Why I believe the Blasphemy Challenge is a bad idea

April 28, 2007 at 12:01 am 38 comments

Blaphemy ChallengeI know this is a bit of old news, but I wanted to voice my disagreement with The Blasphemy Challenge being sponsored by the Rational Response Squad.

According to Matthew 12:31, blasphemy against the Holy Spirit is the unforgivable sin. Therefore, the Rational Response Squad along with Brian Flemming are encouraging people (primarily teenagers) to deny the existence of the Holy Spirit on video thereby, according to their interpretation of the scripture, committing the unforgivable sin. The point is to show that they do not believe in God or in damnation. These videos are then uploaded to YouTube.

Whether we agree with it or not, religious indoctrination is very powerful to those who are subject to it. When I was a Christian minister, I cannot begin to tell you how many people I counseled who felt that they had committed the unforgivable sin and were tormented by this belief.

The path to atheism out of religion is not necessarily an easy path. There are those who sit on the edge of religion for years before taking the step towards atheism. There are those you step in and out for some time before their atheism sticks. This journey, for many, is one step at a time. Sometime those steps are simple baby steps.

For a young teen, for example, who is into making videos for YouTube, they may not be ready to seal their atheism with The Blaspheme Challenge. In the years to come, they could spend many a sleepless night tormented with the belief they are going to spend an eternity in the fires and torture of hell because of this act.

If they actually have come to the solid belief that there is no hell, then it would be ok. However, how many of these kids are actually to this point?

We speak out against Christians attempting to force their beliefs on others. In the same way, I do not believe that atheists hould attempt to force their beliefs on Christians. Atheism is not about making an emotional commitment. It’s not about responding to an altar call. It’s not about giving in to peer pressure. It’s about making an intelligent, logical decision to forsake beliefs that cannot be scientifically or otherwise proven. This decision takes time.

I say – say no to the blasphemy challenge.

- The de-Convert

Entry filed under: The de-Convert. Tags: , , , , , , , .

Who says church can’t be fun? Rejecting Christianity helped me realize my independence

38 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Mike C  |  April 28, 2007 at 1:43 am

    As kind of a related point, the Blasphemy Challenge seems to be the opposite of Freethinking, or at least of agnosticism. It’s too absolute. Making a statement that some religious people believe will cut you off from God forever is like saying your mind is made up once and for all and you’re no longer open to any new evidence. However, most of the thoughtful atheists I know will say that they are always open to new evidence for God, they just haven’t encountered any that is convincing to them yet. If openness to new ideas and willingness to modify your beliefs in the face of new evidence is a virtue, then why would you want to make a statement that essentially closes yourself off to any further growth or change in that area of your belief?

  • 2. Adam  |  April 28, 2007 at 2:13 am

    I’m glad I’m not the only one who thinks this is a tacky idea. I didn’t really consider this angle though.

    http://themetropolistimes.blogspirit.com/archive/2007/02/01/the-asshole-challenge.html

  • 3. beepbeepitsme  |  April 28, 2007 at 6:33 am

    As with all things – Caveat emptor.

  • 4. mysteryofiniquity  |  April 28, 2007 at 7:38 am

    What’s interesting is that to respond to the blasphemy challenge would imply that you believe there’s a God to blaspheme, which makes you a believer not an atheist. A true atheist wouldn’t give it the time of day. It would be a moot challenge.

  • 5. mysteryofiniquity  |  April 28, 2007 at 7:38 am

    Also, great point about the altar call. This is a blatant form of emotional manipulation!

  • 6. nullifidian  |  April 28, 2007 at 7:26 am

    To be honest, I’ve never really understood this tactic. As far as I’m concerned, if one was to do this, one should also (for the sake of fairness) also “blaspheme” the other bajillion gods out there.

    YMMV.

  • 7. pastorofdisaster  |  April 28, 2007 at 7:40 am

    Thanks again for being rational about something that could potentially cause psychological anguish to teenagers. You are right that leaving those movements, churches and denominations is a difficult and long process.

  • 8. nullifidian  |  April 28, 2007 at 8:05 am

    MoI wrote:

    What’s interesting is that to respond to the blasphemy challenge would imply that you believe there’s a God to blaspheme, which makes you a believer not an atheist. A true atheist wouldn’t give it the time of day. It would be a moot challenge.

