Non-Christians: What If Christianity Taught Tolerance?

I’d like to ask non-Christians: If integral to Christianity was the belief that it was right and good to love each and every person exactly as they are, and to encourage and respect whatever their understanding and experience of the divine (whether they even think in terms of “divine” or not–and assuming that whatever they believe doesn’t involve the harming of others), would that that change your attitude toward Christianity?

If you knew that intolerance of other belief systems violated the tenants of Christianity, would you be more open to the rest of Christianity?

Am I right in guessing that the main thing that keeps non-Christians away from Christianity is the Christian conviction that Christianity is the only good, true, and valid way to experience or know God? Before I became a Christian that sure was the thing that kept me away from the faith — I’m crazily intolerant of intolerance — but I don’t know if that’s true for all or even most nonbelievers. So I figured I’d ask, see if anyone had anything to say it.

(Oh: in a recent post, What Non-Christians Want Christians To Hear, I did share a bit of what I’d heard directly from non-Christians about this sort of thing. Pretty interesting stuff, if you’ve not seen it.)

About John Shore

John Shore (who, fwiw, is straight) is the author of UNFAIR: Christians and the LGBT Question, and three other great books. He is founder of Unfundamentalist Christians (on Facebook here), and executive editor of the Unfundamentalist Christians group blog.  (In total John's two blogs receive some 250,000 views per month.) John is also co-founder of The NALT Christians Project, which was written about by TIME,  The Washington Post, and others. His website is JohnShore.com. You're invited to like John's Facebook page. Don't forget to sign up for his mucho-awesome newsletter. If you shop at Amazon, help support John by entering the site through this link right here--Amazon will then send John 3-4% of the cost of anything you buy before exiting the site again.

 

  • chillinatthecabstand

    I don't know, I don't see how tolerance could possible fit in Christianity considering that it based on the principle "Do what I say, or you're fucked" which doesn't allow for much tolerance.

  • kalamallaah

    From what I understand there are two aspects to Jesus teaching:

    Firstly is tolerance. God loves everyone, especially sinners and "the lost'.

    Secondly is exclusivity. Salvation can only be found in calling upon the name of the Lord Jesus, who is the the only way.

    Would you agree?

  • arlywn

    I have a really hard time believing in anything that I cant prove. Which makes religion hard because you cant prove it. I find wiccan is easier to believe because its nature based and scientists are proving things about nature all the time.

    Personally, I'd be happier with christianity if it was more tolerant. Every religion pretty much believes that its the only right one, but most religions dont actively insist that you are evil.

    I think the main thing that keeps me away from truly liking christianity is the intolerance. I'm not sure I would start believing in it, but I'd feel better about it for sure.

    I dont think its the religion at all either, its the followers interpretation- but as many fear muslims because of the 9/11 terrorists~ I think many other religions dislike most christians for the few bad ones.

    but hey, when I die- I plan on haunting every person who told me I was going to hell. So I guess I can tell them what really happens. lol

  • http://wineymomma.wordpress.com wineymomma

    I think it would be lovely if we could teach tolerance…I work with my monsters everyday on being tolerant of people who look different, talk different, act different…I struggle with it myself.

    My thinking on the subject is kind of layered. If I love the people around me unconditionally and treat them with respect, then they will be more receptive to my way of thinking. If I exemplify the love and race of Christ, then that opens the door for me to spread His love.

  • http://www.todayscoolnews.com Brian Shields

    A more tolerant practice might change my attitude towards Christians but not Christianity.

    Most Christians would certainly be more fun to hang out with if they were tolerant of other viewpoints. But a welcoming and tolerant Christian, as pleasant as he or she may be, doesn't make me more likely to accept that the creator and supreme power of the universe is sated by the human sacrifice of his "only begotten son" to keep me out of hell. That seems as preposterous to me coming from a friendly and tolerant Christian as is it does from a Jerry Falwell or a Fred Phelps.

