There have been many times that I have spoken with Christians who have tried to persuade me that I should join their religion. The reasoning behind it is of course their wanting to "save" me. They believe that I am not only going to hell, but that I am somehow trying to undermine their religious freedoms by demanding equal rights.
[caption id="" align="alignright" width="640" caption="If only they followed what that sign says."][/caption]
I would first like to address the methods and tactics you use in your attempts to "save" people. Witnessing is, in effect, telling the story of what made you a Christian. I can not count how many times I have been "witnessed". I have had many Christians tell me that this is the most important tool in their arsenal, (their word, not mine). The framework of a witnessing story is fairly common. A person is weak, they do bad things and sin or have become injured in some way. Then some sort of extreme religious event happens, which could be a vision of Jesus, or visiting by angels that causes the person to become "Born Again". Then because of that, they have the strength to overcome the hardship or suddenly become healed. That extreme event is what interests me the most. That's where the most creativity and detail is put in to the story. Then it ends up with everything turning out great, and them being a devout Christian. Like the happy ending of a sitcom. I really need to tell you, this doesn't work, and here's why.
Every time I get witnessed I have the same reaction, "Yeah, and?". I'm completely baffled as to why you like to do this all the time. Sure it's a great story. I liked Harry Potter too, but that had a better epilogue. The reason why this doesn't work is simple. I and the atheist community, don't believe you. Sure, I believe that you believe what you said, but I don't believe it happened the way you said it, or if it happened at all. I'm not accusing any of you of deliberately lying in your witnessing, though I would not be surprised if some of you have. Memory can be a tricky thing, it changes over time. It's not the rock solid event recorder that is popular to believe. Many of the examples I've heard could have been attributed to coincidence, to hallucination, or to you managing to turn your life around. I have also heard many "spontaneous healing" stories where simple research would tell you that the condition could reverse itself. Many Medical conditions are self limiting. Conditions with the spine and even cancer have self limited at times. You deserve the credit for what you have done.You, and you alone. Congratulations to those of you that have told me stories of getting off drugs, getting off the streets, or getting through a war. Those are all commendable achievements. I cannot see any reason why you would attribute your hard work to someone or something else. I do suppose it's comforting to believe there is someone watching over you and intervening on your behalf, but that's just giving your accomplishments away. You did the work, and it's OK to take the credit.
Why is this your most powerful tool? You're trying to prove god exists with an anecdote? We keep asking for proof. You respond with a story. A story is not proof. When someone asks me to believe something, I'm going to ask them for proof. Here's an Example:
A friend tells me that he hit a grand slam at his company's softball tournament. I congratulate him. He then proceeds to tell me that, because of this grand slam he was given a hefty promotion, is moving into a bigger house and got a date with the woman he's had a crush on for years.
That's a bit much to believe from a great play in baseball. No company would base their HR promotion strategy on softball performance. So I ask for proof.
He tells me the story of that night when he hit the grand slam. It's a great story with tension, drama, suspense and excitement. In the end, he's not given me proof. I was entertained and I would have enjoyed hearing the story anyway but he did not draw the link to his advancements and the grand slam. So I ask him to explain how he got the promotion from softball.
He shows me his offer letter and amended contract with the greater responsibility, the greater pay and and the amenities. He then shows me the emails from the lady he has a crush on. He also shows me the loan papers for the house he purchased.
This is where the burden of proof becomes clear. He has verified all the aspects of his story. He was able to document his promotion, his new house and the date. But he was never able to show how the grand slam caused the promotion. It is more likely to say that he got the promotion from hard work and was being recognized for his abilities. Getting a date could be attributed to extra confidence from the promotion to actually go over and speak with girl of his dreams.
Despite the story, he got a promotion and a date. Should he praise the grand slam? Or should he praise the hard work that got him where he is now? The story is completely fictional, of course. I wrote it for the purpose of providing an example.
Whether you go forward in witnessing to people or not, I want you to realize how your story sounds to other people. It sounds like you are giving praise to something other than yourself for your hard work. I'm sure the story is great but it's still just a story.
Indirect Threats and Insults
These are some of my favorite attempts at converting. Some of these are so ridiculous it's hard to believe anyone that graduated middle school came up with these. It's more of a passive-aggressive attempt, but an attempt none-the-less. They are usually in the form of a question. I'll touch on them one at a time.
1: "If you don't believe, you'll go to hell. Aren't you afraid of going to hell?"
Meaning: You're going to hell.
Why, no. No I'm not.
There is no heaven, there is also no hell. Consider that according to the bible, god created everything. He also created Satan. The bible never mentions who created hell, but It's safe to assume that credit can go to god. Now since there is no god, and there is no satan, there is no heaven and hell and there are no pearly gates. So no, I'm not afraid of going to hell. It doesn't exist.
2: "You need to believe in god to have morals. All our morality comes from god and the bible."
Meaning: You have no morals.
If that were true we would live in a very different place.
It is a very simple response. All morality does not come from the bible. There are in fact probably along the lines of thousands of books that speak of morality and morals. Now here's where it gets difficult. One needs to learn their morality through study. It's true that most of a society's morality can be fleshed out through empathy. (Example: I don't want to be killed, and I'm sure that that other person does not want to be killed either, so I shouldn't kill.) It's not hard to reason out and we don't need the hanging threat of eternal torture to make us do what's right. There are of course more difficult choices that morality contends with than killing and coveting people or things, like geopolitical relations. I'm not going to go into detail here but if you would like to have a discussion on the topic I would love to speak with you on it.
Now let's look at the morality of the bible. It says Thou shall not kill (Exodus 20:13) but then is instructs you to kill entire populations (Numbers 31:7), to rape women (Genesis 19:8), to dash children on the rocks (Psalm 137:9). It says that disobedient children should be stoned to death (Deuteronomy 21: 20-21). Women that have been raped must marry the rapist (Deuteronomy 22:28-9). Homosexuals need to be murdered (Leviticus 20:10).
I'm happy with my morals, thank you very much. Mine don't call for violence.
Oh by the way, for those of you saying "But that's the OLD Testament!" Remember Matthew 5:17-9 “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them."
3: "So why don't you love god? Are you a satan worshipper?"
Meaning: You're a Satan Worshipper.
4: "Why do you hate god?"
Meaning: You're just a hater.
The question is irrelevant. God doesn't exist. The same question can also be asked about Darth Vader, Ghost Rider and Barney the purple dinosaur. I do have a problem with some of the people who believe in it though.
"Saving" Never Works
Then people start getting defensive. Usually when they can't convert us, we get attacked. Mostly verbally, though physical violence happens more than you would think. We are often threatened, on the Internet where they can hide behind anonymity. When Christopher Hitchens died, a popular trending hashtag was the title of one of his books, #godisnotgreat. There were many threats of violence and calls for atheists to commit violence against themselves.
Jessica Ahlquist recently won a court case to remove a religious banner from her school. She is still receiving threats of physical violence. Apparently Christian morality says it's OK to threaten a 16 year old girl for standing up for her rights.
We also get questions like, "Why can't you just leave Christianity alone?" or "You are trying to subjugate our rights!". It is because of the major religions that I cannot openly talk about my Atheism. It is because of threats in the name of religion that I have to remain secret at most times. For centuries and millennia, Atheists were tortured and killed for not believing as we were told. All we want is the same freedom that you have. We aren't attacking you, we are defending our rights against your open discrimination and your claims that it's your religious right to hate. When you understand and can tolerate that there are other people and ideas on this planet than yours, then you will be left alone.