    That’s not strictly true. One could make the argument that it’s a response to specific claim, in which case it’s valid. But as I mentioned above, unless one is trying to make that kind of point (which I take the entire endeavour to be) I think it’s a rather useless waste of time, amounting to no more than an anti-prayer.

  • 9. Stephen  |  April 28, 2007 at 9:14 am

    What’s interesting is that to respond to the blasphemy challenge would imply that you believe there’s a God to blaspheme, which makes you a believer not an atheist. A true atheist wouldn’t give it the time of day. It would be a moot challenge.

    That’s actually why I, as an atheist, think this challenge is downright stupid, and geared specifically towards pissing off believers.

  • 10. brad  |  April 28, 2007 at 11:28 am

    aA, I have felt very similar with this, but you also need to understand that this is just the kind of guy Brian Flemming is. He is f’ing pissed. As far as I can tell from his blog and films, he himself has not come to an intellectual impasse between religion and atheism – he is merely acting on the basis of his disgust with his own past in Christianity. He is an attention seeker, nothing more, nothing less.

  • 11. Karen  |  April 28, 2007 at 3:51 pm

    I think the very real value of the BC is that it gave a lot of people a chance to stand up and declare themselves unbelievers and, perhaps more importantly, connect with others like them.

    People – particularly young people – isolated in conservative, fundamentalist communities can feel terribly alone and afraid if they start having doubts about the religious doctrine they’ve been taught. If they express those doubts or pursue them, they’re frequently told that they are at fault because they are sinful, straying, backsliding, prideful and a host of other negatives.

    Becoming aware that there are others out there who also have doubts and are not monsters is a huge thing for these nascent agnostics and atheists. So, while I might have preferred the challenge being presented in a positive way (I’m a proud atheist/humanist/secularist!), I doubt it would have gotten anywhere near the publicity and reaction and participation it has gotten if it had been done in a less confrontational way.

    As for Brian Flemming, I don’t blame him at all for being pissed. Like me, he spent a lot of years devoting his life to supernatural beliefs that he now recognizes as delusion. Having had that happen to me as well, I can say it does make you angry. Eventually – hopefully – we transcend that anger and channel it into something positive, but it surely takes longer for some people to do that than for others.

  • 12. brad  |  April 28, 2007 at 5:12 pm

    “Eventually – hopefully – we transcend that anger and channel it into something positive, but it surely takes longer for some people to do that than for others.”

    Hey Karen, I totally agree with you. Its just that in this era that we live in no one can deny the infamous “culture wars” that pseudo-newsman Bill O’Reilly proclaims. What happens is atheist authenticity is continually compared to the superficial piety of the Moral Majority. I think its totally okay to be pissed – I admit to probably throwing up more than once when I “lost the faith” over a period of a few years. What I am not okay with are people who become spokespersons for atheism that don’t represent what atheism (or Christianity for that matter) is about.

    As long as atheism is culturally defined by its vehement opposition to religion, and more specifically to Christianity, it will remain in the fringes where only the intellectual elite have access and the perpetuation of delusion continues.

  • 13. Karen  |  April 29, 2007 at 3:20 pm

    As long as atheism is culturally defined by its vehement opposition to religion, and more specifically to Christianity, it will remain in the fringes where only the intellectual elite have access and the perpetuation of delusion continues.

    Most atheists I’ve run across do not want to be defined by anything other than a-theism (no-god belief). Many are former churchgoers who feel they got burned and they’re done with organized anything. I’ve been there myself. So, atheism itself is not a proactive stance, it’s a lack of belief, period.

    I think where positive definitions come in are with groups like freethinkers, secularists and humanists. Instead of being defined by a negative (no belief in god) they choose to define themselves in positive terms (they believe in respecting the value and potential of humanity). The trouble seems to be with the various overlaps – not all atheists are humanists, and not all freethinkers are atheists (though most are), etc.

    Here’s a group of essays recently posted on humanism.

  • [...] (co-hosts of an award-winning Christian TV program) challenged the two originators of the “Blasphemy Challenge” to a debate on the existence of [...]

