Saturday, December 16, 2006

I Deny the Holy Spirit

The Blasphemy Challenge wants people to upload 30 second videos of themselves denying the Holy Spirit. The first 1000 people to do so get a free copy of The God Who Wasn't There, the atheism documentary, on DVD. I'd do it, because the entire notion of a Holy Spirit that pays attention when we say shit like "I deny the Holy Spirit" is really, really dumb, roughly akin to believing in a chronically obese elf who lives on the ever-thinning ice of the North Pole, quietly performing worldwide NSA-style surveillance enabling him to gather usable, up-close intelligence on the habits of nice and children, along with their relative preference vis-a-vis choo-choo trains vs. kewpie dolls.

The big deal is this passage from The Gospel of Mark.

"Whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will never be forgiven; he is guilty of an eternal sin." - Mark 3:29

Of all the horrible shit you could possibly do, this is the only thing Jesus can't forgive. Seriously. Even the Mel Gibson defense doesn't work for denying the Holy Spirit. If Nicole Ritchie, moments before driving in the wrong direction on an LA freeway, had denied the Holy Spirit, she'd be damned to eternal hellfire instead of 30 days in county.

Apparently, the Holy Spirit just finds your lack of faith deeply, deeply disturbing, and It won't stand for it. I mean, Jesus has pretty strong, visceral feelings about dead baby rape, but he'll still forgive you. "You shouldn't rape dead babies," Jesus was known to say on occasion among close friends and apostles. "I probably shouldn't even have to give you a little allegory for you to understand this rule. I mean, it's a dead baby. Why would you want to rape it? Now let's go magic up some fish for those lepers!" Rumor has it, he was going to put it into the Sermon on the Mount, but dropped it to spare the feelings of his good friend Lazarus, who had infamously once raped a baby and who showed up to The Mount at the last minute. That just goes to prove my point. Jesus drew a line: Dead baby rape = okay if you're really sorry, denying the Holy Spirit = fire + brimstone.

Anyway, it only takes a moment and you have the added bonus of damning your eternal soul. I wonder if this could automatically get you out of listening to missionaries and evangelicals for the rest of your life. "Sorry, I can't come to Bible Study with you...I denied the Holy Spirit just, like, two weeks ago. Yeah, oops. It was just kind of a spur of the moment, hair up my ass kind of thing."

At Pharyngula, PZ has highlighted some funny responses from the believers to the video. Here are a few favorites:

So athiests think their immortal soul is worth a free DVD. Intersting; sad, VERY sad, but interesting none the less.

This person demonstrates a breathtaking ability to miss the point. Atheists don't think anything about their immortal soul because they typically don't believe in any such thing. Your sentence is a complete non-sequiteur, along the lines of saying "Americans think that a teleportation machine is worth 400,000 boxes of oatmeal raisin cookies."

I cannot convince people who have made up their mind already, but I will say that I am a witness of the working of the Holy One. You aren't required to believe me, though. It's your ball, and it's in your court now.

You hear these kinds of arguments all the time from 3 different kinds of people: goony film nerds, ghost hunters and God fearers. The "well, I've seen the evidence but I can't show it to you" argument.

Among film nerds, it's always some random cut of a movie that probably doesn't exist but that the person you're talking to has magically seen. "Seriously, man, there's a 7 hour version of Magnificent Ambersons where Joseph Cotton stalks, cooks and eats a live deer. I've seen it!"

For ghost hunters, it's always about this one experience - back when they were a skeptic just like you - that changed their lives forever. "And as I was walking up the hall, towards the music room of Benchley Manor, I could clearly see the undead form of Lady Benchley, pleasuring herself with Lord Pennington-Smythewood's antique clarinet! And she had on the same jewel-encrusted broach as she does in the locket we found in the secret panel of a hope chest in the attic!"

For fundies, it's always the Holy Moment when THE LORD GAWD interrupted their tedious little lives and showed them THE TRUTH ABOUT EVERYTHING. This commenter on YouTube has witnessed the presence of God. For seriously. It happened. So here's my question...Why doesn't God go and visit Muqtada al Sadr? "Hey, you...Stop sending out members of your militia to destabilize already-violent Baghdad neighborhoods! You have to listen to me, I'm God. I mean, Allah. Praise be my name, or something." God has way more important people to talk to than this schmuck.

