The Blasphemy Challenge of the RSS

[Sorry, it's the RRS, but with the links out there already I cannot change it now].

Some theists are calling on atheists to denounce the Rational Response Squad's Blasphemy Challenge. I have never endorsed or scoffed at the Blasphemy challenge. Up until now the only thing I wrote about it was to describe what the Bible said about it here.

But it seems me to be a lot of college kids having fun and getting a lot of attention by expressing their first amendment rights. That's what takes place so much on the internet. And college kids can be rude and offensive, and supremely confident. They do things we'd never attempt because they don't know "it can't be done." Many of us who are older were like that when we were in college.

I judge people for where they are and what is expected of them. I don't expect from college students what I would expect of the adults they will become in several more years. BK over at Christian Cadre calls it foolishness. Ed Brayton says what they're doing is "pointless, juvenile and stupid." But isn't he just telling them to grow up? And wasn't he himself a college kid who did pranks and had fun at other people's expense? I guess it was okay for him to do, but it's not okay for those in the RRS, eh? And Ed did grow up. So will they. I don't expect them to get their point across by studying for years to be a Bertrand Russell, as Jim Lazarus might suggest of them. That is totally unrealistic to expect this from them. They cannot do that. So they do what they can, and that's all they can do.

What have they done? They have raised awareness of atheism. Has it been positive? Probably not for those who disagree with them, but then they'll just disagree anyway. Those who do disagree should be smart enough to know these are college students, and not representative of the many other intellectual atheists out there, so they, like me, judge them as the young kids they are. If not, these people are ignorant, and maybe that's what Jim is trying to say. Maybe all he's trying to say is this: "don't judge us all as if we are the RRS." But I think educated people already know to do that. If people like Jim want to look down their noses at the tactics of college kids, then let them. He should realize that white people looked down at the tactics of black people who asserted their rights, too. "How dare she refuse to sit in the back of the bus?" "How dare he go to the bathroom in the white man's restroom?" "How rude can you be?" "That just reinforces my stereotype of what I think about black people." Now granted, we're not talking about rights under law, unless you want to talk about First Amendment rights. But for these college kids who encounter street evangelists on college campuses who hold up signs saying "Fags are going to hell," maybe this is their response on their level, and that's all they can do?

Raising awareness. Confession. Isn't that what Christianity does? Christians want a public confession of their faith in front of the church, because a confession solidifies their belief. But there is no atheist church to attend for a public denouncing of Christianity. The internet is their church. So they do so on YouTube.


Aaron Kinney said...

Many Christians have denounced RRS and the Blasphemy Challenge on technical/theological grounds. Many have denounced them on rudeness grounds. Paul Manata recently called for other atheists to ostracize RRS (not the first time Manata made this charge about an atheist).

But to Hell with that. John, you are totally right! RRS has raised awareness of atheism. And while the Blasphemy Challenge may or may not be scripturally sound, it is the symbolism that matters. It is the thought that counts. If someone denies the holy spirit and posts it on Youtube (I did so myself) they wont care if the Bible truly condemns them to Hell, because they deligitimized the Bible entirely (within their own worldview) by denouncing it.

These Christians need to realize two things: 1) RRS and other atheists like us are here to win hearts and minds. We are here to deconvert souls. RRS is encouraging that, and obviously its helping the atheist numbers. 2) RRS is going for popularity and appeal, and again it looks like its tactics are working. RRS insults the Christian worldview? Cry me a river. Maybe a little Mtv-ish style and youthful rudeness is what people need to see being flung at theism. Atheists dont believe that religion is sacrosanct, and when we treat religion like the pile of crap we think it is, and other people see us do it (and not have lightning hit our heads in retribution), then they realize that it is ok to make fun of stupid imaginary space ghosts. They give it a try themselves, they realize that it feels good, and they let go of God. They even tell their friends, and the cycle repeats.

Christians want RRS to get isolated by their atheist peers because RRS is kicking ass in the popularity war. Hah! The Christians can't stop RRS or the damage they are causing to the faithful flock, so they try to commission other atheists!!!

tn said...

Don't forget that there's a free DVD in it in exchange for your eternal soul! Hell, I even ordered a couple thousand dollar's worth of free crap from Focus on the Family a few months back.

I wonder if they're still giving out DVDs. I know I want one real bad, and I've been meaning to watch the movie.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, I'm sure the Xians are longing for the days when dissenters just stayed quietly in the closet. Those days are gone, hopefully forever. If someone had raised my awareness earlier, maybe I would not have wasted so many years in deluded belief. Life is too short to be quietly polite about this topic.

Anonymous said...

