Thursday, June 24, 2010

The Problem with Persecution

I've been in numerous, seemingly endless conversations with theists about their beliefs. In every discussion, I attempt to maintain a high degree of objectivity and emotional disconnect from the subject because it's generally better to show that you can remain a rational, reasonable person regardless of how the conversation goes. However, I find that on the theist side of the discussion, this isn't usually the case. Once you begin questioning their beliefs – because they've so deeply bound their beliefs to their identity – they start getting really passionate about the whole thing and discontinue rational discourse in favor of emotional appeals to persecution. For example, I recently started a thread on a Web site after being visited by some door-to-door Christians. Here's how it went:

Door-to-Door Salvation

A couple of nice, older ladies rang my doorbell just a little while ago because they're in my neighborhood to talk about the Bible. Regrettably, I have to get some work done so I couldn't invite them in and talk to them. The conversation went like this:

LADY: We're in the neighborhood sharing some uplifting words from the Bible. The Bible is a source of good news and, as you know, most people believe in the Bible. Are you much of a Bible reader?
ME: I'm sorry, I'm actually at work right now and don't have the time.
LADY: Oh, OK. Well, we'll try to stop back by later.

I actually wish I had the time to sit down with them and find out just how much they know about the Bible and whether or not their goal is to cherry-pick verses to try and save me. I'm curious as to how prepared they are to field probing questions about their book. Most people I've found who believe in the Bible haven't really read it all the way through, so it's always intriguing to me to see the different views on what it contains. I'd really like to get it on video.

The funny things to me about door-to-door evangelism are that it's (a) stereotypical and (b) harder to sell than Kirby vacuum cleaners. Usually, people don't want to or don't have the time to sit down and talk about abstract concepts over which they've typically already made up their mind. What do the rest of you do when/if people show up at your door to spread the good news?

The first two respondents simply answered the question I posed at the end of my post. The third (Christian) respondent answered the question, but felt it important to include this statement:

Jon instead of attacking people who come to the door so that you can feel intellectually superior, why not seek spiritual advice from a pastor or minister who can answer your deeper questions about faith and who have studied the Bible. Just saying.

Help! Help! I'm being persecuted!

It's funny to me that a question about how people handle door-to-door salespersons can turn into an all-out attack on everyone of faith. It's also funny to me that it only took three posts to degrade the discussion. The rest of the thread is (as of now) 54 pages of back-and-forth about whether or not belief in a deity is rational, necessary, or valuable, and whether or not it takes faith to be an atheist. Incredible!

I was on Yahoo! Answers for a long time and came across a person (Tinker Grey) who put a name to the logical fallacy that is the automatic defensive position theists take: Argumentum Ad Martyrdom, or "I perceive they don't like me, therefore I'm right."

I'm of the mind that theists don't want to be liked, and I suspect the reason is this:

"Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven." – Matthew 5:10-12

Yes indeed, the more people hate you, the more righteous you are. Or conversely, the more righteous you are, the more people will hate you. The way Christians think, if they believe they have people who hate them, then they've got to be doing something right. What utter nonsense!

Here's the more likely cause/effect relationship at work here:

The more ridiculous garbage you spew as though it were fact, the more justified people are in thinking you're off your rocker.

Theists, there's no hate involved. I'd call it more of a no-holds-barred lesson in reality. We're just trying to educate you theists, honestly! It's for your own good.

Let's start thinking, people. Please.

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