Monday, April 6, 2009

So this one time I debated Ray Comfort...

So this one time, a couple of weeks ago, I debated Ray Comfort. The whole thing was a fiasco from beginning to end. I only knew about the debate because of an ad posted outside the toilets, offering a $100 to anyone who could, or would stand Ray for an hour. When I rang the number, the very nice woman seemed thrilled, saying that they were on the verge of canceling the debate since no one else had responded. And so, having never debated before, and being considered by everyone as some chump who was going to be humiliated for Ray’s amusement, I got the job simply because no one else wanted it.

However, as it turns out, the thing was a farce, as the poor mustachioed mountebank had nothing at all to say. I say this with all due humility, I was not perfect, I spoke too fast, was nervous and relied far too much on my notes, and even screwed up a reference, but this was my first debate ever, and Ray simply had no counter to anything I said, and gave up his ground with such alacrity it was like he knew he was a half competent liar. He glibly admitted that he couldn’t defend the veracity of the bible, before ignoring everything I had said in order to give his preplanned speech. During rebuttal he even started to squirm and look more slug-like than is his habit when I mentioned that one of his arguments had been addressed at length and to Ray personally by P.Z Myers.

During the question and answers, Ray got sarcastic and petulant and looked every inch the beaten and discovered cheat who wished he had never issued the challenge. After the thing was over a half dozen of Ray’s supporters came up to me and told me that Ray was clearly out classed and out- thought and wasn’t up to an intellectual debate, but that I shouldn't think I could beat god so easily.

Anyway, at the time I thought there was not a great deal worth saying, as humiliating Ray was, given the fact that he is a self parodying pissant, no great achievement. But today found out that according to Ray, I, referred to simply as “the atheist” was “pretty sad. He just read notes he printed off the Internet. The old spaghetti monster stuff. I felt sorry for him.” Now personally I am touched by Ray’s sympathy. It is the true measure of Christian charity to pity the man who is reducing you into surly and grouchy irrelevance.

But I cannot let stand the charge that I simply read stuff off the Internet. This is what I do, and is who I am. I have spent most of the past decade studying the world’s religions and I brought the best I had, and for Ray to claim that the challenges he couldn’t answer, and stripped him naked are below his contempt is something I will not stand still for. As such, I am posting the audio of the debate, recorded by my lovely girlfriend, and you can make up your own mind.

Note: we now have improved audio here and here, thanks to libresansdieu and a channel on youtube thanks to Nigel McNaughton and Nick Rowleyand


  1. Great, thanks for posting it.

  2. Thanks for putting this up, Sam. I wonder why Ray won't do the same..?

  3. Great job; way to stand up to Ray! I agree with BaldySlaphead: it speaks volumes that you are willing to put up unedited audio of the debate while Ray, who openly brags about his performance, will not. Perhaps you should send him your copies to ensure he has no excuse...

  4. It is always more difficult to debate against an idiot than an intelligent and intellectually honest man. I admire you for going against an idiot of epic proportions. It is obvious that you were nervous, but you did a very good job.

  5. Oh, and your girlfriend has a nice laugh, it makes the listening more enjoyable.

  6. Well done Sam, you did as well as anyone could expect to do, given the circumstances and the sheer idiocy you had to contend with.

    It speaks volumes that he's said almost nothing about the debate - he knows he got creamed.

    But still, how did that dog see before his eyes evolved....

  7. Damned fine of you to take one for the team, Sam. But it does seem you were underpaid, you should be awarded damages for mental duress and emotional pain, having to live through that much time in the same room as Cumfart.

  8. I thought this was supposed to be a 'debate'? Ray was just preaching his usual nonsense. Why am I not surprised?

  9. Oh, Ray found god while on a **surfing trip**...hmm...that explains a lot....

  10. Some of it was hard to hear, and more of it was just hard to listen to. I should probably visit the dentist after the amount of teeth-grinding I did through Ray's first portion. But I thought the confessions of nervousness and inexperience were overstated -- you sounded reasonably comfortable, for the most part, and exceedingly well-prepared. Certainly, you sounded much better-prepared than Ray (it should go without saying that you sounded more knowledgeable, knowing Ray as we do -- I'm trying not to damn you with such faint praise), and if he sounded more at ease (I narrowly avoided a bad pun, there), that's only because he's so oblivious or indifferent to his own staggering ignorance.

    So, in short, I thought you did a great job and I'd be interested in listening to any subsequent public performance -- with or without your comic foil.

  11. Nice Job. Much better than the "Rational Response Squad's" attempts at debate. Much, much better. Absolutely great. Very well prepared on all fronts.

