Monday, June 23, 2014

A Thought on Proselytizers Who Threaten Damnation

One who comes to the Christian religion—or any system of religious belief—not out of reverence for the word of god as recorded in scripture, earnest desire to enter the Christian community, sincere devotion and unreserved submission to the god of the bible, and wholehearted belief in Jesus’ substitutionary atonement but, rather, out of naked, craven fear of consignment to the lake of fire is not properly Christian at all but is, in fact, the embodiment of pusillanimity…an individual whose abject cowardice and fraudulent piety serve to insult—not exalt—his or her “newly found” faith.

It makes one wonder why so much evangelism is done at the point of a metaphorical sword.

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Blogger Luis Cayetano said...

Good point. I often tell this to Christians on YouTube who start mouthing off about the eternity of hell. They drone on about the goodness and awesomeness of God, but then sneak in a hateful little threat that must surely make the skin of any decent human being crawl. Normally, they fall silent and slink away after I point out their fraud, cowardice and immorality, probably in search of more minds to shut down so that they can continue to live under their selfish comfort blankets.

12:37 AM EDT  
Blogger The Jolly Nihilist said...

Thanks for the reply, Luis.

It just confuses me to no end. I think you put your finger right on it when you used the word fraud. Even an atheist like me sees that a true Christian -- one who sincerely wants to spread "The Word" far and wide -- would never proselytize through what one might call "The Argument from You're Going to Hell."

On Christianity, craven terror in the face of threatened punishment should not be the motivating force for embracing the Christian faith. To convert on such a basis transforms what Christians perceive as "rebirth" to the ultimate act of self-interested self-protection.

7:33 PM EDT  
Blogger Luis Cayetano said...

True. I should perhaps mention that there's still something rather repulsive about the notion of 'rebirth', because if people are 'born again', then they haven't grown up. We need more people to develop and mature into actual adults, rather than to retreat back into infancy.

I think that both conceptions - craven and miserable fear of hell, and rebirth - are pathetic and harmful in their own ways.

However, I should also mention that there are more mature and thoughtful (though still ultimately erroneous) conceptions of Christianity, which I for one can actually respect:

(just a very short clip)

12:06 AM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I would like to respectfully add my own thoughts to this discussion.

Christianity is not the fear of eternal punishment, but a way of developing a relationship with God, other people, and becoming a better person. The people who join the Christian faith out of fear of punishment don't grasp what it means to be Christian nor do they truly understand that fear of punishment is NOT the intended reason to convert to it. Respectfully, I don't understand the purpose of this post. Yes, there are Christians who are misinformed. Yes, there are Christians who, unfortunately, join the faith due to fear. People join a faith for many different reasons. With all due respect, what is your point? The Christians who know the truth know that love and trust are the basis of Christianity, not hatred and fear. The rest of them are trying to make themselves feel secure. I think society is to blame. Society is to blame for so many things, anyway. We search for ways to feel secure in this day and age when few things seem certain. People cling onto something when they get scared. Misery loves company, but I think fear does, too. Christians who don't understand their faith and are scared want others to feel scared too, because they won't be alone. Why are you making a big deal out of this? No one is perfect, and I'm not trying to make excuses for these types of Christians, but it's not fair to stereotype a whole entire religion for a group of people who aren't embracing their faith in the way it was intended. Yes, it's too bad that these people join due to fear, as that is not the intended reason for Christianity.

Also, in my opinion, calling these people "fraud" is invalid. According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, fraud means a person who pretends to be what he or she is not in order to trick people. How are these Christians frauds? How do you know what a true Christian is, especially since you don't even practice that faith? There are some people out there who join in fear but they end up growing in their faith as a result. Why stereotype an entire religion based on a group of people who join in fear?

10:38 AM EDT  
Blogger Luis Cayetano said...

Jill, you talk about a "group of people who join because of fear", and claim that this isn't representative of Christianity as a religion. But actually, it's perfectly in keeping with the doctrines of the faith, which preaches the reality of hellfire, the reality of sin as the reason for hellfire, and how the blood sacrifice of Jesus 'saved' us from it if only we choose to follow him. One would think that if Christianity were solely about establishing a relationship with God, the notion of hell could be dispensed with entirely.

It may well be true that a majority of Christians don't adhere to their faith due to fear but in order to have a relationship with God, but all too often, we do hear Christians proselytizing people to "repent before it's too late". We hear Christians calling for prayer as national policy, implying that humans have 'displeased' God and that he has either instigated natural disasters, or will not stop others from happening unless we "cease our wicked ways" (incidentally, the politicians who make such calls are often the first to be caught engaging in said wicked ways and are often the first to recognize corporations as human ahead of women, but my point is that these politicians would not be able to command so much influence if vast numbers of people didn't already believe that God might punish humanity via tornadoes and floods). In debates between Christians and non-believers, Pascal's Wager ("You might as well believe in God. If there is a God and you believe, you go to heaven. But if there is and you don't, you go to hell. So what have you go to lose by believing?") often raises its ugly head. In the boilerplate of a society where people are indeed losing their faith in God, boilerplate reactions among the faithful who fear the encroachments of this change will manifest themselves in the form of threats.

So this isn't a fringe issue. There are indeed proselytizers who threaten damnation, and they're vocal. More fundamentally, we might ask whether the deeper problem is proselytizing in the name of fear, or the doctrine that fleshes out this fear in the first place.

3:31 AM EDT  
Blogger The Jolly Nihilist said...

Thank you for taking the time to comment, Jill. And thank you, Luis, for a response that anticipated exactly what I would have written, perhaps just less articulately than you have.

Jill, the purpose of the post is precisely what Luis identified: atheists like him and me find ourselves confronted continually: with warnings to "repent" before it's too late to do so; with dire admonitions to "get right with Christ" before death so as to avoid spending an eternity in the lake of fire; with armchair sophistry of a Pascal's Wager sort. It seemed to me worth spelling out that evangelists who manipulate individuals into Christian conversion based upon fear — as opposed to the "legitimate" reasons I mentioned (e.g., reverence for scripture, a desire to enter the Christian community, an abiding belief in Jesus' substitutionary atonement) — are not, in fact, recruiting Christians but are, instead, insulting their own faith by trumpeting the arrival of pusillanimous frauds, who are motivated exclusively by self-interested self-protection, as though they were true believers.

It might be a scriptural and doctrinal truth in the Christian religion that those who do not accept Jesus as savior, and thereby partake in his substitutionary atonement, will be consigned to the lake of fire for all eternity; it may simply be the case that the bible preaches such odiousness. But to try to frighten atheists — and non-Christians broadly — into Christian conversion at the point of a metaphorical sword is to insult one's own faith by acting as though a person’s motivation for conversion — in this case, self-interested self-protection owing to craven terror — is of no import. This seems, to me, to be mistaken.

2:19 PM EDT  
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8:13 PM EST  

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