Sorry to disappoint you all, but just because you are making your silly video's, that is NOT blaspheming the Holy Spirit. The only way to blaspheme the Holy Spirit is to die in your sin, without repenting and putting your faith in Christ. You must first KNOW that Jesus Christ IS God, and that he IS the way, the truth and the life, and THEN deny him as God AND die in your sin without repenting and putting your trust in the saviour.

Hmmm...He/she may have us there. I'm pretty sure it doesn't count as blasphemy either, if you don't already believe in Jesus to begin with. But doesn't this contradict the Book of Mark? He doesn't say "whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit that already agreedt o believe in the Holy Spirit will never be forgiven."

lmao..the fact you even comment on the holy spirit proves you believe! If you really believed there's no such thing, you wouldn't be talking about it.

Truly, you have a dizzying intellect...

Why? I doubt many people would care if you believe in a god or not, so a generic claim like 'I deny the holy spirit' doesn't mean shit. What's important is the reason behind your claims. When you grow up enough to stop antagonising Christians for the hell of it, come back and explain your 'logical thinking.' Atheism isn't a fashion accessory.

No, atheism is not a fashion accessory. Now, Christianity on the other hand, that is most definitely a fashion accessory.

The use of quotation marks around 'logical thinking' here strikes me as very telling.

Atheism, really any of the agnostic/naturalist/academic belief systems, relies on what to me feels like a fundamental humility. You recognize that the Great Questions are always going to be just that - questions - and you resign yourself to accepting the best and most current information that those who study our world professionally can provide.

For example, I can grasp only the most basic conceptualization of something like String Theory. I know enough to understand that multi-dimensional models of the universe explain some issues but also create more unanswerable questions and that's about it. But I can't possibly understand this information the way an astrophysicist would, so I would have no choice but to defer my opinion on the subject to the expert should the situation arise.

This is essentially a humble stance, and sensible, educated people take them all the time. I look up to authorities in pretty much all aspects of life - novelists, journalists, scholars, scientists, activists, artists, world leaders, engineers. The list goes on an don.

I see this as running against the devout religious worldview. Fundamentalists and their ilk have only one source of authority. The Big Man in the Sky. And the great thing about God is that he's absent. He never talks to anyone any more, and his Book is full of all kinds of weird anachronisms, counter-intuitive messages and contradictory advice. So religious people get to act pretty much however they want. They don't defer to experts, their own leaders or even one another. It's a free-for-all.

And that's how you get religious people who hold the very notion of 'logical thinking' in contempt. They have a Righteousness on their side that defeats even the powers of Logic, much in the way that a thin slip of paper can surreptitiously cover a sturdy rock in the popular game. It's like being the Bully's Little Pal. Sure, you have to follow this guy around and pretend to be his best friend, but the moment he's not around, you run the schoolyard. You don't take shit from nobody, despite being the same little weasel they all once picked on.


Anonymous said...

Boy, I mean... Wow! I was just told yesterday on my blog that I was going to hell if I marry my husband, but it turns out that I'm only going to hell if "I die in my sin" or get a free DVD or something.... Who knew?

Brilliant post as always, dude!

Peter L. Winkler said...

"Atheism, really any of the agnostic/naturalist/academic belief systems."

Actually, Lons, this is incorrect and allows you to fall into a trap often set up by religionists in debates.

Atheism isn't a belief system. It is an idea. I don't believe that God doesn't exist, I KNOW he doesn't, because I know something exists only if there is evidence for its existence or a logical extrapolation from evidence.

Lons said...

Erm...Well, yes and no. Fundies try to set the "atheism and Christianity are just two opposing, but equal, religions." Granted. But I do see it as a part of an overall agnostic/naturalist/academic belief system, a component if you will.

I don't think atheism is an "idea," it's a rejection of an idea. The first atheist didn't go, "I must tell the world that no one created me!" It was probably more like, "You idol-worshipping idiots are comical to me."

Still, I've yet to see a religionist "trap" that can't be disarmed within 5 minutes. They've had thousands of years now and have yet to devise a single compelling argument.

Lons said...

And, for the record, I'm still willing to grant my atheism "belief" status. It has never been proven to me, beyond doubt, that no Greater Universal Intelligence than our own exists. I just don't believe that it does.