    More please :)

  12. Nice.
    Ray seems angry and his argument is simply sad.

  13. I think you sounded great :) and quite intelligent, so much more then your opponent. And this post has gotten really long… sorry.

    (I actually watched videos recently about creation and evolution ect with the narrator sounding a lot like your voice and he was brilliant IMHO. Maybe that makes me bias. That and you sound like one of my fav shows/groups, Flight of the Concords ;) so I am definitely bias. Listening to your opponent kind of reminded of Murray’s character from said show)

    You opponent is extremely hard to listen to without wanting to kill myself but I’ll try to get through since you had to actually be there in the flesh.

    First impression, he’s insane. His example of evolution is there's only one male dog and only one female on the whole planet....SHIT, I BETTER FIND THAT BITCH!

    Sorry sometimes I just have to give in to the scream. It’s better if I let it out, trust me.

    He’s talking about evolution like it’s part of the Adam and Eve story? Only one pair? THAT’S WHAT THE BIBLE SAYS, NOT EVOLUTION! X(

    I just love how his Dog has no eyes but then he uses that dog as an example of how Adam and Eve were, WOW, fully formed. To his credit though, if his example was indeed how evolution worked, I would believe it was a scientific impossibility.

    Next he’s dissing the scientists. That really helps HIS argument; their impending employment at Disney really pushes that home.

    So in the end, he’s not going to try to prove God exists, because we know he exists?!? Sam are you religious? Is your Girlfriend? Do you guys know God exists??? Insane doesn’t even begin to explain this guy. (can you tell I don’t know Ray all that well, what a way to be introduced)

    Excuse me for a moment as I rip out my heart to see what’s written on it… Nope no commandments.

    And yes he’s going through the commandments like any good street preacher. I’m a liar, I’m a thief, I’m a murderer, I don’t CARE because I don’t believe in HEAVEN!

    …Ok, this is a home movie I can’t wait to see… all my thoughts on screen for God to watch. He better grab some popcorn cause I’m a sick, sick, woman.

    I guess he liked Mel’s movie. He watched it twice.

    If the point of evolution isn’t why he’s there talking, then why is he debating it? He wants everyone to think about God and be saved... So Sam, I guess you’re just a pulpit puppet or something. You were the bait for atheists to come hear his sermon. Nice to know he comes clean about that at least.

    Ok I’ll end my comments and just listen to the rest of it through gritted teeth so I can see just why people think this guy has no marbles. Thanks for bringing this to us Sam :) it’s quite educational.

  14. This debate just confirms what we all knew already. Ray just isn't worth the attention. I've actually felt that Ray was a nice guy under all that stupidity, but I'm starting to doubt it. I think he might actually be a bit of a dick.

    It baffles me that he's able to believe what he does (for the reasons he does) in the face of constant intelligent, rational opposition. But that he can convince others with his arguments, frightens me.

    Anyway, I think you did an excellent job of debating him. You won, absolutely, no doubt about it. And I'm sure, very few, creationist or not, would disagree.

  15. I note that Ray didn't at all respond to the problem of the fall. WTF man...that's major.

  16. Congrats on your first debate! You did really well considering its your first debate - although pwning Ray isnt really that great a feat :p anyways this is a good stepping stone for future debates!

  17. Excellent job with the debate. Naturally I wouldn't worry too much about the petulant criticisms of a man who uses bananas as evidence of design... Ray is one of the less frightening types of creationists, the sort that doesn't accept evolution merely because he lacks the very minimal imagination required to grasp it.

    A nice warm up for perhaps tackling one of the scary-ass doublethinking creationists who both understands evolution and yet convinces himself it's a lie. I just can't think of any of those off the top of my head...

  18. You only got ONE HUNDRED dollars to debate him?

    They should be paying you far more to waste so much of your time.

  19. Can these be posted as MP3's for iPod downloading?

  20. Sam,

    Your patience is boundless. In the first 10 minutes of Ray's "debate", my face turns bright red from all facepalm that he inspire in me.


  21. Chris, they are mp3s, just Right-click and Save As.

  22. I agree - your girlfriend is lovely...


  23. Good show, Sam. I really enjoyed that, although I was a bit disappointed that the moderator let the questioners walk over the debaters (if you can call it that: Ray mostly ignored you and just preached) at the end.

    I think there's a couple of points you could have used: I think it's reasonable to say we're unsure of the origins of the universe. It's an ongoing field of study. But even if we concede that there *could* have been a Creator, what makes it Yahweh and not Odin, or Vishnu, or any of the many other creator gods.

