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

  1. Science doubts, religion doesn’t.
    Science questions, religion doesn’t.
    Science changes, religion doesn’t.
    Science is always seeking answers. Religion never does: it claims it already has the “truth.”
    Science educates. Religion indoctrinates.
    Science is open and questioning. Religion is closed and dogmatic.
    Yeah, I’d certainly read such a pamphlet, Bob, and if there were strong evidence for the position, I’d change my thinking.


    • That’s a good list, thanks.

      Christians often say that atheists and Christians are equally closed-minded and unchangeable, but, like you, I’d be happy to change my thinking. Why put out weak arguments when I could switch to the ones that are actually true?

  2. Before accepting the pamphlet, I’d ask the speaker if he was open to doing a controlled statistical study on the results of everyone reading it, to see if his claimed 90% success rate held up.

    • If this were really to happen, I’d be super skeptical of the 90% claim. I’d take the pamphlet knowing that it was almost surely more of the same. But either way–yet more vacuous Christian crap or my worldview does a 180–it would make for a good story.

  3. It is very much a part of human nature to cling to beliefs once we have formed them. Studies show that people discount opposing arguments and give more weight than is warranted to arguments that back up their already-held beliefs.

    That said, I was a devout Christian for 40 years before becoming an atheist a decade ago. And I know many people like me, so there is hope for humanity to move toward reason and away from superstition. Just know that changing our minds is counter to much of what we are hard-wired by evolution to do.

  4. I might read the pamphlet, but given my experience reading such things it will make me feel incredibly cynical about religious people and their stupid assertions and arguments. I don’t like feeling cynical, so for that reason I might just refuse to read it.

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