"The Beauty of a Broken Spirit-Atheism" is the title of the seventh episode from season one of Way of the Master.
This episode specifically addresses atheism and agnosticism, providing sample strategies Christians can use when witnessing to non-believers. Ray Comfort and Kirk Cameron discuss Kirk's claim of once being a "devout" atheist, provide several arguments from design, and show the "atheist test" in action.
Comment: Ray and Kirk use a narrow, incomplete definition of atheism to argue there are no atheists, only "professed atheists" who are agnostics. This idea, echoed in Ray's book "God Doesn't Believe in Atheists," shows a gross conceptual error about philosophical positions like atheism and agnosticism and lends itself to straw-person arguments. Avoiding epistemological questions of belief and knowledge, they rely on many hidden premises to prop up analogies that support intelligent design. This episode:
- has many insulting claims about atheism and intellectualism;
- misrepresents, by analogy, evolutionary theory;
- gives anecdotal arguments from design to support commonsense conclusions over empirical evidence;
- favors emotional arguments rather than intellectual ones; and
- misquotes and misrepresents famous figures.
About this episode
(00:00 - 00:40)
- Kirk begins by asking, "Who do you know who isn't saved?" After inserting possible answers, including close relatives, he asks the viewer to "think of their terrible fate if they die without Christ." Convinced the viewer wants to share their faith with those non-believers, he explains that the purpose of this episode is to give them the tools they need to overcome fear and know exactly what to say.
Comment: Kirk begins with an appeal to emotion. Kirk asserts, without justification, the reality of damnation and salvation and the viewer feels compelled to learn these "tools" to prevent their loved ones from experiencing damnation. This isn't a logical fallacy because the viewer is likely to accept this premise but it does obscure the questionable nature of the premise.
(00:40 - 01:10)
(01:10 - 01:35)
- A non-believer responds to the question, "Do you believe in God?" with...
- "My next question would be, or my next concern would be, um, whether you believe in God or not. And the fact that someone tells me he's there and I can't see him, can't smell him, can't touch him, can't feel him ever, I mean, how are you supposed to believe that and base your life around that if you don't have that belief."
(01:36 - 01:56)
- Ray begins by stating, "If you get a dictionary and look up the word atheism, you'll find it says it's the belief that there's no God."
Comment: Depending on the dictionary you grab, you might also find an entry declaring that atheism is synonymous with immorality. Dictionary definitions are useful, but when considering complex, philosophical topics, they often portray an over-simplified explanation.
If you get a dictionary and look up the word atheism, you're also likely to find an entry defining it as the 'lack' of belief in a god/gods/God. Ray selects a particular definition, representing one possible take on strong atheism, and uses a distortion of this definition as a straw man attack on atheism.
- Ray continues with, "According to TV Guide, a number of years ago, 96% of Americans actually believe in God's existence. Which means there's 4% that don't, which equates to something like 10 million atheists in the United States."
Comment: Ray has opted to use an outdated, unscholarly survey in order to unjustly inflate the significance of his position. More current statistics, from more reputable sources (see: http://adherents.com/rel_USA.html) show that nearly 14% of Americans identify as non-religious or secular.
Additionally, this is a veiled example of the argumentum ad populum. Ray doesn't actually assert that the fact that so many people believe in the existence of God is evidence that he exists, but the implication is there.
Kirk as a former atheist
(01:56 - 02:28)
- Ray asks Kirk, "Didn't you used to be an atheist?"
- Kirk responds, "Yeah, I did. I used to be a devout atheist and that sounds a little strange but I was committed to my belief that God didn't exist. And this really wasn't based on anything other than what I had learned in school. I thought that evolution was responsible for everything that's around and that God was something that people just invented in their minds as an emotional crutch or as some sort of an answer to the questions that they couldn't figure out themselves. And I've since learned that when you really look at the evidence, the truth is, it takes more faith to be an atheist than it does to believe in God, you've really gotta ignore the facts."
Comment: Kirk, essentially, admits that his atheism was without basis. Rather than holding rational views supported by evidence and questioning views which lack evidentiary support, he made assumptions based on a limited understanding of evolution and religion. In an interview with Ray Comfort on the Hellbound Alleee program, Ray stated that Kirk's epiphany was "what if I'm wrong". A simplified version of Pascal's Wager, which is an argument for belief when "real" evidence is insufficient, this "epiphany" demonstrates that Kirk's current belief is just as unfounded as his previous one.
Kirk sets himself up as a living straw man in order to support his claim that it takes more faith to be an atheist than it does to believe in God (see: Atheism is based on faith). Asserting that one must really "ignore the facts", he lays the groundwork for Ray's claim that belief in God is more intellectual than disbelief.
(02:28 - 02:34)
- Ray says, "It's funny how we equate the word atheism with intellectual when it's the exact opposite."
Comment: This is one of many appeals to emotion or vanity, designed to make the believer feel intellectually superior for recognizing the "ultimate truth". It's a subtle attempt to shift the burden of proof, at least in the mind of the believer, setting up their beliefs as truths which must be disproved instead of claims which must be proven.
(02:35 - 03:29)
- Ray says, "Kirk, I have an intellectually stimulating theory. It's my theory of where the soda can may have come from. Billions of years ago, there was a big bang in space. Nobody knows what caused the big bang, it just happened. And from this bang issued this huge rock, on top of the rock was found a sweet, brown bubbly substance. And over millions of years, aluminum crept up the side, formed itself with a can and a lid and then a tab. And then millions of years later, red paint, blue paint, white paint fell from the sky and formed itself into the words '12 fluid ounces - Do not litter'."
Comment: Ray's analogy fails on many levels. His "intellectually stimulating theory" isn't a theory at all; it's a hypothesis. Unlike Ray's example, scientists don't just "dream up" an explanation and run with it. The scientific path from hypothesis to theory includes observations, testing, falsification and peer review. Additionally, his analogy is a combined theory of cosmology, abiogenesis, and evolution, which is not directly analogous to the current state of the scientific theories he's challenging. Finally, even the aspects of his example which "represent" evolution are fundamentally undermined by the absolute most rudimentary basics of evolutionary theory. In particular, his analogy provides no mechanism for a tendency for this amorphous mass to accrue more and more aspects of a Coke-can-like structure over time - an absolutely essential aspect of natural selection, which depends crucially on differential survival rates for positive mutations to slowly assimilate into the population.
While Ray may not recognize the various faults of his analogy, he does recognize that it's absurd and immediately points this out. Unfortunately, he doesn't seem to recognize why it's absurd and why this is an incredibly weak objection to evolutionary theory. Indeed, if he had bothered to expand his argument to actually make it mimic evolution, perhaps then he would have been struck immediately by the simple elegance of Darwin's theory, having considered it in its entirety.
- Continuing, "You're saying, 'What are you doing, you're insulting my intellect' - and so I am. Because we know, if the can is made there must be a maker. If it's designed there must be a designer. To believe the soda can happened by chance is to move into an intellectual-free zone... is to have an echo when you think... is to have brain liposuction."
Comment: Ray is correct to point out that designed things must have a designer. However, this is a tautology. He's making a circular argument from design by asserting that human beings (by analogy to a soda can) must have a designer because they appear designed. While his argument is incomplete, the implications are riddled with hidden premises about the nature of design and potential designers. He uses this "common sense" argument as a foundation for his belief that humans were designed by God.
The argument fails to recognize that the appearance of design doesn't necessarily require an intelligent designer. Additionally, his argument rests on a misrepresentation of "chance" as it relates to evolutionary theory. While random mutations are essential to evolutionary theory, the governing "designer" of evolution is natural selection, which is about as far removed from "blind chance" as possible.