Though I don't believe in a Judeo-Christian Sky Man, it's possible this entire world is a computer simulation being run by aliens or a cruel trick being played on us by a demon or something.

Anonymous said...

WOW, kooooool!
That THING of the Holy Spirit is still a pain in the ass for many of us! We do not know how to deal with it, because we can not speak of it or define it or even recognize it!

Some people say they have experienced the FORCE of the Holy Spirit in their hearts and souls!
When I was a kid, i heard people speaking of orgasms, and I did not understand what an orgasm was. (Of course now I DO understand, it is Grrrrreat!). I suppose that everything has its time. There is a time to know what an orgasm is, AND THERE MUST BE A TIME TO KNOW OR EXPERIENCE THE HOLY SPIRIT. Of course I have not had the pleasure to have a "Holy Orgam" with the Father of Christ, the Holy Spirit, but I hope someday I will. I do not loose HOPE! And even if I knew the HOLY SPIRIT, I would not be able to talk about it with someone who does not know an orgasm with the Holy Spirit. That's OBVIOUS and LOGICAL!
I believe in holy orgams! I believe in the Holy Spirit and all the Gods of the Kingdom of Light! I believe in goodness and light, because I have seen the oposite during most of my life!
I just have to mature to be given the chance to have an orgasmic experience with the GODS!

The only way for two people to sit, talk and understand each other is that both of them have SIMILAR experiences. (If you know what a cup of coffee taste like, or a wine, or a glass of water, then we can speak about it. Otherwise we can not!)

I am a Geologist, and if you have no idea of Metamorphic Facies & ROCKS and the History of the Earth, then it would be no much use to talk to you about it, "UNLESS" you are willing to learn. If you deny my teaching and the experince of knowing geology, without knowing it and its usefulness, would be very childish and absurd from your part. That would be unforgivable because my time is precious and Geology is very useful for all society. But if you can't recognize the usufulness of Geology, then you would have to find another way to find oil, gas, gold, uranium, platinum, silver, iron, aluminium, salt, etc.. because only a geologist can do that for society. Geology is very useful. Everything in a computer is made of THINGS that only a geologist can find: oil (plastic), iron and all metals like gold in the chips, and the source of silica for the screen of your computer. If there were no geologists, you would not be able to have the materials for a computer or a car or a house (unless the house is made of ice or wood).

I suppose that to KNOW the Holy Spirit must have its purpose and usefulness in the universe, but I have not found a right TEACHER, or I am not ready yet for the TEACHING and the EXPERIENCE......Maybe it is not my time yet.....But I do want to learn everithing in this universe!

I am not ready, I suppose, which make me kind of sad!

But I will never deny something I do not know! Never.
I will not close the door of my being to the experience of knowledge! I want an orgasm with GOD and the Father of Christ! I DO!
I want to know all this fucking universe (satan and the holy spirit included!) so that I can make a CHOICE, otherwise I will not be able to make a right choice.
Once I know this fucking universe, I will know if Satan and the Holy Spirit exist or not!
I hate the word FAITH!
Hence, I will never deny them!
Do the same, my friend: Do not close the doors of Knowledge and your inner potential. Taste all things and then you will have the certainty of the absurdity or the wonder of the existence of the Holy Spirit, Satan, Christ and the Buddhas. Otherwise we will nnever be able to talk or write about it.

Lons said...

But, Anonymous, isn't that just a lot of meaningless jargon? Can you really compare a lack of understanding about the nuances of geology with a lack of "understanding" about the nuances of God? If I wanted to, I could get a bunch of books, take some college classes and learn all about rocks. But I HAVE taken classes on religion, I do understand its nuances, and it still sounds like nonsense to me.

Yours is the kind of argument the Flying Spaghetti Monster was invented for. If I were to say that I believe in the FSM, you'd then have to concede that it's POSSIBLE that it exists, and you may just not be READY to understand His Glory. Is that something you'd be willing to concede? Then why should I concede that the Judeo-Christian fiction about "Holy Ghosts" may possibly exist? I reject it not because I know everything about the universe, but because I know enough to identify something that was invented by humans, not "God."

Steve said...

