“This is Guaranteed to Convert You!”

Is belief in God rational or logical or justifiable?Imagine that an atheist walks into a gathering of Christians. He says, “I hold in my hand a pamphlet that will rock your worldview. In fact, it will almost surely change your worldview. I have shown this to several hundred Christians of many denominations, and shortly after they read it, 90% admitted that their faith in the truth of Christianity was pretty much gone.

“Now—who wants a copy?”

How many Christians would take the challenge? How many would risk their worldview for a chance at a more correct worldview?

My guess is very few. My guess is that most Christians have had pangs of doubt and don’t like them. They don’t want the boat rocked—it’s rocking enough as it is. They suppress their own doubt and they avoid any “opportunity” to increase that doubt.

But now let’s turn that experiment thought around. I’m going to the Reason Rally and the 2012 American Atheists Convention in Washington, D.C. in March, so let’s imagine that a Christian speaks to the gathered atheists at these events and says, “I hold in my hand a pamphlet that will rock your worldview. I have shown this to several hundred atheists, and shortly after they read it, 90% went down on their knees and accepted the truth of the gospel message and asked Jesus into their hearts. Now—who wants a copy?”

How many atheists would take the challenge? My guess is many. My guess is that most atheists came to their position because of evidence, not because of suppressing it, and that they’re eager to find the most correct worldview.

I certainly would read it.

What would you do? And what does this say about the truth of the Christian and atheist positions and the role of evidence in those worldviews?

Acknowledgement: Thanks to Keith B. for this insightful idea.

Photo credit: Brandeis Special Collections

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16 thoughts on ““This is Guaranteed to Convert You!”

  1. I think you’ve got it all wrong. I think many on both sides would willingly read it, but do so in an interrogative way, trying to spot the mistakes. (They must be there, of course!)

    Being willing to read something, and actually being open to the ideas that people on the other side are giving are two different things. And you posting on your previous article that you asterisk any religious person giving a historical view gives a very strong hint as to your inclinations. But all the while you try to pretend it is religious people that are the ones who are cocooning themselves off from threats to their worldview. Ironic.

    • I think many on both sides would willingly read it, but do so in an interrogative way, trying to spot the mistakes.

      I see the difference between “I’m eager to convert” and “I’ll bet this is no more convincing than the other stuff I’ve read.” But do you disagree that there would be many fewer Christians who would be willing to rock the intellectual boat?

      And you posting on your previous article that you asterisk any religious person giving a historical view

      I posited that you would asterisk any such person! Was I wrong to do so?

      • Here’s what you said:

        I always put an asterisk next to “historical” claims from religious people, don’t you?

        And I don’t do this, to either religious or non-religious people. I take what they say on a case-by-case basis and weigh the evidence. I try to be fair, but no doubt my own biases come into it.

        I don’t see Christians being less willing to rock the intellectual boat. Of course there are fundamentalists on both sides of the fence who don’t want to give other points of view airtime, but I don’t imagine there’s a big difference in proportion.

        • And I don’t do this, to either religious or non-religious people.

          Say you give the resurrection story to the professors at BIOLA. They all have relevant doctorates. I would imagine that 100% would say that the resurrection story is true.

          Now you give it the professors at a Muslim university (whatever the BIOLA of Tehran or Islamabad is). I don’t know how Muslim teacher accreditation goes, but let’s say that these professors have the equivalent of a terminal degree in religious studies or history. I would imagine that 100% of them would reject the resurrection story.

          What do you do with this data? Do you accept my hypothesis that religious predisposition can color a “historical” assessment or does this just leave you scratching your head in puzzlement, unable to make sense of this odd result?

          I don’t see Christians being less willing to rock the intellectual boat.

          Your opinion is startling, but you’re entitled to it. I don’t have a survey to argue against your opinion, but in my experience, Christians are far less eager than atheists to wonder if they’re wrong.

        • Bob, I think you are barking up the wrong tree on this one.

          Does Biola only employ professors who have orthodox beliefs? I think it’s probably part of their policy – maybe even their constitution or charter. But this says nothing about how these professors formed their opinions on the historicity of the resurrection.

          The fact is that almost everyone who is convinced of the historicity of the resurrection is a Christian (at least nominally), and those who don’t generally are not. Which caused which? Could it not be that their investigation into the evidence has helped form their religious views (one way or the other)?

          As to your case of a Muslim university based out of Iran or Pakistan. When their research on the times and surroundings of Jesus is on a par with that of Christian historians and archaeologists I will pay them more attention. Name me a respected expert (ie not just within his own circle) on History or Archaeology of the time and culture of Jesus who is a Muslim and I’ll gladly look into what they have to say.

          in my experience, Christians are far less eager than atheists to wonder if they’re wrong.

          Most Christians who read apologetics have doubts – that is why they read apologetics. Personally I believe doubts are healthy, my faith is strengthened by being questioned.

        • When their research on the times and surroundings of Jesus is on a par with that of Christian historians and archaeologists I will pay them more attention.

          And isn’t this exactly what I proposed in my thought experiment?

  2. I wouldn’t believe anyone making such bold claims. In fact, if someone came up to me and said 90% of the (target audience) who read their book changed their worldview, I would probably dismiss them out of hand. I would think they are either lying or wrong.

