Representatives from Gideons International were outside my workplace this morning, handing out bibles and a handshake to passers-by. Despite my long-standing atheism, I always take a bible from the Gideons. There's something about their passive approach to evangelism that I appreciate.
By the age of 22, about the time period in which I embraced not having faith, I'd seen more than my fair share of heavy-handed tactics designed to bring people to Christ. In some of them I even participated.
The Free Will Baptist Church my family attended was at the center of our universe: it served as our social network, was a haven from the evils of a secular world, and was a pretty accessible place for a pre-teen to meet chicks.
My all-time favorite sermon was delivered by a visiting minister during a week-long revival. One of the hallmarks of a good revival is how many souls are saved, or "brought to Christ." The minister struggled all week with getting his message across, and each night ended with no converts. On the final night of the revival the minister walked to the pulpit, turned to the congregation and said:
"The fact is, if you die before being saved you will go to Hell for eternity. Any of you could die in a car wreck on your way home from this service. Is that a chance you want to take?"
He called for a hymn and sat down. Four people rushed to the alter to be saved.
The use of fear to manipulate others is a tactic I've always despised. And religions--regardless of which kind it is that we're talking about--have a lot of people who regularly use fear in an attempt to make others see the world as they do.
All things considered, I prefer the Gideons.