This argument also confuses creation with design. For items such as soda cans and watches we know they are designed because we have the factories that create them to specifications. Humans are the factories that produce humans, God does not create them. We know that we are encoded by our DNA and that DNA controls how we grow and mature into an adult from a single fertilized egg cell. If someone did design us, they worked mathematically with DNA strands and not with things like arms, legs, and eyes.
Finally, Ray makes some insulting appeals to vanity by implying that acceptance of evolutionary theory is somehow an exercise which requires one to turn off their brain. His example is a straw man which doesn't accurately represent evolutionary theory, and is in fact as absurd as he attempts to make his target out to be.
(03:31 - 04:34)
- Ray holds up a banana and continues with, "Behold, the atheists' nightmare. Now if you study a well-made banana, you'll find, on the far side, there are 3 ridges. On the close side, two ridges. If you get your hand ready to grip a banana, you'll find on the far side there are three grooves, on the close side, two grooves. The banana and the hand are perfectly made, one for the other. You'll find the maker of the banana, Almighty God, has made it with a non-slip surface. It has outward indicators of inward contents - green, too early - yellow, just right - black, too late. Now if you go to the top of the banana, you'll find, as with the soda can makers have placed a tab at the top, so God has placed a tab at the top. When you pull the tab, the contents don't squirt in your face. You'll find a wrapper which is biodegradable, has perforations. Notice how gracefully it sits over the human hand. Notice it has a point at the top for ease of entry. It's just the right shape for the human mouth. It's chewy, easy to digest and its even curved toward the face to make the whole process so much easier. Seriously, Kirk, the whole of creation testifies to the genius of God's creation."
Comment: This argument drew so much attention (and ridicule) that an entire entry has been devoted to the banana argument.
(04:35 - 04:50)
- Kirk uses the common example of the complexity of the human eye to support the idea of an intelligent designer.
Comment: Whilst holding up the human eye as an example of perfect design, Kirk neglects to mention the eye's many failings, such as;
- Blind spots
- High incidence of defects such as (but not limited to)
- Colour blindness
- Hypermetropia and Myopia
- Presbyopia, a deterioration of focus with age
- How easily the eye is damaged and it's limited ability to heal
To name just a few. If the human eye was 'designed' as Ray and Kirk suggest, the 'designer' did a botch-job. Although Kirk is trying to point out the complexity of the eye and use that as evidence for a designer, its flawed design raises some questions about the competence of the designer (or even his involvement in the process at all).
(04:51 - 05:11)
- Kirk says, "...even Charles Darwin, himself, said"
- "To suppose that the eye could have been formed by natural selection, seems, I freely confess, absurd in the highest degree."
- -Charles Darwin
- Kirk's assessment of this Darwin quote is, "Even the, uh, creator of the theory of evolution says it just goes against my common sense and logic."
Comment: This is a prime example of quote mining. The quotation from Darwin is incomplete and the entire section reads...
- "To suppose that the eye with all its inimitable contrivances for adjusting the focus to different distances, for admitting different amounts of light, and for the correction of Spherical and chromatic aberration, could have been formed by natural selection, seems, I freely confess, absurd in the highest degree. When it was first said that the sun stood still and the world turned round, the common sense of mankind declared the doctrine false; but the old saying of Vox populi, vox Dei ("the voice of the people is the voice of God "), as every philosopher knows, cannot be trusted in science. Reason tells me, that if numerous gradations from a simple and imperfect eye to one complex and perfect can be shown to exist, each grade being useful to its possessor, as is certain the case; if further, the eye ever varies and the variations be inherited, as is likewise certainly the case; and if such variations should be useful to any animal under changing conditions of life, then the difficulty of believing that a perfect and complex eye could be formed by natural selection, should not be considered as subversive of the theory."
Darwin, after admitting that the idea contradicts common sense, points out that common sense is not a reliable foil within the scope of scientific investigation and that if we can demonstrate gradual changes from a simple eye to a complex eye, his theory holds despite objections from "common sense". Darwin goes on to provide examples of the variety of eyes which exist in nature. Beginning with simple, light-sensitive cells and advancing through creatures with primitive lenses, irises he marches through a series of examples demonstrating the exact sort of gradations he hypothesized.
(05:12 - 05:27)
- Ray, "And some of these guys that we think were atheists weren't actually atheists. I mean, Einstein wasn't an atheist, he, he objected when atheists used him to, to say that atheism was a genuine thing. I mean, Einstein believed in the existence of God and even Darwin did."
Comment: IronChariots has been unable to find any reference of Albert Einstein objecting to any atheistic reference to him or his work. Ray's comment that Einstein believed in God is more than a little dishonest. For specific quotes on Einstein's religion, visit his page.
Einstein's stated beliefs, while they do include some concept of God, hardly represent the sort of god-concept that Ray Comfort is implying. If anything, his opinions are more in line with the deists and freethinkers of the 19th century.
With regard to Charles Darwin, we're presented with a very similar situation. Darwin's autobiography clearly demonstrates his rejection of Christianity as well as the specific arguments and evidence which lead him to identify himself as an agnostic.
Ray quickly tries to imply that Einstein and Darwin were believers as an argument from authority, yet their own quotes clearly show that if they maintained any notion of God, it was vastly different from the sort of God being argued for in this series. As with any fallacious argument from authority, the personal beliefs of Einstein, Darwin or any other person has no bearing on the truth of the situation and carries no weight outside of their recognized fields.
This blatant misrepresentation of Darwin, the second in the past few minutes, demonstrates either a lack of scholarship or intentional dishonesty. Neither Einstein's nor Darwin's ideas about God mesh with Ray's "intelligent designer"-god and claiming that Darwin, the "creator of the theory of evolution" (as Kirk phrased it), would support Ray's notions about God is laughable.
Proving God exists
(5:27 - 7:58)
Ray and Kirk promise to teach the user how to "prove the existence of God" and "make an atheist backslide." They go on to provide several versions of the same argument from design:
Building and builder
- Ray, "When I look at a building, how can I know there was a builder? Can't see him, hear him, touch him, taste him or smell him, so how can I know there was a builder? Well, the building is absolute proof there was a builder. I couldn't want better proof that there was a builder than to have the building as evidence."
Comment: As is the case with nearly all of Ray's examples, this analogy fails for a number of reasons. In reality, we understand that a building had a builder because we have a mountain of evidence that supports the notion that buildings are designed and built by intelligent human beings and absolutely no evidence that they occur naturally. This distinction between "naturally occurring" and "intelligently designed", or "How do we recognize design?"/"How do we distinguish between design and the appearance of design?" is the true question that Ray continually avoids. For example, he fails to mention that one can still visit their local planning department and see the building's blueprints, the name of the architect(s), and the name of the construction company that built it. One can ask a friend in the construction industry and be told exactly how buildings are built. One can visit the library and find old newspaper articles about the construction of the building.
Ray never ponders why naturally occurring objects appear to be designed. If you look at a cave with an open mind then it would appear to be designed as well. We know however that God didn't place each stalactite and stalagmite, but they formed from mineral deposition. We know the caves weren't individually carved by the hand of God, but were formed when water dissolved and carried away minerals. If you look at crystallized salt or frost then the formations appear to be designed, however we know what causes crystallization and I have yet to hear someone argue that God's hand drives the formation of each crystal.
In the case of living things, we have an enormous amount of evidence that they are naturally occurring and absolutely no evidence that living things were intelligently designed. The appearance of design is adequately explained by the filter of natural selection acting on slight modifications over long periods. Each of Ray's arguments assumes, in the premise, the very thing he's trying to prove. This sort of circular reasoning is a logical fallacy which cripples each of his examples.
