December 26, 2006
The Blasphemy Challenge
By David Teachout
A criticism of "the blasphemy challenge" that is being promoted on YouTube.
::::::::There is a small movement going on currently, principally within the realm of YouTube and other such sites in which people are making videos "denying the Holy Spirit." This "blasphemy challenge" as it has been promoted, comes from such groups as the Rational Response Squad. While the name alone should alert any self-aware person as to the presumptuousness inherent in the group, encouraging and endorsing antics such as these only makes criticism that much more important and needed. Just what is this "denying of the Holy Spirit" that is being encouraged by the unbelievers and causes apoplexy in theists? Matthew 12: 31-32 states: 31Wherefore I say unto you, All manner of sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven unto men: but the blasphemy against the Holy Ghost shall not be forgiven unto men. 32And whosoever speaketh a word against the Son of man, it shall be forgiven him: but whosoever speaketh against the Holy Ghost, it shall not be forgiven him, neither in this world, neither in the world to come. Using this verse from the so-called "Bible", people are making videos where they verbally say "my name is ______, and I deny the Holy Spirit." I could get into the hermeneutical problems with this and point out that in the context of the chapter in Matthew, the blasphemy of the Holy Ghost (KJV) is only done so by denying the legitimacy of the Son of Man, the Christ, Jesus. Therefore, denying the Holy Spirit can only be done by denying the messianic message of Jesus. Simply saying you "deny the Holy Spirit" is pointless if you aren't denying the actions which the Holy Spirit is making manifest and endorsing. But such hermeneutical nuance is not something most atheists are aware of or even care to know, so pointing it out is probably pointless. In addition, there are several other ways the passage could be interpreted and nobody has it down in any sense approaching absolute certainty. I could get into the fact that denying something that is already considered non-existent, seems rather absurd. In other words, only atheists are going to be making these videos and by definition, they have already denied or have no place in their conceptual paradigm for such things as the supernatural, the Holy Spirit of Christianity being one of them. Therefore, making a video denying something for which said person has, by definition of who they are, doesn't acknowledge as existing, seems rather ridiculous. In fact, it could be and I think rightly is, simply a publicity stunt, a childish antic like throwing oatmeal at the dinner table when you were 2 years old. But I won't go into either of those (except that I already did) and instead will point out that such antics in no way do anything for the spreading of rational enquiry, which is what groups like the RRS and others claim they desire. Indeed, I have heard it mentioned that the reason for these videos is to show to believers how ridiculous atheists and humanists think the religious beliefs are. Thank you for stating the obvious, but what is to be gained by this? The only thing I can think of is one: notoriety. Mocking authority figures has been the mainstay of teenagers and social malcontents since the dawn of civilization and while it must be noted that atheists and the like do not acknowledge the authority of God or religion, since they don't believe in it, the fervent need to express such a disavowal indicates the still residual power that religion does indeed have. I have little doubt that many who read this will look at the last comment and ridicule me, if they haven't already done so, for resorting to psychology and, as has been told to me at least once before, that I am "succumbing to religious propaganda." While I'm not quite certain what that means, since nobody has bothered to explain, I can admit that I do "fall for" certain aspects of religion, one of those being it's awesome power over people. But I hardly consider myself a fool for taking note of that. Indeed, the entirety scholasticism, created by the way by the Christian religion so often mocked, agrees that religion is a powerful influence. This of course in no way points to the legitimacy of any particular theological paradigm. And it is precisely the social power of religion that makes me ponder with more seriousness that it deserves, the videos being promoted. Even a cursory reading of the news will show that people are dying daily over interpretive paradigms of various religious groups, the conflict in Somalia being only the most recent. Mocking such beliefs is not going to solve that conflict or any other that involves religion. In fact, for so many, such mockery only affirms the legitimacy of beliefs for the theist because it encourages the "martyr complex" that so many of them possess and are encouraged to hold. It also encourages another thought, that being atheists and others of like mind do not understand or even try to understand what believers adhere to. What then is to be done? Such sophomoric displays as these videos show a complete disregard for the history of sacrifice and bloodshed that has been done in the name of religion and whether one agrees with the thinking, the very fact that at no time in the history of the human species has religion not been an integral part of its existence, should make anybody who attempts to fight it pause and do so with humility and intellectual responsibility. I am not against religion. I am against absolutism, intellectual irresponsibility and arrogance. Religion has had and continues to have its fair share of such moral failings, but simply because one does not count themselves as religious does not mean such failings are unknown. If love of humanity and the power of reason are what drive atheists and humanists, then such videos need to stop. Instead, understanding and legitimate scholarship need to happen. And in understanding and study, instead of mockery, perhaps will be found compassion and an acknowledgment of our shared humanity.
Authors Website: www.myspace.com/davidteachout
Graduated from a Bible college, majoring in theology and psychology. Currently working on Ed.D. in counseling psychology.