Ten Tips for Christian Evangelists (Courtesy of Atheists)

SarahH began this list on the Friendly Atheist Forums and many others have contributed to it.

It’s a list of the Top Ten Tips for Christian Evangelists. 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).

1. Don’t start using the person’s name, as if you are a close personal friend, unless you actually are a close personal friend.

When someone has just met me, asks my name, and begins to talk to me starting their sentences with “Sarah,” it makes me want to back away slowly — certainly not keep listening.

2. Don’t start quoting from the Bible.

Most people will recognize what you’re doing even if they don’t recognize the particular book/verse, and it comes off as robotic and scripted, like a telemarketer’s call. I tune this sort of thing out, because unless someone is discussing the Bible with me on equal terms (we’ve already agreed to discuss the Bible and I already know what the conversation is about), I just assume that the person has run out of things to say and is falling back on their doctrine.

Besides, if I’m not already a Christian, why do they expect me to take their book seriously? It’s a huge turn-off.

3. Don’t bring up a topic, or try to find out what the person is interested in, just so you can bring it back around to how it’s all a metaphor for Jesus or Christianity.

It makes it seem like your interest was only a ploy to keep the attention of the listener, only to be using their cooperation for your own corny game. I don’t want to spend thirty minutes discussing The Killers with someone, only to have them steer the conversation into how all music is a gift from God and this somehow proves that he exists. It leaves the impression that they didn’t care about what I had to say at all — it was just a giant set-up for their waiting punch line.

4. Don’t use the phrase “Good News.”

The chances are extremely high (at least in westernized countries) that the person has already heard this news and judged for themselves whether it’s good or bad or boring or irrelevant or whatever. If the person’s not a Christian, they’ve clearly judged it as not good enough to act upon.

It’s also not new information, so it’s not “news,” and it’s your aim to convince people that it’s good — that’s not something that’s a priori. So telling someone that you want to share the “Good News” with them is essentially begging the question.

5. Don’t talk about Jesus like he’s part of the conversation.

The people you’re talking to don’t share your beliefs, so they’re not going to be thrilled to hear that Jesus is listening in on their thoughts and sending messages or providing inspiration to the person talking to them.

This makes you come off as either crazy or… well, mostly crazy. I get that you actually believe that Jesus is alive and God is everywhere and all-knowing, but to non-Christians, he’s just an imaginary friend of yours, and so telling us to listen for his voice in our hearts is creepy.

6. Don’t plant literature.

We’re already stuck with Bibles in hotel rooms (thanks for that, Gideons and pushover hotels!). There’s no need to hide tracts inside books at the bookstore or leave those horrible fake $20 bill pamphlets with (or instead of) the tip at a restaurant. They don’t work. They’re impersonal, often accusatory, and extremely classless. If someone isn’t already a Christian, a pamphlet isn’t going to change that.

7. Don’t hide behind a fake front.

This goes for the “I agree with [local college personality]” shirts, fliers and posters that make no mention of the fact that an event or lecture will be a Christian event, etc.

While in college, I was lured to an ice cream social, a Creationist lecture and a prayer group all under essentially false pretenses — and that was just during the first semester of my freshman year! At every event, someone was up front, telling the attendees all about sin and Jesus and praying the Sinner’s Prayer. I even attended what was supposed to be an academic lecture on abstinence (that some campus sororities even made a mandatory group activity) that was extremely offensive to women and ended with more prayer.

I didn’t attend a Christian college.

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.

There’s one final piece of advice:

Don’t evangelize proactively at all.

If you belong to a group, make your events open to the public, but don’t use them to preach at non-Christians and repeat the Sinner’s Prayer.

If you’re an individual, identify yourself as a Christian, but don’t start preaching to people next to you on airplanes or on Facebook walls [or blogs -- Hemant]. Simply let any interested parties come to you. If they see something in your life they think is worth learning about, they’ll ask — and then you can share your faith with someone who genuinely wants to hear about it. Your message will likely resonate more strongly and with more respect and interest if you haven’t been trying to push it.

What would you add to the list?

(Thanks to SarahH for putting this together!)

  • http://hoverFrog.wordpress.com hoverFrog

    The first point is very common for telesales staff. Repeated use of the first name is supposed to encourage familiarity. In practice it just creates a sense of uncomfortable over familiarity. No-one really wants to be sold something that they haven’t enquired about first. That goes for selling Jesus.

    On the don’t evangelise point I occasionally catch the train to work with a chap who has kids at the same school as mine. Recognising a familiar face in the daily commute before the new year I asked if he had any plans for 2009. To show how much of a conversation stopper evangelism is he replied “I’m trying to understand what Jesus has planned for me”. I was completely stunned. What possible reply can you give to this and remain polite? Perhaps “I’m trying to understand what Odin has planned for me” or “Get away from me you nutter”.

  • Jason

    If Kent Hovind or Ted Haggard did it, don’t.

  • http://www.freewebs.com/guitarsean SeanG

    That’s a good list. You’ve pretty much summed up their whole game. Now evangelists will have to come up with new tactics based on logic and reason instead of fear and emotional appeals. Somehow I don’t think that would work either.

    I do really like the “open door” idea. I do that same as an atheist. People know I’m an atheist and if they want to talk about it, fine, I’m happy to. But I’m not chasing after people on the street.

  • http://tuibguy.com Mike Haubrich, FCD

    The final piece of advice violates the “earthly mission.” The Parable of the Talents” means that they must share their good news or their salvation will be discarded at the Pearly Gates.

    Evangelical Christianity is not one of the religions that one bears quietly. It would be nice if they could be beacons and not bellicose, but if they do they risk their own salvation.

  • Keith Miller

    First let me say that I am a Christian. I also respect others decision to not be.

    Now that that is said I want to make a comment about not Evangelizing. Most Christians will point out that the bible that we believe in instructs us to do exactly that. We are expressing our religious beliefs by evangelizing just as you are free to express your freedom by walking away.

    I am sorry about your being uncomfortable about christians evangelizing within earshot of you. But we have the right to speak about our beliefs just as you do.

  • http://suttersaga.com Sam Sutter

    It’s hard to subdue enthusiasm. I know a lot of Apple evangelists who are more annoying and persistent than Christian ones. But it’s really just all about them being excited about what they have.

  • debg

    One thing I would add that I have found both very common and very frustrating is the tactic Christians will use that play on your fear of losing your loved ones (and to really get to you, losing your kids) and never seeing them again. I’m an atheist alright, and I do believe that when people die, we just die. I’m okay with that, but I can’t stand to have some holier-than-thou stand in front of me and profess that well, they’re going to see their loved ones again, and if I accept Jesus then I can see mine again, too.

    There is something particularly cruel in this tactic. To play on the love a parent has for their child is to play very, very dirty.

  • http://www.dezrah.com dezrah
  • Brooks

    There is something particularly cruel in this tactic. To play on the love a parent has for their child is to play very, very dirty.

    Besides, weren’t Christians supposed to hate their families to follow Jesus? So, the argument’s not even biblical.

  • Luther Weeks

    And another tip: When I say I am an atheist, don’t get all sorts of nervous like it might be catching – be open to what I have to say, just like you would like me to be.

  • http://twitter.com/j_spencer Jeffrey

    While I agree with everything, #2 is always the big sticking point for me. Don’t quote the Bible at me because I do not believe that the Bible is the word of God, or anything other than an old book. Every time I have a discussion about any issue and someone says “well, the Bible says…” I have to remind them that not everyone blindly believes what the Bible says. They can call atheism arrogant all they want, but it seems pretty arrogant to me to assume everyone believes what you do.

  • http://virtualityforreal.blogspot.com Allytude

    And final point “Don’t tell us how great your religion is and we won’t tell you how stupid we think you are. Don’t argue religion with us, because we do not want a faith discussion while enjoying something else”

  • James H

    If I say to you, “I’m sorry, I’m an atheist,” please take that as a statement of noninterest, respect it, and move on. “I’m sorry, I’m an atheist” is a refusal, not an invitation.

    If you are counting on the rules of courtesy to keep me from cutting you down to size, recognize you have committed a grave discourtesy by heaping scorn on my beliefs.

    Similarly, if you are going to challenge my beliefs, prepare for me to challenge yours.

    If you and I have been friends for a long time, feel free to pray for me. I’ll take all the good wishes I can get. Heck, I’ll even be touched. Same goes for if I have a close relative or friend who’s sick or in trouble. Even if I disagree with you, I’m touched and honored that you care.

    But if you and I barely know each other, the prase “I’ll pray for you” just comes across as sanctimonious.

    However, no matter how close we are, please do not tell me that some personal tragedy is “part of God’s plan.” That just ticks me off toward God and you.

    If we’re friends, don’t be afraid to ask me to donate to your church’s food drive or other charitable efforts. Even if I don’t share your religious convictions, I’m all for helping the less fortunate.

