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Evangelism

This is a guest post by Publicansdecoy

Harry’s Place often discusses religion and the religious, but I think in doing so it all too often conflates religious belief with evangelising behaviour, when there is a clear and important distinction between the two which mustn’t be overlooked.

A while ago Harry wrote something suggesting that athesits, agnostics, humanists and liberals should start evangelising about the things they believe in. After all, religious people have been doing it for years, and are incredibly well organised. Why shouldn’t the non-religious also get in on the act? Well, I don’t think we should, at least not to the extent of the organised religious.

Evangelism is usually associated with religious people preaching their views with the aim of converting people to their way of thinking. I don’t think it needs to refer only to views which are religious, though.

It is possible to evangelise on behalf of any given opinion. I could evangelise on behalf of Christinaity. I could evangelise on behalf of liberalism. I could evangelise on behalf of the view that Bono is a real arsehole.

Evangelism tends to be thought of as a particularly zealous type of preaching, but I think there are different forms. For example, there are those who engage in civilised debate as part of a free exchange of views, and then there are those who stand on the corner of Oxford Street informing all passers by that they will go to hell for their greedy ways unless they embrace The Lord. So I think simply defining evangelism as seeking to preach on behalf of an opinion is not enough. I will therefore propose that evangelism is just a subset of points on a broader continuum representing different ways one chooses to behave with any given opinion or belief that they hold.

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