Conversion vs. conquestMarch 11, 2009 — Deacon Duncan
I’d like to follow up a bit on an earlier thread about respecting the opposition. I’ve been thinking about what makes people decide to convert—or not. Ideally, I think we’d like to have our disputes end with the other person changing their mind, and agreeing that we’re right.
The problem is that if we win the argument, the other person has to be the loser before they can agree we’re right, and that’s an ego thing. It comes back to our goal: are we working to convince, or working to conquer? Are we trying to make the other person a loser, or a winner?
This is at the heart of the debate over “framing” science that was a fairly boisterous brouhaha not too long ago. Do we present science in such a way as to boldly stand up for the truth, regardless of the opposition, or do we make allowances for people’s pre-existing beliefs and preferences, and “frame” our message so as to be appealing? Do we go for conquest or conversion?
I’m thinking that the heart of a successful strategy lies in adopting an attitude that is understanding and supportive, without being compromising regarding the facts. I was a Bible-believing Christian for literally decades, and I was no less intelligent then than I am now. (Less experienced, perhaps, but not less intelligent. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it!) So I can say, “Yes, I’ve been there, and let me tell you how understanding the truth has made my life better.” And I think there are a lot of others who can say the same thing.
What makes it hard, I think, is that unbelievers tend to be a bit on the defensive side, as an unpopular minority. We know we’re not going to convert anybody, so why try? The best we can hope for is to score a few good points and maybe embarrass the Establishment now and then. True victory, true conversion, is hopeless.
Or is it? We’re so used to being underdogs that it may not be obvious to us that a lot of people are a lot more open to realistic thinking than they’ve ever been before. Eight years of Christian leadership under Saint George II have opened a lot of people’s eyes and minds. Maybe we should stop assuming that everyone is going to react badly. Maybe it’s time to say, “Yes, I know what you mean, I used to feel the same way,” and then explain how our lives have become better, more meaningful, and less confused, by turning to reality-based faith instead of faith-based faith and the words of men. Maybe we can start drawing interested inquirers.
We really do have something good and exciting to offer. When I deconverted from Christianity, one of the things that amazed me the most was the virtual flood of solid and sensible answers I got to all kinds of questions that Jesus never had any really good answers for. I found new hope, new reason for living, and of course new freedom from all sorts of superstitions and prejudices that I hadn’t really realized were enslaving me until I shook them off. Losing God grieved me badly, but I have to admit, what I got in return more than outweighs my loss, since He never really showed up in the first place.
I named this blog Evangelical Realism because that’s what I’d like to see. I’d like to see Realists become bolder, more confident, and better able to share the good news that God is a myth, and life has purpose. I’m not entirely sure how to achieve what I’d like to see, but I’m hoping that others will share this vision, and that a community can emerge that will attract others also.
We should talk about that some more…