    Most of all, remember that I’m not the enemy. Sure, I don’t believe in God or anything, but I don’t go around plotting how to convert all good American children into godless atheists someday. What other people do in this regard is their business. What I do is mine.

  • stephen

    #6, ugh… my atheist fiance used to work in a bakery were these two obnoxious women would come in once a week and leave jesus-oriented pamphlets as a “tip” instead of money.

  • Matthew

    Thanks for the tips. I am a Christian, and I agree with most of what Sarah says – those are bad ways to try to convert people. I also like what SeanG says, “Now evangelists will have to come up with new tactics based on logic and reason.” I think that’s right. That’s what I plan to do.

    I wouldn’t want anyone to be coerced, manipulated, or frightened into Christianity, or to pretend to believe something they don’t find logical and reasonable. Instead, I want to present evidence for the claims of Christianity in the hopes of convincing people rationally that God exists and that following Jesus is the best way to live life.

    Only when you’re convinced of the objective truth of Christianity should you become a Christian.

  • Polly

    The list missed a very common one: Implicit threats on behalf of god.

    e.g.:
    An anecdote about how a guy rejected the gospel and got hit by a car the next day or got cancer.
    Or,
    “God has been known to do something terrible to get a person’s attention – maybe even to your wife.” I got that one from my mother.

  • Siamang

    Keith Miller wrote:

    We are expressing our religious beliefs by evangelizing just as you are free to express your freedom by walking away.

    Absolutely. I totally agree. I’d then look at this list above as “stuff that will get some atheists to walk away.”

    Or alternatively “You know that time that awesome skepchick walked away from you and you didn’t know why? Here’s why.”

  • http://www.abandonallfear.org.uk Lex Fear

    Ha these are brilliant! I actually LOL’d.

    This list should be a *must* for Christian evangelists and missionaries to the West. Seriously Hermant you should send this list to all the local churches in your area – let them know how you feel about it. Any church worth it’s salt will seriously consider this list and should change it’s tack.

    On the first point though, I sometimes repeat someones name to help me memorise it in normal conversation – it’s a memory trick because I’m bad with names.

    Of course, I don’t agree with the last point – I mean, otherwise the world would be a pretty boring and fearful place – exchange of ideas and challenges to our belief systems are healthy. Sometimes I even enjoy getting evangelised myself by people of other distinction – whether it’s a technology thing or a belief thing.

  • Polly

    I am sorry about your being uncomfortable about christians evangelizing within earshot of you. But we have the right to speak about our beliefs just as you do.

    And you also have the right to engage in strawman arguments stemming from deliberately missing the point entirely.

    Jeez, I get tired of a vocal sub-group of xians acting like every critique of their message or approach is an attempt to enact a gag-rule. Are you logic impaired or what? Did anyone tell you you don’t have the right to make an ass out of yourself if you wish?

    If you don’t want to talk just to hear yourself speak, you might want to take into consideration your target audience. That’s all this is saying.

  • http://superstitionfree.blogspot.com/ Robert Madewell

    1. Don’t start using the person’s name, as if you are a close personal friend, unless you actually are a close personal friend.

    I disagree. Using someone’s name is a common courtesy. However, you don’t have to use the first name. Mr. A or Miss B work just as good.

    On the other hand, I have noticed evangelists using the first name more than usual for casual converstion. That is a bit creepy, I agree.

  • http://www.freewebs.com/guitarsean SeanG

    Sam Sutter Says:
    It’s hard to subdue enthusiasm. I know a lot of Apple evangelists who are more annoying and persistent than Christian ones. But it’s really just all about them being excited about what they have.

    Good point Sam.
    Evangelism, by definition, is attempting to convert someone to your beliefs. Whether it’s religion or atheism or Apple computers some people, like me, are turned off. Even if you’re right, it behooves the evangelist to find a better way to converse. I don’t like being browbeat by anyone.

    First name basis or not, there’s a lot in the tone of voice. Someone can use my first name and sound courteous or condescending.

  • http://religiouscomics.net Jeff

    I think evangelicals get extra points for converting atheists. ;)

    Although, their whole strategy is for converting people who were initially brought up religious, but then strayed from the church out of nothing more than apathy.

  • SarahH

    About #1 (on using first names), I think there’s an appropriate way to use a new acquaintance’s first name, in order to better remember it, and there’s an inappropriate way. Saying, “Nice to meet you, Sarah” is one thing – the repetition is clearly a way to help them remember my name.

    Using it over and over, and especially using it during evangelism or any other sales pitch, just comes off as creepy and overly-familiar. Saying, “Sarah, do you know what’s going to happen to you when you die?” falls into that category, for instance.

  • http://hoverFrog.wordpress.com hoverFrog

    Matthew wrote:

    I wouldn’t want anyone to be coerced, manipulated, or frightened into Christianity, or to pretend to believe something they don’t find logical and reasonable. Instead, I want to present evidence for the claims of Christianity in the hopes of convincing people rationally that God exists and that following Jesus is the best way to live life.

    Good for you. Ages ago I wrote that the best way, indeed the only way I could think of, to get me to follow Christianity would be if it was a demonstrably better way to live. It wouldn’t make me a believer in a god but it would get me to live like one.

    This would be evangelism simply by being a role model. Look at Christian role models today and throughout history and you might come to realise why Christianity is losing people.

  • http://www.wayofthemind.org/ Pedro Timóteo

    I agree with debg and Polly: threats (either of Hell or of something bad happening in the future) should be on this list.

    As for this, by Keith Miller:

    We are expressing our religious beliefs by evangelizing just as you are free to express your freedom by walking away.

    I’d suggest you read this, and this. The examples are different, but the problem you’re not seeing here is exactly the same.

  • Larry Huffman

    Keith Miller said:
    I am sorry about your being uncomfortable about christians evangelizing within earshot of you. But we have the right to speak about our beliefs just as you do.

    That is not what we are saying. We are not saying you cannot do these things within earshot…we are saying DO NOT DO THEM TO US. There is a bit of a difference.

    We do not care if you evangelize within earshot…we have gotten very good at ignoring it…I mean, after all, it has not changed in 2000 years really. It has all been said before…over and over and over. Just as easy to reject, over and over.

    If you notice…all of the above tips for you to follow are related to how you deal directly with us. When it comes to dealing directly with us…we most certainly have every right to tell you to leave us alone, we do not want to hear any of it. You do not have the right to shove it down our throats…and…if you were being honest (which I do not expect) you would have to admit that forcing us to listen only pushes us away.

    Most Christians will point out that the bible that we believe in instructs us to do exactly that.

    This comment and what it implies belies your real motivation. So…you are not doing this because you are worried about our salvation. Not because you care or Jesus loves me or some other such nonsense. You are doing it because you were told to do so. Hmmm…I see. Well…really we have known this all along, which is why we disregard it…why should I care about you meeting your god’s demands? Don’t make that my problem…that is your problem based on the god you choose to believe in.

    Your god…which I do not believe in…commands you to annoy me to try to make me believe in him. LOL Do you not see why we make a list like the one above? Do you not see how disengenuine it all really is when it really comes down to this being a task your fairy tale god gave you? “Annoy others in my name!” Your god is not too bright.

    Just cross me off your list of ‘people I need to try to convert in order to make my heaven-quota’ then.

    Silly evangelicals…open mouth, insert foot.

    Thank you Keith…you could not have made our case better for us had you tried. You try to convert us because your bible tells you. We can drop all pretense then and tell you “we don’t care, not our problem”

  • Larry Huffman

    Matthew said:
    Instead, I want to present evidence for the claims of Christianity in the hopes of convincing people rationally that God exists and that following Jesus is the best way to live life.

    Noble…but how is that coming for you? Got any evidence that god exists or that following jesus is the best way to live?

    Didn’t think so. :-)

  • Guitar Eddie

    Here’s another tip:

    If I say that I already have a faith I practice (e.g. Islam, Buddhism, whatever), don’t use the ploy of asking me if I know what the Bible says about my faith. I will come back with the answer that the Bible says 7 things about it; i.e. N-O-T-H-I-N-G. You can think of it as a way saying, “I’m not interested.” In which case have enough class to not continue to argue the point with me. It makes you look like a jerk. And I don’t think your Master would be very happy by your representing him in that manner.

    GE

  • http://www.sheeptoshawl.com writerdd

    That is not what we are saying. We are not saying you cannot do these things within earshot…we are saying DO NOT DO THEM TO US. There is a bit of a difference.

    Actually I have a rule against evangelizing and witnessing in my house, even if you are speaking to someone else. My home is not a free speech zone in this case. :-)

  • Polly

    And lo, the lord spaketh unto them thusly, saying

    “Always Be Closing”

    and indeed the pitch was good.

  • http://yangandcampion.googlepages.com Margaret Y.

    What James H. said.

