That Ray Comfort meme
Today I saw this meme today allegedly written by popular Christian minister Ray Comfort. It has appeared in a number of atheist and secularist Facebook pages, such as “Anti-Theists. Pro Active Atheists. Opposing Religious Harm.” The meme touches on a number of issues particularly on the nature of ‘faith’ and the test of Abraham’s faith in Genesis 22.
I’m not entirely sure if the meme is true. Ray Comfort stated on his Facebook page that it wasn’t him – it was a vicious prank.
“I noticed an excessive amount of anger towards me today from indignant atheists, who were accusing me of saying “If the Lord commanded me to kill my own children tonight, it would be done by morning.” I never said such a horrible thing, nor would I. Please join me in prayer for the person who wrote this fake post.”
Apparently this meme was created in response to an earlier Facebook post that Ray made:
A skeptic asked: “God told Abraham to sacrifice his son to prove his love.” Ray answered: God told Abraham to “offer” Isaac, and when he was about to kill him, God stopped him (see Genesis 22). This is a Bible “type”– of God sending His “only-begotten Son” to suffer for the sin of the world. Any dirt we try and throw at God will always come back down on us, because He is without sin.
So it does appear that the meme is indeed a prank as the ‘meme’ doesn’t accurately quote Comfort at all (unless someone can verify otherwise). It appears that the meme author has taken some creative liberties to suggest what Comfort ‘might’ have said. This raises a couple of important issues.
1. Attacking a straw man. The prank meme hasn’t actually quoted Ray Comfort. Ray claims he never said the things quoted here. The meme has created a straw man. There are some important theological issues touched on by the meme, but it is always important to check that when quoting someone, you actually quote what they say – otherwise you may misunderstand them and their position (which I think this meme does quite tragically). Creating a straw man might make for a sensational and popular ‘meme’ but it hardly fosters rational, intelligent discussion – something highly regarded in the atheist community. The meme has replaced rational discourse with invented mockery.
2. Atheist rhetoric. As I saw this meme, it challenged the rhetoric I consistently hear in atheist circles that atheists are more ‘rational’, and ‘reasonable’ people and that the world will be a better place without religion. As mentioned before, the ‘meme’ is not really ‘rational’ as it hasn’t quoted its sources correctly. Moreover what has concerned me is the viciousness with which the meme was written. It has been written with the intent of harming, insulting, slandering and mocking. I see little grace, respect, nor kindness shown towards Comfort. This viciousness challenges the claim that ‘people are basically good’ and the world will be better without religion. I struggle to see how this (assumed) atheist who wrote the meme is creating a moral vision of a world which is attractive. In this world, it appears acceptable to slander and invent lies. I struggle to see the appeal in this.
The meme has even caused friction within the atheist community. Some have highlighted the points I’ve raised here, i.e. engage with ideas and facts, not on insults and ridicule. One person commenting on the “Anti-Theists. Pro Active Atheists. Opposing Religious Harm.” page said:
Ok… For being a bunch of rational thinkers, you guys sure do fall for these fake screen shots from this guy all the time. His account was obviously hacked again. Stop slandering the guy, especially with something that is this awful. I get it, he is a delusional fuck, and says some pretty stupid shit, but he is smart enough to know not to post something like this. Beat him with facts, not this garbage.. [22 likes]
Atheist friend of mine Chip also agreed commenting separately,
This strikes me as another fake. This seems to be happening more and more. It’s pretty annoying that with all the terrible shit he says people still decide to make up shit like this. These should be condemned no matter who the object of the fiction is. (I tried to find this on his page and couldn’t. It COULD be real, but I doubt it. It doesn’t seem like his style.)
Yet astonishingly some atheists disagreed – they thought that Comfort deserved it, even if it wasn’t true! Mandy Harris responded to that first comment with:
Nah fuck him,even if it is bullshit..He deserves as much shit as people can give him,this fucking moron has influence and that’s dangerous… [2 likes]
It puzzles me how one can propose that inventing vicious lies about a person because he ‘deserves’ it can be considered reasonable, rational and attractive?
The meme does raise some genuine theological issues (which I dealt with here), but I’m interested in atheist reactions to the meme – is it acceptable? What do you make of it?
I did see grace in Comfort’s response as he offered to pray for the person who wrote the meme. Whether or not you believe in the power of prayer, there is at least a kindness in his response that seemed lacking in the original meme and in some atheist responses.
So ‘that’ Ray Comfort meme appears to obscure rational reasonable discussion and it also makes it harder for me to believe that the world will indeed be better without religion.