How Much Do You Have to Hate Somebody to Not Proselytize?

I found this in Kevin Harney’s new book, Organic Outreach for Ordinary People: Sharing Good News Naturally (pages 54-55). It’s a great reminder of why we should not be embarrassed to say we are interested in conversions and why there is no shame, but love, in a winsome effort to win someone to Christ.


If we believe there is a real heaven and a real hell, we should be moved to evangelize and to reach out in the name of Jesus. If we love people, our hearts should propel us. I heard one of the most convincing arguments for this from an atheist. His name is Penn, the well-known illusionist in the duo Penn and Teller. On his video blog, Penn Says, he tells about a man who came to him after a show and gave him a Bible and tried to proselytize him [Note: you can watch the video on YouTube, but the embedding was disabled so I couldn’t post it]. Here is a portion of his response to that encounter [the rest is Penn telling the story]:

He said, “I’m a businessman. I’m sane; I’m not crazy.” And he looked me right in the eye and did all this. And it was really wonderful. I believe he knew that I was an atheist.

But he was not defensive and he looked me right in the eyes and he was truly complimentary. It did not seem like empty flattery. He was really kind, and nice, and sane, and looked me in the eyes and talked to me. Then he gave me this Bible.

I’ve always said that I don’t respect people who don’t proselytize. I don’t respect that at all. If you believe that there’s a heaven and a hell, and people could be going to hell or not getting eternal life, and you think that it’s not really worth telling them this because it would make it socially awkward–and atheists who think people shouldn’t proselytize and who say just leave me along and keep your religion to yourself–how much do you have to hate somebody to not proselytize? How much do you have to hate somebody to believe everlasting life is possible and not tell them that?

I mean, if I believed, beyond the shadow of a doubt, that a truck was coming at you, and you didn’t believe that truck was bearing down on you, there is a certain point where I tackle you. And this is more important than that.