  • anonymouse

    I have a tip. If you really think I am going to hell, don’t be so happy about it, and maybe BE NICE to me. If anything you should be pleasant while I am still here.

    My biggest one- STOP with the “god intervened” type of comments when regarding specific accidents/occurrences. Anyone who talks about how “god saved them” from disaster (fire, bridge collapse, anything) while someone else involved was seriously injured or died is an incredibly selfish and disgusting way to think.
    Someone we know had a friend in a car accident, and the other person in the accident died, and all this person could say was how their friend should be on track because they were “saved for a reason”. I guess god didn’t care too much about the other person in the car.

  • http://curiousatheist.blogspot.com Daniel

    Great list and comments. I would add:

    11. Don’t break local laws or ordinances regarding soliciting, trespassing, or violating private property.

    Many who spread the so-called “good news” do this routinely, as though their mission supersedes such matters.

  • Larry Huffman

    Writerdd…yes, I agree with you there. But if someone is evangelizing in my house, they are doing it to me and my family…far more personal than ‘within earshot’ as Ketih was getting at.

    So Keith Miller…You also do not have the right to evangelize in someone’s home where the message is not welcome. Regardless of what you think. If you disagree…then you would not mind if I came over and expounded on a few areas of interest that I want you and your family to have to sit and listen to…that you could care less about. Same difference.

    You know…all evangelicals would be able to do this properly if they only used the golden rule. Alas, it feels like most christians only want to be able to say they have the golden rule…they do not actually want to listen to it and try to live it.

    Because…I know damn well that you do not want muslims or jains or mormons to be allowed to teach you the same way you want to teach us. Not at all. This is a one way street in your books…your way only. We all should have to put up with you…but you have no interest in applying your golden rule and affording all other groups the same courtesy.

    At some point the contradictions have to make you wonder. How can you possibly live the golden rule and still follow the commandment to evangelize?

    If you care to try, I am game. I will give you 2 hours to come into my home and evangelize to me and my family. We will not argue. we will listen courteously and give you our full attention. Then, you ahve to allow me to come into your home and teach you what I want you to see. You and your family has to be courteous and listen attentively as well. Deal?

  • Polly

    anonymouse,

    My biggest one- STOP with the “god intervened” type of comments when regarding specific accidents/occurrences.

    I am sick to death of those. My wife’s grandmother died and her stupid relatives couldn’t stop telling her to “be brave.” One of her aunts (the very daughter of the deceased) actually said that death is a miracle! A fucking miracle! Can you believe the levels of idiocy people have to resort to, in order to justify the ways of god to man?

    I get stories (always from TV evangelists) about healings and miracles from my mother and from some of my wife’s relatives. It is the single, stupidest line of “evidence” in the world to say that to us, specifically. God could have made his existence known and spared my wife and her immediate family decades of completely useless pain. So, when they tell me about the wonders performed by faith-healers or that Dodie Olsteen was “healed” of liver cancer (after a year of treatment?) don’t expect me to believe a word of it.

    The fact is believers set the bar very low for their god – and he still can’t deliver. He promises to move mountains with a mustard seed of faith but if the bible were true, there’d be no need to attribute mere accidents of survival to god’s intervention. Believers would be able to point to all kinds of incredible things.

  • James H

    A couple more:

    If your faith saw you through a personal crisis, I’m happy for you. Heck, I even respect it, though I think you give yourself too little credit. That doesn’t mean that faith is the right path for me.

    If your arguments are particularly ridiculous, I reserve the right to evangelize you on behalf of the Presleyterian faith. He is your Rock and your Roll.

    If you wish to offer comfort to me in a time of crisis, please offer the comfort first and the Word of the Lord second.

    Please do not presume that just because I agree with you on certain political issues, I am necessarily open to joining your faith. The same goes for any acts of kindness I perform for you, or the fact that I occasionally socialize with you. Be a friend and fellow human being first, and an evangelical second.

    If I am unreceptive to your arguments, I am highly unlikely to join you for church, for coffee, or for Bible study.

    Deploying an attractive member of the opposite sex is cheating. I respect it, but it is still cheating.

  • James H

    And finally …

    … Do not call yourself “Elder” if you are not yet old enough to shave.

  • http://chaoskeptic.blogspot.com Iason Ouabache

    Shorter List:

    1. Don’t. EVER.
    2. If you think about doing anything, please see #1.

  • Max K

    It’s easy, St. Francis of Assisi summed it up nicely.

    “Preach the Gospel at all times and when necessary use words.”

    Your first duty as a Christian is not to make more Christians, it’s to live the teachings of Christ.

    Actions speak louder than words. Do some good.

  • http://www.sheeptoshawl.com writerdd

    Writerdd…yes, I agree with you there. But if someone is evangelizing in my house, they are doing it to me and my family…far more personal than ‘within earshot’ as Ketih was getting at.

    Actually my in-laws came and my sister-in-law’s boyfriend one year for Thanksgiving. I heard them witnessing to him one night after I’d gone to bed, and I made my husband get up and tell them that was not allowed under any circumstances.

  • Larry Huffman

    Ah…I see. I would have allowed it if the person listening wanted to hear it. I have a similar rule in my home…but I would not censor one person from hearing what another says just because I disagree.

  • http://religiouscomics.net Jeff

    In some cases, evangelism is for the purpose of maintaining the faith of the evangelizer.
    The person being evangelized is almost irrelevant.

    If you send the flock out evangelizing, you will tend to get more commitment and tithes from the flock.
    That may be the only real purpose. The only real effective method of growing the flock is to indoctrinate the flock’s children.

  • Matthew

    hoverFrog wrote:

    Ages ago I wrote that the best way, indeed the only way I could think of, to get me to follow Christianity would be if it was a demonstrably better way to live. It wouldn’t make me a believer in a god but it would get me to live like one.

    The best way to live is to live in accordance with what is actually true. The only reason to be a Christian is if you believe it’s true. I claim it’s the best way to live because it’s based on truth, not the other way around.

    So don’t follow a religion just because it feels better.

    I think the only way you would ever become a Christian is if you end up thinking it’s true.

  • Larry Huffman

    Matthew wrote:
    The best way to live is to live in accordance with what is actually true.

    I am doubting you really meant to say this…or did you?

    Because, christianity is not, actually, true. Even by it’s own admission, it is considered true by faith only…not in any form of actuality.

  • http://40yearoldatheist.com 40 Year Old Atheist

    I’ve got someone doing most of this at my blog – it’s a pretty good list!

  • http://www.otmatheist.com hoverFrog

    Matthew, that’s sweet but “true” is a conclusion and “living” isn’t. Living is more of an investigation and making use of what works best for different situations. I wasn’t interested in what feels better in acting in accordance with the tenets of a faith. I’m interested in what actually makes for a better life, for me, for my family, for friends, for strangers, for everyone.

    For example, Christianity is really good at charity but rubbish at honesty or basic politeness. Buddhism is really good at serenity and peace at an individual level but sucks at helping the group. Islam works fantastically well at keeping the group cohesive and strong but is utterly intolerant of other views. I’m generalising but you get the idea. Each faith has strengths and weaknesses.

    In order for me to follow the tenets of a religion I’d need an overall net positive to be clearly expressed. Every faith I’ve examined has demonstrated a net minus. This is probably the nature of faith because logic and reason are secondary considerations. No faith makes an effort to improve the lives of people as a social movement, like humanism for example, does. Instead the personal and social improvements come (where they do come) almost by accident.

    Preaching an accident or personal event as a positive experience is hardly compelling. Preaching mythology as evidence is hardly compelling. I would need something compelling and it just isn’t therewith religion.

  • Matthew

    I said:

    Instead, I want to present evidence for the claims of Christianity in the hopes of convincing people rationally that God exists and that following Jesus is the best way to live life.

    Larry Huffman replied:

    Noble…but how is that coming for you? Got any evidence that god exists or that following jesus is the best way to live?

    Didn’t think so. :-)

    It’s going well. Yes, I do have evidence that is convincing to me and many others (e.g. the universe exists rather than not, historical evidence that Jesus actually rose from the dead – to name two).

    So you can say you disagree with the evidence, or that it’s not convincing to you, but don’t assume that all Christians are just irrationally following a set of ideas they don’t really believe. I admit some are, but true Christianity is based on a belief that God really does exist and that Jesus actually physically rose from the dead.

    I said:

    The best way to live is to live in accordance with what is actually true.

    Larry Huffman replied:

    I am doubting you really meant to say this…or did you?

    Because, christianity is not, actually, true. Even by it’s own admission, it is considered true by faith only…not in any form of actuality.

    Good heavens! Yes, I meant it. Why would I believe something I didn’t think was actually true?? (I’m not sure that’s even possible.) And yes, Christianity actually claims to have truth about the way the world really is, apart from faith. Jesus claimed to be Truth incarnate – “I am the Truth.” It’s not by faith only. Now faith does play a part – it helps me believe things that are true.

