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Logo of the Rational Response Squad.
The Rational Response Squad, or RRS, is a group of atheists who confront what they consider to be irrational claims, most notably those made by theists, particularly Christians. The co-founders of the RRS are Brian Sapient and Rook Hawkins, (aliases used for anonymity). The Rational Response Squad, along with the filmmaker Brian Flemming, made headlines in December 2006 with their Blasphemy Challenge.

The Blasphemy Challenge

The Blasphemy Challenge, started in December 2006, is an Internet-based project which aims to get atheists to come out and declare themselves as atheists. The challenge asks atheists to submit videos to the website YouTube, in which they record themselves blaspheming or denying the existence of the Holy Spirit. According to the RRS' interpretation of several passages of the Bible (specifically, Mark 3:28-29 and Matthew 12:30-32), this action is considered an unforgivable sin. Thus, users who took the challenge saw themselves as crossing a point of no return to prove that they truly did not believe in the biblical God and would "accept the consequences" if after their death they find that the Christian form of the Abrahamic God does exist. The first 1,001 users who took the challenge received a DVD of Flemming's documentary film The God Who Wasn't There. Magician Penn Jillette, author Christopher Hitchens, philosopher Daniel Dennett, and Raëlism founder Raël participated in the project. It was also the first video of comedian and Internet personality Pat Condell.

Response from Christians

Many Christian groups have responded to the Challenge with "Challenge Blasphemy" and "Praise the Lord Challenge". Those projects are designed directly to counter the Blasphemy Challenge by encouraging individuals to show their faith in Jesus Christ by posting videos of themselves praising God, or praying by name for the members of the Rational Response Squad or users participating in the Blasphemy Challenge.

YouTube controversies

The Rational Response Squad's YouTube account was suspended on March 23, 2007 but was later reinstated. The reason for the suspension was due to Uri Geller claiming that Rational Response Squad had infringed his copyrights when posting a video featuring him, but Geller did not own the copyrights in question. In May the Electronic Frontier Foundation filed suit against Geller on behalf of Brian Sapient "asking for damages due to Geller's violation of the DMCA, a declaratory judgment that the NOVA video does not infringe Geller's copyrights, and that Geller be restrained from bringing any further legal action against Sapient in connection to the clip."

On September 16, 2007, Wired magazine reported that "YouTube had banned a group called the Rational Response Squad (RRS) after it complained its videos were being taken down due to spurious DMCA requests from" someone working on behalf of the Creation Science Evangelism ministry. It further noted that while this highlights problems with DMCA, the ministry's own website said that "none of the materials ... are copyrighted, so feel free to copy these and distribute them freely." In response to the claims, the RRS posted a message that it is ready to help sue CSE and/or Eric Hovind. The account was restored on September 18, 2007.

Debate with The Way of the Master

Brian Sapient and Kelly O'Connor, members of the RRS, participated in a debate with representatives from The Way of the Master, actor and evangelical Christian Kirk Cameron, and his colleague Ray Comfort, at Calvary Baptist Church in Manhattanmarker on May 5, 2007. Nightline aired the debate online and included a short two-segment summary on its May 9 broadcast. At issue was the existence of God. Nightline correspondent Martin Bashir served as moderator at the event.

Cameron and Comfort challenged the Rational Response Squad to the debate. They claimed that they could prove the existence of God scientifically without using the Bible, though Comfort does refer to the Bible when he participates in such discussions, and did so during the May 5 debate. In a May 8, 2007 clarification, Comfort stated that he would cease using the qualifier "without mentioning faith or the Bible" from his claims to avoid misunderstandings.

During the debate, both sides employed and responded to arguments for God's existence, including the cosmological argument and Pascal's Wager. The debate also entered topics outside of science, including history, and the question of connections between religion and morality.

References

  1. Irrational Precepts page at RationaResponders.com
  2. The "Our Team" page at RRS
  3. The Blasphemy Challenge Official site accessed on February 18, 2007
  4. Penn Jullette's Blasphemy Challenge entry
  5. Blasphemy Redux on Culture and Media Institute accessed on February 18, 2007
  6. Rael takes the Blasphemy Challenge on YouTube accessed at February 18, 2007
  7. http://www.rationalresponders.com/forum/the_rational_response_squad_radio_show/5637 "Rational Squad deleted from Youtube"
  8. O'Connor, Kelly; "D'Souza - Nothing to Refute Here" rationalresponders.com; November 8, 2007
  9. Face-Off - Does God Exist - Part1 on Google Video
  10. Bashir, Martin; "Prepare for a Conflict: The Nightline 'Face-Off' No-Holds Barred Battle Over the Existence of God"; May 7, 2007
  11. Correction to article; "Evangelist Challenges Atheists to Debate on ABC"; April 29, 2007
  12. Video of Comfort's opening arguments at the May 5, 2007 debate, in which he references the Bible beginning at the 2:58 mark.


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