Should We Attempt to Convert Others?


A lot of people have different beliefs about this. I know Christians who believe that it is the duty of any good Christian to convert others, because otherwise the person will go to hell and it is not right to enjoy heaven when you know that you didn’t do all you can to convert others. As annoying as these people can be, I can’t help but feel some level of respect for them. They are doing what they believe is right, and they truly want what is best for the people that they are trying to convert.

Other Christians that I know believe that it is not their right to tell others what to believe, so they should not attempt to convert others. They also tend to be the type that believes that non-Christians aren’t necessarily destined for hell. I can understand their view too. Like I said before, the converting type tends to be more annoying, and people do have the right to believe what they want (though we don’t always have the right to act on said beliefs). I also like this version of the Christian god a lot better. But this version doesn’t seem to fit the biblical description as well as the god that will send non-believers to hell does.

The atheists that I know have a similar debate. Some atheists believe that we should go out and convert others. This view tends to come from the belief that religion is harmful. If we convince people that there is no god(s), then we can eventually get rid of religion and the abuses that come with it.

The atheists that disagree with conversion tend to have, again, a live and let live mentality. They tend to feel that it is not their right to tell people what to believe and only worry about religion when someone causes harm in the name of their religion.

Personally, I don’t know which side I agree with most. I agree that institutionalized religion has done a lot of harm, and I agree that a lot of religious people have done terrible things in the name of religion. But I also believe that most religious people have not caused harm and never will. I don’t believe that getting rid of religion will solve the problem either. If religion disappears, then people will just find other ways to convince people to do immoral things, and they will find other ways to excuse their actions. The people who want to do harm will continue to do so, they’ll just do it in the name of something else. So, on the one hand, I understand the wish to convert people. But on the other hand, I fear it’ll do more harm than good.

What are your thoughts on the issue? Why should we go out to convert people? Why should we not?

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118 responses to “Should We Attempt to Convert Others?

  • richardastauch

    With all respect, I don’t know any Evangelicals who are “trying to convert” anyone. We would say, “If I converted anyone, I would have to question their conversion.” The point isn’t what I can do to you, or do for you. It isn’t even what God can do to, or for you. It is whether you will continue to live as though you’re a self-contained being, inside your skin, all alone in the universe, bumping into others who are just as alone in their skin.
    All we do is tell you that, if there is anything about your life that you would rather not think about, because it’s too disgusting/painful/annoying, then you don’t have to think of Eternal Life as a whole lot more of the same.
    That’s your choice.
    BTW, Congratulations on a thought-provoking post!
    Richard

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  • vallihi11572

    Humans are a small part of creation but blessed with the creator with a bountiful planet. Our actions speak louder than our words. All religions seek meaning and purpose for those of us, who enjoy this earth.
    Love one another.
    Love the Creator in the best way you can.
    Judge not, lest you be judged.

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  • arielledawn

    Personally, I think people need to lead by example, by they Christian or atheist, Jew or Muslim. Perhaps that is a Christian take on things (I grew up Catholic), but I don’t think trying to convert people or convince them they are wrong is what God wanted anyway. If you truly believe in your religion (or atheism), and you truly believe that you are living a good life of kindness, then living that way and showing others what that life and dedication means is one thousand times more powerful than anything your words can say. And this has the added bonus of less stress, rejection, and negativity when trying to convert another through discussion and debate. And it will lead to a more peaceful life for everyone.

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    • sitaatis

      Your assumption is that there is no single True God and that we need only live “a good life”. The Old Testament shows again and again that no matter how faithful someone is, or how hard they try, they will still mess up and sin (look at the life of King David).

      Romans 6:23 tells us “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” In Matthew 7:13-14 Jesus tells us there is a Way to salvation, and all roads do not lead there.

      If you do not believe in One True God, atheist or otherwise, the only conclusion MUST be that what we do does not matter. Good or evil, it’s all just an artificial construction of our own, truth is subjective to the individual person and it’s all going to end in death anyway.

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      • hessianwithteeth

        Asserting that you cannot be good without god is not proof that your claim is true. Rather than just asserting that only certain theists can have morality, why don’t you prove it? What is your argument? Where is your evidence?

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        • sitaatis

          The questions that you are asking have been asked, and answered, time and again throughout history. I encourage you to study theology and the Bible with those who have spent their lives doing so. I cannot educate you, nor do I have time for debate, within this limited forum. I suggest taking Old and New Testament classes at a local College, as well as studying the works of theologians such as Athanasius, Augustine, Thomas Aquinas, Karl Barth, John Calvin and Martin Luther.

          Most importantly though, I encourage you to pray for God to reveal the truth to you. I hope that you find your answers, I’ll be praying for you. God bless.

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          • hessianwithteeth

            The statements that you have made have been debunked time and again throughout history. I encourage you to read psychology, biology, and history in relation to peoples behaviours and motivations for doing good. There are a number of studies out there directed at why we do good, and there are even books showing why we don’t need god to be good. Theology begins with the assumption that god exists and is necessary for us to be good. Why don’t you try looking at something that looks for the truth, rather than only reading those works dedicated to proving an assumption?

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          • sitaatis

            I think you misunderstand me friend, I did not say it was impossible for us to do good without God (although in my personal opinion I believe God to be the source of all that is good and that evil is, rather than another thing in essence, the absence of good and God), rather that it is impossible to be WHOLLY good. For there has never lived a person, aside from Christ Jesus, who has been without sin.

            Do you believe that anyone could live their life without ever doing a single wrong act? From childhood we are selfish, greedy, hateful, violent; and as I said before the punishment for sin is death. (or rather, turning away from the source of life, God, is equal to turning towards the absence of life, death.)

            But all of this is completely subjective according to what you believe is truth. The Enlightenment and Post-Enlightenment would have us believe there is no fundamental truth, at which point you are left with my original argument. I’m not trying to change your mind, only offer what truth I know. Take it or leave it.

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      • sitaatis

        I wanted to clarify my previous tone, since it is often times difficult to understand in these forums. I in no way meant to insult or offend, nor imply anything demeaning about you or anyone else. I genuinely wish to be of help and hope that you find your answers.

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  • sitaatis

    John 14:6 is why Christians try to “convert” others. “Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.'”

    However, a relationship with God is not the same thing as “converting” to a man made religion. No one can say any other person is going to hell for anything they have done (or not done) because we are saved by grace through faith and no one can know another’s heart. Jesus said “seek and you shall find”, and I believe God will not lose any who seek Him.

    That being said, what a Christian should be doing is not so much “converting” as being a testimony in our lives, words and actions, as well as guides.

    When I was atheist I had a lot of misconceptions based on rumor and ignorance, but after God brought me in to Himself I was able to study the truth and see that I had been lead astray by the world because I had no one to teach me, no one to guide me.

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  • george gaffga

    Well, some wonderful comments here and I should like to add mine, though they be perhaps not so wonderful. The early Christians, disciples, apprentices were so in love with Jesus that they couldn’t help but to share that good news with others even as they helped people in the world’s rather miserable conditions. The earliest Christians found themselves accused at time of upsetting the economic order of Rome by caring for the children and old people who were abandoned by their families for not being of worth to Roman society. We have had 2000 years of history to mess up that early witness to the love of God expressed so unselfishly in Jesus Christ, his Son.
    So people look back on some of the history of the Christian church and rightfully are suspicious. But….look at Jesus. See his life and his love and I suspect we can find nothing but pure love and a willingness to open the eyes of all people to the love of God, not arrogantly but inclusively because without Jesus it is really hard to know God. Jesus once said that if we want to know God just look at Jesus. All the character of God is in Christ.
    That’s Good News to be shared with all people. Jesus, a Jew sharing good news with Jews and Gentiles that God is so in love with them. That kind of love expressed through Christ is hard to resist. For anybody.
    Sorry for any misspellings but I wanted to get this out sooner than later.
    Thanks to the blogger who opened up this forum.
    george

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  • praisehimalways

    Thank for following my blog. I read most of the comments here and your article. Nicely written, provocative and enticing. However, I try not to get into these discussions regarding religion or politics. We all have an opinion, I usually go by what I have experienced and investigated. I have experienced a lot. When I look back on my life I can see the hand of God was intertwined all around me. Sure I had many bad experiences, yes they could have been much worse experiences. But it was me and my choices that put me there. It was Gods hand that ever so slowly and gently carried me through all the junk and trials in my life. As I said, things could have been much worse. As I got older and realized that I had to trust God and give up the “I” control my life and situations my eyes opened more and more. Losing everything, living through the pain of it all brought me to my knees. That’s what it took.Then He found me, hurt, bruised, a mess and He healed me.I learned we have choices: Heaven or Hell. I choose Heaven. The straight and narrow road.

