What is it about a California-based Christian evangelist from New Zealand that makes him irresistible to even the most sophisticated secularist?
"You sir, are a fool who could not lie straight in bed. It is beneath me to even address you," wrote an online respondent to Ray Comfort's weblog Friday, "but I was passing by and saw this tripe, I could not constrain myself."
The lively interaction on his Atheist Central blog with scores of atheists and agnostics of all kinds – from young students to decorated scientists – has given Comfort unusual insight into the skeptical mind and led him to conclude atheism rests on a remarkably illogical and unscientific premise that became the title of his latest book, "Nothing Created Everything."
"I found over the last year, when I said an atheist is someone who believes nothing created everything, they go berserk and say, 'We don't believe that,'" said Comfort, co-host of "The Way of the Master" television show with actor Kirk Cameron and the head of Bellflower, Calif.-based Living Waters ministry.
But Comfort insists atheists clearly believe nothing created everything.
"All you have to do," Comfort told WND, "is push them into a corner and say, 'So, you're an atheist?' 'Yep.' 'So you believe that nothing created everything, a scientific impossibility?' And they'll say, 'Well, no.' 'So you believe something created everything?' And they say, 'Well, yeah. Something did, obviously.' 'So you're not an atheist?' 'OK, I'm not an atheist.'
"'This something you believe created everything,'" Comfort continued, "'do you think it was intelligent? I mean, could you create a bird or a flower or a tree or a blade of grass from nothing?' And they'll say, 'No, I can't do that.' 'Well, is this something you believe created everything intelligent?' And they'll say, 'Obviously.' And I'll say, 'Congratulations, you've just become an anti-science, knuckle-dragger in the eyes of our learning institutions, because you believe in intelligent design.'"
To help make the point in his book, Comfort culled quotes from leading scientists who believe "nothing created everything," including British biologist and unofficial leader of the popular atheist movement, Richard Dawkins.
Dawkins, in his 2004 book "The Ancestor's Tale" wrote, "The fact that life evolved out of nearly nothing, some 10 billion years after the universe evolved literally out of nothing, is a fact so staggering that I would be mad to attempt words to do it justice."
Among others, Comfort cites physicist Robert A.J. Matthews of Ashton University in England, who wrote, "It is now becoming clear that everything can – and probably did – come from nothing."
American physicist Paul Davies of Arizona State University wrote, "Even if we don't have a precise idea of exactly what took place at the beginning, we can at least see that the origin of the universe from nothing need not be unlawful or unnatural or unscientific."
"The whole thought that nothing created everything is an intellectual embarrassment for atheists," Comfort told WND.
He writes in his book: "There's no way to say it kindly, but such thoughts show that the atheist doesn't think, and proves the Bible right when it says that the fool has said in his heart that there is no God.
"All you have to do is present unbiased facts about the unscientific and unthinking nature of atheistic evolution, and then watch people change their minds."
As WND reported, Comfort offered $20,000 to Dawkins to debate him on BBC radio, but the British scientist has not responded.
Comfort noted, however, Dawkins has offered his estimation of him, which graces the cover of "Nothing Created Everything."
"[Ray Comfort] is an ignorant fool," Dawkins said.
"He gave me a special condemnation for my book," Comfort remarked, "which is delightful."
But Comfort said his ultimate concern is for Dawkins' soul.
"Now that he's in his 60s, it won't be long until he goes to meet his maker," Comfort said. "And I want him to think deeply before he passes into eternity, because he is of worth to God and to me."
Comfort dedicated his new book to the famous atheist: "To Richard Dawkins, in the sincere hope that he looks beyond the hypocrisy of organized religion, before he goes to meet his maker."
Among the venues in which Comfort has debated atheism are Yale University, BBC radio, a conference of the group American Atheists and ABC's "Nightline." He has authored some 60 other books, including "God Doesn't Believe in Atheists," "How to Know God Exists" and "Evolution: the Fairy Tale for Grownups."
