“Truly I say to you, all sins will be forgiven the sons of men, and whatever blasphemies they utter; but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin.”
This is from the Bible. Mark 3:28-29. It’s not from the Old Testament; it’s not from Paul, or someone else interpreting Jesus’s words. It’s the words of Jesus himself. It’s not late in the narrative, either, when some scholars argue Jesus was starting to lose it. And I’m not quoting from the beautiful-but-wildly-inaccurate King James translation, either; I’m quoting from the Revised Standard.
As far as I can tell, it says what it says. According to Jesus, as quoted in the Gospels, there is one sin that will not be forgiven, one sin that is eternal — blaspheming against the Holy Spirit.
(FYI, here’s the context for the quote: Jesus has been casting out demons, and the scribes respond by saying “He is possessed by Beelzebub, and by the prince of demons he casts out the demons.” [Mark 3:22] Jesus replies by asking “How can Satan cast out Satan?” [Mark 3:23], talks in that vein for a bit… and then lets loose with the “never has forgiveness/guilty of an eternal sin” stuff; “for they had said, ‘He has an unclean spirit.’” [Mark 3:30] In other words, they’d denied that the Holy Spirit was how the demons had been cast out, and had said it was Satan instead.)
I’ve actually read a fair amount of the Bible. I was a religion major, for goodness’ sake. But until recently, I somehow managed to miss this bit. And obviously, it’s not a verse that gets much attention called to it… what with it totally contradicting the central message of Christianity.
So some people have put together this Website (boy, do I love the early 21st century — of course some people have put together a Website) called The Blasphemy Challenge. On it, they’re encouraging people to deny the Holy Spirit, videotape themselves doing it… and post the videos on YouTube. (And I say yet again: I love this century.)
It’s become kind of a big deal. There’ve been news reports about it, including on Nightline, and hundreds of people have made these videos.
Here’s mine. (Click the link, or else view it below the fold.)
It’s a little hard to explain exactly why I wanted to do this. But I like this weird little virus. It calls attention to the absurdity of trying to take the every word of the Bible (or any text) as literal truth. It calls attention to a pretty serious contradiction in what is supposedly the central message of Christianity — namely, that Jesus was born and died to forgive our sins, and that all sins are forgivable. (BTW, can I just ask — why blasphemy? Why not murder, or torture, or genocide? Why is blaspheming against the Holy Spirit the one unforgivable sin?) It’s creating more visibility for atheism — especially among young people, who are apparently taking to this thing in droves — and thus it’s helping take away the free ride that religion has been getting for so long in the marketplace of ideas. And it’s providing an outlet for atheists to come out, and to see they’re not alone.
Besides, I think it’s just funny. I love that, in exchange for denying the Holy Spirit and thus damning your soul eternally, the Website owners will send you a free DVD. It’s possibly the cheapest offer I’ve ever been given for my soul. How could I possibly pass it up? It’s hilarious.
Oh, and a quick explanation as to why I’m bundled up and hunched over and looking like I’m freezing my ass of: The video was taken in Chicago, in February. Long story.