  • Larry Huffman

    Matthew…Sorry but someone saying they are the truth, does not make anything they say true in and of itself. The term ‘actually’…which you used…means based in fact. Fact allows for proof. Christianity has famously held that it cannot be proven except by faith, thus taking it out of the realm of fact.

    In other words, jesus saying in a book that he is true is no more credible than bilbo baggins claiming hobbits exist. Nope…we’ve never seen a hobbit and we’ve never seen a virgin born once dead part god-man. No reason to go and believe it just because a book says so…no matter how passioantely people get whipped up about it.

    but thank you for letting us off the hook for believing. If everyone were to only wait for christianity to ‘actually prove itself’ true before they joined. Within a generation it would be gone…thus showing itself to be just as true as zeus and odin and the many other gods that have come before.

  • Larry Huffman

    For those who have expressed frustration with people who claim that god saved or helped them singularly…I too am frustrated by that one often. So much so that I wrote about it in a blog post. Rather than recount it, I will just link to it.

    http://www.atheistnexus.org/profiles/blogs/somebody-up-there-loves-me

  • Matthew

    Larry,

    You’re right, Jesus saying “I am the Truth” does not make it true. My point was just that Christianity claims to be about truth. I’m not sure where you got the idea that “Christianity has famously held that it cannot be proven except by faith.” That’s simply not what most Christians believe. See the first paragraph of the gospel of Luke for example. He describes why he’s writing – so that his reader will know truth, not muster up enough faith to fake it.

    So yes, you’re off the hook for believing unreasonable fairy tales. Please don’t try to believe anything you think is unreasonable or untrue. I certainly don’t want people joining the Christian cause if they don’t believe it.

    If everyone were to only wait for christianity to ‘actually prove itself’ true before they joined. Within a generation it would be gone…

    I think many *do* wait until they believe before they join. And the fact that it’s lasted so many generations should at least tell you that many, many people have been convinced that it’s true. Even back to the first generation – many of the original apostles believed they were correct to the point of death.

    So, all I’m saying here is that Christianity claims to be about truth, and that many Christians actually believe it be objective, provable truth about the way the world really is. Any system based just on blind faith is irrational, stupid, and not worthy of consideration. Obviously. Of course I recognize that you’ll say that describes Christianity. I disagree but our disagreement is not about whether one should accept something on blind faith (we agree one shouldn’t), but whether the evidence given for God’s existence and Christianity’s truth work or not.

  • Charles

    “… but I have Good News to share with you!”

    “You saved on your car insurance by switching to Geico?”

    Usually does the trick.

  • http://jonreid.blogs.com/ Jon Reid

    This is an excellent list, thank you SarahH for writing it and Hemant for posting it! #4 surprised me, but maybe that’s just because I don’t use “can I share the Good News with you” like a pickup line.

    The bonus tip at the end sums it up. This isn’t about abandoning evangelism. It’s about doing it right and not being a jerk or a weirdo. It’s about being a good missionary. I just wrote something along these lines, but from my point of view as a Christ-follower: 14 Reasons to Stop Evangelizing Your Friends

  • http://www.abandonallfear.org.uk Lex Fear

    @Polly

    I am sick to death of those. My wife’s grandmother died and her stupid relatives couldn’t stop telling her to “be brave.” One of her aunts (the very daughter of the deceased) actually said that death is a miracle! A fucking miracle! Can you believe the levels of idiocy people have to resort to, in order to justify the ways of god to man?

    Those kinds of people aggravate Christians too, in the same way.

    I’m sorry for the many people who have experienced this kind of person – all I can say is that Christianity is open for all who wish to accept and follow Christ – and inevitably people bring their bad habits with them. Christ doesn’t condemn them for that, neither would he condemn you for your bad habits if you chose to become a follower.

    No-one puts you through a basic social ettiquette and skills class when you become a Christian… but perhaps churches should do this for those who lack the necessary social skills.

    I’m very interested in this excellent post by Hermant and by the comments following it. My hope is that as many Christians and church leaders as possible get to read it – I myself have already forwarded it on.

  • Claudia

    One I’d add is that just about the worst time to evangelize to an atheist is when they are in a hospital, especially if they are grieving over a dead friend/relative.

    The very idea that I could be in one of the worst moments of my life and some evangelist (of ANY faith) would heartlessly exploit my pain to see if he/she can get me to turn to god as a consolation makes me furious. You may actually think you’re helping the person, but from their point of view you are invading a terrible but very private moment and you are taking advantage of the weak. It’s cruel and it is a lot more likely to get you punched (or at least insulted) that to get you a convert.

  • Mark

    Tip number 3: “Don’t bring up a topic, or try to find out what the person is interested in, just so you can bring it back around to how it’s all a metaphor for Jesus or Christianity.”

    This is just a small symptom of a huge problem with Christians. They don’t care about other people at all. They just want credit for as many christian conversions as possible. Once they think they have converted you then they toss you to the curb and move on the the next conquest. You never really mattered to them.

    If you are a Christian and you want to “speak the good news of Christ” then do it by the way you live your life. You will really impress others if you live your life the way Jesus told you to and you keep your mouth shut while doing it.

    There is no better proof that God doesn’t exist than a Christian with his mouth running. This advice goes double for those idiot Christians who think that somehow God wants them to get involved in politics.

  • Spurs Fan

    You’re right, Jesus saying “I am the Truth” does not make it true. My point was just that Christianity claims to be about truth. I’m not sure where you got the idea that “Christianity has famously held that it cannot be proven except by faith.” That’s simply not what most Christians believe. See the first paragraph of the gospel of Luke for example. He describes why he’s writing – so that his reader will know truth, not muster up enough faith to fake it.

    Does this break rule #2?

  • Siamang

    Spur’s fan, I think in this case it’s warranted. Because he’s talking about what Christianity claims. It’s totally fair, when asked or when someone asserts what Christianity claims, to use a New Testament example to illuminate what Christianity claims.

  • Escualidus Arrechus

    How about “No means No”?

    My wife and I took a cab to work the other day. Not two blocks from home, the driver asked us if we had heard of “the plan our Lord has for all of us”. I curtly told him that neither of us were religious, and to please not preach to us. He stopped, and we drove on for about five minutes. As we were approaching our destination (driving past a church, ‘natch), he tried again: “Ok, say I don’t talk about god, what if I talk to you about Jesus?”

    At that point, I lost it. I angrily told him that my wife and I were not religious, and that he would be reported to the taxi service if he persisted in trying to impose his beliefs on us. I added that we were paying money to be driven from point A to point B, and that preaching was not part of the deal. He finally gave up.

    I know a cold retelling of the story makes me sound like a raging asshole, but it was the first time I was “ambushed” by a bible-thumper since arriving at atheism, and I can’t even put into words how insulting it felt. It was… Like having my being second-guessed.

  • anonymouse

    Escualidus Arrechus-

    No, it DOESN’T make you seem like an asshole. I understand that forcing your beliefs is pretty much built into many religions, but any human being of reasonable intellectual capacity at least *understands* what “no” means in their language. My cat knows what it means. He simply chose to not respect you or your wishes. I don’t feel you overstepped your boundaries in any way. The first request should have been enough.

  • Eliza

    Matthew wrote:

    It’s going well. Yes, I do have evidence that is convincing to me and many others (e.g. the universe exists rather than not, historical evidence that Jesus actually rose from the dead – to name two).

    You have a point there. If the universe did not exist, there would be fewer people convinced of the truth of Christianity. :-/

    But remember, Matthew, that absence of a body does not constitute a body of evidence.

    You also wrote:

    …true Christianity is based on a belief that God really does exist and that Jesus actually physically rose from the dead.

    Ignoring the implication that some Christians are “false” , I couldn’t have said it better. Christianity is, indeed, based on the belief in Christianity’s key tenets.

  • DeafAtheist

    My girlfriend found a similar link you might like. I particularly liked the opening version of hell.

    http://www.joethepeacock.com/2008/03/how-to-actually-talk-to-atheists-if.php

  • gmcfly

    11. Be honest about what you don’t know. Don’t pretend like there are no paradoxes or mysteries in Christianity, or try to brush over it by declaring God to be a mystery. Don’t feel like you have to pretend to have all the answers.

    Actually (as you can tell from this site) atheists love to talk about religion! As long as you are engaging in honest and frank discussion, and bringing up interesting points (that we haven’t all heard a million times — e.g. the Trinity is like the three phases of water, or Pascal’s Wager) we’ll have a great conversation.

  • Brooks

    You’re right, Jesus saying “I am the Truth” does not make it true. My point was just that Christianity claims to be about truth. I’m not sure where you got the idea that “Christianity has famously held that it cannot be proven except by faith.” That’s simply not what most Christians believe.

    Doesn’t the bible say that faith is the evidence of things not seen or am I just imagining things?

