Don’t Do Me No Favours!

14 April, 2008

Over the past three months or so, I have been asked three times (by three different people (and two of them on the SAME FUCKING DAY!!!)) if I have been saved (see my posts An Attempted Drive By Saving and A Nancy Kerrigan Moment).  I am still trying to get my little mind wrapped around the question, “Why do people (Christians) think this is acceptable?”  While lying in bed last night (enjoying the pleasant afterglow of a Red Sox defeat of the Yankees), I (in my mind, at least) added another layer to the explanation.  I realized that those rude, obnoxious proselytizing asshats actually think they are doing me a favour.  Here’s how it works:

Billy Baton and his wife, Susie (nee Snowflake), have a wonderful life. He sells insurance and spends much of every Sunday in church.  Susie stays home, takes care of the four kids, shuttles them back and forth in her minivan and, in addition to Sunday, volunteers about fifteen hours a week at the church.  They are happy to devote about one hour in fifteen to the church because they know (KNOW!! mind you) that they have the one and only key to eternal salvation in the entire universe and they also know (KNOW!!) that every single other person on earth is doomed to eternal damnation.

The idea that all these other people, these otherwise wonderful people (well, some of them, anyway), are going to hell because they don’t love the right God in the right way for the right number of hours makes them feel uncomfortable.  In fact, this little problem of the lost souls troubles them.  Billy Baton, though, knows how to make himself feel better and, at the same time, help the lost souls — he asks friends and family (and the occasional total stranger) if he (or she) has been saved.

Billy knows that he is not intruding into a private (or semi-private) area.  He is not being rude to acquaintances or strangers.  He is, in fact, doing them a favour.  After all, if Billy Baton can help just one person, just one sinner, see the light and accept Jesus Christ as his personal friend, saviour, and ruler, then he has just saved one soul from an eternity of fire, ice, listening to George Bush speeches, staring at nude pictures of Dick Cheney (or Nancy Reagan), pools of acid (not the good acid, either), and the smell of feces, fire and brimstone.  More important to Billy Baton, though, is the ease it provides his mind — he tries to help the lost, but they won’t listen.  Now he won’t be wracked by guilt up in heaven singing Hossanah’s and eating Jello and whipped cream deserts.

My wife has a wonderful comeback for people like Billy Baton (or his vaccuous wife Susie):  “I am saved.  I’m an atheist” (or some variation on that theme).  I’m thinking, though, that the next time I am asked (and I’m sure it will happen again (people seem to think I look like I need to be saved, I guess)) “Are You Saved,” I will look at them and say:  “I know you think you are doing me a favour by giving me the opportunity to avoid hell.  But you are not.  You are being rude and intrusive and are making my life here on earth hell.”  Nah.  My wife’s reply is still better.

Letting my mind wander at night, though, did help me come up with more explanatipons as to why Christians proselytize.  I know they aren’t supposed to keep their light hidden under a bushel basket, but that has always seemed like an incomplete explanation.  That the proselytizer may think he is doing a favour for the proselytizee adds to the explanation.  That proselytizing may help assuage the bad feelings for the punishment all of us non- (or wrong-) believers will suffer also adds to it.

Reading this over, I arrive at the conclusion that proselytizing is, at least in some part, a selfish act.  Yes, the Christian thinks he (or she) is doing me a favour when they try to save me from hell and for god.  But he is also clearing his conscience — he tried, I wouldn’t listen, its not his fault I’m gonna burn in hell forever.

What a wonderful attitude.  Makes me glad to be an atheist.



  1. Maybe I don’t get out enough, but we don’t get much of that here. We do get missionaries in grocery store parking lots sometimes.

  2. I’m so lucky that I have never been asked to be “saved”. Maybe its the baby leg I’m always munching on:)

  3. I’ve always held that the damned have a hell of a lot more fun in the afterlife than those prissy, arrogant, stuffy Christians.

    Not conceding that there is an afterlife, just that if there were, we’d have more fun.

  4. Poodles: The only thing I get in parking lots is the occasional Chick tract and scrapes from shopping carts. Maybe if they could save my car from the scrapes?

