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April 30, 2009

Atheists offer ‘Ten Tips for Christian Evangelists’

http://www.jewishjournal.com/blog/item/atheists_offer_ten_tips_for_christian_evangelists_20090430/

As I mentioned Tuesday, atheists have been more vocal about their godlessness in recent years. You would think this would make the work of Christians both easier and more difficult: While the unbelievers are more obvious, they’re also more committed to an antagonistic cause. So what is a Christian evangelist to do?

Here’s some advice from atheists. Sort of.

“It’s a list of the Top Ten Tips for Christian Evangelists,” Hemant Mehta wrote on his Friendly Atheist blog. “The purpose is not to make the conversion of atheists easier. Rather, it’s to make the Christians who do this sort of thing more tolerable (since we have to deal with them on a regular basis).”

Here are numbers eight through 10:

8. Don’t assume that we have “God-shaped holes in our hearts” and try to get us to admit it.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Read more, or see just what happens when you disregard this list, at the Friendly Atheist Forums.

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