Rational Response Squad on Nightline

5 02 2007
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According to the Rational Response Squad’s Brian Sapient, Nightline–unlike certain other media outlets–portrays the group and its “Blasphemy Challenge” fairly. (There is a transcript available also.)

Even so, some of the questions put to Sapient hail directly from the atheist-bashing playbook. For example, “What’s wrong with God?” (a variant on the usual “Why do you hate God?”):

“What’s wrong with the Tooth Fairy?” asks Brian. “There’s nothing wrong with something that most likely doesn’t exist.”

And cop this exchange:

Nightline: Do you worry about going to Hell?
Rational Response Squad: [Laughing at what has to be one of the most inane questions one could ever put to an atheist] No. No, not at all.
NL: Is that because you think Hell’s gonna be fun if you do go there?
Rational Response Squad: [More laughter, perhaps partly out of surprise that, as dumb as the previous question was, this guy has managed to top it with the current question] No, because there’s no reason to believe that Hell exists.

To be fair to the interviewer, given the religious demographics of the United States, he was probably obliged to play the “Fundies’ Advocate” and couch the odd question in Believer-ese. But what happens when God’s spokespersons themselves chime in? Firstly, you get the strawman:

“I think how sad it is that someone would be rejecting hope essentially,” says the Reverend Kathleen Liles, an Episcopalian minister

Followed by ad baculum reasoning:

“I think if people are courting blasphemy, going out of their way to cross that line, that is just dangerous,” says Paul de Vries, the president of the non-denominational New York Divinity School which provides ministry training. “They might get themselves in eternal trouble.”

(Nice bit of editing there by the Nightline crew, by the way: with religion, you get hope and the fear of eternal damnation.) Back to Rev. Liles for a spot of projection:

“I can’t say I’m really surprised by it. We live in a very difficult time. I think people have a lot of anger, people have a lot of anxiety. If you want to challenge something: if you’re young and you feel like kicking out windows, saying something like this about God is one way to exercise that.”

And finally, circular reasoning:

“Faith is a gift, it is a mystery, as so many other gifts from God are,'” she says. “And when we open our hearts to God, then God will give us the faith to believe.”

In order to believe in God, first you must believe in God. Got that?

UPDATE
: From the Nightline forum:

It is very obvious that all Atheist are the low life part of of society. Atheist lack moral values, they lack academic education and they lack all forms of consciouness. I feel sorry and pitty all the pathetic Atheist who try to use their so called knowledge to over throw christians. Surely Atheist can not articulate any meaningful sentence structures to describe their trailer trash ways. It is true God gave all men free will to call him a savior or to call him a liar. To bad Atheist choose to be ignorant filthy mental midget creatures who believe they know it all. To bad the God of the bible knows more then them. To bad my dog knows more then them. To bad hell is real and all atheist are going to hell. Atheist have no hope even God calls them fools.I laugh at all Atheist and their small minded uneducated monkey ways. Atheist are afraid to to take my challenge because they are not real atheist they are toilet paper. (Big laugh.) (Big Smile)

UPDATE II: I have been in fairly regular correspondence the past couple of days with the owner of this blog.

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