    Sabrina: I’ve been thinking about why this happens to me. I think part of it is that, due to my job, I make eye contact with total strangers and, thus, may appear to invite the intusion.

    Ric: I’d rather laugh with the sinners than cry with the saints? The best part is, I bet the food is better in hell — or at least the barbeque, right? Music’s probably better, too.

  5. You’re right about there being several factors at work in the proselytizing game. First, the Christian is commanded, by no less a divine personage than Jesus Herbert (some think it’s Howard, but I know better) Christ Himself (if one believes St. Matthew’s account), to “go into the world and make disciples.” That’s irresistible! There is no way a Christian who loves God and wants to please Him (to avoid eternal hellfire oneself and get to spend eternity in an eternal praise and worship service punctuated by banquets) can disobey that command. That sense of duty is a powerful motivator.

    Second, as you noted, Christians think they’re doing you a favor. The idea of hell scares the shit out of them, so they figure it scares the shit out of you too, or it would if you knew about it. So, in order to help you, they first have to scare the shit out of you, then tell you how to dig your way out of the shit.

    Third, the Christian can stand before God – who loves the believer unconditionally, mind you – and claim a clear conscience. “I did everything you asked me to do, Lord. I just couldn’t break (((Billy’s))) sin-hardened heart and get him to see the error of his ways and embrace your boundless love.” The reason the Christian worries (a lot!) about being able to declare his/her unflagging faithfulness on behalf of the holy God (who loves unconditionally), is so that God will declare the Christian a “good and faithful servant” who can be admitted to Paradise (and avoid eternal damnation). All of which brings us right back to where we started with point #1: the Christian has no choice but to proselytize; dereliction of this duty will result in the believer’s own damnation.

  6. Your wife’s comment is very good. Christianity is a selfish religion, just like all the others, which says that you can only get to heaven through their god. Salvation is ridiculous. Let’s say their is a god – what makes them so sure that their god is the right one. Why not worship Zeus?

  7. The husband and I were victims of a “drive-by saving” this morning on the Tube. Man in an I *heart* Jesus beany hat preaching to us all. I think he lost the audience when he urged us all to renounce masturbation. Us commuters, whatever the race, colour or creed, are all united in being very much in favour of masturbation thank you very much, and the entire carriage collapsed in raucous laughter.

    The right wing press talks an awful lot about how put-upon Christians are, how much everyone mocks their religion and ruins Christmas and Easter by turning them into secular festivals, and how they aren’t free to practise their faith. But the fact remains that if a bloke in an “I *heart* Allah” hat stood up and started trying to convert a tube carriage to Islam, he’d be lynched by the mob.

    Paul and I nearly discussed your post on this as we were regaining our composure on the escalator out of the station. I got as far as asking him why he has never tried to convert me, but he never got a chance to answer.

  8. Julia: So, he was on the tube telling men not to play with their tube? In the name of Jesus? I think your carriage had it right: laughter was the appropriate response.

  9. Indeed!

    As far as loonies on the tube go though, he wasn’t too bad. The Armenian woman who sings on the Circle Line makes my eardrums hurt and the tramps really stink. He was clean, his voice was at a pitch that was not painful, and apart from the fact he was trying to tell lawyers to give up wanking (he’s on a hiding to nothing there) he was pretty harmless.

    I doubt he converted anyone!

  10. Julia: May I have your permission to use your short narrative for a new page I am going to create, titled: “Your Drive By Savings” (or some such, I’ll talk to my wife to get a title that works) and, hopefully, be able to put together a collection of attempted drive by savings?

  11. You certainly may use it. You can also have my lucky escape from a Drive By Saving:

    Ever since my great-aunt died, I’ve worn one of her necklaces that her sister (my Grannie) gave me. It’s a little silver Celtic cross from the island of Iona. I attach no more meaning to it other than that it’s something that meant a lot to Aunty Bee Bee.

    One day, whilst living in St Louis, I came out of the supermarket straight into “Have you been saved?”. As I stared open-mouthed, trying to think of the most tactful way of telling the man where to go (I had to join the queue for the bus right outside the store so there was no escape), he spotted the cross and said “Oh you’ve already been saved, you’re alright!”.

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