Evangelist Ray Comfort says becoming the butt of the atheist community’s joke proved a blessing in disguise.
The deeply religious Comfort got dubbed the “banana man” following a viral video in which he said bananas prove God’s existence due to their consumer-friendly appearance. Critics pounced, saying the modern banana is the product of genetic tinkering, hardly a sign of intelligent design.
He could have licked his wounds as a result. Instead, Comfort used the notoriety to spread the word about Christianity.
“It made a fool of me worldwide … and it also gave me a platform,” says Comfort, who frequently engages with atheists, often in ideologically hostile settings.
The New Zealand native doesn’t mind mixing it up with those with whom he disagrees. It’s at the heart of his newest production, “The Atheist Delusion.” The movie, available for free online, finds Comfort asking a group of young atheists about intelligent design.
It’s an unapologetic faith-based look at creation, blending slick production values with Comfort’s relentless debate techniques.
The project began after Comfort went to a college campus to shoot a video for a book publisher. He met an atheist during his visit, and in the middle of their chat, Comfort placed a book on the young man’s lap.
““Do you think this book could have happened by accident,” he asked him. The student laughed.
“No, that’s ridiculous,” he told Comfort.
The evangelist then launched into how that book’s creation mirrored the “intelligent design” behind life, the critical argument raised in the film. That sparked “Delusion.” It’s also a key facet of Comfort’s outreach efforts.
“My whole life has been devoted to reaching out to the lost … it’s not the type of information they want to receive,” says Comfort, founder and CEO of Living Waters. One of his best memories came from a chat with noted atheist Penn Jillette.
The evangelist didn’t convert the popular magician and podcaster. The back and forth still cheered Comfort.
“One of the highlights of my life was talking to him,” he says of the libertarian-leaning star.
The Skeptic Playbook
What Comfort has learned through the years is how similar the arguments are against intelligent design.
“Atheists are from the same school, and Richard Dawkins is the principal,” he says of arguably the world’s most notable atheist.
The filmmaker’s newest project wasn’t shown in theaters nationwide. It doesn’t have to be to leave an impression.
“Our YouTube channel has 42 million views, and it doesn’t cost us a thing. It’s an inroad into the heart of the world,” he says.
Cracking the New Media Code
Projects like “The Atheist Delusion” are another matter. Comfort says his team already figured out how to balance the film ledger.
“We release it as a download two months early [for a fee],” he says. “You can see it early and you help us to finance movies like this for the future. That covers our coasts.”
Leveraging pop culture pathways comes naturally to Comfort. He learned that lesson, in part, from studying Billy Graham’s ministry. Years ago, Graham would stage crusades in massive stadiums. He’d preach the Gospel to a predominantly Christian congregation, but some of those followers brought their non-believing friends, Comfort notes.
“It would take years to pull that many churches together,” he says.
Now, Comfort tries to leverage existing media channels with the savvy of a content producer.
“If I see someone with pink hair I’ll chase them down the street to interview them. I’m delighted to get stuff like that,” he says. And, if that means engaging with atheists who don’t agree with his spiritual bent, so be it.
“Millions of atheists, they think I’m like a train wreck. It’s an incredible opportunity to take the gospel to them,” he says.
Sites like YouTube help make that possible.
“We have a format the Apostle Paul would be green with righteous envy over,” he says.
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