And since we were having such a delightful discussion of the merits (or lack thereof) of the opportunistic parasites otherwise known as Christian missionaries, I thought I'd bring up one of my favourite dilemmas -- that by evangelizing, these people are almost certainly condemning numerous folks straight to hell. (Or, as we original Manitobans prefer to call it, North Winnipeg.)
Here's the problem. Said missionaries (and their defenders) are adamant -- adamant, I tell you -- that they have a responsibility to bring the Word to the ignorant, unsaved masses in order to give them a chance for eternal salvation. An interesting proposal, if you ignore the complete lack of any evidence whatsoever to support that position, but that's not why we're here.
The sticky part of this whole business is, if you firmly believe that one has to be saved and accept Jesus in order to make it into heaven, what happens to anyone who has never, ever even heard of Christianity? What happens to those people? Are they condemned to an eternity in hellfire for something that simply isn't their fault? You might think there's a delightfully snappy comeback to this conundrum. You'd be wrong.
As you can read here, this is still a point of great debate in theological circles with no clear winner. The hardliners, of course, take the position that, no Jesus, no salvation; life's tough but, if you lived a few hundred years ago, perhaps in the middle of Africa and were thoroughly ignorant of Christianity, well, gosh, that's too bad. It might sound harsh but, Jesus being the Prince of Peace and all, you're going to burn in hell and you clearly have it coming.
Moving on, if you're not clinically insane and reject the above for the hateful, vindictive swill that it is, well, there are a number of more moderate positions as you can see at that link, some of them being (unintentionally, I'm sure) quite comical, such as:
Middle Knowledge: God, having infinite wisdom, knows who would have rejected the gospel if it had been presented to them. As a result, they never have had the opportunity to accept the Gospel. Those people will be transported to Hell when they die.
Okay, then -- kind of an interesting twist on pre-destination and free will, as it were. But the most interesting position is this one:
Inclusivism: Non-Christian believers will avoid Hell if they worship a deity of some sort, because God works through all of the world's religious faiths. Agnostics, Atheists, Buddhists, etc. who do not believe in a God will go to Hell.
to which, as an atheist, I can appropriately respond, fuck you, you sanctimonious dimwits. No, wait, sorry, that's not the point I was trying to make. No, the point in the above is that, acccording to Inclusivism, if you're part of an isolated tribe that already worships a deity of any kind, you're apparently (as I read it) already going to heaven. But if, suddenly and out of nowhere, a pompous, Bible-whomping representative of God appears and lays a pile of Scripture on you and you conclude (not unreasonably) that he is a raving, demented loon, you have just been condemned to hell.
See how that works? According to Inclusivism, if you were utterly ignorant of Christianity and the concept of salvation, you stood a pretty good chance of eternal bliss. But the instant someone forced the knowledge of Christian salvation on you, then, by definition, if you rejected it, you were going down.
By those rules, then, it's simply criminally irresponsibe to evangelize to anyone who's never heard the Word of God. By doing so, you've most likely just put their soul in mortal peril. As long as they're ignorant, they might be doing just fine, eternity-wise. The instant you force-feed them the notion of salvation, they are now possibly in deep, deep trouble. The only logical conclusion, then, is that missionaries should, if they find people that are still blissfully uncontaminated by the Good Book, shut the hell up, turn around and walk away. Anything else is just stupid.
Let the apologetics begin.
BY THE WAY, if you're feeling cocky that you know the actual prerequisites for salvation, I suggest popping over here and checking out the section, "Are we saved through works?" And don't come back until you understand it, y'hear?