  • 15. BlackSun  |  May 3, 2007 at 8:51 pm

    The purpose of the blasphemy challenge is to loosen the false hold beliefs have insociety rather than for the individual. The more of their peers who stand up and call bullshit, the less other young vulnerable believers will succumb to the pressure to conform.

    That is the only reason why the blasphemy challenge is meaningful at all. As for the sleepless nights? That’s the point. Holding things sacred creates the irrational fear in the first place. Blasphemy challenges the very notion of fear of non-physical forces and thereby simultaneously defeats the fear. A victim of religious indoctrination can’t get rid of it overnight.

    But blasphemy emboldens people to live in the physical reality of their lives. We need more of it, not less. Once belief has become completely untenable–a cultural laughingstock on a par with bigfoot, alien abductions, and the Loch Ness monster, then we can stop the blasphemy and get on with more important discussions.

    As long as the “fear of God” is inculcated into young minds, this technique will be a very effective antidote. The fact that it’s so effective is what upsets people, whatever else they may claim.

  • 16. layguy  |  May 7, 2007 at 4:36 pm

    AA – I am impressed at your logic of this post. You show a genuine concern for the teens duped by this “Challenge.”

    It’s about making an intelligent, logical decision to forsake beliefs that cannot be scientifically or otherwise proven. This decision takes time.

    That comment however about “proof” is harder to swallow.

  • 17. Christian-Atheist debate May 9th « Ken Baker  |  May 8, 2007 at 5:35 am

    [...] (co-hosts of an award-winning Christian TV program) challenged the two originators of the “Blasphemy Challenge” to a debate on the existence of God. ….ABC loved the idea, and will host a debate in New York [...]

  • 18. Christian-Atheist Debate May 9th « riversmeeting  |  May 9, 2007 at 3:50 am

    [...] (co-hosts of an award-winning Christian TV program) challenged the two originators of the “Blasphemy Challenge” to a debate on the existence of God. ….ABC loved the idea, and will host a debate in New York [...]

  • 19. ben  |  May 10, 2007 at 1:21 am

    I really appreciate how you expressed your thoughts on this challenge. Besides of the fact that it’s all about them making a quick buck. …..Saw the highlights on the debate and the room was pretty onesided. As a person of faith, I find it interesting on the challenge concentrating on a youthful demographic. Persons of very little life experience and young minds with mixed emotions and hormones. Haven’t we seen young people make bad decisions on GIRLS/GUYS GONE WILD……. Can’t wait for this fad to die out…….

  • 20. HeIsSailing  |  May 10, 2007 at 6:56 am

    ben sez:
    “Haven’t we seen young people make bad decisions on GIRLS/GUYS GONE WILD……. Can’t wait for this fad to die out”

    Hilarious – The Blasphemy Challenge is our version of “Atheists Gone Wild”. I am agnostic, but I also find the Blasphemy Challenge to be tacky and very disrespectful, not to God but to Christians. I’m not sure what it is supposed to accomplish – but yeah I am from an older demographic who has outgrown that whole ‘rebelliousness of youth’ phase.

  • 21. doll  |  May 11, 2007 at 5:09 pm

    i’m a christian and the blasphemy challenge is stupid. all they are doing is denouncing god, jesus and the holy spirit. that’s not blasphemy. i wish they’d pick up a bible and read about what blasphemy really is. i believe that everyone has a right to believe that ever they want. i’m not trying to convert non-believers. christianity works for me. loving they neighbor as they self keeps me in line and helps me to want for my neighbor the things i want for myself.

    it may not work for others, in the end we all believe in somethings. even if some folks belief is that their is no god. my prayer is that whatever we practice we practice it with good morals.

  • 22. HeIsSailing  |  May 11, 2007 at 6:22 pm

    Hi Doll. Yeah I agree – taken in context, blaspheming the Holy Spirit is attributing miraculous wonders of God to demonic powers – not denying the existance of The Holy Spirit. The Challenge just shows Christians that atheists are arrogant, not really up on what the Bible teaches, and I think it is more divisive than it needs to be. So again, I am just not sure what it is suppossed to accomplish.

  • [...] to mention, that he couples his documentary with the atheist fad called The Blasphemy Challenge all the while misinterpreting what “blasphemy against the Holy Spirit” really means. Any [...]