    The best way to live is to live in accordance with what is actually true. The only reason to be a Christian is if you believe it’s true. I claim it’s the best way to live because it’s based on truth, not the other way around.

    Wait, doesn’t the bible say that all non-believers are evil immoral people and only Christians have a monopoly on morality? So if Christians are acting immoral and non-believers aren’t, then that would disprove the claims of the bible that non-believers are immoral. I frankly think it’s hypocritical for Christians to claim they have a monopoly on morality, but when they fail the test to act decent, they use the No True Scotsman fallacy. Either Christians have a monopoly on morality and if Christians behave immorally then the bible’s claims about Christianity making you a better person are false and the bible is wrong or it isn’t. You can’t have it both ways, which leads me to tip 11. Don’t use No True Scottsman fallacies. Those only make you look arrogant and hypocritical and I’m pretty sure it’s a violation of judge not lest ye be judged.

    It’s going well. Yes, I do have evidence that is convincing to me and many others (e.g. the universe exists rather than not, historical evidence that Jesus actually rose from the dead – to name two).

    Tip 12:Don’t use arguments that have already been debunked by atheists a million times in the past such as the argument from design or the argument from first cause. If you’re going to claim to have proof, at least give us something original. Tip 13: When trying to prove the claims of the bible, please don’t use Josephus or other forgeries that biblical scholars have long since debunked as being forgeries and not authentic. Tip 14: Watch Vemonfangx videos to know how not to make yourself look crazy.

  • James

    Christianity, if false, is of no importance,

    I mean why would it be? It would only be a bunch of lies.

    And if true, of infinite importance.

    If it is true then bad news for unbelievers.

    The only thing it cannot be is moderately important.

    Bunch of lies or 100% true only 2 choices remain. Whats your choice? I know what mine is :D

  • Mary

    Thank you for sharing this list. I’m a Christian, and I think this is great. I want to forward it to every Christian I know…

  • corey

    There is a book called “The case for Easter” by Lee Strobel. If you want proof on Jesus. I’m a christian. And I Know that there are christians out there that are very judgemental and pushy. I appoligize on their behalf. I do think that it would be worth the couple hours(total) just see if this book can prove its case. Thank you and have a good one.

  • http://MySpace.com/ElectroPig1 ElectroPig™ Von FökkenGrüüven

    Whenever one of those “holier than thou types” shows up at my doorstep (in the case of a jehova’s witness) or anywhere else, I always ask them if they’d rather go to heaven or hell. They INVARIABLY answer “Heaven, of course!”

    I make the very simple point that they understand that they will be there for eternity, and when they must agree in order to support their flawed visions, I simply inform them that I would much prefer to go to hell, and then I watch their eyes bug out.

    When they begin their mandatory “Surely you don’t mean that?!?” schpiel, I then explain that if they’re in “heaven” and they decide it’s not quite what they expected, they’re screwed…they’re there for ETERNITY, while I have the better option, as in hell, if I decide in a day, a year, or a millnnium that I wanted out, at lest >I< could find a lawyer! That usually shuts them up pretty quick. d=^)

    Just another helpful hint for whenever you get accosted by renegade non-thinkers…feel free to use it as neccessary!

  • Roman von Tiesenhausen

    Hello bretheren,

    For me there are only two kinds of people in the world. A christian and a non christian on his way to becoming a christian. That was the philosophy Jesus, the apostles Peter,Paul,John,James and all the other desciples of the Lord. I am a bold preaching christian. The reason I am so bold for the Lord is because after I became a born again believer and had repented of all my sins, the Lord gave me a dream where he spoke to me in an audible voice telling me to go and preach his word the bible to everybody who was open to hear his word.
    I have been a christian now for 23 years. I have seen the Lord Jesus once in person. He spoke to me in an audible voice once. I have seen holy angels on several occasions, and I have seen demons on several occasions.
    Therefore it is not a big deal for me to believe that there is a heaven and a hell.
    I have found that the toughest thing for people to comprehend is that they are spiritual beings not just human beings. You see our Father God and his Son Jesus Christ are spiritual beings. They are real but they are invisible to the natural eye. You have to see them with your spiritual eyes, and you can only do that after you have accepted them and repented of your sins. This is why so many people are not willing to convert to christianity because you have to humble yourself, repent of your sins admit that you were living wrong and then go and tell
    all of your friends that you found God. That takes a lot of faith, and that is why God will reward them with eternal life. As Jesus says in the bible: If you confess me before men, I will confess you before my Father. This is one of the reasons I am not afraid of speaking about Jesus, because I would rather have Jesus as my friend than all of my unbelieving friends.

    • Baronk

      Wow, you must have been doing some serious drugs. Sounds like Engelbrecht Tiesenhausen farted out another slave for the 21st century.

  • Ell

    Hey, if you don’t like it, go home!! Some people love Jesus, God, and interacting with The Holy Spirit… they don’t Zen out and cut down your trees, so why does everyone have to cut into Christianity??

    I mean, how is it that “Do not kill” bothers people?? Is stem cell research a “cure all’ for aging, illness and addiction that is new?? cause cancer has increased since stem cell research has been available, and no one has been ‘cured’ that has been documented, but you can follow your belief on that one, instead of looking at the research. I mean, except for new converts or ‘converted addicts’ to Christianity, I have never been harmed by someone stating the name of ‘Jesus’… the threat to others hearing it is so unclear. However, I have been harmed by people who think kick boxing is the ‘peace’ of tomorrow, and having the ‘Cornucopian dream’ will cure all… what happened to a ‘green and friendly’ future with the world?? It seems to have been beaten and eaten up by marijuana and technology, and very specifically targeted anger towards Christians — who actually do not like wars… well, just things that make you go “hmmm…”.

  • Ell

    P.S. many atheists actually have real beliefs about God… some are even Islamic supremists.

  • William

    I am a Christan. And I agree with you guys 99.9%. There a are a few negligible diffs, but i wont bring those up. Its so irritating to see the church commercialized as it is, and corruption is indeed in the church. You can’t argue someone into christianity.

    Keep it up. and the person above me, well, he’s blatantly lying.

  • ridelo

    That’s a lot of don’t’s. What are the do’s, I wonder.

  • http://www.richarddawkins.net L. de Palingboer

    Most of you people are all wrong. The Invisible Flying Spaghetti Monster tells me so with voices in my head and he is real and he is never mistaken. Beware. He loves you, but if you don’t start to develop his voices in your head immediately he will tickle you forever with his tentacle. A man in a pink dress and holy lipstick told me so.

    Santa is real too, insallah Holy Easter Bunny (nsfw). I will burn a candle, eat a killed cow and make a dance in the garden. Last time it started to rain, so some of it works. The Universe is 100 days old and you were created as you are including memories. I saw it because I am 200 days old. You cannot prove it otherwise so it is real. Checkmate, denying bunny-atheist.

    Now if you will excuse me, I have some flagging to do at Youtube.

  • http://www.richarddawkins.net Peter Codecs

    I am Christian too but I was born again again so now I am also a muslim. Not clear what flavor, they were not really interested in my P\ although I showed it with all my pride. I now have three birthdays a year which is quite confusing. Especially because we now have two calendars.

    Although I want to become Hindu too (just to be sure I did chose the right religion) I don’t like it to be born again ever again. Well I don’t mind but you see, it’s my old mom. She doesn’t like to be taken to hospital and have doctors putting me in her belly again. It hurts, she says, and she doesn’t like all the visitors. Of course she is completely inferior to my salvation but hey, it’s my mom. Oh, and medicare doesn’t pay for it. So maybe I will join the Chinese mafia and become a communist. It is very important and I do it only for the children.


    Peter, where can I be reborn again?

    Good question, you might want to try your local hospital.

    Peter, I hear voices in my head, but they are silent after the doctor gives me a pill.

    That’s simple. Do not trust the doctor!

    Hi Peter, happy birthdays! LOLz xxx

    Thank you Deborah! Did you buy my book? I try to have it mandatory in schools. Little short on cash.

    Peter, I suspect that my cat is an atheist and a vegetarian. What should I do?

    Nothing. He has been in my prayers whole the time for 5 weeks now. Obviously Bog wants him to behave that way.

  • me

    “many atheists actually have real beliefs about God”
    Well yeah, that he doesn’t exist.

    “some are even Islamic supremists”
    OK, confession time. I might be in favour of Islamic supremes, too. What’s the recipe?

