Sun, Feb 18, 2007 - Page 4 News List

Atheists, believers take argument to World Wide Web

NY TIMES NEWS SERVICE , NEW YORK

A religious battle is taking place on the Internet, with two very different groups arguing over the existence of God.

It began in December when Brian Flemming, a 40-year-old filmmaker and playwright based in Los Angeles, started the Blasphemy Challenge, asking people to post videos on YouTube denying the existence of God.

In one video, for example, a teenage girl says, "I know that the Holy Spirit, Jesus Christ, God, the flying spaghetti monster, pink unicorns, all of these made-up entities do not exist."

Those who participate at the Flemming site, blasphemychallenge.com, receive a free DVD of the documentary The God Who Wasn't There, which Flemming wrote, directed and produced. Flemming, a former evangelical Christian turned atheist, said the DVDs cost him about US$25,000. So far, more than 1,000 people have turned on their cameras to deny the existence of God.

The Blasphemy Challenge site advises people how to post their videos on YouTube and how to search for the videos on the YouTube site.

The Flemming Web site so upset Mike Mickey, a 43-year-old police officer from Christiansburg, Virginia, and Steve Buchanan, a 34-year-old carpenter from Henderson, Kentucky, that they began Challenge Blasphemy with their own Web site, challengeblasphemy.com. They are asking Christians to "praise the Lord" with their own videos on YouTube.

Mickey, the married father of three, is also the Web master for RaptureAlert.com, a Web site "sounding the alert that Jesus Christ is coming soon."

The anti-religion perspective has been around on the Internet since its beginning, though using YouTube to express such thoughts is new, said Lorne Dawson, professor of sociology and religious studies at the University of Waterloo in Ontario, who has studied religion and the Internet.

Dawson said: "It is a new twist on a long habit of trolling, baiting and flaming people online and purposely seeking to attract attention and stir up trouble. It is in line with the culture of the Internet and the bad-boy element of the Internet."

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