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  • betsyborchardt

    Also, I want to thank you for stopping by my blog and for following my blog posting..
    Betsy

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  • betsyborchardt

    An intrinsic part of a Christian’s life is sharing the gospel of who God is and what He has done for him or her. God is our Creator. All life revolves around Him and His purposes for us. He seeks to have a personal relationship with each human. Those who have experienced the wonder of this relationship and benefited from knowing they are important to God, that He knows what’s best for us, and has even left us a guide book, the Bible, naturally want to share this God with others. Those who have developed a love for others want them to receive the mental, emotional, spiritual, and even physical benefits derived from living a life close to God and in touch with His great wisdom.

    There is no other pure reason for converting others to Christianity than love—a love that is born of God, transferred to us and seeks not merely to transform a person, but to offer him or her a marvelous experience of knowing God and serving others in this life, then sharing eternity with God and others who have chosen to be with Him in the life hereafter.

    If one’s experience of the gospel is shared with non-Christians in a way that is not self-seeking but filled with tender love, then it is the most important action one can take in his or her life. Yes, it is a good thing.

    Betsy

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  • tnk1250

    This was a very interesting perspective and I appreciate you presenting the questions at the end.

    The problem with all the different faith systems is that they are built on religions created by the creation. If a belief system is built upon the wisdom of a man then it will not carry a man beyond the physical world and therefore has no eternal value. The only true faith is in the Creator who has sacrificed all to lift man beyond this world and beyond the pit of the next to His Kingdom of love, peace and joy.

    Man’s problem from the beginning is that by his sin, disobedience to God’s Word, he has broken his relationship with God. God’s work from the beginning is to restore the relationship of man to Him. (2 Corinthians 5:18) God has made it clear from the beginning that death reigns in sin but God’s grace reigns in righteousness.(Romans 5:21) The cost of sin must be paid before a man can enter into the gates of Heaven. No man can live a life free from sin. (Romans 3:23) God sent His Son Jesus to live a righteous life and pay the cost of the sins of the world. All a man has to do is accept God’s free gift of salvation though the blood sacrifice of His Son Jesus and he will be saved from the wrath of God. This is the truth and it is the only truth and it is only found in God’s Word.

    Now with that being said I will answer both your question with one answer. The Christian who follows Jesus Christ has been given a Great Commission. “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:19-20) Basically said we are to share the gospel message to every ear that will hear. That is all a Christian is to do in the work of saving souls from the condemnation to come. The Christian cannot and never will be able to convert a soul for the Glory of God the Father. It is the one who hears that must repent.
    The Christian is the sower of the seed of God’s truth into the hearts of men. It is the Christian that can be used of God to water the seed that it might grow. But is God and only God that causes the increase in growth. (1 Corinthians 3:6) God in His foreknowledge knows the heart of men and will draw the willing unto His Son that they might be saved. (John 6:44) This is the mission of the Christian to share the gospel message that God can restore the repentant soul to a right relationship with Him. Through the love of God that is given to each Christian he is bound to express his concern for the spiritual welfare of every lost soul and invite them to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ.

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  • smdave1940

    Why as to one prefer some thing. Say an eatable or a clothing or a color. It is for pleasure of its own. There need not be any logic. Off course, a logic can be framed in support of one’s liking. The ultimate reason is the one’s liking. Now as for God, Soul and the belief on that, most people go by liking, though it is not a subject of liking. But in democracy it is permitted to like illogical belief.
    Read more at NOT EVEN TWO. ONE AND ONE ONLY
    http://treenetram.wordpress.com/2012/05/08/547/
    and oblige with your valuable comments.

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  • Blake O'Donnell

    I like your blog post about whether or not it is correct to convert others. It brings up many interesting issues. As a Christian, I have never tried to convert someone. I only try to lift those up that need encouragement. I’m not opposed to those that try to convert others. I think the sharing of different ideas and opinions is very important.

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  • themickeyknox77

    Isn’t it 2014?

    Recruiting for religion is just like being a fantasy football zealot. There are those who play and feel like the only reason any sane person wouldn’t enjoy it is because that person doesn’t know how great it is. Or they are gay. Or a woman. Unless they are a gay woman, then they should get it.

    It can certainly be taxing, as an adult, to have to say: “No Sir, I don’t want to play Mormons with you today – I have a job and a family.” or “Thanks but I’d just like my hamburger meal please, I don’t have time to be saved right now.”

    There are those that would pity the condemned and feel it is their duty to save them.. and in some 3rd world countries I’m told there are still people who haven’t heard of Jesus Christ.

    I live in middle America, I can throw one rock and hit 8 churches from my back yard. All the info is there – if I go to hell it’s my own fault.

    I absolve all religions from survivor’s guilt for us non-theistic folks 🙂

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  • onecalled3

    “If religion disappears, then people will just find other ways to convince people to do immoral things, and they will find other ways to excuse their actions. The people who want to do harm will continue to do so, they’ll just do it in the name of something else.”

    THIS. Totally this. So often I hear the straw man “no one ever killed in the name of no god,” but that totally ignores the fact that plenty people kill over jealousy, political affiliation, greed, power, or just plain hating someone. I feel sorry for anyone who thinks they can bring about utopia just by abolishing religion.

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  • George Davis

    I think it’s important to remember that institutionalized religions have also done a lot of good and that individuals have done many great things because of their religious beliefs. Religious people who are part of a faith community are generally happier.

    So I don’t think there’s any reason it would help the world to convert everyone to atheism.

    That said, I think conversion is a tricky question in general. At a minimum, we should not hide our beliefs, whether we are religious or not. I don’t like the idea of going door-to-door to talk to people, although I understand why some people think they need to do it to save someone’s soul. I do think it’s good to write about these issues so that anyone who is interested can read about them.

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  • shariepatty

    I believe we should each live our own lives well. A life well lived will speak loudly. When I see a person who has suffered much live a life of joy, hope and compassion toward self and others I am drawn to that person and want to know the reason for the joy in their days. Be well

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  • BroadBlogs

    I agree with this:

    If religion disappears, then people will just find other ways to convince people to do immoral things, and they will find other ways to excuse their actions.

    I’m not interested in “converting others” but I don’t have a problem with people communicating their beliefs, because what helps one person might help another.

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  • R.Ambrose

    You’ve made some good points here. In terms of most religious people not harming others with their beliefs, I would tend to disagree– at least to a certain extent. Sam Harris makes an excellent point about this in his Letter to a Christian Nation. The fundamentalists who have worked tirelessly to ensure stem cell research remains illegal are legitimately harming others. Those stem cells come from few day old embryos– blastocysts, really– that possess no feelings, no soul, and no semblance of humanity. Stem cells, on the other hand, can help save the lives of potentially millions of people, as stem cells are able to replicate and repair or possibly replace damaged cells. The very cure for cancer could potentially lie in the use of stem cells. As Harris notes, morality is an issue of happiness and suffering. Are we more concerned about the suffering of a three day old blastocyst than we are about a little girl dying from leukemia? How about gay marriage? How does gay marriage hurt anyone, really? I’m a married straight guy and I see only pain coming from this denial of rights. That seems immoral to me. Do you see where I’m coming from? I think religion, especially in its most conservative forms, is anything but benign.

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    • hessianwithteeth

      When I talked about most religious people not causing harm, I was referring to the moderates. Most religious people are not fundamentalists. I believe Harris has also said that moderates do harm by not speaking out against the extremists, however, I know a number of moderates who do actively speak out against the extremists, so I believe that that claim is Harris’s personal bias. But I’m no fan of Harris’s to begin with, so I may have misread his point.

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      • R.Ambrose

        First, I want to say I appreciate your blog. Second, I love these discussions and I am in no way trying to incite a counterproductive word-brawl.

        You’re absolutely right. There are indeed moderates who speak out against fundamentalists. And fundamentalists obviously tend to hold more deleterious beliefs than do moderates. In some sense, though, moderates are still complicit in the actions of fundamentalists, if only because they fall under the same umbrella (Christianity as a whole). However, I really do see the problems with this sentiment. It’s like blaming all Muslims for the actions of radical Islamists.

