Last week, I wrote about the Rational Response Squad’s Blasphemy Challenge, a call for nonbelievers to upload videos of themselves denying the existance of the Holy Spirit on YouTube. (Reader Thad posted his response here. If you’ve also done a video, please post it in the comments below!) I’ve been toying with the idea of filming a YouTube video just as an experiment in e-marketing, so I figured this was a great opportunity. I stayed home from work yesterday to finish recovering from my sniffles, so I whipped out the digital camera and began the blasphemy. You can see the result here. Give me a high rating to combat all the angry fundies who are giving me 0 stars!
I find it really interesting that some people are complaining that this campaign is somehow insulting. For starters, declaring that I do not believe your god is not something I do for you, it is something I do for me. As a secondary effect, by uploading it to YouTube it also becomes something I do for atheists who feel alone in a world of theists.
Of course, the content of many of the videos includes more than simply a declaration of nonbelief — they also include the reasons for that nonbelief, or mocking of religion, or other tidbits of, well, preachiness. Is this unfair, or insulting? I don’t think so, and here’s why: the Christian religion is based in part on the idea that anyone who does not adhere to that religion will burn in Hell for an eternity. The rest of the world is expected to be tolerant of this belief, to accept it as a quaint and personal notion, and not as an insult to our own philosophy of life and death. I am prepared to do that, but in return I expect the same leeway by being allowed to state that such an idea is silly without being accused of hostility or intolerance. We are using words to convey our feelings — not our fists, not our guns, not our bombs. That’s more than we can say for many religious folks.
Shortly after uploading my video, I received this message from “ChallengeBlasphemy” (sensitive readers, turn away!):
> would you deny a black dick up your ass?
At this point I’d like to edit my statement. We are using words to convey our feelings — not our fists, not our guns, not our bombs, and not threats of sexual violence. That’s more than we can say for many religious folks.
PZ has a great post on the Blasphemy Challenge in which he quotes Richard Dawkins, who received a letter from William Dembski criticizing the campaign (which Dawkins had nothing to do with):
I had not given the Blasphemy Challenge any thought until you called it to my attention. Now that you have done so, I do not seem to feel strongly one way or the other. As that admirable bumper sticker has it, Blasphemy is a Victimless Crime. So, am I going to send in my own film clip denying the Holy Ghost? No, that is not what Oxford professors do, they write books instead. Do I find it offensive that so many young people are sending in their film clips? No. I hadn’t listened to any of them before you raised the matter. I have now done so, and I must say I find them more charming than offensive. They mostly seem rather nice young people, and they are doing their bit, in their own lively and entertaining way, to raise consciousness and set an example to their peers. I am especially pleased to note how young they are, for organized atheists have, until recently, been noticeably and discouragingly grey-headed. I think we may be witnessing the beginnings of a shift in the tectonic plates of our Zeitgeist. I am delighted to see so many young Americans taking part, in a way that suits their age group better than mine or yours.
Speaking of PZ, as many of you surely noticed, he just barely beat out our beloved Bad Astronomer in the 2006 WebLog Awards, meaning that he was under no obligation to pose in the upcoming 2008 Skepdude calendar. However, the guy has guts (just no spinal cord): he’s agreed to pose anyway, much to the delight/horror of skeptics everywhere! I’m super excited, and I’m already dreaming up all the different ways to make good use of a squid. You’re not so bad after all, PZ.