Our New Home

We have a new home, come join us at WeAreSMRT (We Are Skeptical Minds & Rational Thinkers)

The Forum

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

No one cares what you know...

My first exposure to Ray Comfort and WOTM was on the internet. I was boppin' around on the web, looking up some newsy kind of stuff, when I saw a video that immediately perked my interests.

Head to Head: Does God Really Exist? Ray Comfort and Kirk Cameron debating with the Rational Response Squad.

I was excited. I mean, why shouldn't I be? I love Jesus, and people need to know that he's out there. No debate will ever be the thing that makes any one convert, but at the very least a national broadcast of this debate can show the world that willful ignorance and stupidity are not prerequisites to Christianity.

And then, I watched the videos.

There are basically five overall problems with the methods that they used.

Firstly, never ever claim that you can prove God's existence without using the Bible, only to turn around and quote the Bible. Ray and Kirk did this in the opening statements, even before the actual debate started. Once you claim to be able to do something, you will be held to it by those who are trying to prove you wrong, and failure to follow through is a mark against God, not you.
It's a really bad idea to try talking about God without using the Bible to begin with. At some point, you have to describe the God that you're discussing. What is the authority on God's Character? Where do we, as Christians, go to discern truth from lies concerning the creator of the universe? What is the "yard stick" by which we measure all other experiences in our faith?
The canon. The Bible. talking about God without it is not likely to ever be a successful endeavor, because unless the evidence is shown to line up with the God of the Bible, then the evidence doesn't line up with anything at all.

Secondly, realize what kind of person you're talking to, and adjust your speech accordingly. Talking to scientific people in "Christianeese," or overtly spiritual terms, is always a bad idea. Things get lost in translation. It produces an image of "holier-than-thou." It creates a separation between the believer and the nonbeliever to whom they are speaking. That is a devastating mistake, because no one cares what you know until they know what you care.
What the heck does it mean when you say "God is eternal," "He dwells outside of time?" People in Christianity know, but nonbelievers who haven't been surrounded by the Christianeese terms may not be thinking the same thing we are.
Also, if you meet a person who is overtly spiritual, then talking in scientific terms is equally as bad an idea. You have to adjust your speech to the person you're talking to. That's part of communication.

If you know that an important discussion is coming, prepare for it. I have walked into a conversation many times, only to walk away with "let me read up on that and get back to you," but if you know what their arguments are in advance, then why not go ahead and prepare accordingly? I can't describe to you how angry I was that Kirk and Ray were so unable to answer simple questions as "Who created God?" "But the Bible says that you will be forgiven for whatever you ask forgiveness for, right?" Most of their questions were based off of scriptures that are taken out of context. Their assumptions, such as the assumption that the Bible MUST be inerrant and literal in every single verse and word, are faulty. If you're "preparing" for a conversation, know what the other side thinks as much as possible. If the other side has a website on the internet, then look at it and base your points around their beliefs.

A woman took a statement that Ray made which was something like "It's clear that God made man because man's body is designed so well," and asked the obvious question. "If God designed humans so well, why is there cancer?"
Now, if you look at this woman as she's asking, it is very clear that this is a personal question. This woman is hurting. She is in pain. The absolute worst thing to do in this scenario is to take an obviously personal question, and generalize it. Rather than direct your answer to the world, direct it to her.
Let me explain this further. Ray started his answer by looking at the entire audience and saying "There is suffering in the world because..." and the woman repeatedly interrupted him and said "NO, NOT suffering, I'm asking about CANCER!" He did this two or three more times, with the woman interrupting him two or three more times before he finally asked the woman to stop butting in. Yeah, he used those words.
The way to help a person in pain is to treat them like a real person. Look her in the eyes, and talk about why there's cancer in the world. Don't talk to the world about all of the world's suffering. Talk to her about her suffering. That's the way to bring people healing.
People don't care what you know until they know that you care.

Throughout the entire ordeal, Kirk and Ray gave off copious amounts of holier-than-thou vibes. There is nothing wrong with showing the world that you're a new creation. I hope and pray to God that people can see that I'm different in some way. There is nothing wrong with telling people that without God, they are sinners. It's all about how you do it. That's what makes the difference. If you impress people with how righteous you are, they won't care what you have to say.
Because people don't care what you know until they know that you care.

