Religion

I sold my soul, and all I got was this AWESOME DVD!

So, good news! I received my DVD of The God Who Wasn’t There for my participation in the Rational Response Squad’s Blasphemy Challenge, just as promised! It’s very well done and contains a lot of great extended interviews and extra commentary tracks.

Reader Alex sent me a link to this blog in which a well-meaning woman tries to assemble a group to pray for all the poor souls who have participated in the Blasphemy Challenge. On the one hand, this is very sweet. She wants to try to save the lost souls participating in the challenge; of course this means she doesn’t believe in the inerrancy of the Bible, which states that we’re all going to hell and there IS no saving us at this point. Anyway, what I find amusing/frightening is that she calls the Challenge “extremely disturbing” a mere two sentences after praising BattleCry, easily one of the most disturbing religious movements since the Dark Ages. This is a serious campaign by fundamentalists using violent war imagery to recruit kids into their ranks. They condemn the quiet, thoughtful Christians as “pew-sitters” who only want peace and happiness, of all things. They hold large concerts packed with teens, during which time they preach their hatred of homosexuals and telling the kids, “No souls can be saved without the shedding of blood. Blood must be shed!” Now that’s extremely disturbing — not at all like people declaring their lack of religion on the Internet. Journalist Sunsara Taylor wrote a fantastic three-part story on the movement, which you can find here.

What I find particularly amusing, though, is the incredible avalanche of replies posted to the blog — all from atheists. I mean, wow. I didn’t see a single “amen, sister.” Well, except the one that turned out to be another ironic response from an atheist. My personal favorite response came in the message Alex sent me along with the link: “Because what can be more efficient than 50 people sitting in a room silently wishing that something will go away?”

This illustrates one of the reasons I feel the Blasphemy Challenge is a wonderful idea. It encouraged a lot of people to openly declare their lack of religion in public, something that should be so simple. If I had uploaded a video saying I was gay, would it be an insult to straight people? If I said I love the color orange, would it be an insult to those who prefer black? In what kind of backwards world do we live where such a video could be labeled as disturbing, or insulting (as many fundamentalists have claimed)?

I happen to have a number of friends who are Christians, and all of my family is Baptist. They are wonderful and loving people who understand that my lack of belief has no negative implications on their own faith. A public declaration of my lack of belief contains no insult and no harm, and a number of religious friends have sent me positive notes about the video. I appreciate those who want to help by praying for my immortal soul, so long as they remember that I’m not trying to reach through their computer monitors and rip their own souls out of their bodies and sell them to Satan.

Hold on, now there’s an idea . . .

Rebecca Watson

Rebecca leads a team of skeptical female activists at Skepchick.org. She travels around the world delivering entertaining talks on science, atheism, feminism, and skepticism. There is currently an asteroid orbiting the sun with her name on it. You can follow her every fascinating move on Twitter or on Google+.

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30 Comments

  1. "If I had uploaded a video saying I was gay, would it be an insult to straight people?"

    To these people, yes. Atheists are destroying religion, gays are destroying marriage, and evolution is destroying everything good and just in the world. I think video games are destroying stuff too.

  2. From Taylor's article on BattleCry:

    The leaders of BattleCry claim that their religion and values are under attack, but amid spectacular light shows, Hummers, Navy SEALs and military imagery on stage, it is BattleCry that has declared war on everyone else. Its leader, Ron Luce, insists: “This is war. And Jesus invites us to get into the action, telling us that the violent—the ‘forceful’ ones—will lay hold of the kingdom.”

    The meek shall inherit. . . um, no. . . Blessed are the, er, ahem. . . cheesemakers?

  3. I have a slight issue with the link to the battlecry article: Sunsara Taylor writes for a newspaper that has "Marxism-Leninism- Maoism" as it's religion (see the info at the end of her article).

    Keep up the good work :-)

  4. Oh geeze, BattleCry is Ron Luce? He used to be such a nice young man.

    …Sorry, having post-Christian flashbacks :p When I was an eager Christian teen, his Acquire the Fire tours were all the rage.

  5. My first comment on this blog was made when I was a Christian. Since then I've become aware that I can't honestly make that claim; my beliefs and thinking have changed too much.

    I guess I'm more of a Deist now than anything. I don't think I could yet meet the Blasphemy Challenge; I still feel some distaste and, frankly, fear at the thought. But I definitely salute those who can do so sincerely: all of you, Rebecca included, are doing a useful thing.

    The fundamentalists are becoming increasingly shrill and frightened as they see themselves marginalized in a rapidly changing world. Their overreaction of course only marginalizes them further, and so on. Movements as crazy as BattleCry are, hopefully, a sign that fundamentalist Christianity is peaking in the US. In this optimistic scenario, their sheer lunacy will start to drive supporters away from them, to more tolerant organizations and churches…

    Alas, even the little history I know doesn't give overwhelming support for this. It could easily go the other way. But still I hope. And the Blasphemy Challenge, in its brave and overt rejection of religion's irrationality, is one of the reasons for that hope.

  6. deltafoxtrot: You're absolutely right that it's a biased source, and reading through that article really made me wish that the author had gone for a slightly less incendiary tone. Still, I do think she presents a compelling story and I don't doubt the honesty of her reporting.

    wright: Thank you very much for that post. I'm always interested to hear about people in the process of changing their beliefs: what encourages them, what their thought process is like. Thanks for sharing.

  7. "If I had uploaded a video saying I was gay, would it be an insult to straight people? If I said I love the color orange, would it be an insult to those who prefer black? In what kind of backwards world do we live where such a video could be labeled as disturbing, or insulting (as many fundamentalists have claimed)?"

    I utterly agree. I do however find the converse belief insulting.

