The Blasphemy Challenge

NOTE: The following post contains links to material that Christians, and other people who are respectful of religious belief, will find disturbing.

The latest dark fruit of scientist-cum-proselytizer Richard Dawkins’s not-too-bright crusade to convert people from faith in the God of the Bible to faith in the god of scientism is a gambit by some American atheists to get young people to risk damning themselves to hell.

A group called the Rational Response Squad–inspired, they say, by Dawkins–has offered The Blasphemy Challenge: Film yourself blaspheming against the Holy Spirit, post the video on YouTube, and receive a free DVD of their documentary, “The God Who Wasn’t There.” (This video “proves” that not only was Jesus not divine, but he also didn’t exist at all–which latter point will take some proving, given the overwhelming evidence for Jesus’ existence from the ancient world.)

The Blasphemy Challenge is based on a Bible story.

Jesus once warned the Pharisees–a group of scrupulous Jews who grew increasingly resentful of Jesus’ refusal to toe their line–that they were in great danger. They attributed his miracles to the power of Satan, not God, and thus, Jesus said, they were getting exactly backward the most important fact in the universe. To call “evil” what was in fact good was to blaspheme against the Holy Spirit (Matthew 3:29). And to maintain such a posture was to put oneself beyond saving, since it literally is to refuse to acknowledge God and thus receive any assistance from him.

Please note that this is called a sin because the Pharisees were not ignorant of religious truth and thus innocently mistaken. They refused to acknowledge (an act of will, not intellect) what they were in a position to know. So Jesus’ saying is simply a dramatic way of making a fundamental point: If you decide against God and fend him off, he will not force himself upon you. If you fight the lifeguard, he can’t save you.

Is this Blasphemy Challenge therefore a big deal? It depends.

Some who make the videos likely have already positioned themselves against God, so their status hasn’t changed just because they have made a video testifying to their belief. It’s not like blaspheming against the Holy Spirit has magical power so that merely uttering the words dooms your soul. It’s a figure of speech pointing to a spiritual condition, and some of the video-posters doubtless were already in that awful condition.

Others, however, might be acting out of a different agenda: rage against parents, churches, or youth groups that they find insufferably self-righteous, priggish, hypocritical, or even abusive. The Blasphemy Challenge gives them an opportunity to scream back against people who deserve it. It may have nothing really to do with God.

And still others have no idea what they’re doing. The Blasphemy Challenge for them is just a way of being naughty. To be sure, it isn’t trivial, but it’s unlikely that their lives weigh in the balance over it. Again, Jesus is referring to an outward sign of a particularly serious and perilous inward condition. Merely pronoucing this formula doesn’t indicate univocally what one’s condition is, especially if one literally doesn’t know what one is talking about.

Whatever the case, however, watching the actual videos (and I could bring myself to endure only a few) is deeply disturbing. It’s repellent, it’s painful, and it’s deeply saddening. God loves these people–each one, so very much.

What is indisputably a big deal, however, is the terrifying situation of those who encourage such actions, and those, such as Dawkins, who inspire them.

Jesus speaks to them quite directly: “It would be better for you if a millstone were hung around your neck and you were thrown into the sea than for you to cause one of these little ones to stumble” (Luke 17:2).

Taking the Blasphemy Challenge might not, therefore, change someone’s spiritual destiny.

Issuing it, however, probably did.