In addition, his analogy flies in the face of creationism, since buildings are built, not created. If a building spontaneously appeared, we might question whether it had been built and therefore whether it had a builder. Not only does he conflate "build" with "create", he conflates both with "design". Just as a building could be built without a design, a building can be designed without being built. "Intelligent Design" is not enough - the argument is for an "Intelligent Builder". In essence, they are arguing against creationism, and stating there must have been a process to everything's formation.
- Ray, "I don't need faith to believe in a builder, all I need is eyes that can see and a brain that works."
Comment: Yet another example of Ray's implication that only a moron or fool would fail to recognize the obvious truth of his claims.
Painting and painter
- Ray, "Now the same deep, rich, scientific principle works with paintings and painters."
Comment: This "deep, rich, scientific" principle is none of the above. It is a tautology which explains nothing and serves as rhetoric to support a particular position. Saying that a painting requires a painter is like saying that a gift must be free. It's true by definition and in the case of all of Ray's examples (build-ing/er, paint-ing/er, Creat-ion/or), obvious by examining root words.
- Ray continues by repeating the building argument for paintings.
Creation and creator
- Ray, "...and the same principle works with God. When I look at Creation how can I know there was a creator? Well, creation is absolute proof there was a creator."
Comment: Ray is absolutely correct. Unfortunately, we're not talking about "Creation", we're talking about existence, the universe, nature, the cosmos, everything or any of a number of terms which don't make the circular mistake of including a claim about their reason for existing in their name. By labeling everything as "Creation", he is, again, assuming in the premise the very thing he's trying to prove. This argument is another tautology and the hidden premise renders it logically unsound.
An opposite statement would be equally true... "When I look at the universe how can I know there was a big bang? Well, the universe is absolute proof there was a big bang."
- Ray, "I don't need faith to believe in a creator, all I need is eyes that can see and a brain that works."
Comment: Ray's 'if you're not stupid, you'll believe this'-mantra continues.
- Ray attempts to justify his position with a passage from the Bible:
- "For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and God-head; so that they are without excuse." - Romans 1:20
Comment: Ray's position, and his claim that you'd have to be a moron not to recognize the truth of it, are supported by this passage. Unfortunately, for Ray, a tautology and insult from the Bible isn't going to carry any more weight or be any more logically sound to a critical thinker than when Ray says it himself.
Well made car
- Kirk, "It's obvious that a building can't build itself, it has to have a builder. A painting can't paint itself, it has to have a painter and the same with a car..."
Comment: Kirk adds a slightly new twist to the discussion, adding a false dichotomy to the analogies. His implication is that there are only two options: an intelligent designer or spontaneous, self-creation. This completely ignores or misrepresents evolutionary theory and relies on the common sense rejection of "self creation" to prop up his implications about an intelligent designer.
- Kirk continues his explanation, by demonstrating the properties of a "well-made automobile": nice body, steering wheel, horn, windshield, windshield wipers, and "squirters" (to wash the bugs off the windshield).
Comment: It's worth noting that many cars which might not be considered "well-made" also have those features. However, the important objection to this argument is that, like all of the other examples, it isn't the features or complexity of the automobile which convince us that it had a designer. We're convinced that this car was designed because we have vast quantities of reliable, empirical evidence to support the notion that the car was designed and absolutely no examples of "naturally occurring" cars.
We can investigate and discover the manufacturer of that car, the designer, the history of this car, the history of similar cars, the variety of designs, how various features were invented, the successes and failures of the design process...it's this mass of evidence in conjunction with the lack of incidents of "spontaneous car generation" which assure us that this car was not only designed, but designed by an intelligent, human mind.
- Kirk extends his car analogy to the human body, "...think of the well-made human being. We have a body. Our mind and our will is like a steering wheel. We have windshields [cornea], we have windshield wipers [eyelids], we even have squirters [tear ducts] to lubricate the eye. Think of it! Everything about us has been made with purpose in mind."
Comment: The appearance of design is a natural conclusion from our interpretation of purpose. Kirk transposes cause and effect in comparing the human body to a car and in commenting on the purpose of our features in relation to design.
Humans and the natural world have, obviously, been around much longer than cars. It should come as little surprise that the inventors of the features of a car drew inspiration from the world around them - that's what inventors do, they try to improve on nature...to come up with new and better solutions to common problems.
Those common problems also control and define the process of natural selection. Consider the common problem of finding food. A creature who can sense its prey, by sight - even simple cells that only detect variations in light - has a distinct advantage to solving this problem compared to one who is blind. The same is true for other senses and features. Those with the slight benefit have an advantage which can translate into more opportunities to pass on this trait to offspring. Each of these developed features has a benefit which can be viewed as a "purpose" but it's not a true purpose as there's no evidence to imply that these were the result of conscious forethought (creatures don't "will" themselves to develop eyes).
- Kirk continues with, "Is it really intelligent to say that this car has no maker, that it just 'happened'? How much less intelligent is it to say that the human body has no maker and there is no designer?"
Comment: Kirk's analogy, again, misrepresents evolutionary theory and here we have yet another example of how "smart" you'd be to accept these arguments and how foolish and unintelligent you must be to reject them. Curiously, he is arguing against his own viewpoint. If a "designer" did not build the car, then the car "just happened" (albeit by design), which he admits can't happen. Since he knows it can't happen, he frames his arguments for the existence of God as being against their inaccurate view of evolutionary theory.
Order equals design
(8:00 - 9:00)
Ray relates a story about an avocado tree in his back yard which continually dropped leaves.
- Ray, "I looked down and I saw that there were seven leaves on the ground, so I bent down and I put them in a straight line, went into my office and sat down and waited for my wife to come in and say what I thought she'd say. It was very predictable. She walked in, sat down and said, "Why did you put those leaves like that, for?" See, there was no way her reasoning mind could believe that seven leaves fell off the avocado tree and fell into a [sound effect] straight line of seven leaves. She knew that an intelligent mind, mine, had put them there."
Comment: It is reasonable, given the example, for his wife to presume that he placed those leaves in a straight line, but Ray's implication is that order necessarily indicates intelligent design, and this simply isn't true. It's possible, though unlikely, that those leaves could have fallen and been arranged in a straight line by natural laws. Our assumption that their pattern was the result of intelligence is based on our experience with similar situations and an understanding of the laws of physics.
What if we were to find a large, nearly circular void in an area filled with leaves? Is this the result of some intelligence which intentionally formed the circle or could it be the result of a helicopter taking off from that location? Only by analyzing the available evidence can we determine what the most reasonable explanation is - though we may never be certain.
Our minds are very good at spotting patterns. So good, in fact, that we often see patterns where none exist. It's very common to confuse correlation with causation, transpose cause and effect or confuse apparent design with actual design. One fine example of this confusion and our ability to see an apparent design and overlay an intelligent cause or purpose is the Face on Mars. The term for this phenomenon is pareidolia.
Again, he argues against his own point, by suggesting nature, by itself, is often without order and therefore without design (though order and design are separate).
- Ray continues, "And when you look at creation, we see order throughout the whole of creation. From the atom through the universe, the flowers, the birds, the trees, the sun, the moon, the stars, everything has order to it."
Comment: Except falling leaves. Aside from the blatant contradiction, order does not always require an intelligence behind it. In caves stalactites may appear very orderly, or designed, but they are known to be nothing more than the natural effect of mineral rich water dripping from the ceiling leaving behind debris. There is no reason to believe that a sculptor is the cause of the beautiful rock formations.