        Yet, there exists something in both religions that lends itself toward extremism. This alone suggests a root problem that can become systemic in both religions. And that is why I have difficulty discerning the differences between moderates and fundamentalists. It’s akin to saying, “yeah, I was a member of the Nazi party, but I never bought into the anti-Semitic rhetoric.” (Was that an extreme example? Maybe…)

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  • wmcohio

    As a Christian, I think it is my duty to share the gospel with others. I like to ask people what they believe. It’s about asking people questions to try to transition the conversation to Jesus. The last time I tried though the guy was just messing with my head not being serious. Even if you’re Atheist, at least answer our questions.

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  • InsideOut

    Haha. I totally agree with the views you xpressed in this piece…..conflict of opinion. I will be posting a piece on this topic during the week and am sure you wil find interesting firsthand example of what can happen when people take God more seriously than HE has asked them to……

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  • hero4thought

    Thank you for your reply, Kevin. You strike me as very sincere and thoughtful in your response. At one point in time I would have been quoting Jeremiah 29:11-13 and submitting the same kind of challenge to seek God with all of one’s heart! There is a beauty and attractiveness to statements that display a kind of intimacy with God. I acknowledge that even in my unbelief.

    The problem that has arisen for me and many others that have dissented from Christianity is not that we didn’t once think that we were intimate with God, rather it is that this perceived intimacy was a subjective emotional experience that was fed by false presumptions. In other words, these mystical experiences that I once had were ascribed to God and yet I had no reason to actually draw this connection. Both religious and nonreligious people from all walks of life have these kinds of experiences and therefore it can be chalked up to being common to human experience. It is a way in which our brains and bodies reply to certain stimuli. In example: meditation, prayer, profound concepts and ideas, intimacy with other people etc..

    I never heard an audible voice, saw a vision or an angel. I learned that the church I was involved in prayed for supernatural healing and not once over about 8 years did I have any reason to believe that it actually took place for anyone. My Pastor boasted of many supernatural healings that he had seen firsthand in the past. Tumors shrinking before his eyes, fire from God filling a dark basement that we was staying in. Things of that nature.

    The emptiness of these claims became more and more apparent to me as the years went by. People who claimed to be receiving prophetic words from God would adopt a linguistic tone that was just like the King James Version Bible that they read from. In some cases they were just paraphrased verses or phrases that could be found in Isaiah, Jeremiah and the Psalms mixed with their own words. I find it kind of humorous actually.

    My contention to anyone is that truth is not vague, it is tangible. If a God wanted to speak to me He would, but as of yet there has been nothing to bridge the gap between faith and reason. In my opinion faith is a risky thing to ask of someone because there is always reasonable doubt to be had apart from reason. Faith seems to demonstrate a probability that what is being stated or offered very well could be wrong.

    Your request to seek God is not altogether unfounded if such a being is real. In this natural world we have deduced some of the purest ways to both reason and test the evidence. It is in this arena that we can be optimistic about getting to the bottom of what truth actually is. As of right now my opinion is that faith in a god or gods is not based out of objective reality. It is not apparent that there is any such God present in the world.

    Take care

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  • hero4thought

    Thanks for your well thought out post. While I do agree that evil people will continue to do evil things regardless of what they believe, I do wonder how many otherwise good natured individuals have succumbed to moral atrocities because of a type of Divine Command mentality? There are some fundamentalist groups that believe that God is still speaking to them through visions, dreams, or an audible voice. In Christianity and Islam for instance, It is my belief that these delusions are often fostered by certain passages in the Bible or the Koran.

    Some of these folks may view themselves as a modern prophet that is called to go through with sacrificing their first born son for the sake of righteousness, as was almost the case for Abraham and his son Isaac. Others may draw inspiration from passages that encourage stoning people to death for unbelief. We know that this does happen among a small segment of people in the world. It is this kind of delusion that should first be eradicated, but it is also probably one of the hardest types of thinking to address.

    How does one even attempt to reason with someone who has a martyr mentality for their faith? It can be done for some, but even then it may often take years of containment and counseling. The optimist in me would like to imagine a world in which a large segment of humanity could come to a consensus on what is fueling all of the war, strife, and racism in an otherwise age of scientific breakthrough and moral enlightenment.

    At the core of many even peaceful religions is a demand for loyalty to an idea or deity that will surely keep humanity still divided and barred from any kind of negotiation for change. Moral progress continues to be hindered by primitive superstition all over the world. I tend to lean toward the idea that conversion would do our world more good than harm, but we must have a vision for people to grasp that will spur them toward progress, unity, and a higher moral framework. It is not as if one’s culture cannot still be highly prized, but hopefully a vision for free-thought and abandonment of delusion becomes an attractive springboard toward uniting people of all races and former creeds to work together in promoting peace.

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    • kevingdrendel

      I am a believer as you know. You liked my blog. Thank you. Your blog is very thoughtful, well written and insightful. You have spent a great deal of time and effort to read and write. My thought is this, and I do not mean this in any way but with love and humility. I am no better than you, certainly no smarter than you.

      It occurs to me that you given great effort to the task of not understanding the Bible. I think I get it: kind of a scientific approach – subject it to criticism and see if it holds up. I actually admire that, but I don’t think it will lead you anywhere except for where you are now. I only say this because I think you are seeker. I can see it between the lines. God knows your heart. I know you don’t believe, but stay with me a moment.

      I took a different approach. When I went to college, I had lived a pretty self destructive, wild life, and somehow survived it. I was empty though. I was determined to find truth, whatever it happened to be. I started with philosophy. I also searched the world religions. I didn’t expect to find it in the Bible or the God of the Bible.

      Early on I considered science as the way to test and prove ultimate truth, but I also realized early on that I was not likely to find it there because the Universe is so extremely vast, and we are so infinitesimal. Sure we are pretty smart, but I knew there would be gaps, large gaps, chasms in our knowledge.

      I concluded that, if there is a Creator of the universe, a Rational Being, He (She) would have to reveal Himself to us. We could never reach the “place” where such a God is or have the ability to get our arms around (mind around) such a God. I heard one professor try to reason ala Thomas Aquinas to establish the proof of God, and I was unimpressed. One professor, who was argued to be the smartest man on campus, killed himself when I was a sophomore. The rumor was that this professor (of logic and philosophy) finally figured out there was no God.

      I was open to trying to understand the world religions so I approached them differently than you. I reserved judgment. I just tried to understand the beliefs of each religion. My professor had a Christian upbringing but he had rejected any sense that there is only one way to God/truth.

      Like I said, I didn’t expect to find what I was looking for in Christianity. I “tried on” the different religious beliefs. I don’t have time to go into the whole story. It is a long one!

      I just wanted to let you know that I am impressed with your blog, but if you really want to test whether God exists, seek Him and see if He shows up. Be well.

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  • havefaith007

    Hmmmm….Let me think…

    When it comes to conversion I believe that it’s not up to us, Christians, to convert people. That is totally up to the Holy Spirit. All we do is share our beliefs and the information we have with others when opportunity comes our way. If we remember to pray before we tell others about the love and grace of Jesus Christ, then our words will be beneficial to our listeners and the Holy Spirit will use what we have said to help them. However, if we don’t pray and try to do it on our own, people will not be blessed by our words and may feel burdened or abused by what we tell them. And sometimes it’s not our words but our actions that tell the love of Jesus.
    Anyway, that’s what I believe conversion is.

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  • ronbeastly

    Remember that most civil rights activists over the last few hundred years were not only deeply religious but their religion was the primary inspiration for the work they did. So If someone believes that removing religion will bring a perfect world, that certainly stands as good evidence against it!

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  • vagabondurges

    Reminds me of this story: http://www.thisamericanlife.org/radio-archives/episode/304/heretics
    At the end of the day, I see both sides: organized religions on the whole are argueably the single greatest impediment to human peace and prosperity, buuut they can provide an awful lot of comfort and meaning for people, and so on.
    Personally, my spirituality wants to come from within myself, not from some dude wearing robes and the communal misdeeds of a multitude, but that’s just me. And the fact that I can make that decision for myself, just as everyone should, is of the utmost importance. So vis-a-vis missionaries, personally I’d say they should go help people, and make info about their beliefs available for those who are interested, but to try and push your faith into someone else’s life/mind/soul is a crime of the highest order, on a higher plane, if not the physical one.

    And good on you for asking the question!

