Wanted: "Atheists Who Are More Upset If You DON'T Share The Gospel With Them"

Bloggers get apprised of the terms and phrases people have plugged into search engines to arrive at our blogs. Sometimes the search terms are bizarre and/or hilarious enough that a blogger will call attention to them on the blog. This is one of those times.

Recently someone apparently arrived at Camels With Hammers looking for “Atheists who are more upset if you don’t share the Gospel with them”. Now, there is a surprising amount of diversity in the atheist community on a lot of issues. But I can honestly say, I have never in my life encountered a single atheist who felt this way. It strikes me as being as utterly false to reality as “Theists who are more upset if you don’t tell their children there is no God”.

So I am wondering where this search phrase comes from. Is this actually an idea some Christians are spreading to persuade nervous would-be proselytizers to overcome their fears of offending or irritating atheists? Or is there a prominent atheist or atheist group out there that has publicly pleaded for Christians to save them? I mean, I know that there may be some very loosely atheistic people, whose atheism is not a big deal to them at all and who may seek out Christianity to hear what it has to say. But it is not exactly like they don’t know where to find out what Christians say and are just brooding and offended waiting and waiting for a Christian to come along and make an unsolicited sales pitch to them.

So, to satisfy my own curiosity and to provide an apparently necessary resource to future googlers of this question, I want to crowd source an answer using my atheist readership. Do you get more upset when Christians don’t “share the Gospel” with you or when they do? Why or why not? Or do you know where this question could possibly have come from?

And, for what it’s worth to the Christians (and atheists) out there who are interested in what I think are the best things for religious people to keep in mind when reaching out to atheists, I have written a post I called the Top 10 Tips For Reaching Out To Atheists, which is chock full of such advice.

Your Thoughts?

 

About Daniel Fincke

Dr. Daniel Fincke  has his PhD in philosophy from Fordham University and spent 11 years teaching in college classrooms. He wrote his dissertation on Ethics and the philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche. On Camels With Hammers, the careful philosophy blog he writes for a popular audience, Dan argues for atheism and develops a humanistic ethical theory he calls “Empowerment Ethics”. Dan also teaches affordable, non-matriculated, video-conferencing philosophy classes on ethics, Nietzsche, historical philosophy, and philosophy for atheists that anyone around the world can sign up for. (You can learn more about Dan’s online classes here.) Dan is an APPA  (American Philosophical Practitioners Association) certified philosophical counselor who offers philosophical advice services to help people work through the philosophical aspects of their practical problems or to work out their views on philosophical issues. (You can read examples of Dan’s advice here.) Through his blogging, his online teaching, and his philosophical advice services each, Dan specializes in helping people who have recently left a religious tradition work out their constructive answers to questions of ethics, metaphysics, the meaning of life, etc. as part of their process of radical worldview change.

  • usagichan

    Do you get more upset when Christians don’t “share the Gospel” with you or when they do?

    – always disappointing to miss the chance to essay my rapier wit* on willing lion fodder…

    *the wit in fact would make a rather dull rapier, but everything is a matter of comparisom is it not? Next to the average missionary, I transform into a regular Oscar Wilde!!!

    (…still thinking on a further comment on the “Intrinsic Goods Post” – either later this evening or tomorrow morning probably)

  • John Morales

    Well, that depends on what your searcher considers “sharing the Gospel” to be.

    I speculate that perhaps some Christian has made conclusive claims about the Gospel to an atheist without justifying them, and having been asked to do so and refused, wonders why the fuss about seeking detail. (There are other possibilities, of course)

  • Alexandra

    When I was studying pre-med, I had a Christian friend compare the gospel to some life-saving medicine. If she was my patient, of course I would tell her about the medicine and try to convince her to take it and save her life.

    Not the same thing, obviously, but if the atheist came from that background, maybe they’d be insulted, thinking the Christian wasn’t sharing the gospel because they didn’t want your soul saved?

