Atheism / Comfort / Engineering / Kookiness · May 25, 2007

“God’s wind” and Ray Comfort’s modern parable

Ray Comfort, of banana and soda can fame, is not just an evangelist who turns Atheists into Christians by insulting them, he is also a prolific author who has written books intended to convert Atheists to Christianity by insulting them. These books include: “God Doesn’t Believe in Atheists: Proof That the Atheist Doesn’t Exist”, “How to Make an Atheist Back-Slide” and “Intelligent Design Vs. Evolution: Letters to an Atheist”. Comfort’s latest soon-to-be-available book is published by the Christian publishing house Bridge-Logos, and is kindly titled, “The Atheist Delusion”.

Insults and not so subtle jabs seem to be Ray Comfort’s standard MO – which were clearly displayed during his recent debate. It doesn’t seem to matter how many degrees are under your belt; if you do not hold a belief in the Christian god then Comfort will surely treat you like an idiot. I’m fairly sure that Comfort would be willing to apply the same sort of ridicule to doctors Hector Avalos and Bart D. Ehrman.

Ray Comfort has given us all an advanced look at a few pages from “The Atheist Delusion” in an article called “Three Wise Fools”, which you can read in full on the Christian Worldview Network website.

This article uses almost a thousand words (including footnotes) to retell a favorite Christian fallacy. I’ve seen this argument fairly often, but I’ve never seen it labeled – so I will call this the “God’s wind” argument, which is descriptive not only of the argument, but what I think of it.

In the “God’s wind” argument a nonbeliever supposedly says, “I won’t believe in something I can’t see!” And the believer then pounces with, “You can’t see the wind, but you know it’s there!” The nonbeliever then is supposed to fall defeated in the dust as the believer struts off in triumph.

Comfort cleverly reworks this argument by telling a parable of three men who are told about “the miracle of electricity” for the first time. These men “who considered that they were very wise” (heh heh – get the subtle biblical reference?) were shown an electric lamp and a user’s manual by a representative from Edison Electric. Of course the lamp merely needed to be turned on, but the men in Comfort’s modern parable spent all their time nit picking the manual and refusing to “believe” in electricity. Finally they get up in disgust and leave. From the article:

“And they expect us to believe in this invisible force called ‘electricity . . . .’ That has to be the dumbest thing I have ever heard! I don’t know about you, but I’m getting out of here.”

His two friends heartily agreed. Electricity didn’t exist. It seemed to make sense to them that the reason it didn’t exist was because they believed that The Owner’s Manual was filled with mistakes.

The three men stepped out of the room into the darkness, still wise in their own eyes. They even decided to form a club that was devoted to telling other people that electricity didn’t exist.

The whole of Comfort’s parable is fallacious – an elaborate strawman argument set up by Comfort so that he can knock it down with a single punch to its grassy jaw. During the process, Comfort manages to work in little hateful jabs at nonbelievers.

In reality nonbelievers like myself are told that God exists, that the bible is true, and that this supernatural world is mixed in with the natural. So of course we do ask for the proof for these assertions, and we are unsatisfied when we are given “belief” as an answer. We also disagree that belief is the same thing as trust. Belief is synonymous with faith, not trust! Trust requires evidence.

How can I trust that wind exists when I can’t see it? Because I can detect it through other means. I can feel it in my hair and across my skin. I can measure its speed and direction and combined with the proper media I can watch it stir up waves or dust storms. I don’t need to “believe” or “have faith” in the wind. Instead I can accept that what I feel or measure is a natural phenomenon, as opposed to supernatural.

As an Electrical Engineer, I’m in a somewhat unique position that I can measure electricity in ways that most people are only passing familiar. I can measure electric potential, current flow and how it reacts to resistance, I can measure or calculate power. I design complex devices based on the things that scientists have learned about electricity through experimentation. I play with electricity as a hobby, causing it to run in little paths at my command in the small “brain” of my little robotic toys.

And you play with electricity too. This “miracle of electricity” is what you are using now, harnessed under your command and doing your will as you scroll down my blog before wandering off to another part of the Internet with your next mouse click. You don’t require “faith” that your monitor will continue to work second by second, you only need to accept that it works by natural principles that people like myself understand and use to your benefit. If you want to learn more about these principles, you need only to study. It’s somewhat difficult, but millions of people have degrees in electrical engineering, so it can’t be that hard. I’ll be glad to give you some pointers.

I would love to see proof of God, but instead what I get are illogical tautologies such as “All created things require a creator.” True believers point at bits of nature and say, “There’s your proof!” But similar believers who lived centuries ago pointed out lightning and thunder as “proof” just as willingly.

We’ve harnessed the lightning, and we create our own thunder. What next will we do with your “proof” of God?