  • Federico Kereki

    I think George Carlin summed it up perfectly, with his extra commandment: “Thou shalt keep thy religion to thyself”

  • Flapjack

    Ok, Add just about everything Roman von Tiesenhausen said to my list of unconvincing conversion techniques.
    The gist of the argument as I understand it is “I had a series of uncooberated visions and or dreams about Jesus and God and demons which proves I’m right”.
    Just to give you some idea how unconvincing that is, I have a recently diagnosed bi-polar friend who spent an entire week believing he WAS god.
    To him that felt very real, but when asked to present anything that might convince the rest of us he was god, he drew a total blank. He is a lapsed Catholic.
    What goes on in your head is entirely subjective… and unless you can find a number of sane people who saw exactly the same vision, I’m forced to conclude you might well need therapy. People with mental conditions or people who take hallucinogenic drugs do from time to time see visions, and if they have prior knowledge of other people’s stories of God or Jesus or demons it’s totally conceivable to have hallucinations about them. Unfortunately, your vivid visions wouldn’t exactly constitute “exhibit A” in a court of law.
    I’d also like to add the technique one demented evangelist tried on me one time, which was to claim he had a photograph of Noah’s Ark when it actually happened (strangely he didn’t have on him at the time). That would be taken on the SLR black and white box-brownie camera Kodak created for the discerning middle eastern photographer at around 4000BC I would guess.

  • http://willadair.com Will Adair

    As a Christian (of the evangelical variety) I am sorry that so many professing Christians have given such a bad name to Jesus and the faith that has grown from his life and teachings that it has given you enough reason to create a top 10 list. I will take what you have said to heart and the many comments on here when I share my faith.

    I’m sorry that the faith that drives many of us to God is used in a way that drives many of you away from even considering the assertion of the reality of God or the teachings of Christ.

    Thanks for those of you who have written cordially to us when we don’t deserve it.

  • Manders

    Mike Haubrich, HCD said:

    The final piece of advice violates the “earthly mission.” The Parable of the Talents” means that they must share their good news or their salvation will be discarded at the Pearly Gates.

    Evangelical Christianity is not one of the religions that one bears quietly. It would be nice if they could be beacons and not bellicose, but if they do they risk their own salvation.

    Really? Is that what you really think we believe? Dang. I wouldn’t be a Christian if I thought we believed that, either. Someone got it right earlier in the comments when they said that evangelism is telling someone about something they’re really enthusiastic about, no matter what it is. We don’t do this thing because we want to go to heaven and be happy when we die; we do it because of love. If we got heaven and we didn’t get God, there’d be no point.

    I agree with these points. There’s no way we can make you intellectually believe in a deity, much less make you love God, because no one’s an atheist for purely intellectual, philosophical reasons. No one’s a Christian for purely emotional, psychological reasons, either–there are a lot of factors involved. It’s not as simple as we want to make it, just like everything else.

    If you’re going to be a Christian, or even a theist, I think there are a lot of things that are going to have to happen. God’s going to have to happen to you. And the best I can do is start by loving you as another human being, humbly, and talking about it if you’re interested. A lot of where we Christians have gone wrong is by not being interested in you except as target practice. And that sucks.

  • Pingback: A Message to Friendly Atheists « Ken’s Commentaries

  • http://willadair.com Will Adair

    Manders has it right when he says:

    “God’s going to have to happen to you.”

    The basic premise of Christianity is that God happens to you in the person of Jesus. That is the gospel. Those who are evangelical in nature want to share that belief. Yes it is a belief. We believe it is a historically true belief. This is the essence of faith. Some people choose not to believe this. If a person chooses to reject a premise even a true one that is their right to do so.

    The ten things listed here happen because both sincere and misguided Christians don’t fully get how to share their faith. It’s not always a easy thing to do. The delivery doesn’t change the veracity or lack thereof of the truth of the message.

  • Sonya

    This is in response to the person that mentioned that Jesus called us to hate our family.The point of the list is that no other relationship is first for a disciple. “Hate” is used figuratively and suggests a priority of relationship. Jesus is first. To follow Jesus means to follow Jesus, not anyone or anything else.Last time I checked the US consitution was unchanged…freedom of speech is for everyone yes, even Christians. Your ten tips cross the border into a form of cenorship and suppression of the bible…check out Annie Rice a former Atheist.

  • http://relentlessgrace.wordpress.com Robbie Schmidtberger

    Stumbled upon here through the web. As a Christian I agree with the general tone of this list; and find little to quibble over. These are gems of wisdom. I’ll be returning often.

  • MentalMaze

    Do Unto others…

    I wonder how receptive Christians would be if atheist turned up at their door trying to convince them to not believe or left pamphlets all around and had fake ice cream socials in order to preach non belief. Not to mention countless other ways Christians try to spread their meme.

    mm

  • atomjack

    …and xtians come in and evangelize the atheists during the discussion about what not to do. You guys just. don’t. get. it. There really isn’t a person who “has not yet become a xtian”. You are deluded if you believe that. I worked hard at belief when I was a nonbelieving catholic, but the logic says NO. Also, after trying to figure out why I didn’t believe, I turned to the bible- yes, and the internet- yes, and you know what? If you guys actually studied the history of the bible instead of the actual (you know it’s been badly translated many times, right?) book, you’d know when the gospels were really written. Because most of you hold an ideal, and say the rest aren’t “True Xtians”, and evangalize on your feel-good mean-well attitude without respect for the other people. The crowd that supports the “haven’t yet become xtian are the most offensive- like they hold the ultimate truth, whereas they really have a “Pat the Bunny” book and don’t realize that a bunny DIED to make the swatch for that book.

  • atomjack

    Sonya, the buy-bull should be censored! It is a hate-filled book (you’ve actually read it from cover to cover, right?…and don’t say there is no angry little man in there if you haven’t actually read the WHOLE buy-bull, not just the parts your study group guide picked out). Hate is hate, it’s quite clear, btw. Nasty, nasty, nasty, but it needs “educated clerics” to interpret it. You give your own mental faculties short shrift (I hope) if you accept this stuff as something to believe in.
    The real point is here, if you go up to some person on the street and start pushing jeebus, and the person doesn’t want to hear it, leave them alone. Don’t continue the sales pitch!

  • atomjack

    …and since I seem to be on a roll tonight:
    don’t. evangelize. at. all. Thank you and have a good godless day! I’m here all week, try the pork chops.

  • http://nathanintownsville.com Nathan

    Well, this has been a thoroughly engaging read.

    Just a couple of points I feel like addressing – but I’m mindful of not perpetrating the irony pointed out by Atomjack where Christians come in an break all the rules identified in the post…

    Asking Christians to make a case for faith without the Bible is futile given that the Bible is the basis of our faith – the evidence. Choose to do with the evidence whatever you might – but don’t try to separate a Christian from their beliefs and ask them to defend them… I know you’d like to move the goalposts to a discussion of the merits of theism v atheism rather than Christianity v atheism – but the logic for being a believer is lost without a specific belief. This incidentally is why the flying spaghetti monster is such a poor rhetorical tool.

    I’d suggest when it comes to the argument of first cause you may as well flip a coin – either the universe is infinitely big and created itself, or God is really big and created the universe. The fact that you flip the coins and get one result and me another does not render my beliefs illogical or irrational.

    Now, to some of the points raised by my fellow commenters…

    “Your god…which I do not believe in…commands you to annoy me to try to make me believe in him. LOL Do you not see why we make a list like the one above? Do you not see how disengenuine it all really is when it really comes down to this being a task your fairy tale god gave you? “Annoy others in my name!” Your god is not too bright.”

    I would suggest it’s disingenuous to lump all evangelism in together at this point – when I talk to my non-Christian friends it is out of concern for their eternal well-being – not because God tells me to. But because I care. I also care about people I don’t know. Why would I, believing in Hell, wish it upon anybody? You may disagree with me about the existence of Hell – but if I believe it then I have an imperative to present the case to people who may be heading there.

    Just because you do not believe in God doesn’t mean he’s not there. I’ve never been to North Korea, I’ve never met a North Korean, does this mean they don’t exist? No, should I choose not to believe in them? Perhaps, on the basis of the evidence… The whole premise that evidence is somehow the best basis for knowledge is always assumed without question – which I don’t understand. Surely evidence is only as objective as the person positing it in the first place?

    “Your God is not so bright…” well perhaps, assuming for a moment that he exists, he is the arbiter of bright, not you? Perhaps he gets to choose how things transpire… that would seem to be the natural order of things if a supreme deity exists. Why should we instruct said deity?

    And then, this old chestnut…

    “If you guys actually studied the history of the bible instead of the actual (you know it’s been badly translated many times, right?) book, you’d know when the gospels were really written. Because most of you hold an ideal, and say the rest aren’t “True Xtians””

    Atomjack, I have studied the history of the Bible. Yes, there have been times where it has been badly translated, though most, if not all, of the currently popular versions are translations of the oldest available manuscripts, where there are an abundant number of legible copies with consistent wording – it’s fair to say that the standard versions of the bible used by most churches are, in the best understanding of translators, close to the originally written documents.