I agree with Ed Brayton: this is pointless, juvenile and stupid. I feel that most of the kids are doing it just as a fun publicity stunt attractive for its shock value, rather than because of any real awareness of the issues. And it does little, if anything, to raise awareness of atheism, other than getting people to associate it with silly acts of simple rebelliousness. And saying "kids will be kids" just doesn't do it for me. A stupid stunt is a stupid stunt, regardless of who perpetrates it and whether its stated goals happen to coincide with my beliefs.

Anonymous said...

Benny, are you in the habit of telling people what they should or should not do? Why? What difference does it make to you whether they do? What exactly is wrong with having some fun and getting some national attention? People get rich off of being stupid when they get national exposure. Exactly why is this wrong? Just because YOU say it's stupid? Being stupid is entertaining, even if you're correct. It is giving ordinary people a chance to speak their minds when our whole culture disallows the atheist voice. Let them be kids. They are not doing anything illegal or immoral.

Aaron Kinney said...


What is more stupid, an atheistic publicity stunt, or the superstitious beliefs that inspire atheist groups and movements to exist in the first place?

A Leprachaun blasphemy stunt may be juvenille, but belief in leprachauns is downright infantile.

Anonymous said...

John asked: "Benny, are you in the habit of telling people what they should or should not do?"

A truly sobering question. I'd like to say no, I'm not, but thinking back on my recent posts on this blog, I can see that I've indeed been very bossy. I'll try to rectify that.

My last post was not intended to do anything other than express my own reaction to the Blaphemy Challenge. I'm not looking to censure the participants. I'm not trying to get anyone to agree with my view of the Challenge. Do I think the participants are being illegal or immoral? No. Do I think they are being childish and frivolous? Yes.

Aaron asked: "What is more stupid, an atheistic publicity stunt, or the superstitious beliefs that inspire atheist groups and movements to exist in the first place?"

I'd say equally stupid. I am no proponent of superstitions (just take a look at my overly vehement posts elsewhere on this blog). I just don't think this particular stunt does much to promote rational thinking.

Anonymous said...

Age of person who created the Blasphemy Challenge concept: 40

Age of person who is sending all the videos and helped formed the concept: 43

Age of person seen most frequently in spotlight because of challenge: 29

Median age of the remaining cast of RRS higher ups: 32

Marketing accomplishments of RRS:

Anonymous said...

The effort certainly seems sophomoric, but no more so than many of the Christian stunts that we are constantly bombarded with. For some reason, it is okay to put bumper stickers on your car that tell us to "Let Go and Let God," (i.e. actively participate in a religious activity), but not okay to ask people to participate in an anti-religious activity.

I could multiply Christian examples that seem no different to me.

Still, I believe these Christian acts are juvenile as is the RRS's act.

Is it going to do atheists any good? Probably not. It will give Christians something to trumpet at every disgusting Christian youth rally and from countless pulpits across the country. It will feed their delusion that they are a minority in a godless country, etc.

That said, though, I'm certainly not going to take it on myself to "correct" other atheists. Frankly, I couldn't give a chartreuse fuck what other atheists do. I'm not a part of any movement. It's not like they are my "brothers and sisters in anti-Christ" or anything.

In as far as anyone actually helps rally Christians together, I am opposed to it. I state my opposition by simply not participating in it and giving my opinion when asked (or when appropriate). Otherwise, I just don't care.

Jon said...

I don't know about the back of the bus analogy. That implies that this is a good thing to do. And I don't think you're saying that are you John? Sounds to me it's more like you're saying they're immature and perhaps not very tactful or considerate, but that's not such a bad thing.

I think I would agree with that. But this is not something I would do. I used to speak in tongues and I can do it now, but I don't. I could use my "ability" to make the point that it's all phony. But this is a very sacred thing for Pentecostals I know and to point out the absurdity in this way would be very hurtful to them. It may help a little to make my point, but it might hurt more than a little. And is it really worth it? Risk hurting sincere believers just in hopes of making a point that might change their minds about their beliefs? It's really not that important to me. Being a Christian is not the worst thing in the world.

In the same way I wouldn't publish the cartoons of Mohammed. It's offensive to Muslims, so why stick my finger in their eye in this way. Now, since they've been published and many Muslims have reacted violently, at that point the cartoons are part of a legitimate news story, and at that point they need to be published. You can't really discuss the violent reaction of Muslims without looking at the cartoons to see what all the hoopla is about. But without that angle to the story I wouldn't publish them.

That's kind of how I feel about this blasphemy challenge. It doesn't matter at all to a lot of Christians. They interpret this text in a way that these videos really aren't all that offensive. But for other Christians this is very sacriligeous. So why do this? If the purpose is simply for your own mental health, then I say fine. But if it is to try and aggravate and upset Christians, I don't like it.