  • 24. Becky  |  December 31, 2007 at 11:55 pm

    True, why tell the world you don’t believe in God any longer, know He knowth all, yes? The problem? People attach God with people and not God by Himself. I hear so often, “I left God because my Church or some Christian.” I love the Lord and I believe with all my heart and am thankful for my strong faith. I will say, for those that have been chased from God due to people, Christians need to bear the burden of this and I extended my apoligies as such. God Bless.

  • 25. LorMarie  |  January 1, 2008 at 12:08 pm

    Agreed! I never took the blasphemy challenge seriously…and I’m a believer.

  • 26. On Dealing With Christians « de-conversion  |  February 3, 2008 at 5:59 pm

    [...] we have different goals, all atheists are not the same, after all. As a Christian, I watched the Blasphemy Challenge videos with disdain. They seemed to me to be nothing more than a slap in the face to Christians. As [...]

  • 27. Emily  |  June 24, 2008 at 9:26 pm

    The point of the blasphemy challenge is to show that religious bullshit such as the fear of burning in hell is irrelevant to us atheists. No one should be “tormented” by the idea. You’re talking as though religious dogma is somehow even worth consideration. People who fear what happens after death only feel this way because of severe brainwashing, and being encouraged to blaspheme the holy spirit can only help to improve this (plus, if they REALLY didn’t want to participate in the blasphemy challenge, they wouldn’t be).

  • 28. patra  |  July 10, 2008 at 9:10 am

    hi doll. it seems to me like you dont know the jesus christ that i know.jesus wants everyone to believe in him and (only) him.just having good morals isnt going to work .when my father returns in all his glory if your life is not right and your eyes are not fouced on him then you will not be able to see the kingdom of heaven like all the lucky believers around this wicked world.my fathers grace is slowley running out and we as people spend so much time in the natural and spend so little time walking in the spirit with christ.this is why we go through so much because we dont walk in the spirit .theres only one god and his ame is jesuse trust and believe in him and he will direct your paths.your in my prayers god bless

  • 29. kim  |  July 10, 2008 at 11:56 am

    fuck me daddy

  • 30. kim  |  July 10, 2008 at 11:57 am

    e mail me if ur horney michelle.provo@yahoo.com

  • 31. kim  |  July 10, 2008 at 11:58 am

    i ate this girl out once and her pussy was so good that i licked mi fingers

  • 32. infernus006  |  October 9, 2008 at 11:47 pm

    Anyone who believes that saying some “magic” words closes you off to anything and makes it so there is no turning back from whatever it is that you’re turning away from is a fucking jackass. The blasphemy challenge was made by people who don’t give a shit about religion, so stop trying to be all concerned about their mental well being as if saying “I deny the Holy Spirit” is going to fuck up their minds. There is nothing rational about assuming that. The words mean NOTHING, period, and that’s the whole point of saying them.

  • 33. Steve Thompson  |  May 5, 2009 at 8:31 am

    de-Convert’s editorial is an intelligent and thoughtful analysis of the potential fallout of playing along with the hysteria surrounding The Blasphemy Challenge.

    For years I have swayed back and forth from believing to not believing in Christianity and DC’s remark in regards to ones own convictions being a decision that takes time is right on the mark.

    Look at it from various angles, say you do not believe, this in itself would rationally dictate that there is no point in making any blasphemous declaration. Furthermore there is no reason to talk bad about a spirit that even on paper alone can only be described as being good (what is evil about an entity that cures disease, blindness and human suffering in general? Answer = nothing.)

    And then there is the “what if” component, can I say for 100% certain that God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit do not exist? Of course not, no one can. So in the off/unquantifiable chance that the Holy Spirit does exist, why talk bad about a force of good?

    And finally, taking into consideration all of these perspectives and relating back the the challenge – what good can come from participating?

    Then answer should be obvious.

  • 34. ubi dubium  |  May 5, 2009 at 9:16 am

    Perhaps you describe the “holy spirit” as a “force of good”, but I certainly don’t see that the actions taken by people who believe in it are uniformly good. What is evil about an entity that supposedly cures disease, blindness and human suffering in general, but never actually does anything of the kind? Nothing in particular. What evil is there in putting your complete trust in such an entity? And then insisting that anyone who does not share this belief is depraved and bound for hell? Often quite a bit.