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  • talkingwater

    I work with people of many different Religions and with people that are Atheist with releasing emotional issues through energy work. I explain it through either science or spiritual ways. I work within the persons belief system. What I have found is I do my best to get the people to embrace their personal belief, no matter what it is. If there is conflict within them and their belief we work to eliminate that conflict within. Some realize maybe their choice in religion is not the right one and they move from that to another.It may still be within the same culture or it may switch to a completely different one.

    It is ingrained in the soul. People are always talking about converting like those do not have a choice. They do. There is no converting. It is the extreme that is the issue and that is where it gets turned off for many people. BUT that is also something that plays a big par for many,

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  • I Won’t Try to Convert You . . . Because I Can’t | The Unexpected Pastor

    […] the intriguing posts I read on hessianwithteeth’s blog was one called “Should We Attempt to Convert Others?”  I found it a balanced piece that was fair to both Christians and […]

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  • sachemspeaks

    People (Christians) that try to convert others to anything do not know the bible, if they do, they do not believe that their god allowed a human like body of their god (Son of God) to die a horrible death that ended on the cross taking our sins with that body back to god, this is why this god body (Son of God) said (Afikomen) it is finished?
    (AH-vee beh-YAHD-kha ahf-KEED RUKH-ee) Father into your hands I commend my spirit.
    When God (Kiehtan) said anything it must be so!

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  • pastordavesimpson

    I believe what happens when we try to “convert” other people is that they become commodities, simply objects of our perceived will and overestimated powers of persuasion. Whether Christian or Atheist, entering into communication with someone simply to convert them is the antithesis of relationship.

    Rather than trying to convert people with other beliefs (or non-belief), how about if we try to get to know them. Try practicing empathy rather than beating them over the head with our right-thinking. Perhaps in the context of relationship they’ll come around to the way of thinking you believe is right, perhaps not. But in the context of relationship we might just learn something about how other people think and feel and believe (or not), and even about ourselves.

    I don’t believe I can convert anyone, anyway. I don’t have that power over other folks. Once I remove that fallacy from my interactions with others, especially unChristians, then I can have actual relationships with them.

    One of the reasons I was an agnostic for so long before I embraced Christianity was the in-your-face “Christians” who seemed to be only interested in me as a trophy for their wall of conversion (metaphorically). Since I’ve been a Christian, I have met atheists with the same unproductive zeal.

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  • susiofanabba

    Well written! 😀 It’s a tricky issue, or whatever, but generally, I try not to convert people. I will sometimes share what I believe, like about abortion or religion, but respect the other’s opinion and hope they do the same. If someone chooses to see things my way, I want it to be because they were inspired by my actions, not that they feel forced.
    Hope that makes sense. Thanks for following my blog! Not sure how you found it, but glad you did.
    Peace! looking forward to reading more

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  • A Little Roadstand

    You are not exactly right when you say, “I know Christians who believe that it is the duty of any good Christian to convert others, because otherwise the person will go to hell and it is not right to enjoy heaven when you know that you didn’t do all you can to convert others.” It may be that way to some Christians, but, ultimately, that should not be why.
    Instead, here’s why: Mark 16:15 “And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.”

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  • Peter James Webster

    Spiritual beliefs are very personal things….who’s right or wrong? Gee….Everybody! As far as converting goes, why? Is it so important to sell others on what we believe? Rocky Road isn’t the only flavor. Christianity isn’t the only religion. I think that Christ would be more open to other philosophies than the churches instituted in his name. One of my favorites of his quotes : “Judge not, lest ye be judged.” lets me know where his head was/is.
    Live the example….that’s true witness and testimony. Preaching is just words. Actions speak louder. Anyway, that’s my opinion.

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  • Maitreya Buddha

    When your belief is right then convert others! Not by force, not with tricks, not with dogma, but by reason. The truth is easy to see for the one who wants to see it. Pure love is found in meditation in solitude. Enlightenment first, then teaching. This is essential.

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    • hessianwithteeth

      How do we know who is right? People with contradictory views will both say that they hold the truth. How can we say who is right, if either is, and who is wrong?

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      • Maitreya Buddha

        The truth can not long be hidden for the one who wants to find it. Think deeply, in many steps! Use logic! Change position of attack! Attack your own views so that any frozen belief you have will be melted! Shape-shift if it helps you! Listen to the wise! Attack the views of wise men with reason too! Trust no one who say they are right or hold the truth, not even me! But when you know with your heart and your mind that what is concluded is very likely to be true and wise then follow that path with conviction!

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  • byrontully

    A really thought-provoking post. My question is this: what if we endeavor to live in such a way that others–seeing our kindness and love in action–approach us and ask how we came to be this way? There’s nothing like a good example to convert people.

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    • Dale F. Coye

      Exactly. This is the message of the famous “Story of the rings” from the Decameron, repeated in G.E. Lessing’s even more famous play Nathan the Wise. In a nutshell the story’s message is: instead of arguing over which is the true religion, and possibly destroying each other in the end, we should all live our lives with kindness and compassion, letting the way we live our lives be our argument.

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  • heavenhappens

    I’m definitely in the – my faith is a private matter – note I say faith not religion! Once anything has a power structure or hierarchy trouble follows!
    Power and the urge to manipulate people are very destructive- they have nothing to do with faith.

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  • 43

    Proselytism or to attempt to convert belief is the function of those invested in their belief, their status quo. It is no different than my blog or others discussing the finer details or sharing experience, we all receive a sense of acceptance when we resonate with something we are interested in at the time. The opposite is true as well and how we measure is based on our perception or our conditioning. It is the depth or profound value and worth the experience provides in resonation. Inspiration and our connection to it inspires us to our potential in service or it does not. It is a measure of time and space only and the resonation subsides when one is not centered in who they are. To read a verse or refer to a bible or other holy book will either provide an experience of inspiration or not, so may the vagaries of life. To say that one must surrender and accept god is misleading as this would imply that one is then in charge of their destiny over their God and can choose freely. What do we use to choose, our intellect? God or the concept of a God is unfathomable for most of our brains. The matter of being atheist is momentary and for now, and maybe for some time or through this carnation, or if one believes they are simply meat and bones how can consciousness rise? To raise consciousness and our frequency into the vibration of love to help us better interact with others and our world in situations is a lesson for this life time. Be still, breathe and live life to your fullest for yourself without harm, in peace and learn deeper levels of love.

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  • Christ Centered Teaching

    Thanks for asking.
    In regards to your use of ,”religion”, the fact is that Islam is 180 degrees the opposite of Christianity.
    Christian belief teaches us that we should love our enemies.
    Jesus exemplified this perfectly on the cross.
    Islam teaches that they should cut of the heads of non-believers.
    And Islam means submit.
    And offences carried out in the name of Chritianity were not truly Christ like.
    Look at Christ in the Bible.
    You won’t find anything wrong with Him.

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    • hessianwithteeth

      Many Muslims would disagree with you. Yes the crime for apostasy is death. But God also calls for the death of people because they worship other gods.
      Some passages that put Jesus’ moral code to question: Matthew 12:34, 15:7, 5:22, 22:18, 23:17, 23:27, 23:33. That’s just one of the four books.

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  • inmytwisteddreams

    As a Christian, I ponder certain theological issues while trying to resolve unanswered questions that I, myself, still have. I’ve tried taking an objective approach in presenting the information I’ve been compelled to present. Rather than attempting to “convert” people to Christianity by forcing ‘this’ issue or ‘that’, I simply try to “spread light” in a way that can be understood by all, so that readers – regardless of faith – are left with something to think about…..

    I replied to your first commentor, asking for constructive criticism in the approach I’m being led to take, and also ask the same of you. If you see something and agree, disagree or don’t get the point I’m trying to make – I’d love some feedback!

    Great blog, what I’ve read so far – good questions! Thanks for taking the time!

    ~Nikki

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  • miraatu

    You must be one of the most refreshing open-minded self-proclaimed atheists I have ever come across, seriously. I like your questions, they seem more genuine than the questions of most people I come across, whether they be religious or atheist. I personally am quite religious, and I am a Muslim. And I do believe in attempting to convert others, but within many limits and conditions. At the end of the day we are taught in Islam that guidance is in God’s hands and not ours. We should make our attempts and leave the rest up to God.

    But what are the parameters of those attempts? Like you mentioned, religious people can be annoying. And force can border onto violations of privacy and freedom.

    I believe your valuable questions call for a post on my new blog! I will write up a post and let you know here.

    Thanks for the follow, by the way. 🙂

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  • chandlerklebs

    “The atheists that I know have a similar debate. Some atheists believe that we should go out and convert others. This view tends to come from the belief that religion is harmful. If we convince people that there is no god(s), then we can eventually get rid of religion and the abuses that come with it.

