Dear Christian

Dear Christian

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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17 thoughts on “Dear Christian

  1. Nice. 🙂

    I believe there is a lot to consider, as human beings before we start debating and its often sad when people retort to really bad tactics to “Win” and show that they are better than others, all of us alike at times, I guess.

    on a side note, eating blood can be bad for health, though may be you just wrote that as an example.


  2. Yes, it is just an example. I really don’t know anything about whether eating blood might or might not be bad for one’s health, but I don’t think it’s really relevant in this context. We all do things that are bad for our health, like not exercising or drinking too much caffeine, but those are our choices to make, and they don’t harm other people.


  3. Technically, eating fast food can be bad for your health. I love those warnings with nothing but fear in them… sigh.
    I like this post. You forgot to mention that they shouldn’t be annoyed when you stop by their house on a Saturday evening to invite them to come to a club with you… you know, while they’re eating or having a nap.

    Think about this: Two Watchtower toting soccer mom’s ring my doorbell. I answer. they ask if they can speak to me for a moment. I say yes, if they are willing to first discuss the merits of Alistair Crowley’s contributions to western society?

    Yeah, it’s all laughter and knee slapping after that…. LOL


  4. Ooh, that is an excellent response to Jehovah’s Witnesses knocking on your door.

    I’m pretty lucky in that I’ve only had to deal with proselytizers knocking on my door once or twice, ever. I do end up walking past a particular group of proselytizers on my campus most days, though, and their favorite tactic seems to be talking about hell, right up front, which I really hate because it basically comes off as a thinly veiled threat. They’re not terribly pushy, at least. Worst case scenario, I end up with a pamphlet to peruse while I eat lunch, and, if it’s particularly egregious, to tear apart on my blog later.


  5. Oh, I don’t suppose to tell you what you should eat as long as it is not relevant to anyone else but just for the thought, I think eating blood could be more risky than eating a chicken burger on a regular day, anyway.

    Some people also use this argument in a wrong way, for instance, my friend’s brother who is addicted to heroine thinks that there is nothing wrong with using it, if I say it might kill him some day, he retorts that walking on a side walk can also kill him unexpectedly by some drunk driver. While that may sound technical, it is not an excuse for using heroine.


  6. Could you point me to some information on how/why eating blood is bad for one’s health, then?

    I do agree this argument can be misused. That’s why I thought better of including drinking alcohol in the examples. It might be legal, but it’s not entirely harmless. In any case, my main point is that it’s very annoying when someone imposes their religious morality on someone who is not part of their religion, and that, in a secular nation, laws should be made for secular reasons (like banning heroine because it has terrible effects on people and their loved ones) rather than for religious reasons which promote one religion over another.


  7. My point is also not to prove something about blood, I have just seen too many wrong uses of this argument. Just because I do not exercise, does not mean I take something bad too. Two wrongs do not make a right.

    About morality, sure it should not be forced on anyone. I would concur with you 100% on this. One religion/or the lack thereof should not be imposed on those who do not follow it. I live in Pakistan, and here there are no equal laws for Christians, we are discriminated in the worst scenarios possible. I do understand the idea when you have to follow something you do not believe in and you are forced to do it (and that’s just one thing). I was forced to learn Islam in school and in college because it is mandatory, even for Christians. So I am not a big fan of imposing rules on others if they do not want to follow them. It profits no one.


  8. Hm, now you have me trying to think of ways to better word my argument so that it could not be misused as easily…

    I can’t imagine what it must be like to be a Christian in Pakistan. I live in the USA, where we supposedly have separation of church and state, but a lot of Christians keep trying to erode that separation, which makes me angry. They are in the majority, and, I guess, this has made them forget that this separation protects them, as well.


  9. Of course! Majorities often forget that they are protected by the same laws. If they could swap places with you they would see how they are wrong. In Pakistan, there are still places where you are not served food in a restaurant if they realize you are a christian. Is it wrong? yeah but not to them. My point, a majority does not always mean its doing the right thing, just because more people feel a certain way does not mean anything. But sadly that is how major decision are made on the higher levels of power.


  10. Yeah, also as an example, take the “prayer in schools” issue, that is a no brainier for me, in Pakistan we are not allowed to say Christian prayers on any public platforms, so when I see Americans fighting over it, I just shrug, most of the people do not realize that they have so much freedom in america and yet they are fighting over petty things, like a formal prayer. Be happy, you are allowed to express yourself. Plus, this has made me very uncomfortable. I do not think, atheists should be forced to attend prayers, but I also do not think that we have to oblige every request of the minority as well… just like the majority, a minority does not mean its always right. In the end, being a majority or minority in itself should not be enough to settle an argument. If someone likes to pray let him pray, if you do not, don’t and proud of it. But do not force others on things you alone like. This cuts both ways.

    Right now, Christians want prayers for all, atheists want all public prayers banned. Well both are wrong because both are being extreme, no margin is being given to anyone on any side and that is just sad. Compare it to Pakistan where if you are eating a sandwich on your way to college in the Muslim month of fasting, they would arrest you and throw you in jail, from 10 days to 6 months.


  11. Oh, it’s not that atheists want all prayers banned, just when the prayer in question is a government endorsement of one religion over another. You’re absolutely right that it cuts both ways. There shouldn’t be government endorsement of atheism, either. And yea, the oppression atheists face in America is very mild compared the oppression atheists or religious minorities face in some other parts of the world. I don’t think that means we shouldn’t fight against it, though. And it isn’t always a minor thing, either. For example, Jessica Ahlquist was harassed and received death and rape threats because she asked that her school take down its Christian prayer banner.

    And, really, when I think of discrimination that I face because of the majority trying to force their religious morality on everyone, I think almost exclusively about the often religiously motivated discrimination against trans people. People are sometimes murdered just for being trans (although this happens disproportionately to transwomen, specifically), and more common is when people are fired for being trans. I was recently afraid that I would be forced out of student housing because I was trans, but the person who had a problem with me left instead, for unrelated reasons.


  12. this is an awesome letter. would you mind if printed it off (with a link to you at the top) and passed it out to jehovah’s witnesses who come to my door? because that would be lovely.


  13. I agree with you, injustice and unjust laws should be fought against. “For example, Jessica Ahlquist was harassed and received death and rape threats because she asked that her school take down its Christian prayer banner.” This is horrible indeed.


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