Wednesday, June 10, 2009

The Blasphemy Challenge

Recently, I stumbled across a website called “The Blasphemy Challenge.” What’s the challenge? Basically, you simply upload a video of yourself in which you stare at the camera, state your name, and then repeat the line, “I deny the existence of the Holy Spirit.” Why that line?

"Because, according to Mark 3:29 in the Holy Bible, 'Whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will never be forgiven; he is guilty of an eternal sin.' Jesus will forgive you for just about anything, but he won't forgive you for denying the existence of the Holy Spirit. Ever. This is a one-way road you're taking here."

I watched some of the videos (you can find all of them here), and I have to say, I’m quite saddened and perplexed. If you don’t believe in God, why is it a “challenge” to deny His existence? If there is no need to fear God’s wrath (because He doesn’t exist), why is denying His existence considered to be an act of courage? Looking at it “logically,” the whole activity is a total waste of time. Even so, these self-professed “blasphemers” sincerely believe that by "denying the Holy Spirit" they are paragons of courage.

How do we explain the discrepancy?

Well, I’m reluctant to psychoanalyze over different 1,000 people en mass, but I would wager that most of these folks were either 1) raised in a deeply Christian family, and therefore their “courageous act” is simply the act of disobeying their family, or 2) at one point, they held a deep faith in Christ, but through disenchantment with life itself, they lost their faith (although they regret that circumstance, and wish it could be rectified - even now). By denying God, they are expressing their childish rage against their Father (in a desperate plea to get His attention).

Two examples:

From a guy wearing a shirt saying, “Fuck Jesus:”

“My name is Christopher Love, and I’m from Marietta, Georgia. My grandfather is a Southern Baptist preacher. My father, mother, 4 sisters, and all of their husbands are all very, very Christian. I was raised Baptist. I believe that every person to whom I am related is a Christian. I found freedom from religion about 6 years ago and I haven’t looked back….The crucifixion is fiction. So I, Christopher Love [cue scary music], vehemently deny God the Father, Jesus the Son, and their magical flying sidekick, the Holy Spirit.”

From another guy:

“Hi, my name is Alex, and about a year ago, I was a hard-core Christian fanatic, until after extensive research, I finally came to the realization that there is no God, only ignorant bliss, and I’ve liberated my mind. I’m here to take the Blasphemy Challenge, and here it goes: I, Alex, deny the existence of the Holy Spirit. And if Hell is a place for good people, then make a spot for me, cause here I come.”

I can only wonder…What constituted Alex’s extensive research? Did he read a book that pointed out all of the Bible’s contradictions? Did he find Leviticus' dictim that a man who “lies with a menstruating women” must be"‘cut off from among his people” a bit unjustifiable? Did he find the virgin birth a lot to swallow? Well, I am sympathetic to all of those concerns. Personally, I have no interest in defending Christian fundamentalism. But, at the end of the day, what do those concerns have to do with his statement “There is no God; only ignorant bliss?” The existence of God is a separate issue from Christianity. Furthermore, if Christianity is false, why is “ignorant bliss” the only alternative? Alex’s spiritual path has been blocked by an unnecessary wall. And the tragedy is, Alex can't see that wall!

Truth be known, I can relate to these people. As Brian Raines would say, they are “seekers.” They obviously care deeply about religious and moral questions (if they didn’t care about them, they wouldn’t make those videos)!

It’s precisely because I understand their experience that I feel sorry for them. I think they’ve incorporated society’s overarching flawed assumption that there are only 2 possible sources of truth: 1) Christian Revelation, or 2) nihilistic atheism. And if the first choice is so obviously untrue, then the second choice is all that remains.

Could there be a third choice? A third way?

To quote Heather Manning (Chapter 9):

“Right now, we have two separate philosophies about life– the first is traditional religion, and the other is nihilism. They seemingly have nothing in common – except the rejection of man’s mind. The first insists on blind faith, and promotes the literal reading of Scripture as the only path to morality. The second rejects faith and morality as illusions, and requires obedience to whims and instincts as the only path to pleasure in a random universe. Sadly, this is the intellectual battlefield of our culture today. There is also a battle inside our very souls, as most people swing back and forth between both views, leading to confusion, inadequacy, and despair.
“But where are the defenders of man’s mind – the only organ that can process reality? Where are the promoters of reason – the only tool that has raised mankind up from the swamps to the stars?
“Reason is the only safe home for faith in the twenty-first century. The days of blind faith are over. It’s simply too vulnerable to the rapid increase in human knowledge, and the existential doubt that knowledge inevitably produces. But if faith is conjoined to reason, it has nothing to fear from a person’s intellectual advancement. This partnership is the only way to preserve an honest faith in a rapidly-changing world.
“Reason and faith are allies, and they’re most powerful when used in tandem, although I will say that reason must come first, now and always. It is reason – and reason alone – that provides evidence for God, and the immortality of the soul. From those facts come faith – faith that God loves us, and that love is the highest expression of the soul. Looking back, it wasn’t easy to see how losing my parents, or any of the setbacks in my life, were inherently ‘good for me,’ but through faith in the power of love, I can rise above that sorrow, and believe that the world – even now – is designed perfectly and blessed.”

Later, Heather says…

“I’m confident that these ideas will be regarded as self-evident within our lifetime.

“However, this paradigm shift – as remarkable as it is – will be, for most people, nothing more than a curiosity, unless it’s accompanied by a personal life philosophy – a new approach to living in light of this revolutionary information. That’s why I’ve constructed this idea of ‘spiritual rationalism,’ which includes the concepts of self-interest, integrity, and love – everything that I’ve explained here today.

“I know it’ll be challenging to advance these ideas into society – but I’m certain that, with enough time, we can open enough minds to their wisdom.

"I’m especially hopeful about the new generation – young men and women like you and me – whose spiritual needs aren’t being met by today’s stale choices. They are hungering for a faith that is worthy of the name.”

For more on that faith, read The Mustard Seed.


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