    On the other hand, if they said something like “I read this and it changed my mind” then I would want to talk to them about it first, and depending on how that goes I would probably check out the book.

    As to which group of people would read it? I don’t know about that. I have known a fair number of christians and a fair number of atheists. I think most of them on both sides wouldn’t be terribly interested in reading it. I think most people would assume the person is full of it, they think they won’t change their mind after reading it, and they can’t be bothered. Everyone is busy, if you don’t find this kind of stuff interesting and you don’t think your mind would be changed, why would you bother.

    • I wouldn’t believe anyone making such bold claims.

      Excellent point Hausdorff. This is the same thing I think when I see an infomercial on television for the latest must have product.

      Religion is really as much about advertising and marketing technique as it is theology. Claims have to be bold in order to get attention. Arguments have to be emotional in order to elicit a response. Personal experience matters more than actual evidence. And of course, it’s a limited time offer so you must act now!!!

  3. As usual your whole argument is on a false premise, that you can unconvert Christians.. So you make up a Christianity that does not exist…All those the Father gives the Son, the Son will raise those to eternal life. (John 6:37-44..) There is nothing that can take Jesus sheep from the Shepherd. (John 10). I do not expect you to believe the Bible.. But I do expect you to represent the Christian faith correctly. But you just continue to ignore it..To toot your horn..That is why your blog is a joke. No scholarship or serious argumentation.

    • As usual your whole argument is on a false premise

      I was counting on you to cut to the chase. (Reminds me of Dan Aykroyd’s unchanging opening line when doing SNL’s “Weekend Update” with Jane Curtain.)

      My goal is less to deconvert Christians than to encourage them to think. How’m I doing with you?

      So you make up a Christianity that does not exist

      If you mean that I imagined a nonexistent global catastrophe, yeah, obviously. If you mean some sort of straw man, I don’t see your point.

      All those the Father gives the Son, the Son will raise those to eternal life.

      Yet more incredible and unsubstantiated claims. I hope you don’t mind that I’m unconvinced.

    • a false premise, that you can unconvert Christians

      I’m curious what exactly you are claiming here. It sounds like what you are saying is that once you are a christian, you are a christian forever. Is this correct or am I not understanding you?

      If I am reading you correctly, what would you say to someone who used to be a christian and is not one anymore? It seems to me there are only 2 options.
      1. They are still a christian even though they claim to be (and presumably think to be) not a christian.
      2. They are not a christian an never were.

      Neither of these options seems reasonable to me

      • It seems that in Bob C’s theory, to be a Christian you must have faith when you pass away. Anything else is irrelevant to knowing who is a Christian.

  4. To all,

    In Bob C’s theology, everything we do and think is meaningless and pointless, because we only unconsciously follow a script written by God. We cannot really decide what to do of our lives. The only point in our lives (if it may be called a point at all) is to discover what God intended for us. We are spectators in the divine play, except when it comes to being hit (then we are part of the play).

    It’s not unlike apes that follow a genetic program they don’t understand.

    • “God is a comedian playing to an audience too afraid to laugh.”
      — Voltaire

      “God does not play dice with the universe: He plays an ineffable game of His own devising, which might be compared, from the perspective of any of the other players,* to being involved in an obscure and complex version of poker in a pitch-dark room, with blank cards, for infinite stakes, with a Dealer who won’t tell you the rules, and who smiles all the time.
      * i.e., everybody.”
      Good Omens by Neil Gaiman & Terry Pratchett

  5. Hausdorff on February 29, 2012 at 8:09 pm said:
    a false premise, that you can unconverted Christians

    “…..I’m curious what exactly you are claiming here. It sounds like what you are saying is that once you are a Christian, you are a Christian forever. Is this correct or am I not understanding you?..”

    Yup! That is what I am saying. Those whom God foreknew, He predestined, those He predestined He called, Those He called He justified, those He justified He glorified. ( Romans8). Called the Golden chain of redemption. Also as Jesus said He completed the will of His father which was not to lose ANY the Father gave Him.and raise them on the last day. John 6 37-44.

    The only “true Christians are Jesus Sheep and they can never be lost as Jesus says in John 10;

    26 But you do not believe because you are not of My sheep. 27 My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me; 28 and I give eternal life to them, and they will never perish; and no one will snatch them out of My hand. 29 [d]My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. 30 I and the Father are [e]one.”

    “….If I am reading you correctly, what would you say to someone who used to be a Christian and is not one anymore? It seems to me there are only 2 options.
    1. They are still a Christian even though they claim to be (and presumably think to be) not a Christian.
    2. They are not a Christian an never were…..”

    “…Neither of these options seems reasonable to me.”

    Yup! #2 They were never true Christians with “saving faith”.

    In 1John 2 :19. We see an example of this:

    19 “They went out from us, but they were not really of us; for if they had been of us, they would have remained with us; but they went out, so that ]it would be shown that they all are not of us.”

    Also we see in Matt 7:21. That there are false Christians who call Jesus Lord and do works in Jesus name..But were not true Christians.

    21 “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. 22 Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many [n]miracles?’ 23 And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; DEPART FROM ME, YOU WHO PRACTICE LAWLESSNESS.’

    • Those whom God foreknew, He predestined, those He predestined He called

      Ah, the Religion of Don’t Bother.

      I’d like to join, but why bother?

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