One aspect of our ability to be confused by the appearance of design involves our rather anthropocentric world view. It's relatively easy to look at the universe as if it were designed for humans, yet this presupposes an intended purpose...the very thing these claims seek to prove. Viewing the universe objectively, in the light of scientific investigation, it becomes clear that everything that exists is the logical result of natural laws. In other words, the universe wasn't made to "fit" humans, humans "fit" into the universe.
This view can be uncomfortable for those who wish to believe that humans are the central reason for the existence of the universe. However, the vast majority of scientific evidence backs up this view. Currently, we know of only one planet which is capable of sustaining human life and it wasn't always capable of doing this. Most (99.999...%) of the universe appears to be inhospitable or deadly to humans. Ray's statement, though vague, is an example of the anthropic principle, as it pertains to the cosmological argument.
(9:00 - 12:18)
- Kirk, "Let's look at it from a different angle. If I say to you, "There is no god", that's called an absolute statement. In order for me to make an absolute statement, and be right, I have to have absolute knowledge. I have to know everything about that subject."
Comment: Kirk is correct, if we accept that a claim of knowledge requires absolute certainty. However, we often make claims of knowledge that don't require absolute certainty. Within epistemology there is a definition of knowledge as "justified true belief", which stems from the realization that certainty is unattainable outside of the knowledge that we are able to think.
- Kirk, "Let me give you an example of another absolute statement. If I say to you, "There is no gold in China"...in order for that to be true, I have to know everything about China. I have to know what's under every rock, I have to know what's inside of every rock, inside every jewelry store and what's inside every Chinese person's mouth to see if there's any gold in there. In a filling. In a stone. In a ring. I have to have all knowledge of China to make that absolute statement that there's no gold."
Comment: Kirk is, again, correct - if we accept his definitions. However, he's building a case that is, essentially, a straw man. Atheism is the lack of belief in a god or the belief that there is no god, it isn't a claim of absolute knowledge that no god exists. A more accurate analogy than "There is no gold in China" would be "The claim that there is gold in China is unproven." It is still an emotionally misleading analogy, however, since even without specific knowledge of an example of gold in China, we can be pretty certain there is some. A fairer analogy might be phrased, e.g., to claim "there is no coelacanth in China," or "there is no living Tyrannosaurus rex in China," using things that could physically exist in China, but for which there is no evidence.
In specific circumstances, omniscience is not required to make an absolute, negative statement. "There is no unobtainium in China." Because unobtainium is a fictitious material, we can say with absolute certainty that none truly exists in China. If god is the product of humanity, we can logically make a similar, absolute statement "In the literal sense, there is no god."
Following the analogy, the same argument could be parodied and applied to monotheism. To be a monotheist, one would need to be all-knowing. It would be like standing in Shanghai with a nugget of gold in your hand and saying, "This is the one and only piece of gold in China."
- Kirk, "However, if I want to make the statement, "There is gold in China", I don't have to have all knowledge of China, I just have to have a little knowledge. I just need to see one person's gold filling. I have to see one piece of gold and I can say, with confidence, "There is gold in China." So, for a person to say there is no god, to make that absolute statement, they have to have all knowledge or be omniscient...and nobody is."
Comment: In this quote, Kirk's argument about absolute knowledge begins to take shape as an analogy that atheism is irrational and theism is rational. All of his examples of knowledge which would be sufficient to prove that gold exists in China are fine, yet when we transfer this analogy to "There is a god", we find that the evidence which supports this claim is still missing. Where is the "absolute proof" of the existence of god which would support his claim? And, if such clear, absolute proof existed, would there be any debate?
Also, in a super-naturalistic world view how do you tell that there is not an omniscient human? According to the argument, proving that false would require examining all the humans. And since it is possible not to reveal your knowledge, even having done so we wouldn't know for sure.
- Kirk, "Even the brilliant scientist, Thomas Edison, said, "We do not know one millionth of one percent about anything."
Ray introduces us to the "atheist test" which begins with two questions:
- "Could you please tell me how many pieces of sand are on the combined islands of Hawaii?"
- "Could you please tell me how many hairs are on the back of a fully-grown, male Tibetan yak?"
- Ray, "Now these are necessary, these questions, because there are some people who think they know everything. God used a similar principle with Job. He asked Job seventy questions, one after the other, until, in essence, Job laid his hand upon his mouth and said, "Boy I hardly know anything."
Comment: Ray continues Kirk's argument which misrepresents atheism as an untenable position which requires omniscience. This test implies the existence of God as a real entity, rather than as a product of the human mind.
- Ray, "So, here is the test. Let's say this circle [circle graphic appears on screen] represents all the knowledge in the known universe. Someone who is omniscient, who has all knowledge, knows everything about everything. They know how many hairs are on every head, every thought of every heart, every atom is splayed before them, all history is before their eyes. They know all about the secret love life of the fleas on the back of Napoleon's great-grandmother's black cat. They're omniscient, they know everything."
- Ray, "Let's say, mister professing atheist, that you know an incredible one percent of all the knowledge in the universe. Is it possible, in the ninety-nine percent of the knowledge you haven't yet come across, there is ample evidence to prove that God exists?"
Comment: While Ray and Kirk have, on many occasions, insulted atheists by implying that one must be unintelligent to hold such a position, they've now progressed to implicitly asserting that atheists don't exist. By referring to atheists as "professing atheists", they're implying that atheists are lying or mistaken about their position. Fortunately, Ray and Kirk aren't definitional authorities on atheism and agnosticism and their continued misrepresentations of both positions demonstrate that they lack sufficient understanding to produce an entire program which addresses those positions.
It may be worth noting that he is conflating information with knowledge. The knowledge contained in the universe is limited to that which is known. It is possible you are alone in a sophist existence, and your knowledge is all there is. However, to claim we can have knowledge of the knowledge of another is an absurd concept, leading to an infinite progression of knowledge.
Fallacious elements in this reasoning: First, an equivocation fallacy between the elements that exist in this universe (information), and knowledge: the universe is composed of elements, that are there whether we like it / know about it or not. Knowledge however is the data a Sapient being is able to deduce, more or less accurately, about what exists. Why would there be any need in this universe for someone omniscient, who has all the "knowledge"? What proof is there to assume that this being even exists to begin with? Not to mention that is is very easy to reverse this statement: Mr. Theist, isn't it possible that there is information that your god does not exist any more than other gods or unicorns in the knowledge you have yet to possess? Finally, Ray is being dishonest by saying that an atheist should say that they know only 1 % percent of all there is to know, in other words, Comfort is claiming to already have full knowledge of how much there is to discover, and that other people do not come anywhere near him in terms of knowledge. For all we might know, me might know 0.01% or 10 % of all there is to discover eventually.
- Ray claims the reasonable atheist is forced to say, "Well, it is possible that, in the knowledge I haven't yet come across, there's ample evidence to prove that God does exist." and "With the limited knowledge I have, at present, I've come to the conclusion there's no God, but I really don't know."
Comment: Ray is correct, and this is a much better representation of the atheist's position. By continually arguing against an inaccurate, straw man, representation of strong atheism, they've built a case which has no basis in reality.
It's worth noting that the conclusions Ray asserts one must logically reach with regard to God, also apply to any similar claim. It's possible that there's ample evidence to prove God, or fairies, or unicorns, or aliens, or ghosts, or ESP, or any number of other claims. Ray conveniently ignores this fact, hoping that one won't notice that his argument for God is hollow.
The real question isn't "Is this possible?", it's "Is this true?" or "Is there sufficient evidence to justify belief?" If we simply believed things because there's a possibility that evidence might exist, we'd believe nearly anything. For those who prefer to hold justifiable beliefs which are as near to "certainly true" as possible, mere possibility is grossly insufficient.
- Kirk, "That's right, he's not technically an atheist, he's an agnostic."