  • Raymer

    First, some back story. I might be a somewhat unique atheist in that it was long journey for me. From the atheist blogs I read, it seems (anecdotally, I haven’t done a study or anything) that atheists tend to find out they’re atheists in the teen years or younger, but I didn’t until maybe my mid-20s. I think part of my “problem” was that I went to 12 years of private Catholic school. However, even with Catholic school beating me over the head with the Gospel, I was never a Jesus freak. At my most “religious” I was suckered in by the logical fallacy of the “unmoved mover” type of God. I stopped believing in any personal gods (including Jesus) at around age 13 or 14, and stopped praying around then too. The prayer thing was really just my empirical side showing itself. I would pray for X to happen, and it did not happen. Repeat that enough times and I figured I was wasting my time.

    Anyway, all this back story is meant to say I’m really familiar with the Gospel thanks to the Catholic schooling. I know a lot of atheists are though, studies show that many atheists know religion better than the religious do. So to finally get to the question here: I wouldn’t mind anyone preaching the Gospel to me, because I would use it as a starting point for a religious debate. Debating religion is something I don’t get to do very often, because everyone around me tends to be atheist or agnostic. I have a religious grandmother, but bringing it up is too emotional for her (she once looked at me sadly and said “I never thought my own grandson would turn his back on God” totally missing the point that I can’t turn my back on something I don’t think exists). So if someone I didn’t know, or only knew as an acquaintance, decided to preach the Gospel to me I would enjoy the opportunity. I would point out some of the contradictions in the Bible as a starting point, just to see how open to reason this hypothetical person is, and from there move to a general debate on the merits of religious belief. As much fun as it is to “preach to the choir” if I may use that phrase, opening up someone’s mind to an atheist point of view is something I’ve never been able to do personally and I would really love the opportunity. There are a lot of people that refuse to discuss religion, and that frustrates me because it’s impossible to move the debate forward if it’s a taboo topic.

    Now I’m not sure the context of this search query, but if it actually means, do I as an atheist want people to preach the Gospel to me without it being a stepping stone for a religious debate? Hell no, I’ve had enough of the Gospel pounded into me without the opportunity to say “Wait a minute, what about…” in my school years, and I’m not at all eager to relive that.

    • http://freethoughtblogs.com/camelswithhammers Camels With Hammers

      Yes, someone talking about “sharing the Gospel” typically does not refer to “having a debate on equal footing”. They want to tell you how you can be saved, not debate the truth with an open mind.

  • Kiwi Sauce

    Being an atheist who was raised as a fundamentalist baptist, I intensely dislike people “sharing the gospel” with me – that implies that the reason I am an atheist is that I don’t know about (seriously??!!), or don’t understand (again, seriously??!!), the gospel. Where I live, we get pleasant door-to-door knockers who, when I say I’m not interested – giving them a cheery smile at the same time – thank me for my time and leave.

    Do any evangelizing xtians truly believe that anyone still needs to hear the gospel?

    • http://freethoughtblogs.com/camelswithhammers Camels With Hammers

      As a former Evangelical myself, let me say I can completely sympathize with your overwhelming irritation at being treated like you must not know or understand.

    • Nentuaby

      Seriously. “No, actually, it turns out I’m the only adult anglophone on the planet Earth who has not heard the basics of Christianity! All the rest of you fuckers have been keeping secrets. PLEASE, enlighten me!”

  • http://freethoughtblogs.com/assassin Assassin Actual

    I enjoy a good attempted saving every now and then. It lets me put my knowledge of biblical trivia to the test and allows me to fire back with my best set of counter examples and my favorite rarely quotes contradictory verses from scripture.

    • http://freethoughtblogs.com/assassin Assassin Actual

      Speaking of weird Search Engine Terms, today I got a click from someone who typed in “gays with big penis fucking gays”… perhaps I should curse less

    • Cor (formerly evil)

      Ditto. I’ve often found myself sharing what’s in the gospel with them. It’s surprising how much of the Bible Christianiacs haven’t read.

