Thursday, December 2, 2010

Book Review - ‘You Can Lead an Atheist to Evidence, But You Can’t Make Him Think’ by Ray Comfort

This book stands out from others that I have read in that it is one that I purchased expressly knowing it had a premise that I disagreed with. If anyone is familiar with Comfort, they might accuse me of intentionally picking someone who has a weak counter-position to my own. This may be true, but I first wish to acclimate myself with the ‘every man’s’ argument for Christianity. To me, this should be the one worth listening to, especially if Christianity is meant to be a belief system for everyone, not just high-end theologians with weird esoteric views of what God is and wants.

Unfortunately, Comfort is more ‘preaching to the converted’. Many of his arguments require that you accept certain premises which he fails to prove or give valid reasons of why we might consider them. Another important point is that many of his analogies are painfully flawed. Not in the sense that the analogy doesn’t hold true when viewed in high detail (as all analogies break down when viewed under a microscope), but they often don’t even hold true on the most basic level. One of his favourite is the ‘creation is proof a creator’ argument, in which he uses the example of a painting; if you see a painting, you know there must be a painter because paintings don’t just create themselves. He then attempts to link this up to humans/the Earth/the universe; because these things exist, they must have a creator i.e. God. The problem is two-fold; firstly, we have no evidence of a natural process that can create a painting, but we have some evidence of natural processes that can create humans (evolution) and planets (stellar formation). The second problem is that he is jumping to his preconceived conclusion. The best we could say is that the universe had a cause, not that it had a creator. Using the term cause doesn’t rule out creator; it is just more inclusive of natural possibilities which we have yet to discover. Comfort instantly jumps from ‘cause’ to ‘Christian God’ (arguably because he was already at that point).

So, would I recommend this book to others? In a roundabout way, yes I would. Not because it contains any points of intellectual value (though it is a good mental exercise to see if you can see how he is wrong), but simply because it is an insight into how fundamentalists view the world.


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