… What method was the worst when people tried to share their faith with you? I know some people hand out pamphlets and other people tell you you’re going to hell on the street corner, all kinds of ‘fun’ things. As a follow up question, how has rude/mean/annoying encounters like that caused you to feel about the Christian faith ? My last question is, what method of sharing faith has made you at least open to talking to the other person about their faith?
I was especially struck by this particular response:
The worst that I have personally experienced involved threats. It was a perfectly well-meaning person who told me, in a concerned voice, that I would go to hell if I don’t accept Jesus as my personal saviour. Well-meaning, but I don’t respond to threats - at all.
So when you tell me that your all-good, all-loving, merciful god will torture me for all eternity if I don’t worship him, not only are you threatening me (and thereby pushing me away), you also aren’t making any sense. If god loves me, why would be punish me for not brown-nosing him? I’ve heard this explained away multiple times, but never in a way that made sense to me.
So if you are to have any hope of converting me, I would recommend an approach that never even mentioned hell. In fact, don’t mention heaven either. The whole idea of doing something just to avoid punishment or get a reward feels morally dishonest to me.
Just to illustrate what I mean, there was one woman who made me seriously consider Christianity as an option (and, though I didn’t convert, I at least looked favourable on the religion until I met someone who dealt with me in the above-mentioned way). She was an older woman and she was having trouble getting onto the bus (you had to go up three steps before getting on, and they were quite large steps too). I held her arm and helped her in. Once sitting, she thanked me and told me in a sweet voice that she would pray for me. That’s human decency. She was kind, thoughtful, and truly grateful for help (whereas I find that most people simply expect help to be given). More than that, she told me that she would pay me back in the only way she could - she would give of her time to do something that, in her belief system, would help me get up a few steps.
I respond to kindness in a way that I will never respond to threats of violence or bribery - and make no mistake, that’s exactly what the whole concept of heaven and hell is to me.
The bold type is my addition because I think that comment illustrates yet again my point that many atheists are motivated by a desire for a higher level of morality, not a lower one. And I agree, believing in God simply based on threats or bribery is morally immature. Of course, I don't personally believe that Heaven or Hell ought to be thought of in these ways in the first place, but let's face it, that's how they are too often presented to non-Christians in our attempts at evangelism.
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