I’m easy to convert, actually

As I picked up litter gospel tracts scattered in a shopping mall parking lot the other day, I got to thinking about what a Christian — or, any other variety of theist — might be able to say in order to convert me. So many of them (including the writer of these tracts) take the basic approach of saying, “Have you heard what the Bible says?” and just sort of stopping there, as though the Bible’s mere existence is proof of its contents’ veracity. This is, shall we say, not very effective.

A better strategy would be: list the facets of our world that are better explained by the truth of your religion than by the truth of any other religion or by a wholly non-supernatural universe. Bonus points for focusing on things that your religion specifically claims should happen. Here are some suggestions:

  • Performing our specific rituals before/during a major life event secures the blessing of our god/s and prevents things from going wrong. (e.g. people who are married in our churches never get divorced; the babies we circumcise all live long, happy, and healthy lives; cars that we bless at our temple never get in accidents; etc.)
  • Our houses of worship and sacred sites have never been damaged by natural disasters or other destructive weather phenomena.
  • Members of our religion always (or, significantly more often) remain unharmed in natural disasters, or man-made ones such as wars and other violent acts.
  • Members of our religion are observed to be nicer and kinder, and possess more moral integrity, than members of other religions or non-religious people. (e.g. members of our religion never commit crimes / commit crimes at far lower rates than would be expected from our proportion of the population; no member of our religion has ever resigned in scandal from a public office or other visible position of authority; etc.)
  • Members of our religion who pray to our specific god/s always get what they ask for in prayer, even when it seems physically impossible. People who pray to other gods, or who don’t pray, only get the things they’re able to do for themselves anyway.
  • Members of our religion never fall ill; -or- members of our religion who fall ill always recover when they pray for recovery; -or- members of our religion who fall ill and pray for recovery do get better at rates that are significantly higher than members of other religions who pray to their gods and non-religious people who do not pray. (If this latter case, I will ask you why not one of the earlier two, but it’d at least be a start.)
  • Members of our religion are significantly wealthier than members of other religions and non-religious people.
  • Those in our religion who claim to speak directly to our god are able to make predictions about the future that always come true. Meanwhile, prognosticators of other religions make many false predictions.

These are just a few of my ideas. I look forward to seeing what people come up with to add in the comments. And of course, I’d love to hear from any religious people who think that their religion could put forward one or more of these claims … but I won’t be holding my breath.

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  1. How about:

    The original manuscript of our sacred book still exists, and has survived fire and floods with no damange. All later copies of it match the original exactly. Every member of our religion understands this book in exactly the same way – there are no sects within our religion that differ about its interpretation. And translation is not necessary, because everyone is magically able to read the original as if it were in their own language.


  3. While there are plenty of Christians who think and act as if God promises all of these things, He doesn’t. Here’s what He actually promises:

    Forgiveness of sins (difficult to measure)
    Bodily resurrection after death (pending)
    Oneness with Him (requires rejection of everything contrary to Him, i.e. Love)

    The Catholic Church is a hospital for sinners, not just a hotel for saints. The idea that we Catholics are all going to be shiny happy extra-good people is wrong. There is no limit to the evil which any person, Catholic or not, may do. There are widely revered saints who behaved awfully (eg, St. Augustine was a Manichean libertine who fathered a child out of wedlock before his conversion).

    Seriously, most of the items on your list (ritual blessings, houses of worship, physical safety [absurd to expect in a Church that grows from the blood of martyrs!], less evil, granted requests, health, wealth, and predictions) put God in the position of being a cosmic/spiritual vending machine, rather than a Father whom you love, and who loves you. God does not make us prisoners of His love, so He isn’t going to keep us from doing ourselves and each other harm. I presume He knows the true good better than I, which would explain the difference between what I ask for and what I get.

    And I also presume that He is neither the only moral agent nor the only supernatural being in the universe. Not only are we able to act against His will, so too are the devil and his minions.

    Truth be told, I wouldn’t really expect the lives of the saints to convince you. Only God can. If you ask Him to, He will. But take warning:

    first, he will give you the truth about His existence if knowing the truth is more important to you than pride, showing off, the admiration of other atheists, or anything else you have or value.
    second, the proof He provides can and quite possibly will be specific to you, and convince nobody else.

  4. mist42nz

     /  May 25, 2013 at 3:56 am

    Are you talking religions (doctrines establish to build and profit from human power structures)
    or of the “super”natural (God, prophets, mystical energies et al)?

    If the latter, why does there seem to be the assumption they are aligned with human interests in a manner which would profit the humans?

  5. >While there are plenty of Christians who think and act as if God promises all of these things, He doesn’t.

    Arkanabar, I suggest you read the Gospels more carefully.

    There are explicit promises of unconditionally and unambiguously granted prayers, unconditionally and unambiguously cured illnesses, immunity to poison, the ability to understand all languages, and, of course, the end of the world coming to pass while at least some of the audience in 33 CE was still alive.

  6. What's in a name

     /  July 5, 2014 at 5:55 am

    “Members of our religion are significantly wealthier than members of other religions and non-religious people.”

    Have you heard about Xenu and L.Ron Hubbard?

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