I have trundled through the Nightline Face-Off between former child star Kirk Cameron and his evangelical partner Ray Comfort, founders of The Way of the Master ministry, and two potentially pseudonymous members of an atheist group called the Rational Response Squad named Brian and Kelly — and let me tell you, it was not an edifying spectacle. Hosted by a courtly Martin Bashir in a half-empty Calvary Baptist Church in Manhattan in early May of 2007, the jabberwocky didn’t live up to its portentous title: “Does God Exist?”
Kirk Cameron hasn’t apparently aged much since “Growing Pains,” his delicate crown of curls perched atop a distractingly large and unlined cranium. Never less than winning, he appeared to have a working actor’s grasp of the science of evolution.
“I’m motivated purely by a concern for what’s going to happen to people if they die without Christ,” he told ABC’s Nightline. “It is, in a word, compassion.”
Cameron left to his partner Comfort the scutwork of presenting the “scientific” case for God. Like the streetcorner evangelist he has been for forty years, hectoring ambient traffic in his broad New Zealand accent, Comfort laid out three bullets:
- Complexity of Creation – wielding a can of soda in what I can only assume was a free product placement, Comfort said: “If the Coca-Cola can was made there must be a maker!”
- Conscience – humans have an inner voice that “speaks to us whether we believe in God or not … we have a distinctive knowledge of right and wrong.” This is God’s voice.
- Radical Nature of Conversion – for some people, perhaps many, “conversion produces knowledge of God experientially.” (We can call this the “Mystical” argument; it’s similar to a Spiritualists’ trance taken to demonstrate the existence of an afterlife.)
Comfort’s arguments are the old ones, of course, minus the “fine tuning” strand of many modern evangelicals.
Dressed in an untucked t-shirt and jeans (Brian) and a vivid, flowery red dress that accentuated her va-voomish bod (Kelly), the Rational Response Squad was a bit more on point:
- Complexity – Echoing Bertrand Russell, Brian said: “If all creations need a creator then what created God?” Also, this universe has a lot of unintelligent design — e.g., “I have nipples!” We have a blind spot in our eye. Nature relies on killing to survive.
- Conscience – Kelly countered that this is just “the result of thousands of generations of parents and societies passing these teachings on to their children,” combined with the pleasure-pain principle. If God exists “outside of the natural world” then he’s equivalent to magic, which explains nothing.
Here Kelly gets off the best line of the night: Comfort is “manufacturing a problem that only his God can fix.” (She refers to his preachy litany of questions: “Have you ever lied? Have you ever stolen anything? Have you ever felt lust in your heart?”) (For the record, The God Project Dot Net answers: No, No, and Perhaps.)
If the 10 Commandments are written on our hearts, she asks, then “Why don’t we all worship Yahweh?”
And by the way, “Hitler was a Catholic.” (This, I didn’t know. But then again, one has only to look at the 265 historical Popes to realize being Catholic is far from proof of piety.)
3. Conversion – her point here was that the only thing this proves “is the existence of your own brain.”
As the debate plugged awkwardly on — as many such God-related arguments do — I began to doubt even that.
[to be continued …]