    The atheists that disagree with conversion tend to have, again, a live and let live mentality. They tend to feel that it is not their right to tell people what to believe and only worry about religion when someone causes harm in the name of their religion.”

    I think that both views are similar. Both of these views are similar in that they fear that religion will be used for harm. I don’t try to disprove the existence of gods because it would be dishonest to attempt such a thing. However I regularly will speak out against Christian teachings that are used to excuse bad things. If their beliefs result in people being killed or raped, it is probably time to do something about it.

    Another issue I wonder about is: Why do Christians disagree about hell or any other beliefs if they are using the same book as a source?

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  • robstroud

    I think it’s quite simple when you boil it down to a question like this: If you have a life preserver and someone is drowning, would you share it with them? Similarly, if you earnestly believe that a person will perish without something you are able to freely share with them, how could you ever justify withholding it? Now, if a nominal or liberal adherent of a faith considers it merely a quality of life “plus” and optional for eternal considerations, that’s a different matter.

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  • Michael Summers

    It is sad that people who claim to follow a teacher who advocated loving others as you love yourselves (making the assumption that people love themselves) and loving God are described as harmful to others. Obviously, there has been harm perpetrated in the name of Christianity, just as Nazi scientists and others throughout history perpetrated harm for the advancement of science. Christianity also encourages reasoned thought and seeks knowledge, but acknowledges that ultimate knowledge is not yet ours. Continue to question; look for the good as well as for the evil.

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  • anchorrock4

    I and my family have be terribly hurt by some people who call themselves Christians. However, I think they are not Christians at all otherwise they wouldn’t do what they do as they are going against what Jesus said they should do: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” I was tempted to walk away from Christianity but I realized that within Christiandom there are also wolves in sheep’s clothing causing the name of the Lord to be blasphemed. But there are also genuine Christians. Just because the person walking on the road is staggering is no reason to blame the road. I have also discovered that I do not have enough faith to be a atheist…
    Love you all…

    Like

    • hessianwithteeth

      Hi there archorrock4 I think I can understand your points, but they fall into the realm of rhetoric (particularly your last two comments) instead of that of meaningful discussion. First what do you mean by a “true Christan.” there are thousand of denominations out there and each takes different parts of the bible to be more relevant than others, and there are group like the Mormons who claim to be part of Christendom though many would disagree. You’ll not only need to claim what sorts of traits define a “True Christan” but also what parts of the bible they adhere too, and which they do not.
      Further why would you say you need faith to be an atheist, particularly when your part of a religion which place faith extremely high on the list. I have no faith in atheists in the sense you seem to be using it, I think it’s true, but that because I have never seen a worth while reason to belief in any of the Gods let alone Yahweh, so I with hold belief in god like I withhold a belief in pixies and unicorns. So long as there isn’t proof of something why would I need any faith at all to not believe in those unsupported claims?

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  • premojas

    Reblogged this on Dear Beloveds and commented:
    “A lot of people have different beliefs about…” anything at all, they are humans, with a different mind/thoughts… 🙂 “the person will go to hell” has to be ‘the person is in hell’ when he believes this kind of things, think about nr 13 (friday) write everything from the past, newspapers, magazines, tv-shows etc to show fr. 13th is horror… and here we have a movie (as proof / to make a lot of people afraid, make a lot of money out of it – nice entertainment.)

    “The atheists that I know have a similar debate.”
    I am not theists, neither atheists, both have something to do with believe. One believes there is, and the other believes there is not.. both not solid proves… I (we) can also write as Bible/Koran etc… Or a very big book, with empty pages… ‘fill in yourself’ “we can eventually get rid of religion and the abuses that come with it.” What does/doesn’t mean it to you? ‘get rid of religion’ is a positive thing! no anymore wodan, odin, etc. The Maya Calendar complete goodbye… (good-buy think movie 2012)

    “What are your thoughts on the issue? Why should we go out to convert people? Why should we not?” Some wanna be zombies, (alive people without souls, needs only brains they are clever… they have most of humanity in their power. / sample… excuses, too much population, grand, grand grand children will have less change, create some disease many dies (in horror, lot of pain) and makes money out of it… (pharmacy) ohhh. “I understand the wish to convert people. But on the other hand, I fear it’ll do more harm than good.” let’s convert change into change other’s mind. Don’t forget : Love you!

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  • neelkanth

    An attempt in the direction of converting others for good is okay but the other way is to have some reconciliation on conflicting issues.
    My thanks for following my blog ‘Avenues’, I too am following you with immediate effect.

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  • hopecarrart

    I live in the deep south, Mississippi. People here feel the need to convert one another from their churches to their own. The Gospel is rooted deep within our society. Criminals break for Church here but return to business on Monday. “God bless you.” is often said when you sneeze and when you check out at the grocery store. Conversion here is not about religion as much as it is about football. People talk openly about their beliefs and agree to disagree with those whose convictions are different, as long as they are Christians. The issues with faith fall mainly within the youth who are searching for a God with all the answers, but will not devote enough time to prayer in order to receive the answer.

    This writer believes that conversion begins with a change of heart, which opens the door to a higher love, one that is non-judgmental and allows us to really Love thy neighbor. Then we can seek to understand each other and find out that maybe we are the ones who need conversion.

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  • tucker4cc

    What if it’s not really about converting someone after all? What if it is about helping someone else get to know the Jesus, the God, who has come to make Himself known to you? And what if it is such a wonderful freedom and relationship, that you want to share it with others because of how He has changed Your life? What if knowing Jesus is better than running downstairs on Christmas morning or the best thing you can imagine? And what if the best part isn’t helping people escape hell (which is a REALLY good thing to escape!) but spending an eternity in the presence of Jesus? What if it’s an invitation? Would you think of it differently then? Just wondering. Hope you all experience the Best adventure of your lifetime and all eternity.

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  • Juliana Lightle

    Thanks for deciding to follow my blog. The Ethiopian saga will continue for a while. It was an adventure of a lifetime.

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  • Juliana Lightle

    Thinking it is ok to even try to convert others is the ultimate form of arrogance.

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  • Luis Josephus

    Although I may not agree with all your perspectives, conclusions and writings, I am open to hearing your viewpoint on religion. Could you place a “Follow my blog” widget on the top of your WordPress site? I would be interested in subscribing to your blog and receiving email notices of any new writings and posts. Thanks.

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  • saevelynjr

    As Christians we have been commanded by Jesus to go and make disciples. We are to proclaim the gospel in “Judea, Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” That being said, we cannot convert anyone. Only the work of the Holy Spirit can change people’s hearts. We are only to warn others of the punishment God will bring about for sin, and to tell them of the mercy and grace that Jesus offers.

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  • Dale F. Coye

    Thanks for following my blog. My mother taught me never to ask what someone’s religion was. Not only was it rude, but it would very likely lead to arguments. I followed that all my life, never talking about religion, until recently when it became clear that religious extremists were endangering not just local populations, but the entire planet. But as others have said, how do you convince someone that the beliefs they’ve held all their lives, and that were taught them by their parents and grandparents are wrong? The answer might be in focusing on what we have in common, no matter what our beliefs. Karen Armstrong’s work has impressed me enormously in this regard. Her Charter for Compassion Movement is what is going to save the world, if anything can. My book “Seven Sacraments for Everyone” is an attempt to build on her work and find that common ground upon which we could build a better world community.