  • thereisnogray

    I'm a Christian so I'm probably not supposed to comment here. (The opening question was clearly addressed to non-Christians, I know!) But I have to say that by framing the issue between tolerance and intolerance we find ourselves on a very slippery slope rather quickly. As soon as we head down this road, we get to a place where we must "water down" every principle that Christ taught us. When you look at the emerging church movement, one of the biggest things missing is atonement. When you consider the "contemplative church" you find a mix of so many religions, it makes my head spin. I know this whole 'tolerance' thing started out of an effort to reach more people. I get that 100%, but it's gone to far. Being "seeker friendly" was/is a huge disservice.

    Sin is dirty, slimy, gross stuff and, for obvious reasons, no one wants to talk about it. If I'm being intolerant by pointing out the fact that the Bible says "all have sinned and fallen short of the Glory of God," then I am guilty as charged. If I am intolerant because I believe that the Bible says the only way to Heaven is through the Blood of Jesus and his resurection, then lock me up now. If I am intolerant because I pray that God will convict you of your sin and bring you to a place where HE ALONE can break the chains that bind you, then sentence me to life in prison. Finally, if I am intolerant because I don't want you hearing some watered down, feel good, Gospel 'light' that puts you in a position that, when you die and stand before God, Jesus says to the Father about you: "I don't know this man" Then I am guilty. Between truth and tolerance, I'll take the Truth.

  • arlywn

    gray: I'm sorry if this offends you, but that is the type of responce that I dont like. Most non christians have been around christianity. Most know the stuff you are talking about. I dont understand why christians can not just be happy that we are happy. Why is our eternal soul so in need of saving? It sounds to me that its a personal offense not to believe in god, which is kinda offense in it's self. It's pretty much saying, to me, that christianity is the only valid religion in the entire world- and that doesnt bode well with me because no one can prove or disprove a religion.

    I mean if you want to pray for me, thats fine, Im glad really. But in a conversation its not effective to start with "you're going to hell because your god doesnt exsist". That would be like me coming up to you and saying that you wont get reincarnated into a human in your next life, you're going to be a flea because you dont believe in reincarnation.

    I just think it would be more productive to start with positive things. Pyschics start out with positive things, like you're going to inherit this, see this country, be this, then they pull out the- you're going to die at 30 from a train wreck. If they started with the train wreck do you think any one would really care to keep listening?

    Okay… my point was if more that one person can be right about different things- like a math problem, or which peice of music, poetry, writing is better- why cant there be more than one answer to religion?

    ( please, please please dont respond with 'the bible says so')

    I'm really not trying to attack you, honest to…. insert whatever here….. I would'va posted this to anyone.

  • thereisnogray

    perhaps this isn't the debate for here because we seem to be getting away from the point of the original blog. My point, simply put, is that if Christianity is watered down to make it more palatable, the end result is NOT Christianity. It's some mish-mosh of values and beliefs that is not in line with (sorry to say this) the Bible.

  • thereisnogray

    and Arlywn, I don't offend that easily.

  • http://anziulewicz.livejournal.com Chuck Anziulewicz

    Well, I was raised pretty much whitebread Catholic. I went to CCD classes after school, I sang in the church choir. There was really no reason for me to have doubts about my religion. And yet, by the time I was in the eighth grade, I started coming to grips with the fact that I wasn't really getting the hang of the whole "God" thing. It was as though my antenna didn't seem capable of picking up that particular frequency.

    I still found the subject of religion interesting, though. My uncle had a college textbook on comparitive religion, and I read it from cover to cover. I made it a point to have a good working understanding of all the world's major faiths. I still occasionally watch Christian television programming, and one of my guilty pleasures is listening to good old fashioned holy roller preachin' on the radio when I'm driving by myself here in West Virginia. I have heard the glories of Heaven and the eternal torments of Hell described in no uncertain terms.

    And I was mulling over a response to John's original question when I read the response from "Thereisnogray." And suddenly I'm reminded why I'm often suspicious of Christians, at least those that are so strident in their convictions. I think of all the billions upon billions of Jews and Muslims and Hindus and others of non-Christians faiths who have ever lived, who have been raised by parents to believe what they believe, who have gone through their lives observing the tenets of their faiths as best possible and expecting spiritual redemption … AND YET, I suspect that "Thereisnogray" expects all those people to be writhing in the most horrific agony Hell has to offer, just because they didn't accept Jesus as their Savior.