- Kirk, "He's like the person who looks at a building and says, "I don't know if there's a builder".
Comment: Here Kirk attempts to link the various tautologies about design and a designer to show that agnosticism (using his definition) is absurdly unintelligent.
(12:19 - 12:49)
- Ray, "We're now going to go to a clip of a real-live atheist, we found one, Kirk."
- Kirk, "You did?!"
- Ray, "Yeah, yeah, so watch what happens. There's three things to look for. One, watch for the fact that he changes his mind about the existence of God when we reason with him. Two, watch for that deliberate swing to address his conscience, where we say, "Do you consider yourself to be a good person?" And then three, watch where the Ten Commandments, the law does its work in pressing against his conscience and causes him to begin to justify himself once he realizes he's done wrong."
Comment: We'll look for those moments in the interview, but Ray's tactic here is to pick an "atheist on the street" and use them as a representative of the atheist's position. Not every atheist is able to eloquently justify their position, especially when plucked off of the street, nor do all atheists have the same justifications for their lack of belief. For those inexperienced in debating philosophical issues with theists, identifying logical fallacies and critically examining claims, Ray's questions can appear to have an impact. In reality, and in keeping with their theme for this program, these interviews are a form of straw man attack on atheism.
These interviews are, in part, the reason IronChariots decided to do such a detailed rebuttal to this episode - to demonstrate that while a given individual may not have sound responses at the ready, that doesn't mean that Ray's arguments hold water.
Also, when Kirk says "You did?", it conveys to the listener that this was difficult, once again using some of the aforementioned argumentum ad populum. He implies that because "so few" (the previously disproved 4%) people are atheist or otherwise non-believers, that it is a position held by a small, stupid part of the population that has not recognized their "truth". Note that their ability to find even one "real-live atheist" is in direct contradiction to their earlier argument that no atheists can exist.
(12:50 - 19:14)
- Ray, "Why are you an atheist?"
- Chris, "Um..., my, uh, my beliefs..I, I look at things, uh, very practically speaking, I guess. Uh..., uh, I like to have proof that..., that things are the way they are. So, it's hard for me to just take some information that someone tells me and believe that it's true unless, unless I have proof."
Comment: We've included the pauses and "uh"s in the transcription in order to demonstrate how awkward this sort of situation can be and we do not wish to embarrass the individual at all - we completely sympathize. Having your day in the park interrupted by someone shoving a camera and microphone in your face, followed by requests that you provide justification for your beliefs is not a situation most people would be comfortable with and we commend this individual for doing his best.
The key point to note is that this individual effectively stated that he requires "proof" to substantiate claims before he'll accept them.
- Ray, "Do you have a car?"
- Chris, "Yeah"
- Ray, "What make is it?"
- Chris, "Ford"
- Ray, "Ford made it?"
- Chris, [confused] "Ford made it?"
- Ray, "Yeah, did they make your car? They're the maker?"
- Chris, "Right."
- Ray, "Do you believe your car happened by accident? Could you believe that, that no one made the car?"
- Chris, "No, I don't believe that."
Comment: Ray skips the important question - "Why do you believe your car had a manufacturer?" The answer, as noted with all of the flawed examples of the argument from design, is not "Because it's complex" or "Because it is orderly" or "Because it appears designed"...the answer is that we know it had a manufacturer because we have considerable, empirical evidence to support the notion that it was designed and absolutely no evidence to support the notion that the car "happened by accident."
- Ray, "So, obviously, everything made, like a car, has a maker. When you look at creation, don't you think to yourself there must be a creator? There's flowers, birds, trees, sun, moon, stars, the seasons, the human eye, the mind, everything has intricacies and it's uh, wonderfully made and it has order from atoms right up through the universe. Don't you think someone who said, "No one made the car" would be lacking in brainery? For someone to say, "No one created creation"...this doesn't make sense, it's not logical. Do you think that's a fair argument?"
Comment: Actually, it's not a fair argument because Ray has used tautological examples which are not directly analogous to evolutionary theory. He continues to ignore the foundational question about how we recognize design, trusting that we're all so used to accepting and recognizing design via common sense, that we won't think about how this process occurs.
In addition, the "question" is actually two questions, with the second being whether the individual "thinks" the argument is "fair". Since the argument consists of a mixture of unfounded assertions, obvious facts and a question, it seems unreasonable it is meant to reach mutual understanding, but rather place Chris on the defensive and to confuse him with multiple rapid-fire concepts.
- Chris, "Yeah, I think there's a point where you have to step back and just say, 'Well, ok, maybe someone did create uh, all of the elements around us,' but I think that, uh... I believe that evolution did take place. And uh, I think you can always step back before evolution and say, 'Well someone put all those elements in order [for] evolution to take place.' "
Comment: Here's the point where Ray claims the individual changes his mind about the existence of God. In truth, this individual states that he accepts evolution and admits that a creator god is a possibility as a sort of first cause.
This doesn't directly represent a change in the person's position on the existence of God. Ray has spent considerable time building up a false picture of atheism as some sort of absolute position so that any acknowledgment of the possibility of a god appears to be "backsliding". It's also possible that this person, like many people, was simply trying to avoid an argument, trying to avoid appearing rude toward others' beliefs (on camera) or wasn't prepared to deal with deep theological questions. Again, note that the question asked is if it was a "fair argument," not "is there a god" let alone "do you accept that there is a god based on that argument?"
- Ray, "Would you consider yourself to be a good person?"
- Chris, "Yes"
- Ray, "Can I ask you a few questions to see if it's true?"
- Chris, "Sure."
Comment: Here's the "deliberate swing" where Ray attempts to address the conscience of the individual, rather than the intellect. His first question, "Would you consider yourself to be a good person?" is presented as a claim to be challenged. However, the question is asking the individual to assess his own character based on his own criteria or a generalized criteria. In the following questions, Ray analyzes the man's claim from an entirely different set of criteria - and replaces "good" with something which could better be defined as "perfect", by using any violation of the Ten Commandments as "not good".
- Ray, "Have you ever told a lie?"
- Chris, "Sure."
- Ray, "Ok, what does that make you?"
- Chris, "A liar."
- Ray, "Have you ever stolen something?"
- Chris, "Uh, as a kid."
- Ray, "What does that make you?"
- Chris, "I guess, uh, a thief."
- Ray, "Uh huh. Have you ever used God's name in vain?"
- Chris, "Sure."
- Ray, "That's using God's name as a cuss word, it's called blasphemy."
Comment: Ray does another switch of terminology, from "use...in vain" to "as a cuss word". Note that he's broken his pattern and not asked Chris, "What's that make you."
- Ray, "And the final question, as, in this respect, Jesus said, "Whoever looks at a woman and lusts after her has already committed adultery already with her in his heart", have you ever looked at a woman with lust?"
- Chris, "Sure."
- Ray, "Ok, Chris, by your own admission, you're a lying, thieving, blasphemous, adulterer at heart and you've gotta face..."
- Chris, "Those are just words."
Comment: One very short rebuttal to this line, made famous on the Hellbound Alleee show is, "Have you ever told the truth?", "What does that make you?". Although Ray is being judgmental about on Chris' state of perfection based on arbitrary standards - which weren't included in the initial question - it is actually a series of tautologies, with no arguments as to the relative merits. Is lying in any context wrong? Is stealing as a child always wrong? Using God's name in vain, or ever looking at any woman with lust (note that his definition does not exclude a wife or girlfriend)? He simply asserts they are wrong. Ray ignores the statement that - without explanation - they "are just words".
- Ray, "You've gotta face God on Judgment Day, whether you believe in him or not, and here's a big 'if', If God judges you by the Ten Commandments on the day of judgment, would you be innocent or guilty, if he did?"
