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  • Perhaps We Need A "Day of Proselytizing"

    December 16th, 2010
    giving, ideas  [html]
    Perhaps I am a kind of christian who believes that either you accept jesus as your lord and savior or you are going to be punished eternally in hell. I would want to tell people, warn them, so they could avoid this outcome. But I'm in a pickle: if I'm constantly telling the people around me that I believe they're going to go to hell unless they change their ways, I'm likely to have many fewer around me. (Or I just end up drawing my friends entirely from church.) If I don't tell others about what I know to be their future, though, I am letting them go to hell unwarned. And I don't want them to go to hell.

    This is not unique to this kind of christian: anyone who believes something unusual has the potential for this, with it being worse for people who have particularly strong for those whose beliefs make the potential future especially good or bad. Religious people are especially likely to be in this situation, but so are cryonicists who think you should be frozen when you die, singularitarians who believe anyone who lives until the singularity will probably live forever, utilitarians like us who believe you should be giving to charity a lot more than you probably are, my uncle who believes in aliens and the starseed conspiracy, atheists living in places where that's very unusual, and many other people. The point is not whether you are right in your beliefs, but that there is no good socially accepted way for letting other people know you have these beliefs and that you believe they should have them too.

    One solution I've been thinking about is a potential "day of proselytizing". This would be a yearly event where people talk to friends, neighbors, and coworkers about the beliefs they have that they think others should adopt. There's still the potential for people to be offended by the suggestion that their current lifestyle is very wrong, but maybe this minimizes it. I'm not sure.

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