      Few of them find my house after a lookup for “gay big dick” though; I must be doing something wrong.

  • Bjones

    I don’t want to be witnessed to, but I definitely want a door to door saleschrist to come by. My first question for them, before giving them some atheist literature, is what their success rate for cold called conversions is. I wonder what kind of sad, lonely, gullible person converts to a religion after someone pushes a pamphlet through their door to them.

    I’d love to see some militant atheists going door to door converting. “Brother, can I tell you about science?”

    /off to play the Book of Mormon soundtrack.

    • John Morales

      Look on YouTube; there’s skits of just that.

  • joelj

    I interpreted the request differently (and probably incorrectly). My thought was that a Christian was looking for someone to convert, and was using “sharing the Gospel” in the Christian jargon sense of explaining Christianity, with no implication of being closed-minded.

    My immediate reaction was, “I wish my many Christian friends would be willing to discuss our reasons for believing what we do.” Since I became an atheist eight years ago, my former close friends are still friendly, and are willing to carry on small talk, but only four or five have made any attempt to seriously discuss our now very different worldviews. The three of those who really listed to my point of view have simply let the conversation drop. To my great disappointment, they haven’t pursued the topic further.

    • http://aratina.blogspot.com Aratina Cage

      Yep. I’d rather that people–especially the ones I’m close to–didn’t often hold on so tightly to their religion and were willing to discuss it and how it doesn’t match up with reality, but on the other hand I don’t want to get into a discussion with a Ray Comfort type who has no intention of actually having a conversation and is just there to feed their ego (you get these all the time at gay pride parades). Also, “sharing the Gospel” for a couple of seconds and then ignoring me disrespectfully and leaving once I come out as an atheist does upset me. So, I’m all for having more sharing of the Gospel as long as it’s being done respectfully and in good faith. :P

  • Didaktylos

    I suppose it’s a bit like shooting pheasants – if you know they’re going to come, you don’t need to employ beaters to put them up.

  • iduhojeff

    I enjoy discussing religion ok, but it has been my experience that most people who are excited about “sharing Jayzus” with you are not really interested in having a discussion: they want to preach to you. You do realize that these people read books and take classes that teach them sales techniques on evangelism. Their message is pre-packaged: “If he says A, you say B; if he says C, you say D”, etc. Seems like a waste of my time.

  • http://freethoughtblogs.com/dispatches Ed Brayton

    Penn Jillette takes that position and writes about it in his new book. His argument is basically that if a Christian doesn’t try to convert you, they don’t really believe in Christianity and that failing to do so shows indifference. If you really believe that believing in this is the difference between heaven and hell, he says, you have an obligation to share it with others. And if you don’t do so, it shows that you probably don’t really believe that. It’s part of his support for the position that most people are functional atheists even if they’re going through the motions of being a believer.

    • Ancora Imparo

      Here is Penn explaining a little bit about his support for evangelizing. This is the only atheist who I’ve heard this kind of explicit message from.

  • Tisha Irwin

    Christians live in a fantasy world so it’s no surprise that they think we must be atheists because we’re ignorant of the shining light of the gospel. I heard something the other day where some jackass said there is really no such thing as an atheist because god puts knowledge of himself into everyone’s heart. His proof? Scripture, of course. Anyone who claims to be an atheist is “intellectually dishonest”.

    The best part was where he said this knowledge isn’t enough to save you, but it is enough to damn you. So I guess now they can justify all those children who are in hell because they died before they got a chance to be saved.

    • Raymer

      I just love that sort of circular reasoning: “There can’t be people that don’t believe in my magic tome, because my magic tome says there can’t be.”

      Good to know I am “intellectually dishonest” though. Makes me wonder if that crackpot truly believes we’re all faking our atheism and deep down actually yearn to be saved? Can he literally not comprehend the notion that some people just don’t believe, or is he just in denial of that fact? Crazy stuff.