Comment: Ray makes the assertion that Chris will have to "face God on Judgement Day," without providing any evidence to support it. It's a thinly veiled version of Pascal's Wager or the fear of the threat of hell, to encourage belief. However, he supposes that God's judgement will be based on the Ten Commandments, so Ray admits being uncertain what God uses as a basis for judgment - without knowing the criteria, even should all of Ray's assumptions be true, he could still fail to meet the unknown criteria.
- Chris, "Well, if all that's true, I'm guilty."
- Ray, "Would you go to heaven or hell?"
- Chris, "I guess if you believe in all that and it's all true, I'm going to hell."
- Ray, "Now, does that concern you?"
- Chris, "No, because I don't believe any of that's true."
Comment: Clearly, Chris hasn't changed his mind about Ray's concept of God. Even though he didn't directly challenge Ray's assertions and arguments, he's clear in his rejection of Ray's beliefs.
- Ray, "If I stepped off a six story building and said, to you, I don't believe in gravity, I just don't believe in it. Do you think it's going to change reality?"
- Chris, "That's real though."
- Ray, "How do you know, you can't see gravity?"
- Chris, "But you can test it."
Comment: Here Chris really shines, with a great answer - an answer which Ray promptly ignores. Direct empirical evidence, falsifiability, testability...these are the things that determine reality. Ray's implication that God, by virtue of not being seen, is somehow the rational equivalent of gravity, as it is also unseen, is preposterous. Perhaps, even without the ability to actually test gravity, the ubiquitous and uniform experience of gravity would be sufficient to justify belief. The god concept, in addition to being untestable, lacks this ubiquitous nature.
- Ray, "Yeah, and you're testing the law of sin and death. If you die in your sins, the Bible says you'll have to face a holy creator, who's seen your full life, who gave you a conscience, and he's gonna judge you by the secret sins you've committed in darkness that nobody's seen because he's a god of justice. You know what God did, so you wouldn't have to go to hell? Any idea?"
- Chris, "Just whatever the Bible says, I suppose."
- Ray, "What do you think he did for you? It's something really wonderful."
- Chris, "He died for me?"
- Ray, "Jesus died on the cross for you, taking your punishment. That's what the Bible teaches. It's called the gospel and it means 'good news' that Jesus paid your fines so you wouldn't have to come under God's wrath."
Comment: This isn't an argument, it's an assertion. Citing the Bible as an authority doesn't make it so. Additionally, the idea that God would come to Earth, take physical form and sacrifice himself, to himself, as a loophole for laws he created, in order to save us from his wrath - that defines a schizophrenic deity, not a benevolent one. The notion that God had to jump through hoops instead of simply changing the law is patently absurd. Consider a similar dilemma in the movie "Coming to America", where James Earl Jones, as king, is explaining his objections about his son's non-traditional choice of a bride, to his wife. "It's tradition" he says, "and who am I to change tradition?" His wife poignantly responds, "I thought you were king."
- Ray, "Chris, he defeated your greatest enemy...your greatest fear, death itself and all you have to do to see if it's true is obey the gospel. Repent, don't just confess your sins to God, turn from them. And trust in Jesus like you'd trust a parachute. Put your faith in it. And the moment you do that, God says he'll forgive your sins and grant you everlasting life and you'll pass out of death into life and you'll come to know the god that you just didn't know existed."
Comment: Here we have an argument from blind faith. Ray is no longer interested in evidence or intellect, the key is just to accept that this is true and you'll get the pay off...but only after you've died. That tends to make this claim rather untestable. Much like trusting that parachute, if it works, great...if it doesn't, you've been misled, you've wasted time mired in false beliefs and you're dead - with no benefit from that faith. Also, Ray does a good job to highlight the problems with Pascal's Wager (which assumes no harm in belief), by suggesting we should "turn from [your sins]".
- Chris, "Wouldn't we all be sinners, though, if I'm a sinner? And wouldn't we all be going to hell, just like I am? Cause, I mean, really I, I've never committed crimes where I've ended up in a jail, or I've never had to go to a court, I've never been tried by anybody..."
Comment: This is the point where Ray claims that the Ten Commandments have convinced Chris that he's wrong and he tries to justify himself. In truth, Chris doesn't appear to be fazed by the Ten Commandments, he doesn't appear to feel guilty, he appears to be offering an alternate philosophical position to counter Ray's claims about the Bible's ultimate morality.
- Ray, "Yeah, but Chris..."
- Chris, "So, I'm a good person, I think. I have a family and I've been married for seventeen years, I have four kids, I, ya know, work hard, I, I uh, make my own way through life and I, I'm friendly and courteous and truthful to people and.."
- Ray, "That's true Chris..."
- Chris, "So, now, so, how bad...or how good do you have to be to uh, to not be a sinner?"
- Ray, "You have to be perfect in thought, word and deed."
- Chris, "So, how many of us are perfect?"
- Ray, "None of us. There's only one that was perfect, the son of God."
- Chris, "See, so.."
- Ray, "So we all need the Saviour, we all need to repent. There's not a righteous man on the face of the Earth. And Chris, you said you're a good person and by man's standard that's true, there are plenty of people worse than you, but God's not gonna judge you by man's standard, which is very low, he's gonna judge you by holiness, justice, truth and righteousness. And you are in a prison and you're facing capital punishment. You're waiting to die. We've got a big blue roof here with good air conditioning and good lighting, but you're waiting to die. You're on death's row. One day, death will seize upon you and that's because God's proclaimed upon you the death sentence. The soul that sins, it shall die. And God offers you a reprieve..and your wife...and your children. If you love them, open your heart and say, "God, I need to know the truth, because I don't want to wait until I'm burying a loved one before I open my heart to you and ask the things, about the things that really matter." So, think of your family and how you should lead them into the knowledge of everlasting life..and your wife. And if you've got all these blessings you should be abounding with thanksgiving to the God that gave you life and not denying his existence. You should be saying, "God, I'm so sorry I've delivered my back to you, you've lavished your goodness upon me. My brain, my eyes, my wife, my children, my health, this wonderful free country we've got. God I yield my life back to you." And he'll transform you on the inside and make you a new person and give you a new heart with new desires."
Comment: Ray cuts Chris off with a small sermon which continues to make emotional appeals. Chris is encouraged to think about his family and implies they will suffer death if he doesn't convert. He's berated for turning his back on God and encouraged to plead with God for forgiveness, if he loves his family. Ray even manages to use patriotism by thanking God for this "wonderful free country." He also switches from acknowledging Chris' disbelief to an accusation that he is "denying" God.
All of this emotional appeal fails to acknowledge the questionable nature of a god who would pass a death sentence on every one of his creations and then offer an escape to those who take a leap of faith which appears wholly unjustified. This is yet another point where Pascal's Wager is used. Ray asserts that if, as he believes, God does exist and will punish you and your family for sins, then you should believe in Him, an unjustified leap of faith for nothing more than the implied reward of not being punished in Hell.
Sadly, he fumbles Pascal's Wager, since Ray has admitted that he doesn't know if "God judges you by the Ten Commandments," whether you "just confess your sins to God" (to avoid judgement), or if "Jesus paid your fines so you wouldn't have to come under God's wrath" (so you wouldn't be judged to begin with). He states the equivalent to "do this, or that will happen," rather than "do this, and it will prevent that from happening", but amazingly, even with untestable claims, Ray feels the need to give himself a loophole - if you die, don't go to heaven, and can prove it, don't expect a refund, since God might judge based on an impossible standard.