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  • Dale F. Coye

    Reblogged this on Seven Sacraments for Everyone and commented:
    A site with interesting, reasoned discussions on theism and atheism

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  • miller davidge iii

    Interesting post. I am a Christian. I also believe that science explains quite a bit. I think that most atheists stereotype us as being “dogmatic” and ignoring science. Pardon my stereotyping. I’m sorry that you’ve listened to the loonies. They give the reasonable ones of us a bad name. Having said that, I don’t use my faith to beat down someone that doesn’t share it. I can not prove my faith. As an aside, an atheist can’t disprove it or find a valid reason for a belief that there is no “higher power”. Yeppers, both of our systems of belief depend on what we perceive. Who’s to say which is the more valid? I digress.
    The reason I came to this blog was to say “thanks”. You decided to follow my blog. I write from the perspective of a straight “Heretic Christian” trying to convince the world that my “not straight” friend, Z, and my other “not straight” friends are human and deserve the same rights that I expect. When you are trying to change the world, any interaction helps. Following is huge. Again, thanks.
    *editorial, I really don’t want to get into a debate about the relative validity of our different views on faith, or a lack of it. Let’s respect each other’s right to keep their own*

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  • writerwannabe763

    I know this is an older post of yours…but was interested in the topic. Like you, I think it is confusing for other Christians as well. I know some friends who truly believe they must try to ‘convert’ or introduce others to Jesus and Christianity at every and all opportunity.. and for them I think that’s what they should do… as they feel they are called to. I also have at least one friend and fellow blogger who is an atheist.. although lately she is taken an interest in Buddhism. Like you I know that much damage has been done in the name of ‘religion’… but again I agree that they are in the minority…. I myself prefer to speak about my faith and not religion as it is more personal and not based on doctrine. I go to a mainline church here in Canada …Anglican but it is full of beautiful Christian people that love God . My personal attitude… for lack of a better word is that I try to share Christ’s love in the way I treat people .. I certainly don’t want people to go to hell… I do pray for them including my Atheist friend. She knows where I stand and I her….and we agree to disagree on the subject of ‘faith’ or ‘religion’ but we are friends… Christ’s greatest commandment was to love God first and then others… and that’s what I try to do…Having said all that if someone speaks to me about God then I do use the opportunity to share my faith… Diane

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  • Rebecca

    First of all, thanks for the follow to faithsighanddiy.com. It looks like you have a lot of good remarks. The only thing I would add is I believe we need to be careful to push anything on anyone. Our lives should reflect our beliefs and if they do, we will attract people to us. In the course of a normal conversation, we can share our beliefs if appropriate. We should not hit anyone over the head with our beliefs, religious, politicial, or otherwise.

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  • NovaSaber

    Trying to convert specific people who don’t want to listen is being a nuisance, and only really justified if their beliefs are doing serious harm.

    Telling other people about your views in the hope of changing some minds is entirely reasonable.

    A significant number of people belonging to mainstream religions do the first one a lot (door-to-door evangelists, attempts to get their myths taught in schools, and just generally yelling at anyone who doesn’t believe the same thing they do), while atheists (and minority religions for the most part) almost never do that to strangers. The second one is common regardless of what religion or other view is being promoted.
    Religious people who are biased against atheists have a bad habit of treating atheists writing books with confrontational titles or advertising for atheist organizations as the equivalent of religious people harassing others, but it really isn’t; it’s the equivalent of, well, religious books with confrontational titles and signs advertising churches, which is generally not what people mean when say they are annoyed with religious evangelism.

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    • hessianwithteeth

      Very true. I like having conversations with people about what they believe and why. But there is a time and a place. Books are not harassing because you can choose to read them or not. Someone coming to your door, or stopping you on the street, can be harassing.

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  • jordanqwalsh

    First, I want to say thank you for following me, and I am very impressed by the discussion this has generated.
    Second, I disagree on one part of this, and that is this idea that a majority of religious people have not and will not harm anyone. Who is the main block to marriage equality in the United States? There is no reason to argue against homosexuality except from religious standpoint. I call that argument harmful because it prevents people from happiness, makes them feel disgusted by themselves, and often drives them to suicide. I don’t know anyone who is against homosexual marriage that cites reasons other than religion. When religion is not used as a reason, I hear comments like, “It makes me uncomfortable to see two men kissing” or “It’s gross to think about how they have sex.” And, usually, the person comes from a religious background, if he does not claim a religion for himself.
    The question at hand is, I think, is should we try to influence others’ lives with our beliefs or should we leave everyone alone to do as each person pleases, so long as it does not harm anyone else? I want people to leave everyone else alone, but that is not what is happening. Religion, in America, defines our laws, shapes our politicians, dictates where and what we can drink, what days we are allowed to buy cars, and a plethora of other things that should be left to the individual, not the state or the community, to decide. I don’t care what beliefs another person has, as long as they keep it out of my laws and out of my public schools. I don’t think anyone should convert anyone else, unless the person asks for assistance through a conversation or the person is expected to educate others, in which case only science should be accepted regardless of personal beliefs. Outside of an educational setting, that teacher can do whatever she chooses.

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    • hessianwithteeth

      Harm should always be fought against. Nobody has the right to harm another human. But what about the moderate believers? The most hardcore evangelicals are unlikely to be converted. They’re too stuck in their beliefs. The ones we’re most likely to convert are the moderate believers that are already progressive. While I don’t think it’s a bad thing for them to be converted, they’re also not doing us any harm, nor anyone else, by being believers.
      I’m not American, so my experiences aren’t the same as yours. Religion is far more engrained into American life than it is into Canadian life. That said, I can see the merits of conversion, but I can also see the merits of just letting others believe. Personally, I think I’ve found a nice middle ground in being out as an atheist and associating with theists so that they are able to associate the word atheist with a good person that they know.

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  • demi

    From my personal experience I see the attempt to convert others as a form of manipulation. Many religious sects and cults go around gathering believers and then harm them in any possible way.

    On the other hand, in order to stop all of this you can’t use the same techniques they use, this would be unproductive and unrespectiful for the individual!

    Should they be stopped then, or not? I would say YES, but how? My answer is by unabling the individual to think with his or her own head (not merely putting other and others’ beliefs in their heads). The individual, especially somebody coming out from this kind of environments, deserves our respect and his or her dignity should be preserved anytime at all cost!

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  • stellycious stella

    Hello. Thanks for visiting my blog. It seems you already know my answer. 🙂

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  • akeem54

    Thank you for your visit.

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  • Soul Bitch

    What I’ve found is that God lives within us. The Christian bible does have verses that say to trust no man and test all things. Sorry I don’t have them on hand nor time to look them up. But I believe you could Google the words with “verses” after it and find it. But we have to go inside and figure it out with that voice inside, whatever you call it. Do atheists believe in intuition? A gut feeling?

    I think most of the time what God said and what men took that to mean were different things, hence the abuse of religion.

    I don’t fully agree with Atheists either. Obviously we can’t let adults run around molesting children. And more on the rights of other living things, many people live in such ways that hurt other people. There is the porn industry that supports human trafficking. There is the food and products industry that supports the maiming and torture of animals. Then most of our consuming in the Western/ “civilized” cultures is destroying the environment. Many of us are living in ways that are hurting a lot of things and we don’t even realize it. And more horrifying, some do realize it and have found that its hard to not live that way due to the system we live in.

    Most of the time when I see there is an extreme of two sides presented, the solution is usually a mixing of the two. And that is where Wisdom comes in. When we are connected with ourselves and our intuition or God’s voice or what ever you like to call it, you live an intentional life. These dilemmas have solutions.

    What if we didn’t convert but neither let people just live how they believe? What about more education? Agreed rules? When we look at the planet as all of God’s creation, or for Atheists, an amazing creation however it was formed, and that the world is our resource for survival to which we all depend on each other, there are rules we all have to abide by. Gravity is one of them. Nobody can do anything about that. But there are other rules we have to share. We can’t be greedy or selfish, even in the way we believe.

    Christians and Atheists agree on the Golden Rule. I am sure if people would be friends first and learn interdependence, we’d find more solutions . I believe there are ways to connect on things we do agree on. Many people live in co-dependence or the other extreme, independence.

    Interdependence teaches us how to compromise and make this work so there is no abuse from either extreme. Christians don’t get to be converters, but atheists can’t inadvertently support murder, abuse, child molestation, etc. on the belief of free will. Not that they consciously do, but by default.

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    • hessianwithteeth

      I agree that we have to get along and work together. But I don’t know what you mean by atheists supporting murder, abuse, and child molestation. If you think we do, then you clearly don’t know much about atheism. I’ve not heard or read anything by a single atheist that would support any of that. I’m sure some do, but some members of every group will. None of that is an atheistic standpoint.

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      • Soul Bitch

        Yeah! I didn’t word that very well and I apologize!!

        You are right, I don’t know much about atheism and need to learn more.

        I meant it more in a general sense to make a theoretical point. If we don’t have any laws that bind us in some sort of communal way, then people behave however they please. I was framing it in the sense that just like Christians over the centuries have murdered many innocent people in the name of God, if we went the other extreme and had no morals, people would murderer in the absence of God.

        I think I was thrown off when I started to investigate atheism because it seemed like every Atheist thought something completely different from the next and I didn’t know how to get a general feel for what Atheists believe, except that there is no God and that everyone has free will to do whatever they want. Can you correct me if I’m wrong though?