    This, I think, would tie into his belief that Christianity is right because it's (mostly, as demonstrated) works-free. In essence, he's saying "I like this image of god, therefore it must be true." What if the possible not-Yahweh-creator-god actually *likes* being bribed?

    Anyway, rambled enough now. Thanks for making this public.

  24. Thanks Bathtub. I tried to save them while they were playing...that does not work. :) Tried again from the icon and it worked....sigh...I need a Mac.

  25. Weird, I thought I commented on this yesterday: I thought you did a pretty good job of answering questions & challenges, and being honest when you couldn't remember details, etc. Ray, on the other hand, spent his time talking AT people, not TO them - and that's why he was so unable to do what you did.

    I also thought you made some great points, a few of which I hadn't heard before (and I've been arguing/reading this stuff for years). Nicely done.

  26. I've edited the audio files to remove some of the noise and make the speech louder. The files are still uploading but later you can download them at:

  27. I just noticed the questions are still quite hard to hear though.

  28. Sam, in case you're not aware, Pharyngula has cross-linked to this blog entry:

  29. I think you did a fantasic job! This was your first debate? Amazing!

    Kudos, thanks for posting the audio.

  30. Lovely stuff, the editing of the Q&A was a bit tricky but otherwise it was great. I told Bathtub that if you wanted I could redo it with more pictures or something like that (yes I do have much too much time on my hands).

  31. I love it when Ray uses the standard analogy about God as the judge. Someone should ask him under that wretched analogy what judge would give life in prison for minor crimes, and given that how the entire Jesus thing makes any sense at all.

    Also, note that Ray's claim that the law is divided into moral law, ceremonial law and civil law is simply not in the Biblical text at all.

    Overall, you seemed to do a very good job. Ray made almost zero effort to actually respond to what you said and you came across as well spoken and confident.

  32. My favorite bit from Ray:

    In part one where he says "You and I have no idea what God is like," after which he proceeds to describe the attributes of God.

    Second place is when he says you could very well die in your sleep tonight from, say, aneurysm or car accident.

    I think you made a fine showing, especially in anticipating the claims he was going to make and addressing them before he could. You've obviously done your research on Ray's MO and common arguments, and you hit on pretty much all of them.

    I agree with others, you did a much better job than the Rational Responders did.

  33. This looks good. I'll listen later when I have time. Ask for 500 bucks next time. :)

  34. HigH!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    wow, dude...i just listened to that entire debate, and i gotta say, well done! it was extremely difficult to sit through ray's part, though...ugh...
    anyway, i would say you're right up there with dawkins, hitchens and harris, at least in entertainment value! ;) of course, each debater brings his own personal strengths to the table, such as dawkins' and harris' scientific knowledge, or hitchens' sociopolitical knowledge; but i was very impressed by your preparedness! you seemed to be able to destroy every sneaky, sophistic question addressed to you! and i agree, it seemed like comfort didn't directly address a SINGLE one of your points, but just had you there to give the semblance of a debate while he gave a sermon...i guess he thought he was at a pulpit, not a podium(if there even was a podium). anyway, i don't wanna be too long-winded here, so once again, well done! cheers!

    brian tarr

  35. You are my new hero.
    Too bad Ray doesn't understand that using the bible to convert atheists is laughable and cringeworthy.
    All I can say for Ray is that he's got his script down pat.

  36. Just listened to the "debate", and you're right about it being a farce.
    Not a thing Ray said had any fact behind it, he just made statements then moved on as fast as he could, hoping no one would notice the holes.
    You made a lot of great points, & I thought came well prepared, & had nice researched counters (to the few Christians in the audience as well as Ray).
    Haven't seen you since High school, so it was a nice surprise to see this on line, & to see you kick Comfort's arse.

  37. Just listened to the debate and Comfort was no surprise. I think you dealt with everything very well and much congrats to you on it.

    The one question I think could have been even better answered however was the one at the end about the "historical accuracy of the bible" as a means of showing the bible is true.

    You answered this week, I give you that, but there is also another answer I give when I am asked this. Most, more often than not in fact, fiction IS set in real world areas, with real world people and events as part of the narrative!

    Jason Bourne in the Bourne identity does not exist merely because all the places he visits are historically accurate and real, the events in the background of the narrative are real world events we know happened, and the political figures mentioned are often real or based on real people.

    So why anyone thinks the bible is real merely because it, like most works of fiction, have a basis in reality I do not know. This argument to support the reality of Jesus and the Bible seem to be equally valid when applied to Jason Bourne and the Bourne Identity.

    An argument that can be applied to everything should be applied to nothing.

  38. As you say I realize that this gentleman was not to rise to the occasion and end the debate turning into a sort of joke against it. That fiasco