Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Shout out to the Raytractors!

I posted some time ago about Ray Comfort's blog and his apparent hatred of all things factual. I still check it out from time to time, as it's kinda like the equivalent of a website devoted to train wrecks. I just can't help but not look. For those of you who don't know, Ray is an evangelist and best buddies with Kirk Cameron. His ministry basically revolves around getting people to feel as though they need God because they're awful, degenerate sinners. He's also pretty infamous for his critiques of evolution - every one of which demonstrate that he doesn't even know the first thing about what he's critiquing.

The thing is, I have a near-obsession with always getting in the last word. I call it "near" because I've actually been able to work on it a bit lately and just let certain things go. It's even easier to just limit my posting to his blog to the occasional comment because of a group of people whom I hearby dub The Raytractors (short for Ray Comfort Detractors).

In fact, I find myself checking out his blog more for what they have to say than what he does - because after all, he's pretty much saying the same thing over and over again. He has a few regular posters, many of whom are Christians who subscribe to his particular brand of the religion. Their comments are usually along the lines of "Great job, Ray!" However, the good stuff comes from The Raytractors. They're basically a bunch of skeptics and atheists (I don't think that all of them define themselves as atheists - because after all, there are a lot of Christians who find what he says to be offensive) who point out all of his logical fallacies and absurdities.

Of course, the true believers attack the Raytractors - usually by making sweeping statements that don't address the content of what they wrote, quoting the Bible, or simply insulting them. (There's even a guy who seems to have multiple personalities who supports Ray.)

I honestly believe though that if there was somebody who was genuinely on the fence regarding Christianity versus atheism, and they read Comfort's blog, they would have a hard time siding with the Christians. Now, they might not necessarily become atheists, but I can't see them subscribing to the extreme fundamentalist, scientifically ignorant views of Comfort and his true believers. (In fact, I believe that there's a guy out there who was on the fence, and the Raytractors appealed to him more). I know some people would wonder why I (or others) would bother even arguing with these people, but this is the reason why. One of the reasons why I finally came around to admitting I was an atheist was by reading the atheism discussion board on usenet. There was plenty of arguing, but the atheists had all of the most logical and compelling arguments. The Christians just kept saying the same stuff over and over again and proved themselves to be ignorant, dishonest, and sometimes both. (And I should probably point out that these were fundamentalist types - I know, I know, there are plenty of Christians out there who can justify their beliefs without attacking atheism.)

The thing is, these folks seem like a real fun bunch. While they can sometimes be slightly aggressive in their criticisms, most of them are just plain old funny. What seems to be happening is that a loose camraderie is starting to form amongst us. Now, many of you know me, and you know that it's difficult to get me to socialize sometimes. However, if these folks all lived close by me, I'd be really excited about having them over for dinner and/or homebrews (not sure if they all like beer or not). Kirsti (my wife, for those of you who don't know) reads the blog as well, and she's often asking me, "Hey, did you see what (fill in a Raytractor's name here) wrote?" She posts less than I do, but she enjoys their wit, intelligence, and devotion to intellectual honesty just as much as I do.

One thing that I find interesting is that many of them are women. Now, perhaps this reveals an inner sexism in me, but generally speaking (and I think that there are even statistics that prove this) women are less likely to be skeptical of the supernatural and more likely to believe not only in God but things like astrology. Perhaps that's turning around now that women are being encouraged to not just be nurturing homemakers (which there's nothing wrong with) but thinkers and scholars as well (which there's everything right with). I know that if I have a daughter, I'll expect her to look at the world objectively and critically just the same as I would with a boy. (And yes, I realize that she may very well wind up disagreeing with my religious views.)

So, a big shout out and raise of the homebrew mug to my fellow Raytractors! I've recently created a list of links to some of their blogs on the side of my Blogspot blog (sorry, MySpace readers - you'll have to go there to check it out). It's good reading, so check it out. And, if there are any Raytractors whose blogs I've missed, please leave a comment so I can be sure to include you.


flinging dust said...

I have to agree with you that I believe women tend to be less skeptical than men. As a woman I find this annoying as hell.

Every single time I see a woman standing at the checkout line at the grocery store getting ready to buy one of those little astrology books they have up front I want to grab it out of her hands and shove a copy of Scientific American in her hands and then make her write 100 times 'I will not fill my head with unscientific bullshit'.

The Ranting Student said...

Oh my Lance, I cannot believe I did not have you on my blogroll. Yes, we Raytractors must stay together. Ha ha, enlightening post.

(There's even a guy who seems to have multiple personalities who supports Ray.)

...oh yes, Terry...

Perhaps you're on to something though. A future blog is in the works perhaps including the raytractors[i still laugh reading that, ahhh, thanks] as contributors. Who knows...

One thing is for certain, we'll continue to stick it to Ray.

Lance Christian Johnson said...

I like the idea of a blog that we all contribute to - shoot, I'm taking the summer off from teaching, so perhaps I'll look into doing something with that.

Anonymous said...

I also go on Ray's blog mainly to read the comments. Ray's posts themselves are just scare tactics mixed in with some kind of freakish lust for himself. Could you imagine how scary the blog would look without us? All the comments saying "we love you Ray" *shivers*. The "multiple personality" guy says the same kinda things over and over again too (i.e "you're going to burn in hell", "watch hell's best kept secret").

weemaryanne said...

Women are easily fooled over some of the silliest things -- sales pitches in furniture stores, f'r instance. While my mother was alive, my father occasionally complained that whenever a salesman saw her coming "their eyes light up like a Christmas tree."

I suppose it's because, as Dale (Charter Member of the Raytractors) has observed, critical thinking always looks like mere cynicism to those who can't manage it. No properly socialized woman of my mother's generation would wish to be called cynical.

Lance Christian Johnson said...

Dale's blog! That's one I'm missing - gotta set about correcting that!

MacGyver Jr said...

Though I tend to hover most of the time and my blog consists of a link to a wiki that I SO do not pay attention to, I'd like to consider myself amongst the family of raytractors (great term btw)...In fact, after someone mentioned creating our own little group space, I set up raytractors.blogspot.com and am willing to add anyone who sends me an email at geekjay@gmail.com to the posters / admins or else turning it over to anyone else if they'd rather.

Milo said...

I want to be a Raytractor! Can you send me an application?

Lance Christian Johnson said...

Milo, you're in.

Mac, Jr. - brilliant. I'm sending my email now.

Milo said...

Great post! BAAAAA

No seriously- you really said it well.

The Raytractors have given me lots of laughs and much to think about. I appreciate the well researched, well thought out posts. Ray and his followers may not pay attention, but I've learned a lot. So, thanks to everyone! Keep up the good work!

Milo said...

Flinging Dust,

Have you noticed how it's almost always women who forward those crazy emails? The ones that think every urban legend that comes down the pike is God's own truth?

Arrrgh. I hate the ones with sappy pictures and the pass it on if you love the Lord at the bottom.

Pvblivs said...

     Depending on how broad your definition is, I may qualify as a "raytractor" myself. On the other hand, you may not want me. For example, even though I criticize Ray for misrepresenting what evolution says, I still don't regard it as scientific just because an authority said so. <Anyone interested can check the rantings of my blog to find out what would convince me that it was scientific.>

flinging dust said...


I need to start collecting the ones I get and posting them.