The first creationist I started to look into was Ray Comfort. I stumbled across one of his books when I was at a local CVS Pharmacy and decided to look at a small book rack that was filled with Christian books. “How to Know God Exists” caught my eye because there was a quote from Albert Einstein on the cover. The quote on the cover is “I want to know how God created this world”. I scoffed at it when I picked it up because I knew Einstein wasn’t a Christian, when he used the word “god” it was in a pantheistic way. I was still an inexperienced atheist at that point and didn’t know how often great thinkers like him are quote-mined by Christians.
As I started to read the book I realized it was about intelligent design and I couldn’t help laughing really hard as I read it. I thought with the ambitious title of the book, there would have at least been an argument a little bit better then intelligent design. His descriptions of evolution and the Big Bang were dripping with ignorance and misinformation on the subjects. It was hard to continue reading, so I stopped and looked him up on YouTube. He was much funnier than I had imagined. The first thing I watched was his famous “Banana man” clip that many atheists know, and if you don’t know it here it is
His banana argument was one of the arguments for the existence of god in “How to Know God Exists”. It was so unbelievable to me that someone thought they were being so smart when they made that argument, people around them agreed, it was published in a book, and it was video taped. Wouldn’t anyone bother to look up anything about bananas in that whole process? That’s the really striking thing to me when it comes to people like Ray Comfort. It’s always really clear that they don’t research with an open mindset, because if they did they would find out they were wrong right away and not share stupid things like that. It was really hard for me to wrap my head around getting away with not doing balanced research because I was going to school for sociology, the idea that I had to research and be knowledgeable about what I was talking about had been beaten into my head. My professors would also remind us to not have confirmation bias when doing our research. Comfort does have some pages of his sources in the back of the book, but it’s really easy to see that he stuck to a lot of Christian sources and whatever secular works he sourced were most likely quote-mined.
So at first Ray Comfort gave me a lot of laughs because of how idiotic he is, but then I got really angry. People like him help people to stay stupid by boiling their bias down into easy to swallow packages so they can reassure their audience that they don’t need to look into the other side. The description on the back of “How to Know God Exists” explains that a recent wave of books on atheism was on New York Times best-sellers list and that this is a book to combat those books. It’s an older book, so I’m guessing it was referring to books like “The God Delusion” and “God is not Great”. I look at my copies of those books, and then look at Ray’s book, and I can’t help but laugh that he thought he could outwit people like Dawkins and Hitchens. The sad part is his followers do give him the same kind of status that men like Dawkins and Hitchens have and it is greatly undeserved.
During my introduction to Ray, I had assumed he must have been very much on the fringe and not had many followers. I had assumed that because I’m always hopeful about the human race as a whole. Sadly I was very wrong though. Today on his Facebook page he has 417,550 followers. I know there is a chunk of those followers that are atheists that are interested in observing the horror show that is Ray Comfort, but a lot of those followers are people that fully support him. There are also fans of his that are not Facebook users and are unaccounted for. I know the number isn’t very huge, but it’s still a big number and it’s scary to me that there are so many people that are supporting a man who is emotionally manipulating them and encouraging closed minded thinking.
Some of his major messages have been that abortion in America is similar to the Holocaust, there’s no evidence for evolution, and there are prophecies in the bible that say we are in the end times (You can find these messages in his “movies”: 180, evolution vs god, and Noah). He also encourages his followers to evangelize whenever they can and to go to places like universities and women’s clinics to share his messages. The people evangelizing for him are probably not converting many people, but I feel so bad for them. Ray encourages them to equip themselves with his tracts and other materials which they have to order from his ministry. I’ve always wondered if he thinks spreading the gospel is a thing that needs to be done to help people, why doesn’t he just put up his tracts as PDFs on his website and allow his followers to just print them at home? I’m pretty sure he wouldn’t do that because he makes money off of them. I feel so bad for the followers that waste their money on his tracts that people will most likely throw away when they get them. They’re also wasting their time worrying about his message and could be doing more meaningful things with their friends and family.
Breaking the hold that Ray has on his followers is a very difficult task because he has a strong hold on them. Along with his messages, he also talks about how atheists are immoral and arrogant, he tries to discredit other forms of Christianity and other religions, and he directly links the academic community to atheists. Their brand of Christianity also discourages their followers from trusting the mainstream media; they tend to stick to Christian news sources and Christian entertainment. The bubble they build around themselves because of what Ray and others like him preach is very strong and hard to get through, but I have a bit of hope that at least some of his followers will have some natural curiosity and look beyond their bubble.