Anonymous said...

"But for other Christians this is very sacriligeous."

If it was written in the Bible that "The cosmic LORD GOD acquireth no big wrath from puny humans insulting him", blasphemy would never have been a big deal in the first place. Oops!

I don't advocate insulting people, but my point is that the fundies (and a lot of others) have opened themselves up to those insults.

I for one, hope more people get into this Challenge (provided they know what they are doing).

Will Kratos said...

When John says that I want them to "study for years and become Bertrand Russells", that distorts my point when I was talking about Russell. What I meant was how Russell represented atheism, and I was not suggesting that we all get to his level of education. Instead, Russell had both conviction and charisma, and yet he didn't superfluously hand out insults left and right against Christians. Back in the day, people *liked* Russell. People weren't forced to dislike him because all he did was spout off things in the essence of some immature condescension all day.

- Jim

Anonymous said...

So, Jim, atheists should all be like us, eh? This is what I don't get at all. People come in all shapes and sizes. They react differently. They have different levels of understanding. Why should they be just like us? I try myself to take the dispassionate route of Russell, even though I'm no Russell. But I am at least smart enough to know that it also takes zealots, and I actually consider Harris and Dawkins zealots, even if they are more intelligent than many people who post their denials on You Tube.

Movements are made of different people who do things differently. There is no "one size fits all" type of person. The zealots are needed to raise awareness, and the intellectuals are needed to answer the arguments. It's not an either/or, it's a both/and. Stop discouraging them. It's galavized the younger generation of atheists. Once galvanized they will later be able to act and argue for their position in the marketplace of ideas, in the grocery stores, in the libraries, and in the classrooms. But first they must be galvanized.

Will Kratos said...


It's amusing how you consistently rephrase my position into something I've never said at all. Is this how you debate with everyone? It's pretty pathetic.

My position does not amount to "they should all be like 'us'". My position is that there are good ways to go about activism and bad ways, and throwing out superfluous insults left and right, with little to no intelligent thought behind, is clearly not a good way.

I don't even consider this activism a real "atheist awareness" sort of thing. Is this what you consider atheism to be - throwing out petty insults and participating in juvenile projects? If so, then I can see how you think this is raising awareness about the way we see the world. But the fact of the matter is that, to the rest of the world, we end up looking stupid and fanatical. Insulting people and telling them that they suffer from mind disorders will not encourage them to reconsider their positions, like the RRS wants them to do. It will also not make them become more interested in or tolerant of atheism, like you seem interested in. All that this will accomplish is this: a reinforcement of the typical negative stereotypes already ubiquitous in American society. That's it.

So instead of giving me advice to "stop discouraging them", you should quit arguing in favour of juvenile activism that does nothing to help our goals in the long run.

- Jim

Anonymous said...

My position is that there are good ways to go about activism and bad ways, and throwing out superfluous insults left and right, with little to no intelligent thought behind, is clearly not a good way.

I don't throw out insults against Christians. But you are clearly an elitist thumb-your-nose-down-on-anyone-who-doesn't-act-like-me type of a person.

You do not understand what I'm saying. I don't even think you have tried.

Atheists in general will not look stupid because of the RSS, except to stupid people, stupid.

I've responded on your blog so I won't repeat myself here.

Steve said...

I find the comments on this rather interesting, but I must say that the Blasphemy Challenge is a good idea. The thing that most people forget is that for their small youtube video, people get a free dvd, which is promoting (at least one would assume it is) atheism, and therefore the people who are just doing this for fun may actually watch it and learn something. The point of this challenge to me seems to be dual-purpose: getting noticed by society and also giving out dvds to educate those who participate.

Also, I don't see this competition as being the same as making mocking cartoons of Muhammad and the like, in that it isn't insulting anything, it is making a statement of belief.

Unknown said...

"The Blasphemy Challenge" does not seem to require much of a person other than a verbal statement about God that sounds a lot like a dare to scare oneself by doing something extreme.

The reason it feels extreme is because God is real and the soul of every person, even the adolescent-angry, is imbued with this wisdom that God is real.

Blaspheming God is a momentous act of injustice against an innocent, all-loving, and therefore dangerous and infinitely powerful, Being. It is also self-vandalism because it seeks to destroy one's own innocence.

Even using the Lord's name in vain is considered a way to sound 'outrageous' among those who shun God and things related to God in favor of worldly pursuits that demand their loyalty in coercive ways they never question. Those trying to be outrageous all of the time eventually show their cards that they have confused establishment of their own identities with negating God's, which is a false necessity.

Yet I don't think a verbal blasphemy necessarily means a person has meant it in their hearts. And surely RSS can't comment on that because they don't even believe we have hearts in the spiritual sense.