  • http://twitter.com/#!/TabbyLavalamp Tabby Lavalamp

    I’d only be upset if we didn’t get to use my bible full of page markers, highlighter pen use, and margin notes.

  • http://zenoferox.blogspot.com/ Zeno

    The fool has said in his heart, “I understand atheists better than they understand themselves.”

    • Doug Hayden

      Zeno, you win +1 InterToobs for the day!

  • F

    While poking about for some sort of reasoning behind this search, don’t forget that:

    1) most people cannot search worth a damn, and

    2) many people cannot construct a phrase that actually represents their intended meaning, if even intelligible.

    Not to say that there isn’t at least some value in examining accidental and fictitious things.

  • boggsj

    I would be overjoyed if I were occasionally or even frequently approached for evangelism.

    The only people who have approached me, ever, have been mormons.

    In southeastern KY, the supposed bible belt of ignorant snake wiggling protestantism, I have never once been targeted, and this saddens me to no end.

  • Stevarious

    I openly welcome anyone who wants to have an open, honest conversation about religion. The problem I hit is that usually, when a religious person realizes that I already know a couple of things about the subject, they don’t want to talk to me anymore. They seem to only be interested in witnessing to people who don’t already know about their religion.

    • Corkscrew

      Heh, I’ve had this too. I used to eat my lunch in the town park and discovered I was a regular magnet for Evangelicals. With possibly one exception, I knew more about religion/science/history/etc than they did, and as soon as this became clear they’d generally back off.

      I had a lot more respect for the handful who carried on talking after it became obvious I wasn’t going to have a road-to-Damascus moment on the spot. A few of those commented that it was nice to find someone who didn’t just tell them to push off.

  • Abeo

    Huh.

    Regarding the weird search term, I’m going to hazard a guess that it might have something to do with Penn Jillette’s recent blitz of media exposure around his newly released ‘God, No!’ book.

    He’s been very vocal about the fact that, as an atheist, he actually FAR prefers Christian fundamentalists, evangelicals and hardcore believers who are willing to preach at him rather than more ‘moderate’ or quiet religious people.

    Open dialogue, marketplace of ideas and all that. (And he’s happy to talk right back.)

    Seeing some of the mainstream shows and radio programs he’s been on lately, I’m also going to hazard a guess that–for some–he’s the first atheist person viewers have ever seen/heard discuss such ideas.

    Wouldn’t be surprised if some of the things he says gets believers Googling out of curiosity/confusion.

  • Zhuge

    Oddly enough, I have felt that way on occasion. If my friends are Christians and they really believe but don’t share it with me, then they are in effect saying they prefer social pleasantry to my suffering eternally.

    On the other hand anyone who does try to push is someone with whom I won’t want to be friends.

    Hence why I normally prefer liberal religionists who don’t believe such things or, of course, non-believers.

  • http://michaelteply@sbcglobal.net Michael Teply

    I am totally baffled why any atheist would want to hear about gospels unless they want to pick out the flaws in them. The first one I would point out is when Peter kills the couple because they held out half of the money that they were suppose to give to Peter. Acts 5, 1-11
    This is pure extortion, “fork up all the money or my friend{god] will kill you”.
    Actually is was worse than that ,Peter never even gave the couple a chance to come up with the rest of the dough he just had his friend [god] kill them.My guess is that it was a warning to the rest of his flock/followers to fork over all their dough. Or else!

  • http://sciencenotes.wordpress.com/ Markita Lynda, thread-killer

    Like many atheists, I started out as a brainwashed believer and it took me years to let go of the myths, partly because for so many years Christianity was a sacred cow for the mainstream media and they never addressed the actual history of the early church, the inconsistencies between the church’s story and archaeology, and the lack of evidence for a historical Jesus.
    I certainly don’t want to be preached at. In the last month I’ve taken to telling them I think it’s a load of nonsense and why.

    Next I’m going to pare it down to, “What makes me think I want to hear about your imaginary friend?”