    Of course, I have many friends who think of themselves as Chrstian and are not so judgmental toward non-Christians, and I value their friendship. Perhaps it is just best for me to put people like "Thereisnogray" out of my mind, rather than having to reach for my antacids.

  • http://ricbooth.wordpress.com ric booth

    Like John, I've been on both sides of this fence/discussion. As a non-Christian, I was spared the "you're going to hell" in-your-face conversations but I did get the "you have to change" type of messages. I guess they were vague and since I did not engage in the discussions, they did not go deep enough to reveal my fate. And perhaps the lack of or the very limited exposure to the annoying/arrogant-in-your-face Christianity did indeed make my approach to Christian faith possible.

    Now as a Christian, I like the example in Mark 10 where some rich guy goes to Jesus with the question of what he has to do to get to heaven. Jesus gives him the [obviously Christian] answer and the guy walks away sad. Jesus did not initiate the conversation. Jesus doesn't mention hell. He doesn't run after him and try to give him a tract. He lets him walk away. Jesus simply answers the question.

    To me this is not tolerance… although when I copy this approach today, I suspect I am called tolerant. However, for me this is an example of love and respect. I believe if we love and respect someone we don't start a conversation with "you're going to hell." I think if asked a specific question, our love and respect for the person would cause us to respond with that which we earnestly believe to be true … anything else would be hypocritical. If that is the end of the conversation, then (like Jesus) so be it.

    No one has ever asked me, "Would you please hound me every time we meet until I change?" And even if someone did, I would have to decline.

  • arlywn

    then I guess this conversation will only ever end when people die. Because I must have mssed your point gray, and I think you're oblivious to mine.

  • nearlynormalized

    And are we not our own "GODS"? Get real, organized religion–no matter who or what is a money maker and to keep those who don't want to question, in line!!!

  • http://moinansari.wordpress.com moinansari

    You have asked a very profound and important questions. As a Hetrodox Christian-Jew (which means Muslims) I want to ask.

    Does Christianity really teach tolerance or is all this slick marketing?

    1) Historically Christians have been very intoerant of all other relgions and other Christians as well—Crusades, Inquisitions, religious persecution of Quakers and other pilgrims, Elimination of all Native Americans, Colonialisim, WW1 (15 million dead), WW2 (50 million dead), Conquistador atrocities in Latin America, Holocaust, Franciscan cruelty towards South Americans, First Opium War, 2nd Opium war, Elimination of all Non-Christians in the Phili[pines and Hawaii, Wars agasint Buddhists in Vietnam and Korea etc etc etc.

    The complete list is posted on http;//www.rupeenews.com

    2) The only Non-Christians that are acceptable to Christians are the ones that talk, behave, think, beleive and look like Christians.

    Looking forward to a civilized dialogue in reponse to your very good quesiton.

  • http://wineymomma.wordpress.com wineymomma

    ric said what I have been thinking for a while…I don't think it is necessary(or even possible) to convert someone with the in your face "you are going to Hell" line of thinking. The example of the rich man in Mark 10 was spot on too…I truly believe love and respect are the combined key to being heard and understood.

    As for the idea that organized religion is to keep people in line I don't agree. I have been fortunate enough throughout my life ot have been a part of churches that encourage my questions. And one of my favorites is "okay-so this is how it's always been done here? I hope we can do thins differently and shake things up a bit!"

  • http://potomac9499.wordpress.com/ Rodibidably

    "If integral to Christianity was the belief that it was right and good to love each and every person exactly as they are, and to encourage and respect whatever their understanding and experience of the divine (whether they even think in terms of “divine” or not–and assuming that whatever they believe doesn’t involve the harming of others), would that that change your attitude toward Christianity?"

    It would STILL be a belief system based on blind faith, and not evidence…

    So I would not "convert" if that is what you're trying to get at, BUT depending on the specifics of the "transformation" I would potentially have a "better" view of christianity and christians.

