If you want to convert me, please don’t expect anything from me that you wouldn’t be willing to do yourself. If you give me pamphlets about Christianity and expect me to read them, you’d best be willing to do the same if I give you pamphlets about atheism (yes, these actually exist, although the only ones I’ve found are just informational ‘here is what atheists are like’ stuff) or, heck, even if I pass on some interesting pamphlet about Hinduism that someone else gave me (surely, at the very least, it would help you to understand what it is like to be on the receiving end of the pamphlet giving, which might even help you come up with better pamphlet giving/writing strategies). If you expect me to consider your side in a debate, you had best be willing to consider mine. If you want me to read your holy book with an open mind, then you’d best be willing to read, with an open mind, a book I recommend to you. If you’re not willing to do that, then this whole thing becomes very one-sided, and I’m likely to end up feeling quite disgruntled and will probably resist everything you say. After all, if you won’t listen to me, why should I listen to you?
Please don’t quote Bible verses to me like they’re evidence. You may see the Bible as your most important source of information, but to me it is just a book that a bunch of different people wrote a really, really long time ago. Before you say that characterization of your holy book is insulting, just think, isn’t that the same way you view other religions’ holy texts? Would you be even remotely convinced by someone quoting the Qur’an as evidence?
Also, if you’re trying to convert me, please respect that my decisions are my own. It is not your responsibility to ‘save’ me. It is my responsibility to make my own decisions. If you want to talk about or debate religion, then that is fine, but do not use coercive tactics (like threatening me with hell) if I don’t make the decisions that you want me to. And, for goodness’ sake, do not try to ‘fix’ me or act like you know what is good for me better than I do. That’s just patronizing. Even if you did know what’s good for me better than I do, I’m an adult. Let me make my own decisions.
Don’t assume you know what my experience is like, even if you yourself were an atheist at some point in time. Atheists are an extremely varied bunch, and each of us has our own reasons for being an atheist and our own way of looking at the world. Strictly speaking, the only thing we all have in common with each other is that we all happen not to believe in any gods. While there are certain things that you can say about atheists as a group, such as that atheists are more likely to accept the theory of evolution (considering objections to the theory of evolution tend to be religiously based, this is hardly surprising) or that atheists tend to be more religiously literate, you just can’t assume that any of these things are true about an individual just because they happen to be an atheist. There are atheists who don’t accept the theory of evolution (or just don’t know enough about it to say anything one way or the other), and there are atheists who know very little about religion. In short, we’re all individuals, and there is no one standard book or creed for atheism.
You’d also do well to educate yourself about common misconceptions about atheists. There are a lot of them, and they get very tiring to deal with. If I hear you saying that atheists are nihilists and have no reason to be good, then I’m probably going to dismiss what you say out of hand because you’ve just proved you have no idea what you’re talking about. If you actually spent any time listening to atheists, you would hear all about our various reasons to be good and our various non-nihilistic philosophies.
If you live in a country which is majority Christian and where most of the government leaders are Christian, then don’t act like your religion is being oppressed. This is only going to piss off the people who actually are being oppressed for their religious beliefs or lack thereof. Yes, Christians in the early church were horribly oppressed and martyred, but that was there and then. This is here and now, and now you’re the ones holding most of the power.
Perhaps most importantly, please do not impose your religious morality on me. If something which is legal and doesn’t harm anyone (like eating blood or having anal sex with one’s spouse) happens to be forbidden in your religion… then it’s forbidden in your religion. Don’t try to apply that to people who are not part of your religion. And for goodness’ sake, don’t try to turn your religious morality into law in a secular nation. Keeping religious tenets out of the law in a secular nation helps protect everyone’s ability to freely practice their own religion. Don’t forget that even if you happen to be in the majority right now and face no realistic threat of someone else’s religious tenets being imposed on you by being made into law.
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