His previous book on the subject, "You Can Lead an Atheist to Evidence but You Can't Make Him Think," jumped ahead of Dawkins' "The God Delusion" on Amazon.com's list of bestsellers on atheism when it was released.
Comfort contends many atheists, including Dawkins, engage in a "reverse idolatry."
"Instead of taking nice things and creating a congenial god, they make a repulsive god," he explained.
Dawkins, Comfort said, goes through the Old Testament and picks out the harsh judgments of God "and makes an idol that's repulsive."
"But the problem is the god that Richard Dawkins doesn't believe in, doesn't exist," Comfort said. "He's a figment of his imagination."
The God of the Bible, Comfort contends, "is the God of righteousness and holiness and justice and truth and love and mercy. And he's taken the time to write his law upon their hearts in the form of a conscience."
Comfort says that while the intellectual appeal to atheists is important, the argument must move away from the intellect, "the place of hostility," and to the conscience, "the place of knowledge of right and wrong."
He points out the word conscience literally means "with knowledge."
"That's what Jesus did when he spoke to people about the kingdom of God," Comfort said. "He addressed their conscience by going through the commandments. That's what Paul did; that's what we have to do if we want to be effective."
Comfort said he's seen many dialogues with atheists move from the intellect to the conscience.
"We've got on video atheists changing their minds within one minute of talking to them," he said.
"Creation proves there's a creator," Comfort argues. "And once you've established that, the fact is that every single human being is without excuse."
He contends that while many atheists and agnostics assert religious believers abandon science and reason, defenders of Darwinian evolutionary theory actually must have a "childlike faith" to accept its tenets.
Comfort said "time is the god of evolutionists," who believe that with enough time anything can happen.
"Time performs miracles. Time is the creator," he said.
"You can say to them, 'OK, there's nothing in your garage, could you believe in 10,000 years a Mercedes would evolve out of nothing? You'd say, No, that's ridiculous.' 'So, what about 100,000 years?' 'No, that's stupid.' But if you start talking billions of years, they'll suddenly go glaze-eyed and, 'Yeah, I could believe that, a Mercedes could evolve out of nothing over billions of years.' So time is their miracle worker."
This fall, Comfort plans to take his message to top college campuses across the nation.
He's teaming with Kirk Cameron and several other evangelical groups in November to give away on 100 campuses a total of 100,000 copies of a special edition of Darwin's "Origin of Species," timed to coincide with the book's 150th anniversary.
Comfort points out the new release of Darwin's seminal book, which is in the public domain, has a 50-page introduction that includes an overview of Darwin's life and presents a case for a universe created by God through arguments such as the structure of DNA and the absence of species-to-species transitional forms.
The introduction, which can be read on Living Waters website, also shows how great scientists of the past such as Nicolaus Copernicus, Isaac Newton, Francis Bacon and Albert Einstein, believed in God's existence
Comfort notes a survey showed 61 percent of U.S. professors in biology or psychology said they were atheists or agnostics.
"Atheism has doubled in the last 20 years among 19 to 25 year olds. So young people are being brainwashed by this stuff," he said. "All we want to do is give an alternative."
Meanwhile, on Internet forums, Comfort said, "atheists are going crazy" in response to the "Origin of Species" plan, saying, "How can we stop this? We're going to have a book burning."
Comfort's Living Waters is working on the project with Answers in Genesis, Campus Crusade for Christ, Teen Mania and the Alliance Defense Fund.
"So many young people are being convinced that atheism is right, that evolution is right, there's no god, there are no moral absolutes," he said. "Who cares if you marry a dog? What's the big deal? And that's what atheism believes, too. It's very sad, and we're going to do our best to fight back in November."
He said the plan includes a trip to a leading bastion of academic skepticism, the University of California at Berkeley.
"So what is Berkeley going to do, ban 'Origin of Species'? Especially when they sell it in their bookstore for $29.95, and we're going to be giving away copies."