    But this would also assume that there would not be "other" interpretations of the faith that lead to things like justifying slavery, bombing abortion clinics, blaming gay men and lesbians for natural disasters, hiding men who rape children, etc..

    "If you knew that intolerance of other belief systems violated the tenants of Christianity, would you be more open to the rest of Christianity?"

    No, but I would have a "better" view of christianity. As long as the faith of christianity (or any religion) is based on superstition and not science, it's still just a fairytale.

    "Am I right in guessing that the main thing that keeps non-Christians away from Christianity is the Christian conviction that Christianity is the only good, true, and valid way to experience or know God?"

    No, this is the one of the main reasons I don't respect christianity, but it's not the primary reason I am NOT a christian. The primary reason I am NOT a christian, is that it's based on the superstitions of bronze age man, not based on evidence.

  • undergroundnetwork

    I think most the posts above reflect my own opinion on the post, the view that although religions' intolerance means we don't respect religion, it is the fact that we usually equate scripture unfavourably with 'Harry Potter and the philosopher's stone', as far being factual is concerned.

    There is a problem with the assertion that Christianity is tolerant, as has been mentioned the religion is very much exclusive. Believing in other gods, or no gods, is strictly forbidden, and the punishment is death for the crime. I admit that this is very old testament, but just because the old testament is disgusting does not separate it for contemporary Christianity.

    Tolerance and intolerance are fascinating ideas. I plan to post my own thoughts on these concepts in a blog on my own page in the near future. I consider myself fairly tolerant, but there are things one cannot tolerate. You cannot tolerate someone who cannot tolerate you. Can a Jew tolerate a Nazi or antisemitism? To do so would be to welcome your own demise! Now both Islam and Christianity say that unbelievers should be killed, I think in both cases a stoning is what is required. Of course in both cases most Christians and Muslims do not thankfully do not follow these demands from their gods, but with the rise of fundamentalism, it is a potential future threat. So what I mean to say is can an atheist tolerate religions that cannot tolerate non-believers?

    The answer is yes and no. Thankfully these ancient religions are for the most part shadows of their more dogmatic former selves. Most of my friends are Christians, and we get along just fine, I am yet to see a sign that I will be stoned to death.

    Although thats not say I'm not staying vigilant!

  • http://www.youtube.com/morsec0de Morse

    "Am I right in guessing that the main thing that keeps non-Christians away from Christianity is the Christian conviction that Christianity is the only good, true, and valid way to experience or know God?"

    No. Well, at least not for this non-Christian.

    The main thing that keeps me from Christianity is the lack of evidence for its claims. Period.

    There are many wonderful things about Christianity. There are many wonderful Christians out there, of which you, John, happen to be one.

    That being said, there are a number of things in Christianity that I think are abominable. And over the years, we've seen the 'better' Christians throw out the bad and hang on to the good. Which I think is absolutely lovely.

    Your average non-believer just goes a step further. We not only throw out the bad, we throw out the irrelevant. Or what we view as irrelevant, anyway.

  • Pingback: Tolerance or Truth? « Along the Way….

  • http://www.johnshore.wordpress.com John Shore

    OK, so generally I'm getting the message that saying that Christianity doesn't appeal to non-Christians because of its inherent intolerance is like saying people who don't like fried bat meat on bagels is because they don't like bagels. Got it.

    Hmmm. Well, I don't want to go down another interminable, "Good luck basing your life only on things that are PROVABLE" line of back-and-forthing, so I think I'll just step out now, and keep reading whatever anyone else posts. All these comments have been so GREAT! You guys all rock. Too bad so many of you are going straight to hell. Bummer for you.

  • http://www.youtube.com/morsec0de Morse

    John, in the event I go before you do, I am SOOOOO haunting you.

  • http://www.johnshore.wordpress.com John Shore

    You haunt me NOW, you doink.