    Someone who beleives fundamentely that I, for my non-beleif, will be sent to an eternal torment, and beleives that this is right and just, is offensive to me.

  8. StupendousMan, the woman who runs that blog removed that post earlier today (at 1:31 PM Pharyngula time or earlier). The rest of the blog is still up. My first thoughts were as follows:

    It is possible, just possible, that the woman who operated the blog never expected when she woke up this morning to read such a deluge of blasphemy, and shut down her blog with hurt feelings.

    Abeja had a different explanation:

    I posted a very blasphemous comment, and then I pointed out to the blogger that since she had provided the venue for me to air my anti-religious views, she was an accomplice in my so-called "crime", and her non-existent god would hate her and send her to hell for letting me say such nasty things about him on her blog.

  9. Rav Winston:

    Have you checked on EBay? I've often thought about selling my soul on there. I mean, I don't even use it anymore…it's in a box in my parents' basement, collecting dust. Let me know if you get a good deal.

  10. I'm afraid that, because of her obvious bias in the article, I HAVE to doubt the honesty of her reporting. I'm quite sure that she honestly believes that what she wrote is the "whole truth and nothing but the truth," but I suspect that her internal filters cast everything she sees in a very particular kind of light.

    Rebecca, despite your description of her as a "journalist," I would say that she is no more a journalist than is Bill O'Reilly. They both skew everything they see. This is unfortunate, because BattleCry sounds like a very dangerous organization indeed! The Nazis and Spanish Fascists had nothing on these guys. Peas in a pod, seems to me.

    She damages her own case by letting her biases pervade her "reporting" so clearly. People on the "left" will accept it as Gospel (sorry!) truth, while those on the "right" will deride it as being an obvious hack job by a leftie pinko. Meanwhile, people in the vast middle, who might actually be able to gain some insight into this kind of dangerous group, will be left highly skeptical of its validity.

  11. Expatria, you can no longer sell your soul on eBay. someone already tried, and the eBay people stopped the auction because they insisted that you have to sell something physical. If not, it's a scam, and in theory, you could sell it several times without anyone knowing of your little scam.

    I suppose they had a good point, but it's also kinda funny to realize that eBay doesn't think a soul can legally be sold :D

  12. Yeah, I think I could still figure out a way to sell it. I had always considered selling a 'legal' document entitling the bearer to the rights to my mortal soul, because I didn't think I'd be able to get away with just selling NOTHING. But, if that's what the other person did, I guess I might have to go back to the drawing board…

  13. I seem to remember a comic book series – not that I, ahem, you know, read comic books or anything – about a guy who bought a bunch of souls in a bar room bet. He was in possession of so many souls that he actually became a god himself and was visited by all these other gods. And of course, hillarity then ensued when the people whose souls he bought died and came to him for an afterlife.

    So c'mon. I'll buy all your souls. How much you want? I have a hot tub in my backyard you all could use in the afterlife.

  14. Despite my rationality, I still have this irrational voice in the back of my head saying "don't sell your soul" that makes me…well, not want to sell my soul. Which doesn't exist… Hurm…

    BTW, I still deny the Holy Spirit.

  15. We could auction our souls off at TAM5

    Oh we could also get the whole crowd to do the blasphemy challenge at once. One video of a few hundred people all denying the holy spirit. Spiritual genocide.

  16. Wow, phiend, as if I didn't really hate the fact that I can't make it to TAM5 already…SPIRITUAL GENOCIDE!! If you're lucky, the beast himself will rise from the abyss to escort you all personally! :-P Now, THAT would make a GREAT video!!

  17. I have always wondered if there would be any legal implications to selling your soul. Isn't some of our law tied up with judaeo christian origins? Would someone else owning your soul have any negative implications for you?

  18. One of the things I have noticed with every christian I have met to date is their ability to ignore any part of the bible that does not agree with their beliefs.

    Many moons ago, when I thought I was a christain, I aways held the belief that you had to believe and follow the bible in exactness. If I had known, when growing up, that I could ignore certain parts, I would have had a far more interesting teenage.

  19. Hello Rebecca

    "I’m not trying to reach through their computer monitors

    and rip their own souls out of their bodies and sell them to Satan."

    Had I said something like this,I would be accused of threating

    the audience again (as I have been accused of)and probably banned

    for going there.

    So I don't feel it's fair that you can,but I can not..

    "If I had uploaded a video saying I was gay, would it be

    an insult to straight people? If I said I love the color orange,

    would it be an insult to those who prefer black?"

    Stop playing games Rebecca,this is far from the message your stating,

    What you are saying to Mr.Black,is I don't believe in color,yet because

    the light are off(upstairs)how are you ever supposed too??

    and why should Mr.black even care what you think?

    "I happen to have a number of friends who are Christians, and all of my family is Baptist. They are wonderful and loving people who understand

    that my lack of belief has no negative implications on their own faith"

    Actually this could also mean;that they respect you enough to reserve

    their feelings toward this matter,however PLEASE bring this video to a Church of your choosing,(Baptist definitely)I'm sure you would receive different response,for telling Mr.Black theirs no such thing as color..

    "a lot of people to openly declare their lack of religion in public"

    Actually you're delusional once again and misleading yourself

    and your readers,because you can do this private,can't you?

    however your conduct doesn't reflect a mutual

    respect considering you have your beliefs,allow others

    to have theirs.Denouncing "Their God" in public,is what you're

    really doing Rebecca,and actually serves the devils' purpose..

    You make a good Lacie,

    Now Sit boo boo sit.

    Good dog!

    I could go on for days ,popping your little bubbles

    like pimples,However I'm well aware you only value

    your own opinion,so Take care M.Dmon

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