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Musings on evangelism
10-07-2009, 01:45 AM
Post: #1
Musings on evangelism
So, I've been thinking about evangelism lately. See, I'm an atheist who will discuss religion at the drop of a hat. I think religion is important, not only because fundamentalism of any sect tends to lead to violence, but also because I believe the mindset of religion illustrates a general acceptance of gut feeling (what Stephen Colbert calls "truthiness") over actual fact. This causes poor decisions in far more fields than just religion (see: politics, the war in Iraq, stem cell research, sub-prime mortgages, etc., etc.)

But two people have caused me to reconsider this. The first is the slacktivist, as I've been reading his rather obsessive critique of the Left Behind series, and the other was this past Monday's "Daily Show" guest Sarah Vowell, who talked about her book on Robert Williams, the Puritan theologian who founded the colony of Rhode Island.

Slacktivist is an evangelical from the UK, where evangelical means something rather different from America, and often he'll talk about his particular views on evangelism. As an evangelist he takes the great commission quite seriously, and lends it the same overabundant weight as do American evangelicals, but he seems to regard it as something that should never be pushed, or forced. At one point he says it's "come in and have tea", not "you must come in and have tea or else". He suggests that if Christians become too pushy they are no longer the salt of the earth, but rather they are annoyances.

Sarah Vowell speaks of Robert Williams, a man so fanatical in his Christianity even the Puritans kicked him out. This man was seriously off the deep end as far as fanaticism went. And yet he maintained a belief that, as Vowell put it, "Anyone who didn't believe in Christianity was going to burn eternally in the fires of hell, and that was punishment enough." And so he went on to found one of the most religiously free colonies in America, because he felt that it was not his job to punish people for their sins.

That made me think of my own atheism. Now, I don't accost people on the street, but lets face it, I live in the southeastern US. Crazy fundamentalists in the south randomly start religious conversations with strangers all the time. And once the conversation is started, I dive right in (incidentally places like this I figure you're asking for it just by being here.) And now I wonder, how pushy is too pushy?

So anyway, that's been on my mind lately. Lets start a conversation about that. At what point should evangelism stop?

I'm back baby! Thanks for everyone who sent me PMs asking what had happened to me.
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