    • http://sciencenotes.wordpress.com/ Markita Lynda, thread-killer

      That should be, “What makes *you* think I want to hear about your imaginary friend?”

  • http://www.arizona-writer.com Kimberly Hosey (Arizona Writer)

    I interpreted it in something like the Penn Jillette way as well — if they’re not “sharing the Gospel.” Actually, I still prefer moderates to fundamentalists, for the most part, and not only because they’re less tiresome. Fundamentalists are more intellectually honest and consistent, sure, but is intellectual integrity really the thing driving any religious person? I don’t want to go down the same road Christians do with atheists (“You don’t really believe that”), but, well, sort of. I bet a lot of moderates don’t spend any time at all actively believing we’re going to hell.

    I guess I see his preference for all Christians coming clean, so to speak. I just think that would tend to force most fence sitters go further from reason than they already are.

    And yes. I hate having it “shared” with me like I don’t know already. I told some door-knockers that the other day — I already know, and here are the verses you’re about to read me, and I disagree anyway. They nodded, then read the verses anyway. Maybe I’m too polite.

    • http://freethoughtblogs.com/camelswithhammers Camels With Hammers

      Fundamentalists are in no way whatsoever intellectually honest. Are they consistent with an absurd interpretation of the authority of the Bible? To some extent, but even there they are somewhat arbitrary.

  • Tisha Irwin
  • http://fidesquaerens.dreamwidth.org/ Marta Layton

    I’ve never heard this message from the pulpit or bema or any other equivalent, but I have occasionally had similar thoughts with regard to interfaith endeavors. They often frustrate me because they seem to act like all theology boils down to the same thing.

    I am all for people of different faiths (and non-faith) working toward social justice, disaster relief, whatever – but I resist the idea that all of our beliefs are equally correct. If a Muslim didn’t try to convince me why his faith was right at some point, I always felt kind of like he was kind of disrespecting what both of us believed in – like it didn’t matter to him, the points where we disagreed. That doesn’t mean I expected him to give up his belief, or that I disrespected him as a person for being a different religion. But my belief is significant to me, and I always thought it was important not to minimize those differences.

    So from my perspective I would expect not only other religious persuasions but also the non-religious (atheists, agnostics, secularists, etc.) to feel similarly. If a non-religious person believes it matters that we aren’t superstitious, that God doesn’t exist, whatever, I think I’m dismissing something that’s important to him if I act like our difference amounts to nothing. I’m not sure that an atheist would see the situation similarly, but perhaps this gives some inkling to where the thought comes from?

    (Btw, I’m not sure “sharing the Gospel” always means cold-call evangelism. In the church I attended growing up everything from apologetics to relationship-based evangelism – trying to show the Christian ethic through how you lived your life rather than what you told them – also went by that name. It can be a pretty wide umbrella, depending on the background of who’s using the term.)

  • speedwell

    I frequent an atheist chatroom that would be boring indeed if we didn’t feed the lions with the occasional vocal Christian volunteer.

    We would, truly, be upset if you came into chat, announced yourself to be a Christian, and failed to engage us in meaningful conversation on the subject.

  • Jeff D

    Daniel,

    I don’t want Christians to “share the Gospel(s)” with me. I know the Gospels in much more depth than most of them do, and so they would be wasting their time. Most self-described Christians whom I encounter in daily life have no reason to know that I am an atheist, and no basis to distinguish me from the countless thousands of believers-in-belief or lip-service monotheists, and they don’t bring up religion at all in their interactions with me.

    But I don’t get upset when Christians try to “share the Gospel” with me. My reaction is eye-rolling resignation, not surprise or anger.

  • John

    wowww. some great discussion on this blog.

    does anyone have an opinion about the subject of religion and the gospel?? i just read this article…you guys seem intelligent lol

    tell me what you think!

    The Gospel is better than Religion http://goo.gl/Giuy4

    sincerely,
    john


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