The interview ends here, and we have no idea how Chris responded, though it seems reasonable to presume that any reaction that favored Ray's case would have been shown.
Moving from intellect to conscience
(19:15 - 20:05)
- Kirk, "So now that we've given you some ways to make an atheist backslide or, how to prove that the atheist doesn't exist, in other words, he's really not an atheist, he's an agnostic, someone who doesn't know if there's a god, we wanna emphasize the principle of swinging from the intellect, straight to the conscience. It's so important to know that by doing this, you're not side-stepping the questions of the atheist, but you have to learn that it's not wise to stay in the intellect and wrestle with someone intellectually, because it's gonna take you down a rabbit trail and waste all your time."
Comment: Ironically, after repeatedly claiming that belief in God is the only intellectually sound conclusion and insulting the intelligence of anyone who dares to question or demand sound, logical arguments and reliable, empirical evidence; Ray and Kirk now argue that it's best to avoid intellectual arguments as anything more than "bait" which leads to the emotional "hook" of the Ten Commandments. Despite Kirk's claim, this tactic does, in fact, side-step the questions of the atheist. It's a direct attempt to avoid intellectual debate and they freely admit it.
Evidently, reason and evidence are no competition for a good guilt trip. Unfortunately, even their guilt trip is flawed...
- Kirk, "You've eventually got to get to the heart. A surgeon's not gonna spend all his time working on your dandruff when he knows he needs to cut into the heart and get to where the real problem is. And that's what we do when we ask a person if they consider themselves to be a good person. We just deliberately make that turn, and go for the conscience."
Comment: In any real debate, this bait-and-switch tactic - the deliberate avoidance of issues in order to make appeals to emotion - would immediately disqualify them from continuing. While they may be honest by admitting to it, admitting that you've been repeatedly dishonest hardly seems worthy of respect.
(20:06 - 22:32)
The person interviewed (Travis) explains his view that there is no spiritual afterlife and that death is the end. The interviewer asks if he believes in God...
- Travis, "No, of course not." [cut] "Why would you take a religious book and say,'Oh yeah, these have gotta be true, this makes sense' when the people who wrote that book, thousands of years ago, they were just superstitious and they didn't know how the world really worked?"
- Interviewer, "Would you consider yourself to be a good person?"
- Travis, "Yeah, of course I'm a good person."
- Interviewer, "Have you ever told a lie?"
- Travis, "No, I've never told a lie. Um, yeah, I mean, who hasn't?"
- Interviewer, "What would that make you?"
- Travis, "It would make me... [laughs] It would make me a human being."
Comment: Travis agrees to play along with the rest of the test, supplying the expected answers based on the obvious intent of the interviewer. It's clear, however, that he's unconvinced by this painfully obvious attempt to tug at his conscience as he continues to hold that unproven assertions about Biblical morality aren't convincing. He addresses the lack of proof for the interviewers' claims by stating that he does research for papers and doesn't simply explain away data anomalies with ad hoc explanations.
- Interviewer, "And that's what I'm telling you today. If you research the Bible, the way you do a research paper, and you study the claims that I've given you today, um, you'll find that they're true. [cut to a list of specific claims] I'm saying that Jesus Christ came, two thousand years ago, he paid the fine, the penalty, it's clear, being a liar, thief and blasphemer, that you've broken God's law and the only way that we can have a relationship with God, now, is through the blood of Christ, through his death and resurrection."
Comment: Again, we don't get to see Travis' final response but it seems reasonable to presume that he was not convinced. The interviewer claimed that research will demonstrate his claims, let's consider them:
- Jesus Christ came, two thousand years ago;
- He paid the fine for sins;
- We needed him to pay this fine; and
- His death and resurrection are required to have a relationship with God
The first claim remains unproven. The historicity of Jesus isn't beyond question, and even among those who do believe in an historical figure, not all accept that he was the Christ or that a messiah-figure could ever exist. Those foundational claims are assertions which have not been proven and may not be provable.
The final three claims are theological assertions that no amount of research can support. Apart from personal revelation or some sort of unambiguous, global revelation, the truth of those claims cannot be supported by evidence.
(22:33 - 24:43)
Kirk interviews a young woman...
- Woman, "We have science that proves that we didn't need that sort of thing to create the Earth. We didn't need, um, a being to come down and touch his finger on the Earth and all these trees sprouted up everywhere and, you know what I'm saying? We have theories, scientific theories, that prove that the Earth came together because of this big cosmos of chemicals and, um, different environments coming together and creating this place. And, over time, it got to the state that it's in now."
Comment: While cosmologists might cringe at that explanation, it's not bad considering this is an unprepared street interview with a layperson. The critical point at the core of her explanation is that we have scientific explanations which demonstrate that a supernatural explanation is not required. Whether her explanation, or any other, is the correct explanation of what actually happened is far less important than the fact the we can have probable, naturalistic explanations of origins.
In the unlikely event that evolutionary theory and big bang cosmology were proven to be completely wrong, that still wouldn't be evidence for the claim that "God did it". That claim requires its own evidentiary support.
Though the interview is spliced together, Kirk's responses indicate that the woman was giving good answers and addressing critical flaws in his claims...though we don't get to see all of them.
- Kirk, "I hear just what you're saying and I used to think that way for so long..and..like, just my common sense, really does have to say, 'Wait a minute, that building is pretty well designed', but when I look at you... or I look at the, the, the eyeball of my little baby, and I say, 'Look at how well and beautifully designed a human being is.' I mean, you can, you can walk, you can talk, you can think, you can come up with these answers all on the fly...the most complicated computers in the world can't do what your eyes can do..in, in two seconds would take it hours to do."
Comment: Kirk demonstrates the failings of common sense in the light of critical examination. His continued reliance on the flawed design/designer arguments seem to carry no weight with this woman and he attempts to appeal to her vanity by mentioning how smart she seems and implying that this, somehow, is evidence that she was beautifully designed by an intelligence. He also seems to be under the impression that computers and eyes perform the same function.
- Woman, "I believe everything on this earth was accidental or created by man, so..." [shrugs]
Comment: Whether this, like the first answer, is a less than technically preferred explanation (natural selection isn't random or accidental), or a disagreement with an edited-out straw man argument (disagreeing that the earth was "accidental or created"), it's clear that this woman wasn't swayed by Kirk's arguments from design or an appeal to her conscience. Kirk's rather flustered response is priceless...
- Kirk, "Well, yeah, I, I know. I, I think that you were made with a purpose and for an important reason and that, um, we're having this conversation not just by accident and that's what I personally think. And you're a really nice girl and I appreciate you talking with us and, um, Oh, man, my, my, my heart's, my heart breaks because I want you to know that there's a God and I want you to know that he sent Christ to die for you. And the fact that you want to live...I don't want to die either and the Bible says that Jesus Christ has abolished and destroyed death and brought life and immortality to light, through the Gospel. And so, I so want you to just, try to be honest and open with God and just surrender your life to him and see what happens."
- Woman, "I will definitely think about it."
- Kirk, "Yeah, think about it.."
Comment: Kirk's "tools" seem to have failed. A little flattery and one last group of emotional appeals and he's forced to just request that she think about it. (His final response implies an edited-out threat, since he says "you want to live...I don't want you to die either," yet neither said anything about death or even hell - if it's not referencing an edited out statement, it's Pascal's Wager.) He also uses questionable definitions of "abolish" and "destroy," since in normal usage, he would be saying that there is no longer any death, for anyone. Again, he has confused "knowing" with believing, by saying she should "know" God in absence of evidence. As such, the request that she be "honest" with God is rather insulting; clearly, he's implying that she's being dishonest about her beliefs. Despite this insult, and being so unconvinced as to break our host's heart, she politely agrees to think about it.
