Rational Response Squad

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I came across the “Rational Response Squad” a few months ago and dismissed them as a bunch of web-savvy teenagers hooked on the controversial power of atheism; however, they’ve just made national news on an NBC broadcast because of their “Blasphemy Challenge”. If you send them a video of yourself denying God, they’ll send you a free DVD of “The God Who Wasn’t There”, which is a documentary about the ahistorical Jesus Christ.

I’m fascinated that they’ve been able to capture so much media attention and be taken seriously; envious in fact. And there is something very disturbing about watching the videos – there is an inherent act of violent opposition, to society at least if not to spirituality in general, about flat out denying God. Furthermore, they are intimidatingly smart, crafty at writing, and have a lot of views I agree with.

However, I found the ‘blasphemy’ project revolting for several reasons. First, denying a transcendental, immaterial, metaphysical reality takes just as much faith (fundamentalist skepticism) as believing in one. Both positions begin with nothing, and end up with complete certainty. As such, denying God is meaningless, and is more of a public statement against organized religion than anything else.

More dangerously, the idea takes the general public (who’ve probably never spent much time thinking about philosophy, theology, great spiritual writings or traditions, the efficacy of prayer, or the power of faith) and get them to dismiss, along with God, any kind of spirituality as being just silly, non-rational rubbish. This is the triumph of rationalism, about 150 years after rationalism (in the form of modernism) became obsolete under more advanced forms of Postmodern thought.

Worst of all, denying God generates EVEN MORE hatred, misunderstanding, and conflict in a religious arena already rife with bloodshed – it does nothing to prove, solve, convert, amend – it only attacks and provokes. What’s the point? Accepting “the Challenge” without any study, meditation or mindfulness is just as worthless as blindly accepting Jesus Christ as savior – only instead of eternity in heaven, you’ll receive a free DVD.

However… I could be wrong. Perhaps I’m too thoughtful, sensitive and caring. I believe that the angry, fundamentalists Christians are a threat, and I’m pretty sure logic or reason won’t work on them. Perhaps the outspoken, angry Rational Responders are enough of a rallying point to get everybody else motivated.

  • http://paulmurray.wordpress.com/ Paul Murray

    “First, denying a transcendental, immaterial, metaphysical reality takes just as much faith (fundamentalist skepticism) as believing in one.”

    Three words: Invisible Pink Unicorn. It takes very little faith to deny something that is not evident, even more so when there is so much evidence *against* it (all the mystics disagreeing with each other), and particularly so when the evidence that is presented *for* it can be better explained in other ways.

    “about 150 years after rationalism became obsolete under more advanced forms of Postmodern thought.”

    Really? News to me, and to anyone else who lives in a warm, safe, dry, and well-lit modern home. Science – rationalism – is the culmination, the apotheosis, of humanity’s aeons-long search for truth.

    “Worst of all, denying God generates EVEN MORE hatred, misunderstanding, and conflict in a religious arena already rife with bloodshed”

    Eh? Only from religionists, who already hate everyone who don’t share their particular little fantasy anyway. rationalism and atheism is the *answer* to this kind of hate. Not until we forgo the lie that we are but a little loer than the angels, will we cease behaving little better than beasts.

    • Anonymous

      Thanks Paul; I agree with all your comments. I guess my views have shifted quite a bit since that early post. My more modern position would be this:

      A) Atheists should have as much freedom to deny God as theists have to praise him.
      B) The Atheist claim, which doesn’t really on supernatural, easy answers and instead continues to seek scientific support, is inherently more rational.
      C) Postmodern thought only applies to theory, and as you mentioned is blithely ignored by science.

      My only caveat may be that I still believe in the possibility of “miraculous” events (natural phenomena that we can’t yet explain but may someday be able to); especially with regard to modern physics which reveals that the universe is strange and mysterious. Hence, some of the ideas of religion (the effectiveness of prayer/magic, crystals, astrology, etc, nowadays captured in new age movements like ‘the secret’) may not be impossible.

      But yes, the God in the sky raining down judgment and terror, and especially the nasty brute at the Old Testament, is an antiquated belief that has no positive use other than to keep human beings in control.