Every week, the Atheist Community of Austin puts out a great public access TV program called The Atheist Experience. The show broadcasts live online at Ustream at 5:30 ET pretty much every Sunday. Typically the show features a pair of hosts discussing a subject related to atheism, skepticism, critical thinking, separation of church and state, and so on, followed by a period where they take calls from the audience. This week, though, they featured famed Christian apologist Ray Comfort (he of Banana Man fame). Ray is a very clever and cunning apologist whose discussions typically follow a set script and a basic set of rules:
- STICK TO THE SCRIPT.
- Shift the burden of proof. presuppose the truth of the Bible and tell atheists that if they’re not absolutely certain about the minute details of scientific claims, then any answer at all is valid, with no restrictions.
- Tell the atheist to go back and start from a point they covered a while ago (to get back to the script!), but feel free to change your argument without acknowledging it.
- Cite tautologies – every painting has a painter, every building has a builder. Say that creation must thus need a creator. Skip over the whole “prove the universe is a creation” part. Ignore when they say that we discern ‘designed’ from ‘natural’ by figuring out what we expect to see occur naturally, and that if everything were designed, we’d have no way to do that.
- Assert, assert, assert. You KNOW that you know the truth because God is infallible and he wrote the Bible!
- Judge all religions from the preconception of the truth of Christianity. (Islam is wrong because it says you’re saved by works but the Bible says we’re saved by faith!)
- Say you don’t knowingly lie anymore, even when you’ve already been called out for lies. (Just plead ignorance!)
- Claim to want to be tolerant of everyone’s beliefs, but then claim that it breaks your heart that decent people will be judged and go to hell. Forget about the fact that this means you care more about tolerance than the eternal suffering of others!
- Barge in whenever you’re challenged and say you hadn’t finished your point. (Great way to throw them off their groove!)
- Confuse ‘reasonable’ with ‘reasoned.’ e.g., “any reasonable person must conclude that there is a creator.” (Reasonable people can make very stupid conclusions, so semantic games are important to play!)
Here’s a great example of the sort of rhetoric Ray loves to employ:
It’s a frustrating time for atheists—they can’t blame God for tragedies, because they think there’s no evidence for God. Blaming Him would make as much sense as blaming Snow White for a snow storm.
But atheism would suggest that there is a good reason for Japan’s massive killer quake and the horrific tsunami that followed: it was nature making improvements. Everything is gradually getting better. People being crushed to death or drowned in a tsunami is just part of the work of nature.
Ray’s very familiar with what atheism actually entails (he couldn’t HELP but be, considering how often atheists correct him), but his followers tend not to be, so they snap this stuff up. They love it.
Anyway, the show audio is available as a podcast, typically a day or so after it broadcasts, and the video will eventually be on blip.tv (or you can stream it below). I highly recommend it to anyone interested in atheist outreach.
The ACA also has an audio-only showcalled The Non-Prophets which tends to be a lot less formal than the TV show. I’d definitely recommend it as well; they cover recent news stories and debate various topics in philosophy. Good times.