        I read about one guy that believed if we give everybody their basics needs, such as shelter, food and water, that we could let everybody out of prison and nobody would hurt one another. While I appreciate the ideology, I don’t think people stop behaving certain ways until there is accountability and they have a desire to want to be held to it. So that is where those ideas of murder and molestation are coming from.

        I understand this is one guy though. He wasn’t condoning people behave in barbaric ways, but in his innocence of the idea he wouldn’t foresee that people have other things going on in their minds that justify bad behavior.

        Thank you for being cool in your response to my crazy! I hope this makes more sense, but if not, please feel free!

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  • dr sweetyshinde

    Everyone has the right to choose. Only, they should open themselves to possibilities rather than rigidly adhere to a choice; merely to assert their original choice.

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    • Sardonicus

      Nobody SHOULD open themselves to other possibilities if they don’t want to. Even if one is open to other possibilities, that still doesn’t change the fact that people shouldn’t take it upon themselves to provide this information or ideas to them unless they ask. Being open or not to new possibilities is irrelevant. If someone is open and interested, they will ask.

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  • Sarabi Nikolanna Eventide

    I’ve always been a fan of people who live their religion and speak of it without constantly preaching about it. I always tell people “If you want me as a friend, please don’t wear your religion on your sleeve.” What I mean by this is, I’m fine with anyone’s religious decision, I have no right to judge. But the moment they start actively trying to convert me or talking about it ad nauseum, I start to pull away. I admire people who are comfortable in their faith, but what’s right for someone else isn’t necessarily right for me.

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    • hessianwithteeth

      I agree. People can believe what they want. I’m not okay with people trying to force their beliefs on others. I like talking to people about what they believe, and I’m fine with going into details about why they believe what they believe. But I’m not okay with people trying to tell others what they should believe.

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  • Ronn Greer

    I agree…trying to force beliefs on others is what I think most of us have the problem with. I can see where a philosophical debate of what beliefs are correct can occur but I trust most rational people who are honest with themselves can tell the difference. Thanks for putting these thoughts down so sincerely.

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  • Jack Curtis

    Seems to me that the tendency to ‘sell’ our views is tied to basic human sociality so it’s part of the DNA. Just with more or less motivation from one person to another. I doubt that’s going away anytime soon.

    If so,, then the remaining issue is how far do we go in selling our views? It seems just to use compulsion when another’s view is damaging us, not when it isn’t. At least, that’s consistent with free will and responsibility, right?

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    • Sardonicus

      Well, the existence of “free will” is debatable, I suppose, but the latest advancements of psychology and neuro-science indicate a very high probability that we do not possess free will. However, free will has been argued to not exist even before deterministic philosophies.

      Like

  • Weekly Mind Cleanup | A Bringer of New Things

    […] Hessian with Teeth: “Should We Attempt to Convert Others?”  […]

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  • fnordfox

    I’ve never felt a need to convert someone to my religion (amusingly, also Discordianism). I find if someone really wants to do good, you can help them do so, whether they follow traditional dogma or modern empirical observations. Conversion seems less about offering explanation or dogma, and more about rewiring that dogma.

    I heard on a radio show an interview of an Afghanistan ex-Taliban teenager (was a member of the Taliban for a year at age 15), who upon reading the Koran after being “liberated” from the terrorist group, noted it decreed that to kill ANY innocent person is to kill EVERY innocent person.

    Golden rules are commonplace in religions. Doing anything harmful to another person seems to me to be a gross misrepresentation of religious values.

    In conclusion, I convert to the side of good, not to the side of my personal religious expression.

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    • Sardonicus

      Then again, especially considering you’re a Discordian, what is “good” and “bad” is relative to each person. Grids through which the world is viewed and what-not. Then there’s the arguments (most notably Nietzsche) about there being no such thing as “good” or “bad” and that these ideas are subjective human constructs… and others, such as myself and others, expanding that idea to be the purpose of which is for subverting others to your will, like Aristotle’s view of human morality being not “if you scratch my back, I will scratch yours” (good for good) but rather, that it is based on “if you don’t rob me, I won’t rob you” (basically a mutual cease-fire/cold war stand-off thing, also furthered by Thomas Hobbes view of the “social contract” idea).

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      • fnordfox

        ah but see, even within Discordian philosophy, you have dichotomies like “creative” order/chaos and “destructive” order/chaos. And Discordianism embraces the creative half.

        The filters are there to interpret “Truth” into a personal “truth,” however, I would argue that “Truth” exists yet behind those filters, and certain aspects, including controlling other’s will.

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        • Sardonicus

          Yes, because who am I to say what Discordianism is or is not. I don’t even know your gender. (For those who don’t get the reference, look up the Discordian Revelations on the YouTube, if you are interested, but it is ultimately irrelevant) 😛

          But there are (disregarding the singular view of Discordianism) various views about truth from a philosophical sense. There is the view that there is no such thing as truth, then the view that there is ultimate truth but we could never know it, the view that there is ultimate truth but that we can never know if we know it, the view that there is ultimate truth and it can be known… and I am sure there are others.

          I personally am in the boat that there is ultimate truth behind things, but I am not sure where I stand in regards to whether or not it can be known or cannot be known or cannot be known if it is known. However, I also see the value of “personal truth” and so forth, but this is somewhat a digression away from “what is good or bad and who is to say what is good or bad to say that one has the right or lack thereof to influence another to their own personal view of what is good or bad”.

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          • fnordfox

            “who is to say what is good or bad”

            the emotion of empathy is likely a root factor in the evolution of ethics. While various religions offer answers about morality, adherence to religious dogma is not necessary to live an ethical life (pic related). The philosophy of good and evil seems to me less a straight line between one and the other, but likely more of a Mandelbrot set, with infinite intricacies.

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  • Should We Attempt to Convert Others? | Christians Anonymous

    […] Source: Should We Attempt to Convert Others? […]

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  • John L. Knight

    People don’t convert other people. That’s between individuals and God. Some faiths are missional whiles others keep to themselves. From a Christian perspective, if we simply live peaceful lives, perhaps others will inquire which invites an explanation.

    Like

  • Sarrah J. Woods

    Great question—it’s so good to see discussion about this!

    I used to think I had to be other people’s savior by helping them see truth—both when I was a Christian, and later as an atheist. I was always on a mission.

    But now, I have come to understand that life, situations, and people are incredibly varied and complex. Also, everyone is on an individual journey. It is simply arrogant for me to think that I know what’s right and best for everyone in every situation.

    My practice now is to focus on my own journey, and when the subject of my beliefs does arise in conversation with someone, I will be open in sharing my opinions. But I won’t take the attitude that the other person is wrong for having different views than I do. I may personally think so, but to present that attitude to people is only going to alienate them and stir up their defense reactions. Mature, fruitful conversation can only happen when both parties are fully respectful of the other side’s right to their own opinions.

    If I influence others toward truth and goodness by my life and my writings, that will be wonderful. But I’m not going to set out to convert anyone to my beliefs anymore.

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  • ubi dubium

    My thought is that we should be encouraging people to think more clearly about what they believe and why they believe it. It’s not often that we can push someone into atheism with one conversation, but each time we nudge them toward better critical thinking, it’s one more crack in their dam of faith. So I think it’s good to encourage conversations about how to tackle questions, rather than just declare what the correct answers are.

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  • Dena

    I have no desire to convince others to be non-religious or atheists. I do want them to think critically, logically and reasonably. If they can do that and remain religious in some capacity, that’s fine. If they can do that and believe in some kind of deity, that’s fine too. I do think there are particular religious doctrines and beliefs that are extremely harmful and those should be addressed, never ignored.

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  • kat

    amen to myatheistlife! couldn’t have said it better.

    Like

  • myatheistlife

    When you consider that the atheist position is generally driven by science wanting others to be educated is not dogmatism. When theists want to convert it is never about science or understanding the world… its just dogmaism.

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    • hessianwithteeth

      I agree. But that doesn’t necessarily make the actions different. On both sides, the people doing the converting believe that they are helping people by converting them. They may have different end goals, but they have the same motives. Obviously I support the atheists more than the theists, but I still wonder if it’s worth it.

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      • myatheistlife

        Would you allow your neighbor to continue planting expensive rose bushes upside down (just because they like them that way) or would you try to educate them? How about if they were teaching their children that 2+2=5 or that there is another number between 7 and 8 and the world just ignores it? Is it your responsibility to help your neighbors be responsible citizens? Is it worth it to help them and educate them?

