn’t have time to stop, so you run across the road, scooping him up and setting him down on the other side.

    Listen, listen carefully, we are not children playing in the road and, even if we were, there is no Mack truck. Ray can shut the fuck up and leave us the hell alone.

    I don’t think he’s this benign myself. I think what Ray really beieves in is Ray. He is the god he worships. Everything is to glorify Ray and his goodness. Otherwise the meal would have been anonymous. If it wasn’t about Ray, instead of spending the money on a PR stunt that will give him the fine opportunity to point to the nonbelievers (his equivalent of saying pay no attention to the man behind the curtain, meaning himself; shame on Jillette who should understand misdirection when he hears it), he’d spend it on feeding the homeless or anonymously giving it to Haiti. Hell, not even anonymously. Just quietly without all the bells and whistles calling attention to himself.

    I groan every time he pulls this because I know there are going to be Athiests who take the baist and make us all look like flying monkeys. Assholes.

    As for Ray, I think he wants money and fame but hasn’t got the talent or brains to make that happen any other way so he’s peddling the Godstuff and even the flying monkeys are jumping through hoops for him. Disgusting.

    Seriously, what are you afraid of if you turn down his bullshit and ignore him or merely laugh at the moron. What you’re going to starve to death for lack of one free meal? If so, every city has a mission. At least you didn’t make a buffoon of yourself nationally even if you did have to sit through a sermon while the church running the mission beamed at their good works. Hell, you’d be better off panhandling than being his stooge.

    I never heard of Ziztur before but I must say he’s appearing rather stupider than Ray Comfort and Ray Comfort’s too stupid to get rich and famous through any other venue.

  • Becky

    I signed up for the free dinner, and they denied me. I guess I’m not atheist enough? lol

  • fritzy

    Ray Comfort may indeed believe he is doing what is best, but that doesn’t excuse his actions. He is willfully ignorant, then expects those who have called him on this to respect his message. That’s petulant and arrogant and certainly not due any respect.

    These are adults he is talking too–to perseverate in the face of the audience’s irritated rejection of his message is insolent co-dependence.

    Comforts persistence indicates a lack of ability to accept that he might be wrong or to empathize with his audience. There is nothing acceptable or respectable about this and as has been pointed out by others, has led to some of the worst atrocities in history.

  • If Comfort truly believed, then why would he use distortion and obfuscation to get his point across?

    Given that listening to Comfort is like an eternity in hell, I truly hope he goes to heaven so we don’t have to suffer him while we’re living it up in hell.

  • Hey guys!

    No, I don’t think Ray’s sincerity is an excuse for lying and obfuscating the truth to promote his own agenda. Personally, I think that when he says things about atheists being akin to serial murderers in his publications to be downright unethical, as it promotes atheophobia and bigotry by people who really believe what he says.

    On my blog I ripped on him repeatedly for that sort of thing, so I’d like to ask you guys not to look at this blog post where I thanked him for something in isolation. I’ve got like 100 posts about Ray’s writing on the blog. There, I repeatedly call him on his BS to the point of absolute absurdity. Really. I’m stupid because I said, “You’re a jerk, but thanks for this one thing!”? Come on…

    I don’t think it is ethical or moral to lie to people, but I can kind of understand why he would, given that he sincerely believes we’re going to rot in hell for eternity. He’s wrong, and we won’t.

    I also wouldn’t care if he carefully edited my post and put it on one of his books – it would make me laugh my ass off, honestly. There I would have, in print, perfect firsthand proof of quote-mining. I would be catching a thief red handed. 🙂

    My fiancee Christopher is an atheist. For awhile, he was a christian. When he read the Bible at 11 or so, he realized that the god in the Bible that was supposed to be so awesome was actually the most evil being ever. He still believed this god was real, and he hated him and hated that all of his friends would go to hell. He was deeply depressed for years as he actively tried to save his friends from hell.

    Later, he realized that the god of the Bible does not exist at all, and he was no longer depressed and no longer tried to convince people to be Christians. I don’t think he was a jerk, or did not have the right, to try to convince people. He was wrong, but so? Does being wrong and not knowing it mean you don’t have the right to try to convince people of your position?

    What bothers me far more than comfort are the people who gleefully tell me that I’m going to hell, as though they are happy about it. They take great pleasure in “knowing” they will have eternal pleasure while their enemies will live in torment. Those people are terrible people. Ray is a terrible person for lying, but not for wanting to “save” us.

    So, I think you guys are confusing, “Ray would be a terrible person if he just walked away” to mean, “Ray is NOT a terrible person for being a liar.”

    P.S. Muggle – I’m a woman.

  • Richard Wade

    Miko, I do mean “incapable of doubt on certain specific issues,” and such compartmentalized absolute certainty can and has led to horrific atrocities. It all depends on the issue, and on what is seen as necessary to promote and protect the belief about that issue. Some examples:

    Protestants are heretics and can only be saved from eternal fire by killing them with fire.