  • http://www.youtube.com/morsec0de Morse

    Doink? Hmmm. That's a new one. Must write that down. =)

  • societysnoose

    What is this whole thing about intolerance? I think there is whole part where you forgot to look at the various denominations of the religion. I'm Baptist which means in a whole lot more tolerant then say Catholics. Not to mean to the other denominations or anything, but the general view of Baptism is to get people to believe in Christ and everything he did for everyone, ( yes I know most if not everyone here has heard all the stories and such so I'm not going over it.). Now I'll admit that there are lots of Christians that are intolerant of others, but one of the lessons in the bible is to be tolerant of others and accept them for who they are. Jesus preached that everyone is loved by God no matter what they have done and what they are. Now this doesn't mean that you don't try to change bad behaviors, or sins as they are known in the bible, but it doesn't mean that we as a body won't except anyone for who they are. We won't except certain people because of what they do is not because we discriminate or feel they display a negative image, but on the lines of that it is against Christian commandments or teachings, so we want people to attempt to change their ways before we fully except them. Now as a whole there is teachings to help and love everyone equally like they were your brother or sister. That IS HARD to do because everyone else is not your family, but is is one of the 10 commandments so that is the ultimate goal. I have a feeling that as a whole Christianity is becoming more tolerant by the day, I try to tolerate all view points and life styles (I'm not perfect, but neither are you so don't judge) and excepting people for who they are. I do understand there is a negative image because of the extreme right wing religious figures that tell you that you are wrong and they can make you right, but there human and there not perfect so I don't listen to them. I also understand that most of you disagree with me, but thats fine me because the fact that you all have your own logical opinions is a nice change, but I still think your wrong, deal with it.

  • http://butchbailey.com/ Butch

    While it would certainly make it much more palatable, and the world would undoubtedly be a better place if Christians as a whole actually acted that way, it wouldn’t address the one singular reason I’m not a Christian today: There is no sound evidence that any of Christianity’s central claims are factual. Fix that and we can talk. As it stands, when you look a the totality of the Bible and compare the alternative conclusions that it is either the divine and inerrant, even literal, word of an omnipotent and perfect God verses it being a collection of oral traditions and superstitions of particular bronze age group collected by various individuals and groups over the last few thousand years with various agendas and prejudices the former conclusion comes up well short.

  • metaone

    i agree with thereisnogray. as a catholic christian i feel that if they want to come and lock us up now so be it — i would die for the truth, which includes the substitutory sacrifice of our lord and saviour.

  • Ann

    I am a Christian who actually has trouble seeing where in the bible people are getting this 'my way or the highway' attitude. "I am the way" is such a poetic and philosophically complex statement. And just heaped with old testament meaning. I hear Christians sometimes and I cringe and hear Christ admonishing us to 'remove the plank from our own eye', and hear him admonishing the Pharisees who DIDNT GET IT.

    But I do hear Christians screaming this 'you are going to hell' stuff and, quite honestly, I cringe.

    When I tell my non-Christian friends what CHRIST said, they don't always believe me, because of all the evidence to the contrary. Who knows what people would feel if they weren't yelled at and made to feel bad about themselves?

    Also, when people reject Christianity, they often aren't rejecting Christ. They are rejecting the Church.

  • http://html PenIee

    Am a Christian and can remember different people witnessing to me but none ever presented Jesus and that He could help my miserable life at that time. Would have to say it all comes down to personality. I am the type that just loves to be confronted and with more than what I ever was told. So you see, it all comes down to being sensitive to the Holy Spirit's leading in every way and taking opportunity as it presents itself.

  • Dan

    John 14:6? His way or the highway?

  • Sabina

    Christ said "If I be lifted up, I'll draw all men to me" I take that literally and try to do as God calls us to do and that is love one another. It is not my job to judge or spout condemation on any person. It is Gods task to save or condem. I don't profess either that Christianity is the only religion, its the religion that I chose to include in my life, but I do believe that God will reconcile His people to Him-I don't know how this will happen and again-its not based on my understanding but Gods devine intention. It saddens me that so many people who are struggling with their faith and in their lives, as I have are turned off and turned away by the hell and damnation sermons of which I heard throughout my youth and adult life. I believe that in a church that teaches about Gods love, grace and mercy, so many lives could be transformed and saved here on earth. There are walking wounded (because of abuse, addiction, poor self worth and other tragedies) who could benefit from a loving community that the church should be.

