The scariest part of Halloween: Christian witnesses

As I do every Sunday, I joined my parents for dinner yesterday on Halloween. They took turns greeting the trick or treaters (I'm kind of surprised at how few of them actually said "trick or treat!" though) while we ate and chatted.

At one point, while my mom was in the kitchen, my dad answered the door to some ORU students (that's Oral Roberts University, which should tell you all you need to know). They were collecting canned food for charity. I thought that was really cool, and I applaud them for that. As much as I love to bash religion for its falsity and absurdity, some religions certainly imbue their followers with a sense of charitable duty, and there's nothing wrong with that.

Then, after my dad had collected some food to give them, they said it: "Do you mind if we pray with you?"

Now look. I know that, even though I think their beliefs are completely ridiculous, they are nice young people who really do have good intentions. But I can't even begin to tell you how much witnessing annoys me. It's especially annoying because once upon a time, I was one of them. I'd go to the mall (or wherever) and tell people about Jesus or pass out pamphlets. But even as a teenage Christian, something about it never sat right with me. I didn't like cornering people into an awkward situation without knowing anything about what they believed. And even back then as a naive teenager, I thought that if I wanted to change anyone's mind, I ought to do it with a sense of respect for their experiences, individuality and intellect. So even before I became an apostate, I gave up on confrontational witnessing. I believed then, as I do now, that the best way to influence people is to lead by example.

Those students were doing just that with the canned food drive, and then they blew it with the prayer request. Man am I grateful that my dad, who's a devout Christian, opened the door instead of me. If I had to politely decline and tell them I'm a non-believer, who knows whether they'd have tried to suck me into some discussion about Jesus, in which case I would have been very blunt in my opinions about their beliefs.

My parents have neighbors who are Muslim. I wonder, did the ORU students ask them to pray as well? How many non-believers or people of non-Christian faiths did they encounter? They lucked out, since my parents are both pretty religious (I really am the black sheep in the family when it comes to religion). But it's my view that no matter how passionately you feel about your beliefs, there are better ways to foster a dialogue than to corner people into an awkward social situation.

Some friends of mine have likened me to an atheist Jerry Falwell, a sort of "evangelical atheist". But I don't think that's the case. I like talking about religion, science and philosophy, and exploring the Big Questions in life. But the extent of my activism is that I have a blog. I never bring up religion in day-to-day conversation, and only discuss my opinions if they're asked of me. I want to live by example as well – nothing makes believers more uncomfortable than a happy atheist.

Comments

  1. I was talking to my mother in law the other night and she had been watching a DVD on Billy Graham's younger years and she mentioned Templeton and how he had lost his faith and never regained it. Her comment was he was too intelligent. After the phone call I started laughing at the whole ideas that yes we lose our faith because we begin to think.

    ReplyDelete

Post a Comment

Popular Posts