DEBATE: Atheist finds prayers for conversion offensive

Brandon Bub
Bub is a senior majoring in English, history and political science.

Read the other half of the debate by Michael Dearman.

One of the most explicit messages found in the Bible is that of the importance of Christian evangelization. For instance, consider Mark 16:15: “And he said to them, ‘Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation.’” Sharing the “good news” of Christ’s message has been a central tenet of Christianity since the religion’s inception. After all, when you feel as though you’ve learned the reason for existence and the secret to eternal happiness, it would be downright selfish to keep such news to yourself.

Yet keeping this commandment to its fullest extent can sometimes produce tensions, especially when evangelization becomes an act of attempting to convert people of different faiths or no faith at all.

This conflict is one I know all too well. In the years since I’ve “come out” as a non-Christian, I’ve received all kinds of responses, most of which have been supportive. Some family members like to believe I’m going through a phase, which I don’t mind because we already have enough to argue over at the dinner table. Others have expressed agreement with some of my beliefs in their own spiritual journeys but have yet to go public with them for fear of rocking the boat (I can’t say I blame them).

However, one trend that has perturbed me lately is that of my loved ones praying for me to find my way back to the Church. I know that such prayers only come from the most loving place in these people’s hearts, but I can’t help but feel slightly offended. Again, if you feel that God has entered your life and brought you unlimited fulfillment, it’s natural to want that same thing for those closest to you. But when people explicitly pray for me to have a religious conversion, it communicates to me that I’m thought of as broken, incomplete, and unhappy.

I’m not the cheeriest person in the world. My counselor tells me I probably have a mild anxiety condition. My favorite authors are misanthropes like Fitzgerald and Vonnegut.

That being said, to say that I live an unfulfilled life would be completely wrong. My friends and family support me beyond desert. My academic life is richly fulfilling. I fall in love, and fall apart, like all other people. My health is good, my finances are secure, my future is somewhat stable. I am happy beyond description. If I’m missing something without God, I’m apparently none the wiser.

I begrudge no one for centering their life around God, nor do I think evangelization is ipso facto patronizing. To live one’s life as an example of good and faithful virtue epitomizes the Christian mission in its highest form.

But I ask that no one assume my happiness to be any less valuable in spite of its being founded outside of Scripture.

Read the other half of the debate by Michael Dearman.

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