Beliefwatch: Blasphemy (Challenge)
By JERRY ADLER, NEWSWEEK
Added: Mon, 01 Jan 2007 00:00:00 UTC
Read more about The Blasphemy Challenge here
'Hi my name is Lindy and I deny the existence of the Holy Spirit and you should too.'
Jan. 8, 2006 issue - With that five-second submission to YouTube, a 24-year-old who uses the name "menotsimple" has either condemned herself to an eternity of punishment in the afterlife or struck a courageous blow against superstition. She's one of more than 400 mostly young people who have joined a campaign by the Web site BlasphemyChallenge.com to stake their souls against the existence of God. That, of course, is the ultimate no-win wager, as the 17th-century French mathematician Blaise Pascal calculated—it can't be settled until you're dead, and if you lose, you go to hell.
The Blasphemy Challenge is a joint project of filmmaker Brian Flemming, director of the antireligion documentary "The God Who Wasn't There," and Brian Sapient, cofounder of the atheist Web site RationalResponders.com. Their intent was to encourage atheists to come forward and put their souls on the line, showing others that you don't have to be afraid of God. The particular form of the challenge was chosen because, by one interpretation, blasphemy against the Holy Spirit, a part of the Christian Trinity, is the only sin that can never be forgiven. And once something you've said gets posted on YouTube, as any number of celebrities can attest, you never live it down.
For better or worse, though, hell may not be so easy to get into. Despite the seemingly clear language in Mark 3:28-29 ("all the sins and blasphemies of men will be forgiven them. But whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will never be forgiven"), most theologians are reluctant to pronounce anyone beyond repentance and salvation. Richard Land, a leader of the Southern Baptist Convention, says the passage, read in context, refers to a very narrow and specific definition of blasphemy: maliciously attributing God's miracles to a demon. Merely "denying" the Holy Spirit, by this reading, doesn't qualify. "My response," Land says, "would be to pray for these people: 'forgive them, [for] they know not what they do'."
To which another self-described blasphemer, whose real name is Michael Lawson, replies that he knows exactly what he's doing: he's daring God to send him to hell. "We want to show that we really mean it when we say we don't believe a word in this book," he says. He means the Bible.
God could not be reached for comment.
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