Gospel Truth Magazine writes about Rational Response Squad
The author sent us the story as it wont be available online, "The article is now pending acceptance at a magazine sold in Barnes and Noble, Wal-Mart and (as the web-site proclaims) "wherever Gospel music is sold." Gospel Truth magazine, based in Texas, has 300,000 subscribers and I'm not sure what total circulation is after retail sales but fear not, if this article is in next month you will have thousands of Christians praying for your salvation." - Phillip Fairbanks
Rational Response Squad launches Blasphemy Challenge
In 2005, former fundamentalist Brian Flemming released a film that claims to be to religion what Super Size Me was to the fast food industry. The film includes interviews with noted atheist intellectuals such as Sam Harris and author of The God Delusion, scientist Richard Dawkins. This film sells for $24.98 on DVD but 1001 copies will be given away for free in a bizarre contest known as "The Blasphemy Challenge."
The Rational Response Squad, headed by Brian Sapient, has launched an all-out war which they deem that of "Reason versus Faith" and are staking $25,000 dollars on a campaign to encourage people to renounce religion and specifically blaspheme the Holy Spirit, interpreted by "Blasphemy Challenge" sponsors as a one-way ticket to hell. The challenge is simple, upload a video of yourself renouncing religion and denying the Holy Spirit to video storage space Youtube.com. Step two is sending the URL of your personal blasphemy and your address to Blasphemychallenge.com and voila, free DVD.
"[T]he most brief way to describe it is that we are interested in finding what we think are the most irrational things that people hold to be true on this planet and create what we think is a rational response to those claims, and of course for us, religion and belief in a God, just because there are so many people believing in it, that it's so widespread, to us that is the most important claim for us to be responding to," says Sapient explaining his groups mission. As for why the group would invest such a large sum of money encouraging youth to blaspheme Sapient explains: "Well, we came up with the Blasphemy Challenge because we wanted to find a way to provoke a conversation about the ridiculous claims that Christian leaders use to terrify children. We think it's wrong to manipulate people with terror and the Blasphemy Challenge is a way of stripping those stories of their power."
The Challenge is being aimed primarily at young people. Sites patronized by youth, such as Boy Scout Trail, Teen Magazine, Tiger Beat, Seventeen and others are being used to promote the campaign. On the Frequently Asked Questions section of Blasphemychallenge.com, the Rational Response Squad explains why they target youth: "As young people are the most vulnerable to religious indoctrination, we feel it is important to reach them with the concept of challenging the doctrine they are told to unquestioningly believe."
One of the first to upload a video to Youtube.com in response to the Blasphemy Challenge was Kevin Parker, a 23-year-old from Washington state who was contacted by Sapient about the Blasphemy Challenge early on. Parker had been interviewed on Sapient's on-line radio show which had also featured interviews with Dawkins, Harris and famous Theists. When asked if he was an Atheist activist, Parker expressed preference for the term "Atheist comedian." Parker, under the screen name CapnOAwesome has 1100 subscribers to his frequent video posts and in the past 6 days alone there have been approximately 14,000 people to watch his post. Parker also manages the web-site www.yourreligionsucks.net. One of his videos is entitled "Atheist Jihad". Another includes Parker calling the Israeli embassy and others to suggest the moving of the Israeli homeland to Hawaii where there are less Muslims. "I think it is more important to say as Atheists, 'We are here, there are a lot of us and we aren't going to take crap any more." Asked if he believed it was insulting to Christians or the religious he responded, "Would anybody be saying the same thing if Christians were making videos reaffirming their belief in their God? No, that would just be them stating their beliefs. But when Atheists do the same in reverse it becomes a big deal."
If you search Blasphemy Challenge on Youtube.com, you'll find hundreds of Atheists expressing their opinions, but there are a handful of religious people who also post in the thread. One of which is Ryan Johnson, a Youth pastor from First Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama. "Look at most of the people that are responding, they are probably under thirty and that breaks my heart. That is why I responded. Many of them are people who have thought through their position. They are Atheists who have read a book (or a few books) and have plenty of personal arguments in defense of their position. Nevertheless, it is probably true that most of the people who have responded to this challenge are atheists because they have been hurt by some Christian. Many responders to the Blasphemy Challenge are 'former' Christians who were hurt while in the church or disagreed with a major doctrine. Others are secularists or humanists who only selectively see the 'negative' effects of Christianity; saying that it has just caused war and intolerance because of its foundation in an 'old' or 'irrelevant' book known as the Bible."
With the end of the holiday season, issues on many minds include the further commercialization of the holidays and fervor over what's been called "The War on Christmas." Atheist organization, Rational Responders may be adamantly anti-Christian, but they aren't against being viewed as overtly commercial. Bribing youth to make statements with promises of a free film might be considered a little more than tacky by many non-Christians and even atheists, but the virulent nature of this movement may prove incredibly offensive to Bible-believing Christians.
Currently, a search at Youtube.com for "blasphemy challenge" yields nearly 800 videos uploaded since December, from children, teens and adults ranging from four to six second blurbs stating disbelief in the Holy Spirit to several minute diatribes on the problems inherent in religion. But is this truly an unforgivable sin? The December 14 press release claims: "...this campaign encourages participants to commit what Christian doctrine calls the only unforgivable sin -- blasphemy against the Holy Spirit. (The "Holy Spirit" is an invisible ghost who Christians believe dwells on Earth as God's representative.)"
Jack Gillespie has a different opinion. Gillespie is a former Youth pastor who is currently going back to school to work on a Masters in Theology. "Mr. Flemming obviously does not understand what blaspheming the Holy Spirit is." According to Gillespie, "The only unforgivable sin is the sin of not asking for forgiveness of sins. Let's think about the Apostle Paul for a moment. He admitted that he was the 'chief' of all sinners. To be a chief is to be the head of the crop, to be numero uno, yet Paul received forgiveness for all that he did. Surely killing Christians would be considered a grievance towards the Holy Spirit, wouldn't it? But he saw the error of his ways and repented. The only sin that can never be forgiven is the heart that refuses forgiveness, by rejecting Christ."
Regardless of how the Biblical scripture is meant to be interpreted, those who have the most to lose would be Sapient and Flemming. These two atheist activists are in direct war with religion, Christianity specifically. A much more direct injunction also taken from Matthew would apply to the aforementioned entrepreneurial spirits. According to Matthew 18:6 : "But if anyone causes one of these little ones who trusts in me to lose faith, it would be better for that person to be thrown into the sea with a large millstone tied around the neck."
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