Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Can Ray Comfort Be Moral?

He says,

I believe that someone who professes atheism can steal from you with no real qualms of conscience, because he doesn't believe that he is ultimately responsible to God.

By "God" of course, Mr. Comfort means the Judeo-Christian deity. Not Brahma. Not Allah. Not the Tao, and of course not Buddha Nature. And so he's not just talking about P.Z. Meyers and Richard Dawkins. He's talking about nontheistic Buddhists, Jains, Taoists, secular humanists, Sartrian existentialists, and others.

Mr. Comfort is quasi-well known in rationalist circles as a creationist; he's tried to get Richard Dawkins into a debate, but Dawkins has refused, I think, on the grounds that it would give Mr. Comfort too much attention. While I understand this viewpoint, I would also say that there are consequences to Mr. Comfort's viewpoint, and they are not conducive to harmony, let alone fostering compassion, wisdom and generosity. Let's look further.

Mr. Comfort believes, or says he believes, to be more exact, that an "atheist" has no "real qualms of conscience." This is equivalent to stating that someone's interior experience can be known by Mr. Comfort and can be judged as real or not by Mr. Comfort. It is as though he claims some sort of magical telepathic powers. While it is claimed the Buddha possessed all kinds of telepathic powers, I don't think the Buddha ever went around and said that his sense-perceptions were any more legitimate than anyone else's.

Such claims do not seem to arise from wisdom, compassion and generosity, but rather from a pride that does not allow another's experience to be considered as though one were having it. It not what you'd expect from someone entreated to "Have a heart."

I've been writing recently on the Lotus Sutra (see Wikipedia's article here for more information.) And the question arises: are these skillful means? It's interesting to compare Mr. Comfort's writing to "the parable" below. Mr. Comfort may not know it or care (I'm sure he doesn't because it ain't "biblical"), but in terms of the transcendence of dukkha his technique seems at variance to the man who would coax his children out of danger.

Shame can be taught - this is well known, and any ideology can be used to justify the inculcation of shame.

But if the ends of the teaching of shame are not moral and ethical, it cannot be an expedient means to induce guilt and shame.
The whole criteria and objectives Mr. Comfort has differ from the man in the parable.

But yes, even Ray Comfort is capable of bringing transcendence to all beings.

He just ought not do it the way he's doing it.

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