  • Second Michele

    Sometimes we do not allow ourselves to be drawn by the Father – because we ignore evidence that contradicts our pet theories, or because we do not want to give up control of their own lives. Truth can be very inconvieniant

    But when Christ said he would draw "all men," he meant "all men" – No if's and's or but's recorded.

    All of us experience the pull of the Holy Spirit – who convicts the entire world "of sin, righteousness, and judgement."

    (Note to Atheists: I'm only saying that I believe the Bible (and I know you don't) when it says that the Holy Spirit is drawing you. I'm NOT saying that everyone would necessarily recognize this pull, or accusing atheists of lying when they say they don't feel anything drawing them to Christ)

    God has willed that all men be saved.

    John 6:40 "And this is the will of Him who sent Me, that everyone who sees the Son and believes in Him may have everlasting life; and I will raise him up at the last day.”

    But God has also given us free will – to examine the evidence, to respond to the drawing of Jesus' Love shown on the Cross, to listen to the Holy Spirit – or not.

    Luke 7:30 But the Pharisees and lawyers rejected the will of God for themselves, not having been baptized by him.

    People are not drawn by the Father to Christ because they reject the will of God.

  • thereisnogray

    Here again, context is everything. The expression “all men” refers to all elect men without distinction, or elect men of all nations, not to all men without exception. These elect men from every part of the globe are inwardly drawn by God the Father to God the Son. See Revelation 7:9 (After this I looked and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and in front of the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands.)

    See also John 6:44: No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him, and I will raise him up at the last day.

    Sabina, I agree. There has been too much condemnation without love. We need to hear all about Love and Mercy and Grace. I just don’t want to leave out the whole truth. Sin is real and there are consequences as a result. Brushing the concept of repentance and atonement under the rug because we may be seen as intolerant or judgmental is a disservice.

  • http://potomac9499.wordpress.com/ Rodibidably

    One other thing I wanted to mention:

    I personally would argue that there is a vast difference between tolerating and accepting. Tolerating, to me at least, has a negative connotation with it, where as acceptance does not.

    As an example:

    To "tolerate" gay people, means that you would be willing to live in harmony with them despite your feeling that what they do is immoral.

    To "accept" gay people would mean that you acknowledge their right to live their life as they please and love who they please, even if their choices are not your own.

    For christianity to be more "tolerant" implies there there is something in non-christians that you as a christian need to tolerate.

    This is an assumption that puts christians on a "higher" level in their own minds/opinion, and intentionally or unintentionally implies that non-christians are somehow "less" than christians.

    I don't believe that you mean it to come across in this manner, but it can certainly be taken this way.

  • Zach

    To comment 28 above

    Deuteronomy 13:6-11

    If your very own brother, or your son or daughter, or the wife you love, or your closest friend secretly entices you, saying, “Let us go and worship other gods” (gods that neither you nor your fathers have known, gods of the peoples around you, whether near or far, from one end of the land to the other), do not yield to him or listen to him. Show him no pity. Do not spare him or shield him. You must certainly put him to death. Your hand must be the first in putting him to death, and then the hands of all the people. Stone him to death, because he tried to turn you away from the LORD your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. Then all Israel will hear and be afraid, and no one among you will do such an evil thing again.

    After that Deuteronomy 13:12 says that if another town has nonbelievers in it then the entire town should be put to death. OK back on topic. There are a lot of other religions that are tolerant (or “accepting” if you prefer) of other people. You just don’t hear about them as much because they don’t go around yelling at people.

    The original question of this article was, is the conviction that Christianity is the only true religion what turns you away from Christianity? And if not, then what?

    So evidence, consistency, and theology aside, for me one of the important factors that hasn’t been mentioned yet is marketing. You heard right, marketing.

    Christianity is unique in that it advertises far more than any other religion. If you see people going door to door trying to spread their religion, chances are they are Christian. There are more Christian channels on television than any other faith. Christians send far more missionaries overseas than anyone else. When you get down to it Christians are more likely than anyone else to try actively to spread their religion. They have the most aggressive marketing strategy.