Absolute proof of God
(24:44 - 26:07)
Comment: Finally, the big payoff. After contradictory claims about the intellectual veracity of Christianity, Kirk has agreed to provide us with absolute proof of the existence of God.
- Kirk, "Sometimes a professing atheist seems to be so stubborn they just don't want to believe in God. They want absolute proof."
Comment: Starting off with a double insult probably isn't the best way to convince someone, but what Kirk's really saying is that some folks simply won't believe based on blind faith.
- Kirk, "Well, mister or missus atheist, there is absolute proof. God says that he will show himself to you personally, if you'll do one thing. Listen to what Jesus said, in the Bible, 'He that has my commandments and keeps them, he it is that loves me and he that loves me shall be loved by my father and I will love him and will manifest myself to him.' So here Jesus is saying he will manifest or reveal himself to you, if you will obey his commandments."
Comment: Kirk switches theological viewpoints once or twice during this description of the "absolute proof". First of all, the instructions are to "keep the commandments"...something which the Bible tells us is impossible for anyone other than Jesus. So the direct Biblical method for this "absolute proof" is impossible via self-contradiction.
- Kirk, " Now, does that mean Jesus will, um, appear before your eyes or you'll hear his voice? No. Jesus means that he will demonstrate his reality and his power by changing your heart, if you will obey the gospel."
Comment: Here we get a redefinition of "manifest". You won't actually get any empirical evidence of God's existence, you'll just "feel" that it's true or even "know" that it's true, by divine revelation. This hardly qualifies as "absolute proof" in anything more than an esoteric sense.
- Kirk, " Now what does that mean? It means to stop thinking you know everything there is to know and admit that you could be wrong about God."
Comment: Again this insulting implication about thinking one knows everything. Atheists don't think they know everything, they're simply convinced that extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. Additionally, the verse Kirk read doesn't say anything about claims of ultimate knowledge. This seems to simply be an appeal to ignorance, a request that we stop thinking critically. Finally, most atheists would, and do, admit the possibility of a god, although the likelihood gets increasingly smaller as we learn more about the world. There are some logical disproofs of certain claims about certain gods, but no reasonable atheist holds the view that their own omniscience demonstrates that no god exists.
- Kirk, "Listen to your conscience and say, 'God, if you're there, I know I've sinned against you, please forgive me. Change my heart, make me the person that you want me to be, and this day I commit to trust and obey Jesus Christ, who died to save me.' If you'll do that, God promises to show himself to you. Now, either that's true or it isn't. "
Comment: Many atheists are former Christians. Many others have sincerely and earnestly attempted this prayer and not achieved the sort of "absolute proof" Kirk promises. Objections like these are met with ad hoc hypotheses like, "You weren't really serious" or other claims which place the source of the failure on the individual - because God can't possibly be at fault. However that means his 'evidence' basically boils down to 'If you believe with your whole heart that God exists, then God will make you believe in your heart that he exists,' (except that he phrases it as a contradiction - if you have God "change [your] heart," in return, "God promises to...chang[e] your heart.") Additionally the argument from inconsistent revelations holds that vastly divergent and contradictory claims of revealed knowledge about God demonstrate that none of these claims can be considered reliable.
Also, this prayer not only implies that we should not be accepting of who we currently are, and that belief and acceptance of God should also allow for God to change us to what he wants, but that we should desire God to do that, as well as stating outright that we should blindly obey Jesus. He is conflating belief with blind worship.
Revelation, as Thomas Paine pointed out, "... is revelation to the first person only, and hearsay to every other, and consequently they are not obliged to believe it."
(26:09 - 26:37)
- Kirk, "So, in conclusion, we've been talking about how to share your faith with an atheist...and you do it the same way you'd share your faith with anyone else. Remember, the atheist is your friend, not your enemy. Don't argue with him, simply help him to see that he's really an agnostic, a person who doesn't know if there's a god...and then, help him, by showing him that in his heart, he knows that he's done wrong, that he needs God's forgiveness and you do that by swinging to the conscience with the Ten Commandments."
Comment: Again we have this fundamental misperception about atheism and agnosticism and the implication that neither position is "true", as the atheist, deep-down, knows that he's a sinner who needs to be forgiven. We have a final instruction to avoid intellectual discussions and opt for emotional appeals, despite their initial claim that atheism is counter-intellectual and requires more faith than belief in a god.
After watching the entire program, however, there wasn't a single piece of evidence presented on the core subject: the knowledge that we are sinners who definitely need salvation.
They've offered flawed arguments from design in an attempt to prove that God exists, but even if those arguments were valid and did demonstrate that a god exists, it doesn't mean that the God they're talking about exists. There was no evidence to support the idea that the Christian God is the true god and no evidence that the concepts of sin, hell, heaven or salvation are true.
Apologetics are bait
(26:38 - 26:54)
- Ray, "Apologetics are like bait. Now if you go fishing with bait and no hook, you're not going to get any fish. You may get some fat, happy fish that get away, but if you want to be effective you use the bait to disguise the hook. When the fish come around, you pull the hook in. The bait is apologetical argument, you use different bait for different people, or different fish..."
Comment: Here they again admit to intentional dishonesty and clearly admit that the intellectual arguments are only there to draw the "fish" in so that you can make an emotional appeal.
Ten Commandments are the hook
(26:55 - 27:10)
- Ray, "The hook is God's law, that is the Ten Commandments."
- Kirk, "That's right, because everybody knows, when you bring out those commandments, that they've, that they've violated them, that they've broken them and that they're going to need God's forgiveness on the day of judgment. And it's a good, strong hook that we should never fail to use when we're sharing our faith."
Comment: This emotional "hook" is simply an unfounded assertion. While everyone will likely admit to violating some of the Ten Commandments, only those who recognize the authority of the Bible would agree with the concepts of "needing forgiveness" and "day of judgment." These premises are simply assumed throughout the program and never supported as anything other than an a priori truth.
The truth shouldn't require a bait-and-switch tactic. The truth shouldn't require dishonesty, emotional appeals and guilt trips. The truth shouldn't be immune from critical examination, it should be revealed by it. Ray and Kirk have presented an impassioned appeal based on poor definitions, false assumptions, unproven premises, flawed arguments, dishonesty and misconceptions about atheism, agnosticism and evolutionary theory.
While this episode may appeal to its intended audience (evangelical believers), the methods and "tools" presented are no more convincing than they were during the first two-thousand years. In the end, this entire episode amounts to; "Believe in Jesus or you're going to hell when you die."
Stuff to buy
(27:11 - 27:45)
This episode concludes with information on how to purchase various books and training tools from their ministry.
| The Way of the Master
| Season One Episodes:
1. The Firefighter
2. The Mirror of the Ten Commandments
3. The Motive of the Sinner
4. The Summary of Salvation
5. Practice What You Preach
6. Idolatry—The Darling Sin of Humanity
7. The Beauty of a Broken Spirit—Atheism
9. Blasphemy, Sabbath, Parents
13. Lie and Covet
| Season Two Episodes:
1. God's Wonderful Plan
3. Alcatraz, Al Capone, Alcohol
4. True and False Conversion
5. When Things Go Wrong
6. The Satanic Influence
7. How to Witness to Someone Who's Homosexual/Gay
9. How to Witness to a Loved One
10. The Fear of God
11. Ice Breakers—Gospel Tracts
12. The Greatest Gamble
13. How to Get on Fire for God
| Season Three Episodes:
5. Roman Catholicism
6. What Hollywood Believes
7. New Age
9. What America Believes
10. Jehovah's Witness
12. Spiritual Battle
| Ray Comfort — Kirk Cameron