Honestly, I've sort of got to side against the video posters here, and I'm confidently that I can match anybody in a "more atheist than thou" fight. I mean, sure, it's kind of amusing to goad Christians into making stupid arguments, but it's also just not very nice. Presumably, you want to live in a pluralistic society where people aren't persecuted for their religious views. In my view, the people posting these videos are engaging in a mild form of persecution (certainly not the kind that should be outlawed, but a kind for which I see no purpose).

Lons said...

Two different responses to your intriguing comment, Steve.

My first one is, "fuck the fundies." Sure, it may not be nice to force them to defend their contradictory, half-understood positions. But I don't find most of them to be particularly kind or tactful either, so they can suck it.

My second, and more carefully considered, reaction is that denying my faith in the Holy Spirit does not persecute anyone else. If proclaiming my beliefs about religion vocally on the Internet equals the persecution of Christians, does it work the other way around? Does a guy whose blog is all about his love for Jesus persecute me?

Anonymous said...

Thanks for your response, Lons.

Honestly, I don't know that it's fair to say that most fundies are jerks. Some are. Certainly most of the ones we encounter in scenarios in antagonistic religious discussion are, becausre antagonistic religious discussion is, by its nature, primarily the domain of jerks. But in my experience, there are plenty of people out there who believe that Christ is the only route to salvation, who believe that the Earth is only five thousand years old, and who believe that homosexuality is an abomination who understand quite clearly that anybody who doesn't share their first principles (i.e. the Bible being the word of God) probably isn't going to be much interested in hearing their perspectives on this.

As to the nature of persecution, I think motivation has a lot to do with it. Some guy with a blog that's all about how much he loves Jesus is probably publishing that blog because it's a tenet of his faith that he needs share with the world how much his personal relationship with Jesus Christ means to him. If it's fundamental to your belief system that you need to publicly blasphemize against the Holy Spirit, go to it. I just somehow doubt that it is. Instead, it seems calculated to make Christians angry, which strikes me as something of a persecutive motivation.

Again, I want to emphasize that I'm not talking about the kind of religious persecution that gets countries poor grades on Amnesty International report cards, but it's stilla kind that I can do without.

Lons said...

I think we agree that if the intention is purely malicious (that is, I will post a video on the Internet to make a certain group of people angry or upset), then such an action is either inappropriate or thoughtless.

But I saw the "Blasphemy Challenge," and indeed much of the outspoken atheism on the Web, to be an expression of the acceptability of this view. In America, the atheist perpsecitve is nearly-silent. George Bush Sr. was once quoted as commenting that atheists were not complete U.S. citizens because we are "one nation under God."

So I didn't see the videos as antagonistic. More a public declaration that some us don't just accept God as self-evident and don't wish to be silenced to spare the tender feelings of belivers.

(Also, I didn't really mean to say that all fundamentalists are jerks. I've known a few personally that were very respectful of the beliefs of others and a pleasure to be around. Not many, but some. When I said "fuck the Fundies," I was intended to say, albeit crudely and with hyperbole, that I wasn't going to pull punches or hold back on my true opinions out of some kind of deference to the sincerity of their belief. I have long felt that freedom of religion is not a right to not be offended.)

Steve said...

Fair enough. I think we've reached understanding, here, though perhaps the atmosphere in the U.S. for atheists is one of the few ways in which Canada and the States are profoundly different, in which case I probably couldn't understand.

Up here, it's organized religion that's on the run, and I'm a member of the smug secular majority. Better them than us, I guess, but I probably just can't relate to the feeling that, as an atheist, I'm under siege.

Anonymous said...

here is a vid of a good priest discussing that, this is INCREDIBLE.

"those that must believe in spiritual being couldn't function with facts proving that it doesn't exist"

Crystal ( said...

What I dont understand is why the big effort to "deny the holy spirit" in the first place? I mean what WAS the point?

We know The Rational Response Squad are clearly and self-acclaimingly out to destroy religion - in favor of what they call 'logic & reasoning' and free thinking.

And that's fine. Do what you want, believe what you want.. but the creation of such a challenge literally undermines their own value for 'freedom of thought'.

Just like them, being a part of a religion is about having your own thoughts, beliefs and values. And churches are only places to reinforce those beliefs.

So what's the difference?

And what is the point?

Just because their thoughts oppose your thoughts, doesn't make them wrong.