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CULTURE DIGEST: ‘Blasphemy Challenge’ lures kids to renounce Holy Spirit; movie theaters draw smaller crowds; …

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–A radical new website is gaining popularity by challenging people to deny the existence of God, and it’s run by an atheist who was raised Catholic and claims he “became a born-again Christian when he was 13.”

“I loved Jesus and he was my best friend and I talked to him and God all the time,” Brian Sapient said on ABC’s “Nightline” Jan. 30. “I have to admit that they never talked back to me, and I think some people would say that God does talk to them and I think they’re not being honest with themselves.”

Now a dejected Sapient is part of the “Rational Response Squad,” which is behind the website www.blasphemychallenge.com and promises to give away 1,001 copies of a DVD espousing their views.

“There’s only one catch: We want your soul,” the site says. “It’s simple. You record a short message damning yourself to Hell, you upload it to YouTube, and then the Rational Response Squad will send you a free The God Who Wasn’t There DVD. It’s that easy.”

Somewhere in the video, the person must say the phrase “I deny the Holy Spirit.” The website explains that the phrase is required because Mark 3:29 says, “Whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will never be forgiven; he is guilty of an eternal sin.”

Matt Barber, policy director for cultural issues at Concerned Women for America, told Cybercast News Service that by arrogantly rebelling against God’s authority, the website implicitly acknowledges His existence.

“Scripture tells us that the reality of God’s existence is written on the heart of every man, woman and child,” Barber said. “Man’s rebellion against the Creator is no new thing. It’s a time-honored tradition among those who prefer to view the world through the prism of moral relativism.”

Sapient is aggressively targeting teenagers by advertising his site on 25 websites frequented by teens, including Xanga, Boy Scout Trail, Teen Magazine, CosmoGirl and Seventeen, according to Focus on the Family’s CitizenLink.

“As young people are the most vulnerable to religious indoctrination, we feel it is important to reach them with the concept of challenging the doctrine they are told to unquestioningly believe,” blasphemychallenge.com says.

So far at least 955 videos have been posted, including one from someone named Joel.

“My name is Joel. I deny the Holy Spirit, as well as God, Jesus, Buddha, Zeus, Mohammad, Joseph Smith, Sponge Bob, the pope, Santa Clause, Mother Mary, the Easter bunny, the tooth fairy, Optimus Prime, all the saints and Spiderman,” he says, according to Nightline.

MOVIE THEATERS DRAW SMALLER CROWDS — A dislike for the movie selections and a boom in the home theater business has led to a decline in the number of people who watch films in theaters, according to a Zogby Interactive poll released Feb. 7.

Of the 10,000 adults surveyed, 45 percent said that while they still go to the movies, their attendance has decreased from five years ago. Twenty-seven percent said they go much less and 9 percent said they don’t go to the movies at all anymore, Zogby reported. The 25-34 age group was most likely to say their attendance has decreased.

Thirty-six percent of respondents told Zogby their movie attendance is about the same as it was five years ago, and 10 percent said it has increased. The 18-24 age group was most likely to say they see more movies in theaters today than they did five years ago.

More than one-third of those surveyed said they go to the movies fewer than six times per year, Zogby said, and 21 percent said they don’t even go once a year. Most people would rather stay at home to watch DVDs. Sixty-three percent said they would rather have free unlimited DVD rentals with no late fees for a year than a year’s worth of free unlimited movie passes. Just 30 percent would opt for the movie passes, Zogby found.

The top two reasons people gave for avoiding theaters were high ticket prices (30 percent) and a dislike for the movie selections (30 percent).

SEX OF ANY KIND HARMS TEENS, STUDY SAYS — While some teenagers believe that they can abstain from harmful sex as long as they avoid intercourse, a study by the University of California San Francisco says teens often suffer emotional consequences from any type of sexual contact.

One-third of teens who had experienced oral sex reported some type of negative consequence, the findings, published in the February issue of the journal Pediatrics, said.

Researchers advise parents to talk with their children about the potential negative effects of having oral sex, not only intercourse.

“When parents and teens talk about the consequences of having ‘sex,’ they may not take the time to define what sex is,” the report’s authors, Sonya Brady and Bonnie Halpern-Felsher, told Reuters. “It is important for parents to help teens understand that having oral sex may result in social, emotional and physical health consequences — just as having vaginal sex may result in these consequences.”

CHURCH MOVEMENT FOCUSES ON MEN — A recent article in the Orlando Sentinel highlighted a movement geared toward balancing the gender gap in churches, where the typical congregation is 61 percent female and 39 percent male.

Mike Ellis, a direct-marketing consultant in Port Orange, Fla., told the Sentinel Jan. 28 that nearly one-fourth of married women attend church without their husbands, and he was inspired by the book “Wild at Heart” by John Eldredge to bring men back to church. Ellis also cited David Murrow’s book “Why Men Hate Going to Church.”

“That book talked about the feminization of the church, the feminization of Jesus,” Ellis said. “Jesus was a warrior, not a wimpy, pathetic individual that you wouldn’t want to take care of your cat. Men need to follow a hero.”

So after talking with men on Sunday mornings outside Lowe’s, Home Depot and Wal-Mart, Ellis got an idea of what turns men off about church.

The Sentinel noted that such men “don’t like contemporary Christian praise music, railing against ‘dreamy songs with lovey-dovey words.’ They don’t like the sermons, which they say are boring, or the image of a sweet, loving Jesus. And they even complain about the sanctuaries’ decor, which reminds them of Martha Stewart.

“Instead, they want more martial music such as ‘Onward Christian Soldiers’ and ‘Rise Up O Men of God,’” staff writer Mark I. Pinsky reported. “They want short services and short sermons, with masculine, athletic metaphors, mostly about a rebellious and manly Jesus. They want swords and battle axes on the walls of their sanctuaries, and they want to call their spiritual leaders ‘coach’ instead of ‘pastor,’ and see them dressed in camouflage or orange hunting vests.”

Churches that have caught on to the movement are hosting barbecues, fish frys and wild game dinners for men, the paper said.

    About the Author

  • Erin Roach