Monday, July 7, 2014

On a Mission or an Imposter?

I am Still Homeschool Atheist Momma!

I think I have figured out why some Christians and some other believers feel the need to continually proselytize and catechize their beliefs. I saw this on a church billboard:

Every Christian is either a missionary 
or an imposter.
  - Charles Spurgeon, British Baptist Minister (1834-1892)

The church itself sends its people out into the world with the commission to spread their beliefs, the Good News, as it were. And I say that it is quite audacious to move through the world assuming that everyone else is wrong and your book is right.

Just think about that word, mission. I think of it as meaning a strong goal or conviction to perform some essential duty.  (my own definition, not from any dictionary)  In that case, some Christians feel strongly moved to spread their beliefs to those around them and that type of conversation can be nothing more than urging others to accept another person's small slice of reality.

When I was a believer I remember the urgings to spread the gospel, the message that we, as Christians, were called on to share the word of the Lord. Even before ever having read the entirety of the holy books or before the dogma is truly known, believers are often encouraged to bring others to the church through their works...  Before even understanding the entirety of the teachings and writings of the church!

It is like preferring the words that come out of Kirk Cameron's mouth over those from Stephen Hawking...

But there is more. Implicit in the quote by Charles Spurgeon Every Christian is either a missionary or an imposter, is the message that believers are inadequate or shameful or not a true, loving Christian if they don't do their part to evangelize. It is insidious. And, again, I see the church using guilt and shame as a motivator.

I have an aunt that I love. It is impossible to talk to her without her expressing her fears of not sharing the afterlife with me. She lives in such a state of anxiety and terror of a hell-fire and tormenting afterlife! Other people that I love do it too and I can't help but wonder what is like inside one's head to think that they are so moved to pass along messages that they find so essential...  I know that they are doing what is important to them. Also, they are so motivated by their fear.

What would it be like if we, as atheists, set out to educate everyone that we meet in the awesomeness of SCIENCE!  We could call ourselves Nye-lites, and make it our mission to spread the Good News of Natural Law!

Maybe we could even get tax exemptions...

What do you think?
Please leave your thoughts, I enjoy hearing from you.

You might also enjoy this post:

I'm a Lover, Not a Fighter  
PC Enough?


  1. I think what I was reminded of while reading your article (above) is that these people are preaching to benefit THEMSELVES, not who they are talking to, much in the same way salesmen tell you how much you'll benefit from buying their product. I'm sure family might care, but everyone else annoys me like the pestering salesman. Christianity seems, to me, to be a very selfish, self-centered and self-righteous religion. Everything they do is so they will be rewarded and they assume they have the right to tell everyone else how they should live. You've probably heard all this before, as have I, but I still find myself shocked at the raw arrogance of these people.

  2. Karen,
    I don't see the difference between an atheist and a Christian when it comes to spreading their beliefs. Everyone thinks they are right about something and that those people who don't believe those things are wrong. You think I'm wrong about some things and vice versa. But I don't think you would consider yourself or other atheists audacious. There are some very aggressive atheists out there. Of course not all are.
    Many new Christians begin to share their newfound faith very early in their experience. I see nothing wrong with that. They talk about what they do know or have experienced. No one has to know everything about a topic of interest before they start talking about some aspects of it. No atheist or scientist knows all there is to know, but that shouldn't stop them from sharing what they do know. We're all learning. And for everyone, I hope they keep learning and pursuing.
    I agree that many in the church use shame, fear, and guilt to motivate Christians. That shouldn't happen. But again, everyone doesn't do that. The Spurgeon quote, though strong, doesn't have to be interpreted as motivating by guilt. Maybe it's simply calling for Christians to do some self evaluation. How Christians fulfill their mission can be very personal in methods. And as a Christian I can say many of us aren't always presenting a loving god in a loving way, either with our words or lifestyle. So perhaps Spurgeon is saying, if you call yourself a Christian, make sure you are accurately representing this mission of love for everyone. But knowing that Spurgeon preached in a very different era, he probably would disagree with how I've softened his intent.
    As for your aunt, I'm not clear if you are saying she's fearful for herself if she doesn't talk about hell or if she's fearful about what awaits you in the afterlife. If the latter, she likely believes it so strongly and loves you so much, that she's just trying to communicate it passionately.

    And, as I understand it from all the construction projects I've done for universities and institutes of higher learning, where there is a real animosity for religious beliefs, they have all been tax exempt.

  3. When I was Christian, I almost never felt the need to express or impose my beliefs in an unsolicited manner. (Say "almost never" because speaking in absolutes is almost never wise.) Yes, I had religious discussions with people, exchanges of ideas; but it was not me proselytizing. Come to think of it, none of them were initiated by me, either. Now that I think about it, I'm not really sure why. It's not that I was afraid to speak my mind; I've never been really shy about that. I think it was because I was comfortable enough in my own skin and in my beliefs that I didn't need to "convert" or "convince" other people over to "my" side. Live and let live.
    And now that I am decidedly non-religious, I find that I approach it in that same live-and-let-live sort of way. If religion works for someone, if it helps them be at peace, helps them feel happy--well, then good for them (and I know many, many someones who subscribe to religiousness). If someone, like me, finds religion unhelpful, patronizing and at the same time oppressive, (I'll stop my descriptors there)--well, good for them. It's when people get into a mode of I'm right and you're wrong and "I'll pray for you" or whatever other condescending, diminishing line that's used... that's when I have a problem. (And, yes--I quoted a common Christian phrase because, in my 40+ years on this Earth, Christians are the ones who have taken this approach with me.) And, honestly, I know many Christians who almost never say a word about their faith. It just doesn't come up. My gut feeling is that those who feel the urgent need to push their views on others are doing so because they, in fact, are not totally comfortable in their own skin, with their own religious views. So, the more people who think like they do, who agree with them, the more "right" they are; the more comfortable they are.
    The sad thing is that we humans have so many others things that bind us, commonalities that we share, which are so much deeper and important than "What god do you pray to?" It perplexes me--why do some people believe that everyone should/must adhere to the same dogma? I think it's because large agreeing numbers = I must be rightness = comfort and satisfaction Thus, I am right and comfortable, so I never need to re-examine or analyze or change. Ever.
    Comfort and satisfaction vs. critical thinking and growth. I'll take the latter any day of the week... and twice on Sundays. ;)


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