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        • hessianwithteeth

          Why would I care how my neighbor is planting rose bushes. Who are they hurting? If they like it, then I don’t care. It is more harmful to teach kids bad math, because it limits their potential job possibilities. But, unless they are completely separated from society, they are likely to learn the correct math elsewhere. If they are completely separated from society, then I’d have bigger concerns then their math skills.

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          • myatheistlife

            My point is that helping someone to understand their belief/habit is detrimental to themselves and those around them is not being dogmatic nor trying to convert someone… unless you call teaching people math converting them.

            Like

    • Sardonicus

      I have seen plenty of atheists who have dogmatised atheism and/or science and evangelised it. Have you ever been to a “free thought” group? 9 times out of ten (at least in my personal experience), it is less about “thinking and discussion that is open and free of any constraints” ends up being “lol, aren’t Christians stupid?”.

      I agree though that, as a generality, most atheists are driven by science but… does that make it any different? I mean it is one thing to defend scientific truth regardless (or even against religious dogmatism), it is an entirely different thing to try to convert a Christian to atheism using science.

      You should look into Nietzsche’s philosophy, if you have an interest for such things (particularly “The Gay Science”). If you have no interest in such things, there’s a short, 3 minute video that accurately represents the idea (in an entertaining way), it’s by Thug Notes, a sub thing they started going called 8-Bit Philosophy, the title of this one being “Does SCIENCE = TRUTH (Nietzsche)”: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y68mGbvZZZg

      And just so I can be as clear as possible (and to ensure that anyone who may want to question bias has the ability to accurately do so), I am technically an atheist, though I claim my religion as Discordianism (which is less a religion and more a philosophy, like Buddhism is technically a philosophy and not a religion).

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      • hessianwithteeth

        I’m sorry to hear you’ve had such bad experiences with freethought groups. I run a freethought group and we are mostly just there to offer community to those without it. We talk a lot about philosophy and science, but we talk just as much about movies and video games. We rarely ever touch on religion, but it doesn’t turn into a discussion about the stupidity of religion even then.

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      • myatheistlife

        No doubt some fall fowl of this delima but I do not think this is the grand thrust of atheists telling theists what the real deal is regarding ghosts and deities.

        Atheism does not offer grand meaning for anything. Nihilism does address this. Let’s reconsider the question: is it useful to correct the errors of theistic world views? Converting them seems a bit over the top. I don’t try to convert anyone, only that they might see where their thinking is wrong.

        Like

      • Sardonicus

        Oh I am certain that not all free-thought groups are this way. I have noticed that these groups are not just the one local one here, but even on-line they tend to be the same way. Then again, I also realise I am one person with an extremely limited experience. I know that my small sample pool of “free-thought” groups might simply have coincidentally been 9/10 heavy on less “free-thought” and more “Christ-bashing”. It’s certainly not a large enough sample to make a generalisation overall about free-thought groups.

        However, the point was more that atheism and science can be as bad as Christianity (or religion), in a very general sense, with regards to dogmatism, wrong information and attempts to convert others.

        Unrelated to this comment thread, but related still to the original article, I wrote a fairly short paper about this subject in regard to philosophy once when I had a personal existential crisis about being a philosopher. I called it “The Responsibility of the Philosopher” and it is hand written (I have small hand-writing) on college-ruled paper spanning 4.5 pages (single spaced, double space between paragraphs). If you’re interested, I can put it on my blog, but it’s far too long for the comments here and it may be interesting to you.

        Like

      • Sarrah J. Woods

        Wow, what great discussion has come from this post! I like and agree with much of what Sardonicus said.

        I also am turned off by “militant atheists” and atheist/freethought groups who can’t seem to find anything else to talk about besides their one common ground of not believing in god, and thus their meetings turn into Christian-bashing festivals.

        After I left Christianity, I missed having the easy social structure and support of a church. So I found some likeminded, non-militant friends from my local atheist group, and we started a Secular Humanist Community Center for non-religious (and non-government-run) community activities and pursuits.

        One other note in reply to several of the comments here: as a former fundamentalist Christian who eventually became an atheist, my experience has taught me that very few Christians, if any, are going to be swayed by any contrary evidence or arguments. Their reasons for believing in the Bible are non-rational, so trying to convert them by means of rational argument will not work. For me, lifestyle, social, emotional, and mental changes had to take place in me first, before I became open to new perspectives and evidence.

        But again, trying to convert anyone to anything is a suspicious starting place. I think myatheistlife is right to connect this with education. It’s a big question that hasn’t been explored by most people, I think. Where does education of a child (whether by parents or teachers) cross the line between assisting him/her in growing up to have a healthy, functional, informed life, and indoctrinating him/her to believe what you believe? Is indoctrination morally wrong?

        Like

        • hessianwithteeth

          When I wrote this post, I had recently come from a talk given by David Silverman. He was discussing why he believes that one must be a firebrand atheist. Of course, in his mind it’s not so much about converting others as it is about making the title of atheist acceptable. I think that he made some good points. But earlier in the year I had gone to talks given by Chris Stedman and Peter Boghossian. Boghossian is all about converting theists. He would agree with you, Sarrah. He says that reasoning won’t convert anybody, and he instead suggests that we use the Socratic method. If I had any interest in converting anyone, I think that I would try to keep that in mind. Stedman isn’t about conversion at all. He’s more interested in creating a safe space for atheists and creating an environment where we can all get along. All three of them gave very different talks with very different ideas. And they all touched on their own views where conversion is concerned. The discussion here has offered many more opinions and ideas.

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          • John L. Knight

            You said, “…it’s not so much about converting others as it is about making the title of atheist acceptable.”

            It’s amazing how much energy and passion is expended on God’s existence. We think we have all the answers. All I can say is that if someone truly sees God, it is impossible to convince them otherwise. The attempt will be futile. However, if someone has yet to see God, it is possible for his heart and will to respond to Him.

            Like

      • Sardonicus

        I saw a writing once by Sam Harris that attempted to do the same thing (make it acceptable to be an atheist). Typically, I don’t side with Sam Harris, Richard Dawkins or Christopher Hitches because I view them as evangelical atheists. I think their approach is wrong because of how extremely tackless they are in dealing with the matter in most engagements on religion. The only person with less tact than they is Bill Mahr. The problem is that they make atheists look like pricks. This is simply based on interviews, but the titles of their books (“The God Delusion”, for example) read like pretentiously arrogant attacks. Sam Harris is ot guilty of that in titles of his books, but in his writing, often is extremely intolerant and resentful of religions and the religious. Mind you, my views on Christianity and Christian morality are probably more harsh than what Nietzsche had to say of it in “The Antichrist” and “On the Genealogy of Morals”, but when it comes down to it, you have to be careful to defend atheism without attacking religion, especially when you’re already viewed as the bad guy. Of course, atheists who complain about “In God We Trust” on American money or in the Pledge of Allegiance also further the “atheists are pricks” view since those things are ultimately pointless, meaningless and stupid. To argue against that kind of crap is merely to be a contrarian, to rebel for the sake of rebelling.

        Theists of various types always have respected me and even called me, on numerous occasions, “the coolest atheist they know”, probably in part because of my willingness to assume God exists for the sake of theological debate, despite everyone knowing I don’t believe.

        Like

        • hessianwithteeth

          I’m not a fan of Harris or Dawkins either. I like Hitchens because he was actually good at debate. He was an asshole, though. I do think that there is a problem in the movement with how a lot of the better known atheists act. They are nice when you meet them in person, but they are scathing in TV interviews. I almost avoided calling myself an atheist because of an interview I saw with Dawkins back when The God Delusion was just released. I am glad that we are starting to get more people like Seth Andrews, Hemant Mehta, and Chris Stedman. I think that the Dawkins and Harris’s of the movement have their time and place, but they shouldn’t be our only representatives.

          Like

    • demi

      Unfortunately science can be “dogmatic” and fundamentalistic as well I am afraid, and in the name of science or for any other good reason (included religion and so on) you are not allowed to tell other people what it is right or not, what they should or should not do…

      Objectivy doesn’t exist (even is science! This is a mere positivistic illusion!) and we aren’t ambassador of anything apart from our nude raw humanity!

      Like

    • inmytwisteddreams

      Check out my blog – I would really appreciate your constructive criticism in my approach to merge physical science, psychology, philosophy and theology, in order to broaden the narrow mindset that typically accompanies the “evangelism” of today’s society. Thanks! ~Nikki
      http://mytwisteddream.wordpress.com

      Like

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