Brian Sapient (1977- ) is most well known for creating the Rational Response Squad. The Rational Response Squad originally started as a podcast and a message board to unite Atheist Activists.
Brian was baptized, went to Sunday School, received Communion, and forced to go to Catholic Church every Sunday from infancy until 13 when becoming a born again Christian. Brian recalls being about 9 years old and questioning a nun on the story of Noahs Ark, he didn’t think the story was possible, He was scolded, and yes… she mildly slapped his hand with a ruler. His mother left the Catholic Church for a born again Christian church on the grounds that the people at the Church were more passionate about their faith.
The years that led to his activism
“Growing up like that, it was almost like an act of terrorism. I know we don’t as a society view it like that, but seriously I was scared to death of hell. I remember going to my fathers house and begging him to say this prayer to be saved. Fear of hell is by far and away the biggest factor in me holding religious belief into my late teens.” – Brian Sapient
At 13 years old he Sapient had serious doubts about religion. He asked his new born again pastor some questions about Jesus and the dinosaurs. He was already a big science freak, and he was not able to reconcile dinosaurs with the young Earth creation story of the born-again christian church that his mother chose. He slowly moved away from Christianity and moved towards an agnostic deist view for about 7 years.
“I kept explaining my god away with something I learned scientifically. As I understood the dinosaurs and evolution as a kid I’d say well Jesus and God are still real but we evolved and God just put life here. Of course you can’t do this. Either the Bible is true or it’s not. I was just making up my own version of God, just like all the theists I talk to. We’re all the same, we all want to believe, some of us for different reasons. But for the most part if you are forced to go to Church as a child the effects fear placed in you will be felt for years after you walk out the doors for the last time. I clung to that Evolution/Dinosaur God for several years, I had to be late teens. Until I bumped into Jake, and he helped me realize that I was simply using a god to explain that which I don’t know. Science can only lead us so far. As a fan of science I know it’s safe to have a reasonable expectation that science will continue to answer more questions about where we come from. I also have a reasonable expectation that a god wont be needed to explain any of it.” – Brian Sapient
Brian Sapient is not his real name. He changed his real name after recieving death threats from Christians. The first death threat that he can recall came in 2001. He was posting on a now defunct internet message board, making arguments against God and arguing about the lack of evidence for God. When he first came online to explore religion he had used his real name as he had nothing to fear by using it as an agnostic deist (his position in the late 90’s). A Christian called Sapient on the phone and said, “Now that you’ve proven there is no god, I have no reason not to kill you.” That was in the year 1999. [source: interview conducted by Malarick with Sapient]
The Blasphemy Challenge
Brian Sapient has spoken out extensively against religion on his podcast and on his blog. He is responsible for creating projects such as the Blasphemy Challenge. The Blasphemy Challenge, started in December 2006, an Internet-based project which aimed to get atheists to come out and declare themselves as atheists. The challenge asks atheists to submit videos to the website YouTube, in which they record themselves blaspheming or denying the existence of the Holy Spirit. The Blasphemy Challenge videos have had a total of over 1 million views and has been covered by many national news outlets.
Sapient cited Mark 3:28-29 and Matthew 12:30-32 in which the Bible says that blasphemy of the holy spirit is an unforgivable sin. Thus, users who took the challenge saw themselves as crossing a point of no return to prove that they truly did not believe in the biblical God and would “accept the consequences.” They wanted to show just how sure they were that God didn’t exist. The first 1,001 users who took the challenge received a DVD of Flemming’s documentary film The God Who Wasn’t There
. Magician Penn Jillette, author Christopher Hitchens, philosopher Daniel Dennett, and Raëlism founder Raël participated in the project. It was also the first video of comedian and Internet personality Pat Condell.
The Way of the Master Debate
Brian Sapient and Kelly O’Connor, members of the RRS, participated in a debate with representatives from The Way of the Master, actor and evangelical Christian Kirk Cameron, and his colleague Ray Comfort, at Calvary Baptist Church in Manhattan on May 5, 2007. Nightline aired the debate online and included a short two-segment summary on its May 9 broadcast. At issue was the existence of God. Nightline correspondent Martin Bashir served as moderator at the event.
Cameron and Comfort challenged the Rational Response Squad to the debate. They claimed that they could prove the existence of God scientifically without using the Bible, though Comfort does refer to the Bible when he participates in such discussions, and did so during the May 5 debate. In a May 8, 2007 clarification, Comfort stated that he would cease using the qualifier “without mentioning faith or the Bible” from his claims to avoid misunderstandings.
During the debate, both sides employed and responded to arguments for God’s existence, including the cosmological argument and Pascal’s Wager. The debate also entered topics outside of science, including history, and the question of connections between religion and morality. RationalWiki
Sapient Recieves Honorary PhD
In November of 2010, Brian Sapient was awarded an honorary PhD as a Doctor of Disbelief from Logidea University
. Richard McCargar says about Brian…
Mr. Sapient is perhaps responsible for more motivated activist atheists than almost any other single individual in America.
Who among us can forget watching Brian and Kelly O’Connor prove that Ray “the Way of the Master” Comfort was just another ill-informed religious banana-peeling huckster on national broadcast TV? That was a first, and remains a classic. The religious sat up and took notice. Times had changed. Atheists were now well prepared, well spoken and well received by a previously hidden segment of society.
This single action gave voice and hope to countless atheists that the time for change had arrived. We could be public, proud and assert our rights.During 2005, Brian helped launch a mock War on Christmas responding to Fox News “War on Christmas” propaganda. Brilliant use of the tools they made available. Wondeful example of turning lemons into lemonade.
Brian has been to the mountain, or in this case, the mountain came to Brian! October of 2006 Brian hosted Richard Dawkins in his home for a roundtable discussion. Brian teamed with Brian Flemming, director of “The God who wasn’t there” to produce the infamous and influential Blasphemy Challenge on YouTube. The video recently surpassed the 1 Million view mark. Considering the limited demographic, that is spectacular!
Few realized the coming transformation of a generation. It didn’t happen by accident.The Rational Response Squad came to the defense of over 20 atheists who had videos removed from youtube due to false copyright infringement claims submitted by Kent Hovind’s Creation Science Evangelism Ministries. The RRS account was suspended as a result and reinstated within one week by YouTube.
Large portions of information about Brian Sapient was taken from the Rational Response Squad wikipedia article.