Bullshit Philosophy

Half-assed political and religious commentary from a cynical left-winger

BLAST FROM THE PAST: Site Updates and More Blasphemy Challenge

Posted by Kevin on December 20, 2008

[originally posted 6/12/07]

So, between getting married last month and not having reliable internet access for several weeks after that, I haven’t been able to do much work on the site lately. However, there have been a few changes. For those that check out the other sections of this site, there is now a listing on each page of when the last update was, so it will be a little easier to figure out what is new. (If a page doesn’t have such a date on it, like the Pick-up Lines, that means it hasn’t been updated in a long time.) The main piece of news in this regard is that the Jokes sections have come back from the dead, with most having been updated fairly recently. In that section, I recommend reading Rules for Being a Good Republican (scroll down for Rules for Being a Good Democrat).

Linked to from the Jokes page is another joke that I highly suggest reading: Hundreds of Proofs of God’s Existence, a satirical look at Christian apologetics from the Atheists of Silicon Valley. If you’ve ever debated religion with a theist, you’ve probably heard a lot of these before. I giggled when I read this one:

MORAL ARGUMENT (II)
(1) In my younger days I was a cursing, drinking, smoking, gambling, child-molesting, thieving, murdering, bed-wetting bastard.
(2) That all changed once I became religious.
(3) Therefore, God exists.

Same goes for this one:
VANDERZYDEN’S ARGUMENT FROM SECRET KNOWLEDGE
(1) There is overwhelming evidence for the existence of God.
(2) No, I’m not going to tell you what it is.
(3) The only possible explanation for your lack of knowledge is that you haven’t studied enough.
(4) Or maybe your Atheistic presupposition is blinding you to the truth.
(5) But trust me — it’s overwhelming.
(6) It’s so overwhelming that no reasonable person can honestly reach the conclusion that God does not exist.
(7) Therefore, God exists.

Both of those are almost verbatim from responses I got to my Blasphemy Challenge entry.

Speaking of which, after Rebecca read my comments in that post on the Blasphemy Challenge, she talked me into writing it up as an op-ed and trying to submit it to places, and in the process I lengthened it and updated it fairly significantly from the blog post. None of that worked out so well, though. I’m fairly happy with how it turned out, but it didn’t occur to me until afterward that not many mainstream publications would want to risk pissing off their largely Christian audiences by publishing anything positive toward atheism. So, long story short, no one was exactly beating a path to my door to publish my essay, so I feel safe posting it here.

A Defense of Atheist “Fundamentalism”
Late last year, a project called The Blasphemy Challenge was started by the Rational Response Squad, an online atheist group, and Beyond Belief Media, makers of the antireligion documentary “The God Who Wasn’t There.” The goal is for people to commit the one unforgivable sin and therefore condemn themselves to Hell.

As a participant in the Blasphemy Challenge, I, along with over 700 other people to date, posted a short video of myself on YouTube denying the existence of the Holy Spirit. The Bible identifies this as an unforgivable sin. “Truly, I say to you, all sins will be forgiven the sons of men, and whatever blasphemies they may utter; but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin,” reads Mark 3:28. A similar statement can be found at Luke 12:10. Therefore, if the Bible is true, I have earned myself a one-way ticket to Hell for all eternity.

Why would anyone possibly want to do this? For me, part of the reason was to show the absurdity and injustice of a God that apparently forgives murder and child rape but not dissent. The main reason, though, was to show the faithful that, yes, I really am serious about my nonbelief in your God, and I am neither apathetic about nor ignorant of religion. I wanted to demonstrate, as participant Michael Lawson was quoted in Newsweek, that “we really mean it when we say we don’t believe a single word in [the Bible].”

Even on a purely strategic level, I’ve never really agreed with the confrontational tactics of some prominent atheists like Oxford biologist Richard Dawkins. Putting religious people on the defensive often ends up being counterproductive; if anything it just makes us come off as arrogant and elitist. At the same time, though, that does not mean nonreligious people should be quiet about our beliefs. If we ever want to gain public acceptance in this country, then we need to start coming out of the closet and assuring people that we are, in fact, people too.

Part of the public venom for atheists could stem from the fact that few people actually know any, and are therefore free to resort to all sorts of stereotypes. According to a study released last year by the University of Minnesota Department of Sociology, atheists are by far the most disdained religious group in the country, even as tolerance for other minority groups is going up. Respondents frequently used atheists as symbols for perceived problems in American society, tending to link them with law-breaking and greed. Many failed to see any possible secular basis for a good society, and therefore viewed atheism as a threat to moral order in a way other beliefs are not.

It is unfortunate for atheists that stating our views on religion will necessarily involve offending some believers, as it is pretty much impossible for me not to say I think their beliefs are wrong in the process. After all, it is not like I just have a different take on the meaning of the Bible than Christians do; rather, I do not believe the Bible is a divinely inspired document.

When some theists hear this, they scream about atheistic intolerance. For instance, Lakshmi Chaudhry, a senior editor at In These Times, derides Dawkins and his followers as atheist fundamentalists who follow “a virulent form of atheism that mirrors the polarized worldview of the religious extremists it claims to oppose.” But really, what else am I supposed to say? That God exists for you but not for me? To me, tolerance means not imposing ones views on others, provided that other views do not involve coercion or cause harm. It does not mean accepting all views as equally valid.

None of this should be understood as saying religious believers are stupid. I absolutely do not believe that. There is any number of reasons why a person might become religious besides stupidity or irrationality. Additionally, I have never claimed to have a monopoly on truth. I think my beliefs to be right, but I also admit the possibility that I could be wrong. In fact, half the point of the Blasphemy Challenge to me was admitting that I am prepared to deal with the consequences if my beliefs turn out to be mistaken. All I can do is conclude what I can from the information I have, which in the case of religion leads me to doubt the existence of God.

My point is that any comparison between atheistic “intolerance” and that of, say, right-wing Christian extremists trying to turn America into a de facto theocracy is completely without merit. Unlike them, we, for the most part, do not seek to shove our beliefs down anyone else’s throat, nor do we even really seek converts in the usual sense. All we really want is for people to think things out for themselves and be able to justify their beliefs, instead of just accepting without question what they are taught. That might lead one to atheism, and it might not. Atheism is not some sort of monolithic movement in any case. Ask five atheists their views on morality, for example, and you will probably get five different answers. Free thinking is the whole point of the movement and, as the Blasphemy Challenge creators point out, “the opposite of fundamentalism.”

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