Rights and wrongs of evangelism

WitnessingPlenty of people have written about whether atheists should evangelise, but that’s not quite what this post is about.

Most people, especially atheists, are acutely aware of how annoying evangelism can be. This might be one reason why I think the vast majority of atheists don’t talk about their beliefs. Not only do they not wish to become an irritating preacher, they fear that expressing their beliefs may invite tedious religious lectures. We don’t go knocking on doors asking if people have thought about atheism partly because we know the reputation Jehovah’s Witnesses have for being irksome evangelists.

For the record, I do think atheists should evangelise, although in a passive and respectful way. I’m in agreement with Ebonmuse when he says we should: “…inform people of our existence without intruding directly into their lives…”.

So I’d like to hear your opinions on what kind of behaviour is acceptable when evangelising. I’m talking about evangelism in the broadest possible sense. Where you are evangelising Christianity, atheism, healthy eating, a political party, feminism or your favourite music, I think similar guidelines should apply.

So what is reasonable? What is effective?Alternative rock group

I think in many cases what is most effective at getting your message across is likely to coincide with what is thought to be reasonable and respectful behaviour. People are less likely to want to hear about your alternative rock band if you barge into their house, insult them and make their children cry. However, there may be cases that are not so obvious.

I know evangelism of any kind rarely converts people on the spot, but it may generate some sympathy or curiosity for a point of view the listener had not previously considered.

I’d start by suggesting the following:

  1. Be willing to take “No” for an answer…