Friday, May 1, 2009

Some Tips

Here is some advice to make Christians act, well, more Christian when dealing with atheists. Another ten commandments, as it were. When dealing with atheists thou shalt not do these things. Do you think that any of them will pay any attention?

From Ten Tips for Christian Evangelists (Courtesy of Atheists) by Hemant Mehta:

5. Don’t talk about Jesus like he’s part of the conversation.

The people you’re talking to don’t share your beliefs, so they’re not going to be thrilled to hear that Jesus is listening in on their thoughts and sending messages or providing inspiration to the person talking to them.

This makes you come off as either crazy or… well, mostly crazy. I get that you actually believe that Jesus is alive and God is everywhere and all-knowing, but to non-Christians, he’s just an imaginary friend of yours, and so telling us to listen for his voice in our hearts is creepy.

6. Don’t plant literature.

We’re already stuck with Bibles in hotel rooms (thanks for that, Gideons and pushover hotels!). There’s no need to hide tracts inside books at the bookstore or leave those horrible fake $20 bill pamphlets with (or instead of) the tip at a restaurant. They don’t work. They’re impersonal, often accusatory, and extremely classless. If someone isn’t already a Christian, a pamphlet isn’t going to change that.
8. Don’t assume that we have “God-shaped holes in our hearts” and try to get us to admit it.

I certainly think that religion helps meet various psychological needs, and there are plenty of warm, fuzzy feelings (and deeper emotional experiences as well) that come along with it. But just because you have a proverbial hole-in-your-heart that only Jesus can fill doesn’t mean that all of us do.

Trying to convince us that our lives suck or are incomplete without God isn’t going to work. Stop insulting us and implying that we’re secretly miserable. We’re getting along just fine without any gods, so this line of strategy won’t work.

9. Don’t compare your past experiences to our present.

I cannot count the number of times I’ve heard Christians enthusiastically share their stories of horrible, sinful lives that left them feeling empty and lonely.

These “sinful” lives usually consisted of such shockers as swearing, going to R-rated movies, looking at porn, drinking, partying, smoking, and occasionally doing drugs. Oh — and having premarital sex.

The thing is, maybe these things made you feel guilty or empty; maybe you developed addictions or other problems relating to these activities, and maybe you’re much happier now that you don’t do them. That’s great. But it doesn’t mean that hearing your story is going to shock us or convince us to change our ways. There is such a thing as a healthy balance, and it can include some (or maybe all) of those “vices.”

This tactic seems especially silly when different Christians groups and denominations can’t seem to decide what’s sinful and what’s not.

10. Don’t talk down to us, as if we’re just not understanding something perfectly obvious.

Many of us have read the Bible, prayed, attended church for years, and still ended up as atheists. There’s no magic bullet that converts people to Christianity. Whatever experience led you to believe probably happened on a pretty personal level. We haven’t witnessed anything miraculous or heard any voices, and we don’t see anything self-evident about God in nature or humanity. So if you insist on trying to save us, at least familiarize yourself with our perspective before jumping in, because assuming we’re simply uninformed or dumb is only going to hurt your chances.
I singled out these five of the ten tips because I have had similar thoughts on these issues for many years.

It is annoying and even insulting to an atheist to have Jesus become a part of a conversation or greeting when he has nothing to do with the topic at hand.

It pisses me off that God is all over the place. No, I suddenly did not start to believe in God. What I mean by God being all over the place is that he is on our money, in our mottos, our Pledge of Allegiance, our swearing in ceremonies, at the end of Presidential speeches, etc. I find all of these things to be ridiculous and insulting, as well as illegal. (I know that the courts don't agree with me on the illegal part. However, they've been wrong before, you know.) And yes, God's book is in my hotel room, even though I didn’t ask for it, and I don’t want it there.

I would be miserable if I tried to be religious. It’s not the other way around. I would always know that I was lying to myself if I pretended to believe in God. I allow you your belief, please allow me my non-belief. Let’s leave it at that. The problems come when you try to convert me. The problems come when you try to inject your beliefs into the public dialog and pretend that they are facts. I am not trying to stop you from believing. I just think that you are being stupid by believing. I think that you are being stupid giving your money away. I think you are being stupid when you elect George W. Bush because of his values.

I don’t need God to make me be a moral person. I don’t need to be born again. There is nothing wrong with me in that department. I’ve got plenty of other flaws that need working on, and no imaginary monarch (good Lord!) is going to help me there. Oh, and by the way, it would be a little bit easier to even think about believing in God if he himself was a little bit more moral. Not to mention his sexually abusive priests.

Yes! Please don’t talk down to us. I've been down the religious road. I reject it. I’ve read (and still do read) chunks of the Bible. It hasn’t made me believe. If God’s own words don’t make me believe, why are you so arrogant to think that you have something to add?

Not all religious people are arrogant and rude. It’s just that the ones who are arrogant and rude happen to be especially so. I find it most irritating to have someone place their need to convert me above my existence as a fellow human being. If you are going to try to convert me, you should, at the very least, try to get to know me first.

Religious people seem to be the least empathic people on the planet. It is unfortunate that there are so many of them.

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