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Door to door Jehovah's Witnesses / Mormons, people preaching in town centres, posters outside churches, alpha course.

Why do Christians have to promote their beliefs to other people? What difference does it make to believers if other people do not believe the same as them? Do they not think they may offend atheists?

I am interested to hear from people who actively promote their religion to non-believers and what drives them.

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closed as not constructive by Jon Ericson, warren, David Stratton, Caleb Oct 24 '12 at 7:11

As it currently stands, this question is not a good fit for our Q&A format. We expect answers to be supported by facts, references, or expertise, but this question will likely solicit debate, arguments, polling, or extended discussion. If you feel that this question can be improved and possibly reopened, visit the help center for guidance.If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

    
Some view proselytism as a form of invitation. These are the Christians who aren't annoying windbags. –  TRiG Oct 7 '11 at 23:58
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Religions that don't encourage their followers to convert others (and don't make up for it by slaughtering, invading, and colonizing) tend to die out. Thus, you would expect every major religion to have an element of proselytizing. Also, it's human nature to share things that seem beneficial or important. The interesting cases are the widespread religions that don't do this much (e.g. Buddhism). I'm not saying that it's not interesting to know the Christian justification, but the universal pattern should also be recognized. –  Rex Kerr Oct 8 '11 at 4:54
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This was from the early days of the site and so things have changed, but as it stands this question amounts to a poll or survey of various Christian traditions. I'm voting to close until we have a chance to edit the question to somehow make it constructive under our current FAQ. –  Jon Ericson Oct 23 '12 at 16:11

4 Answers 4

up vote 15 down vote accepted

You basically have three sub-questions here, so let me attempt to answer them in order.

Why do christians have to promote their beliefs to other people?

For two principal reasons: because we were commanded to at several different places in the Bible, and as an act of love. The Gospel improves the lives of those who live its principles, and we want to share that with those who don't have those blessings in their lives.

What difference does it make to believers if other people do not believe the same as them?

Well, aside from what I posted above about loving others and wanting them to experience the same blessings we have, it makes a huge difference when the other people are not content to simply "not believe the same" and leave it at that, but actively attempt to use force--of either the physical, political or legal variety--to interfere with our ability to live our religion. And one of the simplest ways to counter that is to turn an enemy into a believer. (Sometimes it can have a very dramatic result; just look at Paul!)

Do they not think they may offend atheists?

Perhaps, but that only matters if you think that avoiding hurting someone's feelings is more important than sincerely trying to help them improve their lives. The Gospel encourages an eternal perspective, which tends to give us a different ordering of priorities than the strong short-term focus so prevalent in the world today.

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Thanks for your answer. I take you point about making a difference to people who aren't content, but what if they are content, did not display an interest or opposition to god, are happy "good" people with no need for religion? It's it quite arrogant to think you are right, they are wrong and they need your help? Surely the response from promoting religion in the world today must be more negative than positive so is it worth it? What would be your reaction if someone tried to push their belief system on you, say islam or hinduism? –  Yeodave Oct 7 '11 at 23:37
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@Yeodave: Again, it's a matter of perspective. If you were driving down a road and you found someone with a car parked across it, blocking the path, you might find them arrogant, pushy and annoying... right up until you discover that it's because they know something you don't know--that the bridge ahead is out--and they're blocking traffic to save people's lives. When you understand that, your perspective changes quite significantly! You may call it "arrogant" for Christians to claim that they're right and nonbelievers need their help, but that doesn't make it factually untrue. –  Mason Wheeler Oct 7 '11 at 23:52
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But if someone parked their car across the road and said the bridge ahead was going to be hit by a falling alien spacecraft my reaction would be very different. Again you say they KNOW something atheists don't which has to be perceived as arrogant. –  Yeodave Oct 8 '11 at 0:00
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@Yeodave I know things you do not, and you know things I do not. That in and of itself does not make us arrogant. Me trying to teach you new things does not make me arrogant. What makes me arrogant is my attitude, not my knowledge. Put another way, arrogance is a result of attitude, not information, and not behavior. Behaviors can be manifest because of arrogance, but the behavior itself does not cause it. –  Dave DeLong Oct 8 '11 at 0:19
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This should be discussed in chat. Your claim to have knowledge about God is not backed up by evidence, so you only have faith. And pushing that faith to other people is actually very dangerous. If we stay at the same analogy, imagine there are now many different people (religions) who block the bridge and they all say that the safest way is to turn left or right and use a very specific other path over another bridge, but as it is invisible we have to trust them it's save. –  Sven Oct 8 '11 at 13:02

Let me put it to you this way:

If you saw someone about to walk off a cliff, wouldn't you try to stop them?

The question is asking about a Christian's motives, so it's fair to evaluate this from the Christian's point of view. Perhaps the atheist about to walk off the cliff is only trying to reach a ledge just below top of the cliff, but if all the Christian can see is someone about to take a jump, making an effort to save this person is perfectly appropriate.

