Effort touts atheism

LOS ANGELES: In a period of time where much of America is still basking in post-holidays good will, one anti-theology organization is encouraging teens to celebrate the season's passage in an entirely different way.

LOS ANGELES: In a period of time where much of America is still basking in post-holidays good will, one anti-theology organization is encouraging teens to celebrate the season's passage in an entirely different way.

Brian Sapient, a founder of Philadelphia-based Rational Response Squad (RRS), said now is an ideal time "to deny the Holy Spirit."

In partnership with Christian-critical production company Beyond Belief Media, RRS has launched a series of grassroots outreach efforts meant to "provoke conversation about the dangers of religious belief."

Now 21,000 members strong, RRS is engaged in its latest project: a young adult extension of its year-old "Blasphemy Challenge," which calls for young adults to create a YouTube video denying the existence of the Holy Spirit, a sin to Christians that the Bible claims "will never be forgiven."

All participants receive copies of Beyond Belief's film The God Who Wasn't There, which postulates that Jesus never existed on Earth.

"It's a way for atheists to come out of the closet," Sapient said of the campaign, which, according to RRS, is relying on more than just a prayer to spread its message. A $25,000 PR and ad budget targets 25 young adult Web sites, including MySpace, Friendster, Xanga, Teen Magazine, CosmoGirl, and YM.

CADRE and The Point are among the Christian groups that have taken issue with the project.

Both religious and mainstream media have taken note, Sapient said, thanks in part to aggressive campaigning by young converts, whom RRS coaches to act as independent PR reps. As well as covertly slipping DVD copies of The God Who Wasn't There in churches throughout the nation (and documenting those actions online), young adults have sent videos and press release links to local and national media outlets from New York to Seattle; many have obtained coverage.

"It's been amazing, the way it's spread virally," Sapient said.

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