A certain "movement" has come to my attention lately. The movement is apparently inspired by such thinkers as Sam Harris and Richard Dawkins. I have not had the chance to approach Richard Dawkins' books yet, but I am halfway through "The End of Faith" by Sam Harris. Harris is using a rational, pointed argument to point out the dangers of religion and to call humanity to a new vision of rational secular ethics. I completely disagree with his overall view and hope to post a response eventually to his argument. However, I believe that he is a rationalist and is approaching the topic with an honest point of view. Harris is calling us (specifically the country in "Letter to a Christian Nation" - which I have not read yet) to use our minds and reasoning to deduce truth and morality.
The movement I have referred to is on a totally different wavelength than Harris is. This movement has designated themselves the "Rational Response Squad." You can visit them on myspace or check out their challenge at blasphemychallenge.com. The "Rational Response Squad" is directly targeting Christianity (though they take shots at all of the religious world) and using ineloquent phrases such as "the virgin birth is bullshit" and "Jesus is a fake" to spur emotionally based disputes. They have challenged people to declare their "independence from the stone age" by uploading a video denying the existence and power of the Holy Spirit to youtube and are going as far as entering churches to put a copy of "The God Who Wasn't There" documentary into hymnals, behind wall hangings, etc.
I find it quite interesting how those claiming rationality are acting so irrational. I have seen it happen in many religions as well. "If we have the truth then we get it across to people in whatever way we can." This means doing ridiculous things such as intruding on people's privacy and rights. Someone who believes homosexuality is wrong takes matters into their own hands by physically enacting God's wrath. Someone who thinks America is a place of wickedness flies a plane into a building expecting the reward of Allah. The argument of "we are the only one's with the truth" becomes a militant call to forceful advance.
Well, here we have an example of a role swap. The Rational Response Squad apparently believes that verbal outlash and forceful advance are rational responses. They are ready to move and become some kind of force for truth. They have become what they hate in order to beat what they hate, and in the process even their name has lost meaning.
Sam Harris was on their live broadcast Christmas day for a short interview. He was well-spoken and addressed some of the controversy behind his writings. The most interesting part, however, was his response to RRS's decision to go into church buildings and plant the dvds. I cannot give you an exact quote because I did not write it down or record it, but he basically said he thought that might be walking the line of vandalism. He seemed rightly hesitant to fully embrace their methods, and moved on quickly with the interview.
I believe the following is imperative for any rational thinking person to understand. Rationalism leads to dialogue, and dialogue leads to individual and cultural change. Anyone who cannot dialogue is not rational. I am not saying that RRS cannot dialogue. What I am saying is that if they want to be taken seriously they need to stop using the attack mode and begin interacting with their "opponents." If someone is calling you names or attacking what you believe (by basically calling you a complete idiot who does not use reason), why would you hear them out? You would not! The almost militant tactics of RRS do not make them a scholarly force to be reckoned with, it only raises red flags yelling "here's another extremist group!"
My first recommendation goes to Sam Harris: Stay away from groups like this! They taint your argument. I say the same to Richard Dawkins: If you are rational and want to stay part of the global dialogue, do not associate yourself with groups such as RRS. My final recommendation goes to RRS specifically: Move back to rationality. Stop the militant advance and promote knowledge and dialogue. I honestly believe your blasphemy challenge and verbal smear campaign gives you much less validity among thinking people.