    The question of when the gospels were really written is a little more up in the air than you’d care to admit. I suggest it only takes a few voices with their own agenda to call into question any form of consensus… I’m not sure the wikipedia articles on the matter are ever going to be the best source on such a contentious topic. But perhaps that’s naive of me…

    Also, the “human” creation argument, and arguments based on the forming of the canon (and the choosing of the books) are a different matter – and I’d be happy to talk through those with you further.

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  • Anonymous Coward

    I would like to add these rules:
    * Be cordial and polite. Why don’t the Christian evenagelists understand that they won’t get anywhere if they start out by pissing their conversation partner off?
    * If you tell us we’re going to hell, don’t gloat about it. It won’t convince us of hell’s existence or the need to change our evil ways, but it will prove quite conclusively to us that you’re a sadistic heartless asshole.
    * Read up on the current state of science and philosophy before you start the conversation. There are few things more annoying than having a conversation of an endless string of ‘Yes, we do know, and you would have too if you had just looked it up.’s.
    * Don’t call us immoral. If you’ve got butter on your head you shouldn’t walk in the sun.
    Seriously, every apologist I’ve met broke those. I can’t fathom what they think they’re doing.

  • Flapjack

    @ Nathan – Maybe you see the Flying Spaghetti monster as a poor rhetorical tool, but to ignore it won’t advance your arguments for the existance of your god any further.
    I see it as a problem of paradigms. Your paradigm is that the bible is a given and we’re working forward from that. For an atheist, our paradigm is that The Bible is as much a historical document as a Dickens novel.
    It might allude to real locations and even include the occasional real event, but the lion’s share of the narrative is a work of fiction. Unless you can coobberate all those events with independant contemporary historical documents or archeological clues the narrative has some glaring historical, continuity and scientific errors. It’s not helped by the fact that your god occupies a crowded marketplace of “one true gods” past and present.
    To use the bible as the clincher in a debate with an atheist is as futile as my using the flying spaghetti monster on you, as you would want pretty substantial independant evidence for his existance. After all, you want us to believe in an invisible being, who created everything, is everywhere at once, who (if you buy into the holy trinity) is the same personage as his own son and a vaguely defined holy ghost. You also want us to buy into heaven, hell, miracles, Jesus born of a virgin dying and getting ressurrected, even before we get started on some of the more extraordinary claims made in the Old Testament such as an ark big enough to contain all the animals an elderly man collected from all over the planet with food for 40 days without eating each other. These stories explain very little, least of all why we should give them any more credence than Scientology, Rastafarianism, Bhuddism, Hinduism or Zoroastrianism. Thus the Flying Spaghetti Monster.
    All the arguments I’ve seen thus far assume that we’re starting from a position of faith already, which is why they’re doomed to fail.

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  • ziegler

    I would naturally call myself a Christian, but I would be lying somewhat… I am an agnostic, clinging to Christianity because I’m too scared to deny God, in case He does exist… That makes me a sissy, a pseudo-Christian.

    Or am I? For rational reasons, I am an agnostic; for other, less subjective rational reasons, I am a Christian.
    That means I hold all of the beliefs stated above, yet I also believe that those are my opinions, and that if Jesus really is God, then He is sovereign and my opinions don’t matter.

    First of all, I strongly relate to this list! I deny Christ everyday on the grounds of what I see – in the behavior of “His people,” the tragedy of Hell‘s existence, the apparent lack of action on Christ’s part to change situations, the fact that I cannot control what I do and do not believe in, etc.

    However, who am I to have an opinion that should be heeded to….and allowed to influence a worldview!?
    No, my opinion is not worthy of altering my – or anybody else’s – worldview. Nobody’s opinion, or “beliefs,” are worthy of that authority! Evangelists included.

    Yes, Christians make mistakes – especially when it comes to witnessing. Thank you for writing a “what not to do” list. I, with the little grain of faith that I have, believe that all of you were used to touch my heart.

    But, friends, we have to look past that! Just because the bag checker at Disneyland is a jerk doesn’t mean it’s a horrible place to go. Just because a few Christians rubbed us the wrong way doesn’t mean we should turn from God – whether or not we believe He exists.

    The Bible makes a clear case for the depravity of mankind. It does not make a case for the depravity of non-Christians only, but for EVERYONE. I’m not going to quote any verses, but Romans 3, for example, uses anything but fluffy language to describe humanity.

    So, the mistakes of Christians – and the mistakes of all others – shouldn’t stroke our disbelief in God, but it should make us think twice before brushing off the Bible as something that was merely written for political reasons… I don’t imagine that putting the human race down with such derogatory language would coerce them to behave (as the rumor goes.)

    Anyway, all in all, I’m wrong, you’re wrong, Christians are wrong, we are all wrong sometimes. But if we give up on insisting that we always be right, we will experience a reward. Harmony can’t exist between people who value their own opinions alone. We HAVE to let go of our opinions in order to move forward, and stand on a worldview that is solid with reason.

    No, Christianity is not the only means to a fulfilling life. But, it is the only belief system in which 1. God made Himself human 2. He rose from the dead 3. We are forgiven by grace and not by merit. Those are humongous claims! Anybody who wields the Gospel around carelessly is doing serious damage.

    Now, if the Bible was nothing but philosophy, folk tale and rules, I wouldn’t read it. But there’s a ton of promises in this thing! I take that as an invitation… Now, I may not have the morality of Christianity down, nor do I have the dynamite faith that some of the people who follow it have. However, I have learned that when I actually trust God with situations (money, relationships, time, etc.) things go right. Now, when I say “trust” I mean, I give it up and say “It’s in Your hands, God.“ You could say that is a mere coincidence. But what if it isn’t?

    It sounds cheesy but the adage “don’t let the fear of striking out keep you from playing the game” comes to mind. Let’s say “the game” is stepping back and saying “God, do something. Take over. My hands are empty.” That means, we don’t put our faith in the church, or in getting our heart’s desire. That means we give things up to this “God,” whether or not we believe He exists.

    My opinion? It is worth finding out if God exists, and whether or not Christianity is true. Therefore, I will place absolute trust in it, and put the Bible into practice, before I decide not to believe in it.

  • Demonhype

    Have you put every other possible religion into practice and given each of them your absolute trust prior to rejecting them? I doubt it. This is as disingenuous as when Christians ask atheists to “cry out” to God and wait for an answer when not one of them has made any genuine inquiry into other religions, much less put their trust in those gods prior to rejecting them.

    I’m not “turning from God”. I do not believe he/she/it exists. And no one is required to believe something, or even to try and believe something, prior to it being proven with some kind of evidence. Otherwise we might all spend our entire lives, for example, trying on every single religion that exists or has existed in history, as well as every other claim ever made, prior to rejecting it. To withhold belief of a claim until evidence is presented is not some kind of arrogant angry-at-God attitude. It is basic logic. And no, I have no responsibility to run around providing the evidence for every claim that can be made by other people. If you make the claim, you need to bring the evidence to support it. I simply do not believe until I have seen convincing evidence–and I’m sorry, but a book that identifies itself as holy, perfect, and infallible is not evidence.

    By the way, to say “we shouldn’t turn away from god, whether or not we believe he exists” is bullshit. If I don’t believe god exists, I’m not “turning away” from god any more than I’m “turning away” from leprechauns or unicorns, and why on earth would I turn toward a god I don’t believe exists? This makes no sense. This makes you sound a bit fishy and dishonest to me, as if you were a Christian pretending to have some kind of doubter-chops in order to gain some kind of foothold to evangelize atheists. You may not be such a Christian, but that’s what this line makes you sound like.

    On that note, it is at least nice and refreshing that Matthew has enough respect to acknowledge that atheists are atheists because they do not believe it is true, which is something we constantly say because it is constantly being ignored in favor of a myriad of excuses like “atheists are just angry at god” or “atheists have been hurt by non-representative unTrue Christians”, and he at least admits that it is absurd to expect someone to submit to a religion they do not find to be true. At least this guy seems to have listened to and absorbed one thing we’ve said about our point of view, which is more than I can say about many others!

    Maybe I’m going on a bit, but this has been a huge pet peeve. If I’m telling you I don’t believe and that I don’t think your religion is true, then please do not try to come up with some hidden reason that I do not find your arguments convincing, or that I somehow “know” you’re “right” but don’t want to admit it. If I’m telling you what I believe or disbelieve, please take me at my word. You wouldn’t like it if people didn’t take you at your word that you are Christian, and came up with all sorts of mental twister arguments trying to make you a Hindu or Wiccan or Muslim, or just an atheist who is mad at some mean atheist who hurt you when you were young and now you’re just lashing out at atheists everywhere by pretending to be a Christian. It’s insulting and dishonest and certainly not conducive to any kind of productive conversation.