I hope to contribute more to this site about Ray's beliefs and methods that I take issue with. I don't want to bash Ray, but it seems that I can't critique and question Ray without him refusing to answer and his bigger fanatics jumping my case.
I welcome any discussion. Go.

~Rob Penn


  1. Great post!

    I was really disappointed with that debate. With both sides, actually.

    I keep hoping to hear some new or intelligent argument that hasn't been used to death for Christianity. I don't know why I hope for that. Maybe because I'd like to think people are smarter than they seem to be.

  2. Hey Rob,

    Wow! We got a Christian to join! Of course, you're obviously a false convert, and maybe even a secret Muslim as well, but that's progress!

    Just kidding. Seriously, it's cool to see you join. Obviously, there will be points where you and most everybody else on this blog disagree, but that's cool - you shouldn't allow the atheists and agnostics to get complacent - keep us on our toes!

    There are certain things I could nitpick about your post, but I'm sure you could probably go over it and figure out what I'd say, so there's no point in that. Basically, unlike Ray Comfort and his ilk, you're not insulting my intelligence.

  3. This comment has been removed by the author.

  4. Welcome back Rob, we missed you!

    What do you make of the renovations at the ol' Comfort Food (now 'Atheist Central') blog?

    I read this piece over at your blog and it was reassuring to see that Christians are capable of rationally critiquing fellow Christians in an honest way; kudos to you. If only the more vocal of you would follow a similar path.

  5. I've only watched clips of the full debate, but it really seemed like Ray and Kirk only had four or five arguments for God and none of them were what they claimed they were.

    These are the arguments they trot out every single time someone challenges them, and they never work. There was one clip of an extended, awkward silence between Ray and Kirk as they couldn't answer a simple question (I can't remember which one), and all I could think was: "Guys... not even going to TRY?" It is amazing that after being so thoroughly stumped by some juvenile atheists, they STILL haven't rethought their position.

    I still hope that the internet will provide intelligent people on both sides of the issue the chance to come up with something mindblowingly cool in the Case for God... unfortunately that never seems to happen, and so you have the RRS and WotM extremists fighting on Dateline (or was it Nightline?)... sigh.

    Anyway, it's awesome to see you here, Rob, (that's the one thing I forgot to mention tht I wanted to) we do need more of you faith-types to join our discussions, and keep us from going crazy in this pointless world ;-P

    Welcome to the fold!

  6. Rob !! I thought you fell of the face of the earth !! Welcome !!

    I have some things that I want to agree with you on and some things I want to point out where I disagree.

    First of, this is a very well written and very well thought out post. I'd expect that from you, as I always enjoyed your take on things over at Ray's.

    I agree that willful ignorance and stupidity are not prerequisites to Christianity. I would add that those traits are not always prerequisites to a lot of religions. I openly admit however, that I do think that people who believe that the earth is 6,000 years old and that people ran around with dinosaurs are credulous. Ditto for the belief that there are no contradictions in the Bible, when there clearly are.

    You already know how I feel about the RRS debate. I'm not a huge RRS fan, but yes, Comfort came totally unprepared for that debate. It would have been more interesting to watch them debate someone who was an actual biblical scholar or just really knew their stuff better than Ray and Kirk. To me it was like watching someone bring a paper cup to a gunfight.

    I think I read something in the Bible once about talking to people in a language they can understand. Maybe it wasn't the Bible where I read that. Anyway, I agree on the communication aspect as well. Personally there isn't any way that a person can communicate with me that is going to convince me to be a Christian again, but there are ways that Christians can communicate that make their arguments seem more thought out or less thought out.

    You and I saw 2 different things in regards to the woman who brought up cancer. I didn't see that she was in pain, I interpreted it as she just really, really wanted an answer to that question and Ray just kept blowing it off. There was no way he was going to be able to reach her after replying in the manner he did.

    I do think that there is something wrong with telling people that without a god or the God of Christianity that they are sinners...but I'm an atheist so the concept of sin is null for me. I can believe in ethics and morality, but sin is a religious concept that I disagree with.

    I think that people do see you as different, Rob. I know I do and I have a lot of respect for you. I hope you contribute more here and I look forward to reading whatever it is you have to contribute.

  7. Hello, Rob Penn.

    You're quite welcome here.