    Europe is polluted by the depravity of the Jews and cleansing Europe through genocide is a glorious ambition.

    Caucasians are the superior race and must by any means necessary rid America of all non-white sub-humans.

    Gays are hated by God and so persecuting them and anyone else who even passively accepts their presence in this country is what God wants us to do.

    Protecting the interests of Corporate America is far more important than idealistic nonsense like civil rights or due process of law, so torturing anyone remotely suspected of being an enemy of those interests is fully justified.

    “Sincere belief” in its extreme banishes the doubt that would bubble up when an extreme measure is considered. Doubt is an uncomfortable feeling for many people. Some can get hooked on anything that takes away their discomfort. So a person’s natural compassion toward others is gradually canceled out by their addiction to the self assurance of “absolute knowlege.”

    Jacob Bronowski said it best at the very end of The Ascent of Man. Standing ankle deep in a mud puddle at the concentration camp at Auschwitz he said,

    Into this pond were flushed the ashes of some four million people. And that was not done by gas. It was done by arrogance, it was done by dogma, it was done by ignorance. When people believe that they have absolute knowledge, with no test in reality, this is how they behave. This is what men do when they aspire to the knowledge of gods.

  • Revyloution

    I think Ray is great. If all true believers behaved like him, all of the moderates would abandon Christianity.

    Fred Phelps, Binny Hinn, Davd Koresh, we need to hold these guys up as perfect Christians. Then just open up the doors to rational thought and watch the masses pour through.

    It’s the mushy headed moderates like Dinesh D’Souza that give so much wiggle room for Christianity to exist.

    According to Daniel Dennentt, there are quite a few new religions that spring up every year. What kills them is a rigid dogma that cannot bend to the influx of new believers with slightly different viewpoints. If the religion remains inflexible, the dogma fails and the religion vanishes. If Christianity becomes tied to hard line dogmatic leaders, its fall becomes imminent. Its only hope for survival is the accommodationists, who the hard liners abhor. With hope, that will lead to a new schism. A schism between the biblical literalists and the accommodationists would be the best thing today. Divide and conquer my friends.

  • Revyloution

    Richard Wade, I missed your last post when I was writing my previous bit.

    I really loved that. I was telling my 7 year old daughter about the love of not knowing tonight. How wonderful it is to be certain that you will never learn it all. That every corner of your life has something new to learn in it.

    Socrates said ‘The only real wisdom is knowing you know nothing’, and it has been a real source of inspiration in my life. The other quote I love is ‘Knowing is the enemy of learning’, I don’t know its origins, but it rings true.

    I haven’t yet read the Ascent of Man by Jacob Bronowski, but that quote put it on my must read list. Thanks for that.

  • Richard Wade

    Nice quotes, and nice positive way of looking at uncertainty. Thank you.

    Bronowski did the entire book as a TV series many years ago. it was superbly crafted and visually stunning. Probably on CD at your local library.

    Your daughter’s a lucky kid.

  • Demonhype

    ” I would not walk away because I felt it would disrespect your beliefs to drag you kicking and screaming out of your house. To leave you in your house and not bother to pull you out would make me a terrible person.”

    I’ve heard similar arguments used by Christians to defend the Inquisition–on occasion, I’ve even heard it combined with denial of the facts. “Don’t you know that no one actually was tortured or killed, and there were just a few exiles, no more. You’ve been fooled by the false history of people who hate Christ. Anyway, isn’t torture and execution actually a loving action, when you consider these unbelievers were a threat to themselves and others? You can’t really condemn the believers for their generosity!”

  • Christophe Thill

    Sincere believers are a dreadful thing. If you’re one of them, then for you, nothing can be more important, more vital, than saving people’s souls. If you don’t, that person will go to hell and suffer unspeakable torture. So anything to avoid this is justified.

    Even murder, I guess.

  • If there were an actual meteorite coming towards Earth that was going to cause massive destruction, I presume Ray would worship it. I’m thinking of the old movie Beneath the Planet of the Apes where the mutant human race was worshiping a “doomsday bomb” that could destroy the earth.

  • keddaw

    If you were a libertarian (or believed in people’s autonomy) then you would explain to them the danger they were in and try to persuade them to leave.

    However, if they were of sound mind and were refusing to leave their house you have no right to force them.

    No matter how nasty this seems any other decision is the first step on a slippery slope of telling people what they can and can’t do ‘for their own good’ and no-one wants that, do they?

  • I’m sorry, but I really feel that people like Ray Comfort should be ignored. This kind of attention is exactly what he wants. The fact that he gets so much traffic on atheist blogs probably makes him feel quite satisfied. Honestly, shouldn’t we just be ignoring people on the fringe? This guy is not part of mainstream Christianity. He’s not someone who can be talked to or reasoned with. He has no interest in understanding us. In fact, he’s quite happy to attack us and misrepresent who we are. There’s an ulterior motive for everything he does. Why should we be playing into that?

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