    It’s also nice that he rejects coercive threatening arguments like “you’ll go to hell” or that wonderfully mafia-don-like “god sometimes does terrible things to get your attention–maybe even to your wife!” Sounds a lot like that religious nut who wrote to PZ during Crackergate telling him to watch his kids carefully-and then proceeded to name each one of them! I’ve heard enough purportedly nice christians bend over backward to defend this kind of attitude to appreciate when one of them makes an effort to avoid it, and for the right reasons (it’s creepy, threatening, and a dishonest attempt at coercion rather than convincing) rather than the wrong reasons (they might turn me off and then I’ll never get to convert them!)

    Also, assuming “Ell” isn’t a Poe, there is one person who might benefit from watching Venomfangx videos and observing how not to appear insane.

    And “if you don’t like it, go home!!!” Home from where? What is that even supposed to mean? Are you saying that if I don’t like being harassed by religious fanatics I should leave the country? Or simply remain locked inside my house and never leave it? That one should live the life of a recluse if one does not like to be constantly harangued about Jesus? Even if that is what you are saying and even if it was possible, many religious fanatics bring the harassment to people’s very doors, so how would that “solve” anything?

    Also, Sonya:

    “Last time I checked the US consitution was unchanged…freedom of speech is for everyone yes, even Christians. Your ten tips cross the border into a form of cenorship and suppression of the bible”

    This list is not an infringement of your Constitutional rights. Can you point out where this is being enforced in any way on Christians anywhere, by law or company policy or anything else? No? I thought not. This is simply a list of things that atheists find off-putting about your approach, and is more advice than anything else–advice that you are free to ignore, keeping in mind you will just continue to look like a jackass by utilizing evangelizing techniques on us that we do not find convincing. Let’s not pretend to be making some kind of principled stand against a civil rights violation, because your rights are not being violated by the fact that atheists are telling you what kind of evangelistic behavior they don’t care for.

    And BTW, there is nothing in the Constitution that protects any individual from criticism, including religious people. Your argument is tantamount to Sarah Palin’s claim that it is an infringement of her 1st amendment rights that people are laughing at the stupid things she says. Yes, you have the right to free speech, but you do not have the right to have your speech protected from challenge, ridicule or opposing viewpoints.

    And that goes for us too–how often do religious people pitch a big public fit every time an atheist expresses their views in public? When Obama–himself a believer–simply included the non-religious as viable and valuable citizens of this country in a speech–which we ARE–there was a huge religious uproar! How dare he suggest that nonbelievers are American in any way! How dare he acknowledge nonbelievers in a non-derogatory way! Nonbelievers are supposed to be invisible except when you bash or belittle them! You’re never supposed to publicly validate them as human beings!

    Yet not once did any atheist suggest that their uproar was an infringement of Obama’s first amendment rights. Nor has any atheist suggested that the Christian uproar over the very mild atheist billboards is an infringement of first amendment rights either. Nor does the vocal displeasure of Christian commenters on this atheist blog constitute any kind of suppression of free speech. Someone not liking what you have to say is not a violation of your free speech!

    Why is there always one believer in each conversation who will claim that their free speech is being censored or suppressed because an atheist criticized their views, as if someone disagreeing with a viewpoint was some kind of binding law? Is the concept of free speech so difficult to understand?

  • Phil

    Very interesting to say the least.
    I am a christian and while I agree with some of what you have said, I have to say that you miss the whole purpose behind evangelism.as you have your beliefs, or lack there of, we also have ours.any christian with true belief shares their faith not to irritate or provoke an argument. for us who believe all is at stake for those around us.I am sorry that some of my brothers and sisters have shared with you in a non loving way.this is exactly why I develop a relationship with someone before I share my faith.I never share with strangers because it’s so ineffective.I do have to say, however that from a”reasonable”standpoint as atheist, claiming to be open minded”free thinkers”but closing your selves off to the possibility of God is clearly unreasonable and most certainly close minded.I wish you all the best and encourage you to never stop searching for the truth, it is out there if you search for it.

    • DanDare

       So, actually, you completely agree with the article then.

  • George Perera

    I can agree to almost everything what you have to say but the quote “we don’t see anything self-evident about God in nature or humanity.” Only today I and my wife looked at our beautiful daughter and said to each other how awesome God is to design such thing call “life” how can anyone agree that 130 million unique species have come from no life or nothing, when we are at a time that we know that we can’t duplicate any body parts I mean duplicate not a lookalike how can this beautiful design of the universe is without an intelligent mind behind it. If an apple falls to the ground we don’t see it becoming a pineapple it just rots.
    Evolution or the big bang theory need faith too as there is no proof.

  • JohnathonEva

    Hmm.  
    As a Christian it’s like everyone around me is dying, and yet I hold the cure, and so my evangelizing is a way to hand out that cure…. However, I do recognize that many people hold to the belief that the disease is imaginary, as well as the doctor who administers it. 
    Basically put, I’ve never argued anyone into Christianity, rather they have to believe it. I find this list extremely helpful, and though I don’t use these tactics, I know plenty who do, and I get harassed by Christians all the time thinking that I’m not saved. 
    It is illogical for someone to put their faith into something that they don’t think exists. 
    I could argue for the cause of creationism, and I could give you rapid arguments that would make a decent case for the gospel of Christ, but I’m well aware that at the end of the day, a good amount of it doesn’t matter to you.
    In some people’s eyes this makes me a terrible evangelist, I just don’t see how repeating myself to the same person is going to be effective. I don’t see how telling them that God exists when they ‘know that he doesn’t’ or rather ‘can’t know that he does’ is going to be effective at all. 
    I keep on hearing this America thing. Yes, it is our right to speak our voice, but honestly since when has something that has been legal always been right? Keep in mind Hitler was well within the boundaries of his law. You might be voicing an opinion which is your right to do, but everyone else has the right to not care about your opinion. 
    It’s sad, but it’s very true. 
    I don’t get it. The amount of Christians that dislike this post is way too high. Here, they are trying to give us tips on evangelizing their crowd more effectively, and we’re telling them that they’re wrong? This doesn’t make any sense, they clearly know what they believe. 
    People say that America was founded on the morals of Christianity, okay, that’s fantastic, but what does that have to do with anything? That has very little to do with what someone is going to place their faith in, in today’s world. 
    I think the problem is, when people say, “I’m sorry, I’m an atheist.” Christians often take that to mean, “I don’t know much about it, and have never thought about it before in my life, please explain this wonderful view you hold to.” Instead, of “I’m sorry I’m an atheist, I’ve weighed both the pros and cons of my views, and have made a decision.” 
    If you’re being an evangelist, and your message gets respectfully turned away, yet you get angry, upset, or keep on harassing people all you’re doing is making Christ a bad image. Christ never forced himself down people’s throats, it was their decision, something that we’ve decided not to give atheists, or any other belief for that matter. 
    I’ve heard stories saying, “Once I was an atheist, but then….” Never has the latter part of that conversation been, “but then this Christian guy argued with me, and I came to my senses.” Or, “but then I realized that to be an american I must apparently be a Christian. Or “But then he made me really afraid of this God character and I suddenly believed. Especially never have I heard, “but then,  after repeating himself enough times, I gave in grateful that he was so persistent,  insisting that his God was real, how could I deny that when he seems to believe it so.”
    Rather when I hear of people becoming Christians it’s often because of acts we do, or people wanting to become like us by some extent of our life. Again, I must be a terrible evangelist in some people’s views, but is it worth my ranting to turn an entire group of people off to the gospel? 

  • Heatherkell

    Great article, thank you for writing this.  I am reminded that when I am visited by religious callers (Jehovahs Witnesses or Mormons) or sales people ringing or visiting – I cringe and either avoid them (do not answer door) or have to hang up on the pushy sales people (NO means nothing to them) .. so a lesson to us all – but Christianity is an uncomfortable thing to talk about and to hear – even for me who has heard all her life !  

  • Palabra

    I would add to the list a prohibition against trying to convert service people when you are a customer. That puts them in an incredibly awkward position. The service person’s job is to make you happy so that you return to the business in the future. They can’t converse with you as an equal in that situation for fear of losing their jobs by upsetting a customer. They can’t argue or debate or share their honest opinions. Also, they probably have legitimate duties that you are keeping them from performing.

  • Lisa

    Another tip -when on an international mission trip, please don’t make poor, shirtless third-world kids sing a Jesus song as a condition for food or candy.

  • Pavlo

    I’ve never seen the sense or value in pushing one’s beliefs down other people’s throats. Especially people who are hard core atheist.

    In my experience it doesn’t get anyone anywhere. It just seems to put up more walls and alienate people from each other. I also think it’s a very counterproductive marketing strategy for Christianity. And I’m a Christian! (who was an atheist at one time).

    I have to say I was always really, really put off by people who would evangelise me and preach hell fire etc. It just made me more anti-Christian and made me think they’re unreasonable and narrow, it shut communication down. It’s totally different if you’ve known someone for a long time and the subject comes for discussion – in that case, if they’re interested I think it’s ok to relate your testimony etc.


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