Do Outrageous Claims demand Outrageous Acts?

Regarding a previous post, A reader named Vicq Ruiz writes:

What I would like to ask you is this. Do you continually confront non-Christians, using the same phrasing and sense of urgency in this article, in your face-to-face encounters with them?

…Do you often explain to your seat mates on the panel at a con (or better yet, the audience!!) how they are living in “the degrading slime and shit of sinfulness”?

If appearing at a book signing, do you make it a point to remind those in line at the table that “a perfectly just, loving, and benevolent super being can and will inflict a eternity of torture on you, and that you deserve it”???

If you can unhesitatingly answer “yes”, then my hat’s off to you. You have truly taken the argument made in your post with the deadly seriousness it deserves.

Mr Ruiz, I am not sure I understand the point of the question. The article you just read was a reaction or response to a statement I found shocking, namely, that one could agree in part with Christ and disagree in part. If someone said that to me on a panel, or while waiting in line for a book signing, or in an audience at a con, I would most likely say something along these lines, yes.

Would I bring up the topic out of the blue? Hm… (cue flashback harp music)….

Customer: “Hello, Mr Wright! That is a nice hat you are wearing. Why did you put a spanking scene in ORPHANS OF CHAOS?”

Me: “There is nothing that keeps wicked men at any one moment out of hell, but the mere pleasure of God.”

Customer: “I liked your portrayal of Oberon and Titania in MISTS OF EVERNESS, but I had a question about the ending. What ever happened to the changeling boy from India? Did you intend a sequel?”

Me: “By the mere pleasure of God, I mean his sovereign pleasure, his arbitrary will, restrained by no obligation, hindered by no manner of difficulty, any more than if nothing else but God’s mere will had in the least degree, or in any respect whatsoever, any hand in the preservation of wicked men one moment.”

Waiter: “Sir? Did you want a refill on your triple espresso with extra caffeine?”

Me: “There is no want of power in God to cast wicked men into hell at any moment. Men’s hands cannot be strong when God rises up.”

Fire Marshall: “We will have to clear the building. Proceed in an orderly manner to the fire exits.”

Me: “The strongest have no power to resist him, nor can any deliver out of his hands.”

… So was that the point of your question, sir? My answer is that I talk about Christianity about as often as James Morrow talks about Atheism, or Harlan Ellison acts like a jackass. A fair amount, but perhaps not constantly.

I certainly display no hesitation about explaining my position on anything to anyone, anywhere.

I am, however, astonished that you would applaud such behavior, since I act this way not because of any virtue of my own, but only because of an Olympian indifference bordering on contempt to the opinions and comfort of others.

So, when you are done complimenting me for my zeal, honesty and seriousness, I should point out that discourtesy is something I am trying hard to scale back in myself, and therefore I must humbly refuse the compliment.

If, on the other hand, you are attempting a snarky yet indirect ad hominem, by trying to imply that if I do not preach hellfire and brimstone to customers and patrons and passers-by and the lady next to me on the bus, ergo my character is bad ergo my point invalid, I will merely point out that this is disingenuous on your part, not to mention an informal logical error.

So, yes, I preach it often enough, and too often for my financial best interest among the science fiction community. No matter how obnoxious and forceful I was in trying to save the lives and souls of my fellowman, it would be insufficient considering the gravity of the issue.

There is also a question of honor. This article is written only for those who wish to read it, and I practice no fraud on them. But to buttonhole someone who steps in line to have a book autographed and browbeat him on a topic unrelated to his custom or his concerns is a breach of the implied covenant between us. I dishonor the message if I try to pass it to unwilling hearers by fraud or deceit.

There is also a question of efficiency. Preaching hellfire is not the most effective way to convert the modern postchristian, none of whom seem to have even the ordinary degree of spiritual longing for innocence of an average prechristian pagan. Wooing may prove wiser than antic displays of firebreathing or performing the jigs and gyrations, elbows and knees jerking oddly, of a zealous enthusiast.

I do, however, pray for nonbelievers, which may be more effective in the long run than debate or exhortation, considering that among only a very, very few nonbelievers is the nonbelief actually a rational conclusion which they would change if confronted by a persuasive contrary reason.

For most atheists, atheism is emotional, bordering on neurotic, and this is evidenced in the ‘lesbian rule’ they use when confronting theological issues, standards they would never employ when confronting issues like the morality of the death penalty or the proper interpretation of Lao Tzu. If this emotionalism is due to a spiritual influence, only spiritual means can combat it.

(Usage note: The Lesbian Rule is not a rule about females in Joss Whedan stories. It refers to carpenters from Lesbos, who used rules i.e. yardsticks made of soft lead which could be bent to measure curves. It is a metaphor for a flexible standard.)

Is my point clear? The number of atheists who are actually rational is far, far fewer than the number who are neurotic and claim to be rational. Only this small group can be persuaded by a logical argument.

An article in a journal is fine setting for a logical argument, because the reader consents to read. Buttonholing customers or tackling passers-by is not a fine setting for a logical argument, because the passer by did not consent.