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Ah, but if it is only you that thinks it is a cliff, when the eye and foot tells us it is a flat field? (I know you mean it - I just don't think the analogy works well) –  Marc Gravell Oct 8 '11 at 14:59
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@Marc - the question is asking about a Christian's motives, so it's perfectly fair to evaluate it from the Christian's point of view. –  Joel Coehoorn Oct 8 '11 at 15:48
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regardless of the perspective, there's a huge gulf between an objective cliff and a subjective belief. It would have to be a cliff that you, the believer, also can't see directly, but have a sincere belief in regardless. –  Marc Gravell Oct 8 '11 at 16:11
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@Marc You're stretching. Hitting closer to home, surely you as a programmer have seen a colleague about to use a technique that is widely used, but you consider harmful. Even if you'll never have to maintain that code or use the product, if you had the opportunity you would want to correct the developer. –  Joel Coehoorn Oct 8 '11 at 17:12
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I'm probably one of the "windbags" that @Trig mentioned. However, I am perfectly willing to admit that I may be wrong about my faith. Yet I try because if I'm wrong, then I just look like an idiot and have people not like me for being "offensive". So what? But if I'm right, then God willing, someone may be saved from an eternity of torment because God used me to reach someone. If even one person is saved then all the hatred (or at least irritation) directed toward me is worth it. This answer perfectly answers why I try to get others to believe. This is a good answer. –  David Stratton Oct 9 '11 at 0:05

Christians believe two things (among others):

  1. Jesus is the only route to heaven; without him, you go to hell.
  2. It's our job to love everyone.

If you believe those two things, then you have to try to get everyone to accept Jesus. Letting them go to hell isn't loving them.

You might agree or disagree with those two beliefs, but if you want to know more about them, that'd be best suited for a separate question.

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Hi Joe and welcome to Christianity. Going forward, we are hoping to have questions focus more on facts and less on Truth. But pointing out the logical consequences of two things that many Christians belief is very helpful given the current question from early in the life of the site. –  Jon Ericson Oct 23 '12 at 16:17
    
@JonEricson, it seems to me that this is an objective answer; it doesn't say whether these two beliefs are correct or incorrect. And unless I'm mistaken, every Christian denomination holds both of these tenets. –  Joe Oct 23 '12 at 19:04
    
One of the things I've learned on the site is that no belief is accepted by all denominations. It's one of the reasons we're trying to refine the sorts of questions we ask. (By the way, I'm your +1 so far. I think this is a fine answer to the question.) –  Jon Ericson Oct 23 '12 at 19:11
    
@JonEricson, thanks for the feedback. Now I'm wondering which denominations don't believe those things. Time to ask a question... –  Joe Oct 23 '12 at 20:48

Early Christians had a particular vision, and that vision needed to spread, so the mechanism was:

Accept Jesus, then get others to accept him.

This is similar to the vision of our form of agriculture:

Grow, then get more land, increase food production, then grow some more.

These two quotes came from Beyond Civilization, by Daniel Quinn.

So, we start with the fact that we want our vision of God to spread. You can see this in a similar way with other religions.

Now, do you have to buy into any one particular religious belief, so should Catholics try to convert Baptists? I think that as long as the vision is similar to Jesus' then we should focus on the two greatest commandments which is on how to properly relate to God and each other, with love. So, some people want to force their views on others that don't have their own narrow view of the world, but that seems geared more toward personal glory (bragging rights) than trying to help share Jesus' vision.

Now, you mention in a comment why try to convert people that are happy. Some people feel that they are happy as drug users, or skipping school. If I truly love someone then I would like to see them happy for eternity, and Jesus is doorway to this, then I should share my beliefs, but, as I mentioned in another of your questions, being pushy will just drive people to put up walls and become more resistant. Being pushy wasn't the way that Jesus nor the early Apostles approached this, and using them as a guideline would show that being pushy is probably for the wrong motives.

So, why not share our view on relationships with God and others, and show how it can help them, but that starts with understanding that person, not just trying to use a one-size fits all approach.

We can share our beliefs without annoying people, if we go slow, let God direct us, and understand the person we are talking with.

One of the best books to help show how this works is Dale Carnegie's How to Make Friends and Influence People, btw, if you don't want to use a religious writing.

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I wouldn't compare non-belief with drug use!?! –  Yeodave Oct 10 '11 at 12:00
    
@Yeodave - The NT uses gambling, adultery and drunkenness as examples, I just made it a bit more modern. –  James Black Oct 10 '11 at 20:10
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So you think that all non-believers are running around, losing all their money on horse racing, drinking themselves into a coma while having sex with their secretary? What a warped view you have of the world you have.Non-belief is in no way linked to addiction or sexual activity. Without your faith would you be a drug user? –  Yeodave Oct 12 '11 at 8:53
    
@Yeodave - I was using it as an example, not to state all non-believers act a certain way, just as you will find self-proclaimed Christians that are adulterers and murderers. You can read whatever you want into what I write, but I am pretty consistent, I think, on what the entire message is. I guess you miss the idea of examples, as it wasn't even a generalization. –  James Black Oct 12 '11 at 21:19
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No, I understand examples, yours are biased and misleading. –  Yeodave Oct 14 '11 at 15:13

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