    Now bear with me this will make sense in a minute. At the company I work for we do online sales, and as such we need to advertise to get people to our site. When you go to google and type something in you will get two sets of search results. In the brown area up at the top and along the right side bar you will get sponsored links. And in the central area you will get non sponsored links, what’s called “organic listings”. The organic listings are based on how many people click on you, and the overall quality of your site. The sponsored links are based on how much money you pay google when someone clicks on it.

    This means that there are two types of advertising. Word of mouth, or quality based advertising. And just paying for it. And we have found that if your organic listings are low you can make up for it by cranking out the sponsored links. If the quality of your web site is low you can make up for it by paying more for advertising.

    You can see examples of this every day. Google is by far the most popular search engine today. I have never seen one Google ad on TV ever. This is because they use entirely word of mouth advertising. On the other hand I see a ton of those get rich quick ads on TV “I used to make railroad ties for a living. Now I make over $5000 a day by working at home with 20CashNow!”

    In the early days of television advertisers found that the more loud and obnoxious their ads were the more likely people were to remember them. Think back to all the commercials you have seen today. While you won’t remember most of them I guarantee you will remember the one that was shouting at you “HEAD ON, APPLY DIRECTLY TO THE FOREHEAD!”

    As time went on, consumers caught on to this trick, and nowadays people are less likely to trust a product that uses more, and “shoutier”, ads. This same concept can be applied to proselytizing a religion. The more you push, the more people will pull away.

    Here is an example. God is omnipresent, omniscient, and omnipotent. He is everywhere. And being the all powerful guy that he is, from the moment you are born to the moment you die, god is watching you, and guiding your every movement. No matter where you go, there he is. But for some reason he needs all his followers to go around telling people that he exists.

    Let’s take another substance that’s quite popular, water. Water is almost omnipresent, while it’s not everywhere, it is in a lot of places. While some planets get by without it, water is pretty important, without it we’d all die, so it’s sort of omnipotent. Water is just a chemical compound, and not very omniscient. So we can agree that water is on the whole not quite as “with it” as god is.

    But we don’t have to send missionaries overseas to tell people of the glory of water. You will never find someone who is agnostic to the concept of water.

    Before I go I have a bit of a thought experiment. What would happen to your religion (not just Christianity, but everyone out there) if everyone just stopped proselytizing? No missionaries, no witnessing, no membership drives. What if everyone on earth went from an active marketing strategy to a passive marketing strategy? What if everyone went about their own business believing whatever they wanted, and if someone came along who wanted to believe what you believed then they could change their own mind. But nobody would go out of their way and say that someone else should believe what they believe.

  • benjdm

    If integral to Christianity was the belief that it was right and good to love each and every person exactly as they are, and to encourage and respect whatever their understanding and experience of the divine (whether they even think in terms of “divine” or not–and assuming that whatever they believe doesn’t involve the harming of others), would that that change your attitude toward Christianity?

    It's a strange idea to entertain. If you aren't proposing a revising of the Bible (and I don't think you are), then this would be a temporary change only. But, yes, it would change my attitude – I would be less hostile.

    If you knew that intolerance of other belief systems violated the tenants of Christianity, would you be more open to the rest of Christianity?

    No. I reject Christianity on the is claims before I ever get to the ought claims.

    Am I right in guessing that the main thing that keeps non-Christians away from Christianity is the Christian conviction that Christianity is the only good, true, and valid way to experience or know God?

    Speaking for myself and myself only, no. The main thing that keeps me away from Christianity is that there's no good reason to believe it. That was the case for me for as long as I can remember.

    In my experience, convincing Christians of my (our?) motives is one of the hardest things to do. I just want to have as accurate a mental model of reality as I can. To accomplish this, I rely on methods that have proven themselves to reliably converge on more and more accurate models – scientific, historical mathematical, etc. My approach is one of lessening my fundamental ignorance. There are no such methods that point toward theism being an accurate model, much less Christianity.

    My disbelief has zero to do with Christian claims about exclusivity. Math claims that the answer to 2+2 is 4, excluding an infinite number of other numbers, and that in no way keeps me away from math.

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