    The only question I have about your post right now is, have you posted it over at Ray's blog? If so, where? I'd like to read the replies to it.

  8. I just read through Shaggy's comment and I too think it would be great if someone could come up with something mind blowingly cool in the case for the existence of a deity. I mean, I've watched sooooo many debates, not just the ones on Youtube between amateurs but I've watched plenty between the pros on both sides and still I find the case for a deity so lacking.

    I understand that some people believe out of psychological comfort or cultural conditioning, but as far as the actual case for a deity, I haven't even seen the religion pros bring out anything that I found convincing or worth even strong consideration.

    Recently Lance left a comment on my blog about John Shelby Spong and I've been watching what videos I could find on him. He's not really putting forth a case for a deity, just kind of re-explaining biblical stories. I can dig it. Rob, what do you think of Spong? I'd be very interested in knowing.

    I'm gonna shut up now because I'm rambling.

  9. John Shelby Spong? Didn't I recommend John Dominic Crossan? I don't even know who that guy is - I'll Google him.

  10. Just Googled him, and I can see why you'd mix them up - it seems to be a very similar message. Now you're going to have to recommend some books to me!

  11. You didn't recommend Spong??? Damn, who the hell recommended Spong??? Oh well, to whomever it was, thanks! Sorry Lance!!

    You know what it is, it's you people with 3 names !!

    You're right, I just looked back, you did recommend John Dominic Crossan. Ok, well, Lance, check out some of Spongs videos and let me know what you think! I haven't gotten any of Spong's books yet, but Jesus for the Non-Religious looks ok.

    So Rob, what do you think of Spong and/or Crossan ?????

  12. Rob, darlin', how great to hear from you. With the sole exception of Steven J., I can't think of anyone I'd rather see on The Raytractors contributors list. Welcome!

    Good first post, too. I think you're missing one big point, though:

    You take issue with (among other things) the Comfort/Cameron evangelizing style and I don't disagree about that. However, doesn't it seem likely that no amount of style will ever make up for the lack of substance in Ray's claims?

  13. @ Rufus:

    The only question I have about your post right now is, have you posted it over at Ray's blog? If so, where? I'd like to read the replies to it.

    No. I haven't posted that at Ray's blog. I have some issues with posting things like that on Ray's blog.

    It's more my fault than Ray's. I'm just not mature enough to be able to handle the people over there in a Godly way. I let my frustrations get the best of me, and then I unload. It's hard for me to see the line between "Critique" and "judging some one else's servant" when I'm over there, so I usually try (and sometimes fail) to keep my discussions there centered around theology.

    I'm not even doing that much there for the time being. I had some questions presented to me and presented some questions (can't remember who to, maybe weemaryanne?) about the predictive prophecies in the Bible. I don't want to go back until I've found SOME book to read on the matter. Not easy with an empty pocket and a joke of a library. I'm kind of hoping that Metzger or Ben Witherington the third, or even Bart Ehrman might have something out.

  14. @ Flinging Dust:

    Rob, what do you think of Spong? I'd be very interested in knowing.

    notta frickin clue.

    It's nice to say things like that and not be accused of swearing. ^_^

    Any way, I've never heard of the guy before, nor do I have a computer which isn't lacking in either sound or a video card. Not a happy thing.

    Does he have a website or something that has text and print?

  15. @ weemaryanne:

    You take issue with (among other things) the Comfort/Cameron evangelizing style and I don't disagree about that. However, doesn't it seem likely that no amount of style will ever make up for the lack of substance in Ray's claims?

    heh. I missed reading your posts.

    I do agree that there is a lack of substance to some of Ray's claims. Genesis chapters 1 and don't require a literal interpretation. The Bible isn't inerrant in the most literal sense of the word.

    However, in all the important stuff, I don't find a lack of substance. Jesus is who he says he is. God is who he says he is. He'll do what he says he's going to do. And, most importantly, people need God.

    I'm pretty sure it was a conversation I had with you last, before I took my hiatus from "Atheist Central." What a name. Any way, if it WAS you, I haven't forgotten that I'm supposed to be studying up on the predictive prophecies in the Bible. I'm still working on it, but it's hard to do when you don't use internet sources.

  16. Rob, let me get back to you on that. I'll see what I can dig up.


Unlike Ray we don't censor our comments, so as long as it's on topic and not spam, fire away.

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.