Friday, 19 September 2014

Why Do Christians Feel A Need To Evangelise?

Religion is like a penis. It's fine to have one and it's fine to be proud of it, but please don't whip it out in public and start waving it around... and PLEASE don't try to shove it down my throat.It's pretty often that an attempt to talk about belief is met with hostility. "Keep your beliefs to yourself", "Don't try and shove it down my throat", "I don't care what you believe, but I'm not interested".

What I usually find to be the most unusual thing is that I wasn't the one who brought up the subject to begin with. I'm not the sort who opens a conversation with "Do you believe in God?". If I ever start talking about it, it's usually because someone else has said something that prompts a response. You know like "I'm not Christian because I don't believe in sky fairies" and I feel I have to clarify the understanding of the facts.
So having simply stepped in to correct someone else when they've said something on a subject they clearly don't understand, somehow I'm shoving my beliefs down their throat. It might be something as simple as reassuring them that it's a historical fact that a man called Jesus did live and preach at the time the Bible said it happened. In no way does that mean they have to suddenly start saying hail Marys...
Maybe it's the same kind of irritation as when I sometimes politely remind people the difference between 'their, there, and they're'. But is that really irritation at me or is it irritation that they've been shown up for making a mistake?

Anyway. Before you jump in and call me a hypocrite for saying I'm not trying to spread the word and yet I've written a blog all about it let me just say that the blog is different. The blog is here open for anyone who wants to check it out. I don't force people to come and read it. I've made it available for anyone to come to it. I'm also available as a person to come to speak to if someone wants to. It's an open invitation to come to me, not an attempt to throw stuff at everyone else.

As it might be clear by now, my biggest reason for evangelising is that I want to clear up the several misunderstandings that far too many have about religion and Christianity in particular.
I leave it entirely up to other people whether or not they choose to accept faith or not. I think it's probably impossible to convince someone else. People need to come to conclusions by themselves. The best I can do is offer the information as I have it and let them do what they want with it.

This is a bigger job than it sounds. I'm gonna dip into a kind of analogy to explain it.

Most people get their knowledge of fairy tales from Disney. When we think of Cinderella, Snow White, Sleeping Beauty and all the rest, the bulk of the world's population will remember the animated movies.
Trouble is, a lot of people don't realise that Disney took the original ancient stories and changed them a lot. Disney movies generally (always?) have happy endings, but a lot of the original myths and stories were tragic. The Little Mermaid died and the Sea Witch had the happily ever after marriage, Pinocchio gets hanged to death, and the Hunchback fails to rescue his lover from being murdered. There's more: 'The Lion King' is based on Shakespeare's Hamlet - no one in that was a big cat. Aladdin was a Chinese boy, not a thief from the middle east. I could write an essay about what's wrong with 'Hercules', beginning with the fact that his name was Heracles.

But that's the thing. Most people think they know these stories, but they actually only know the Disney versions.
Somehow the same thing has happened to Christianity. We can't blame Disney for this one, but over the centuries, different teachings have got confused and muddled together and somehow attached to Christianity so that even many people who call themselves Christian think that this stuff is what they're meant to believe.
The majority of people think that Disney's Christianity is the real thing. So most of my evangelising is to point out that Phil was not a satyr who trained Hercules, but it was Heracles who was a mentor to the young human boy Philoctetes.

The main point is this. I want to tell people the facts. I want the facts to be what people are generally aware of. Once they have them, it's up to them what they do with them. Believe, or don't believe, it's up to you. (Yeah, I can't see why you wouldn't believe once you have the facts, but that's irrelevant).

And this brings us to what I think is one of the reasons why atheists or non-theists don't want to be evangelised. It seems to me that a lot of them think the difference between following Islam, Hinduism, and Christianity is the same as the difference between a person's favourite colour being red, blue, or yellow.
So it seems fair for someone to say "My favourite colour is green, yours is purple, can't we just agree to disagree and get on with our lives".

But the right religion is not a matter of choosing which one suits you best! It's about facts. It's about checking science and history and seeing which one actually fits! So when I feel a need to correct someone, it's not a case of "Well I think turquoise is the greatest colour and anyone who disagrees should die", it's a case of "Please stop saying 2+2=5 because it doesn't and you're embarrassing yourself!"

I do think if it was any other subject I wouldn't be met with this kind of hostility. If I'd been studying biology for several years and told someone what would happen if they carried on eating cheeseburgers every day, they might go ahead with it, but at least they'd understand something from the perspective of an 'expert' of sorts.
So having studied Christianity and the evidence for it for several years, I'm not sure why I should be treated differently. Is it a fear of some kind? Do these people worry that they'll have to change their lives if they realise what I say is true? Maybe they will, but that's a bad reason to not listen to someone elses views, especially when they're coming from a background of looking at the subject in some depth.

Most atheists pride themselves on being open minded. As a final point I think I have to highlight the contradiction between calling yourself 'open minded' and then not actually being willing to hear opinions that are the opposite to your own.
(Not all atheists do that. I've spoken with plenty who are open to respectful discussion and I appreciate that.)

So that's the difference. For Christians who evangelise, it's about spreading the truth not forcing their opinions. There's a belief that there's a risk of hell for unbelievers, so we want to save people from that. We'd be awful Christians if we thought that it was possible that an eternity of suffering was the destiny of some people but didn't try to warn anyone.