    The point is to shake people out of their complacent blind faith. Many of the de-converts on this site have said that their doubts came not from one earth-shattering event, but from a series of small things, each nudging them until their doubts started to become un-ignorable. The Blasphemy Challenge might be one of those nudges. If someone sees a Blasphemy Challenge video and it inspires them to take a good hard look at what they believe and why, then it was a good thing.

  • 35. Steve Thompson  |  May 5, 2009 at 5:52 pm

    ubi dubium,

    I respectfully ask that you re-read my comment as I believe there is a misunderstanding.

    My original comment was one of a simple agreement with de-Convert’s thoughts on The Blasphemy Challenge and my personal belief that human intelligence cannot say for certain whether or not God, in any form, exists. If you review the context of my original statement regarding the Holy Spirit you will see that I did not make a matter of fact declaration.

    Furthermore the perspective of how people, or should I say Christians, view non-believers in reference to their thoughts on the Holy Spirit is irrelevant with respect to the definition of good as is presented (not to mention the fact that it is off topic).

    And finally in regards to your closing comment, point taken, however your thoughts presented in this paragraph actually support de-Convert’s argument that the path towards atheism occurs gradually in small steps and while The Blasphemy Challenge could be the catalyst in a positive conviction it could just as easily produce the opposite effect and cause anxiety for someone who is not totally convinced either way.

  • 36. ubi dubium  |  May 6, 2009 at 9:17 am

    I agree with some of the points of the original post. I think that it’s not a good idea for children to participate in the Blasphemy Challenge, any more than it’s a good idea for children to be pressured into the church confirmation process at a young age. Most young teens and pre-teens are not at the point in their lives where they should be making any “permanent” decisions like that.

    But for adults who have decided to think for themselves, I think it’s fine. The church’s dire warnings against blasphemy, and pronouncements about “unforgivable sin” seem to be more of the same scare tactics and fear mongering that we see with all the “hellfire and brimstone” sermons. I think most fundamentalist preachers would prefer that non-believers just hide quietly in a closet, and never speak up or encourage the flock to think. I think it’s great to see individuals stand up and say “No! I am not buying it! And you don’t scare me!” It might cause anxiety for someone not totally convinced, but so can a lot of other things. But seeing someone publicly state that they do not believe, and doing so without fear, and without being struck by lightning, might be helpful to others.

    So I say – kids, no. Wait til you’re older. But for everybody else, if you are at the point in your de-conversion where you are ready to put religion behind you, and to do it publicly, go for it.

  • 37. chess boards  |  March 6, 2010 at 11:38 pm

    I just have to say that I agree with the above commenter. Well said.

  • 38. Thomas  |  June 5, 2010 at 8:11 am

    While I do have some concerns about the “Blasphemy Challenge” – chief among them is that it perpetuates the idea that Atheists hate Jesus and are of the devil, and thus not to be listened to – I do have to say that the scene in The God Who Wasn’t There (which, correct me if I’m wrong is by the same person as the Blasphemy Challenge”) where the film maker “denies the Holy Spirit” moved me to tears.

    The scene: The film maker sneaks into the chapel where as a child he – three times to be sure – received Christ as savior, always in fear of hell fire. He then looks into the camera in the very same chapel and utters the words “I deny the Holy Spirit.” One might question whether saying these words are the same as actually denying the Holy Spirit, but the sense of the scene was overwhelmingly clear. Here was a man facing his childish fears – fears which were unfairly placed in him by well-meaning believers. By saying these words, he was demonstrating a victory over fear and death which was far more compelling than any Jesus-story, because it was based in reality.

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Attention Christian Readers

Just in case you were wondering who we are and why we de-converted.

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Whether or not you believe in God, you should live your life with love, kindness, compassion, mercy and tolerance while trying to make the world a better place. If there is no God, you have lost nothing and will have made a positive impact on those around you. If there is a benevolent God reviewing your life, you will be judged on your actions and not just on your ability to blindly believe in creeds- when there is a significant lack of evidence on how to define God or if he/she even exists.

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