Not long ago, we were talking about soulwinning: that Christianese term that means successful evangelism and proselytization. As I said then, most fundagelicals desperately want to be a soulwinner. But almost none of them actually are. Most of them don’t even try. The rest of us might appreciate that thoughtfulness, but their peers and leaders sure seem very upset about it. One of the funniest Christian screeds I’ve seen lately was one that I ran across randomly earlier this week. It comes to us from an Australian Christian named Grantley Morris. I’ve never heard of him and you probably haven’t either, but he’s got a vanity site that is full of wacky stuff. His “Soul-winning Tips: Witnessing Made Easy” (archived link) easily takes the cake for ridiculosity.
When someone’s left Christianity, these sorts of writings look absolutely bizarre. It can be like looking into a funhouse mirror. This is stuff we know for absolute certain is objectively wrong in every single particular, so it’s weird to see that so many people still take it totally deadly seriously. But oh, they do. So I thought it’d be fun to look over this guy’s page1 and show you what someone like me thinks upon encountering it.
(Pro-tip for wandering Christians coming across this page: I’m not kidding. What follows is what a lot of non-Christians think about when we see a Christian make a soulwinning attempt.)
TFW a Christian Doesn’t Realize What He’s Really Saying.
The page is called “Witnessing Made Easy” and promises to contain “Soul-winning tips” and “encouraging and revealing insights into the forces at play when witnessing.”
If Grantley Morris named those forces correctly, this would be a very short page because they consist solely of a Christian in a hard-sales mindset and a victim who would rather be literally anywhere and doing anything besides getting a sales pitch from a Christian, up to and including taking a shaky ball-peen hammer to important body parts.
Soulwinning is simply Jesus-flavored salesmanship, nothing more or less. And remember, most Christians who buy into the necessity of soulwinning already believe that only Jesus can really spur someone into accepting the sales pitch. Their pitch is either supernaturally successful or else it is not successful at all.
So right out of the starting gate, this page is unnecessary. It literally doesn’t matter how a soulwinner prepares or doesn’t prepare. Technically, a soulwinner could have no skills whatsoever in salesmanship and still make a sale if Jesus wants it to happen. In fact, if Jesus wants a sale to happen, it’ll happen regardless of how the salesperson messes up the delivery of the sales pitch. Nothing whatsoever can happen, in that worldview, without it being divinely ordained from the beginning of time itself.
The second a Christian creates a guide for soulwinning, that person is admitting right there and right then in their out-loud voice that they are well aware of how important hard-sales tactics are in persuading people to join their group.
You’d really think they wouldn’t want to make it as obvious as it is. That’d be something I’d want to keep on the down-low, myself, if I were them. I sure did when I was a Christian. It bothered me a lot to know how much emotional manipulation seemed to be required of soulwinners.
Strangely, Christians themselves don’t seem to realize what their blog posts, books, and videos about soulwinning really mean. If they really wanted to simply give other Christians a jolt of confidence about making sales pitches at non-members, they could easily do that. But their stated reason for creating these materials is to teach their peers and followers foolproof ways to sell their religion, so I’m taking this one at his word here.
The situation gets even
worse more hilarious when that Christian doesn’t realize what absolutely terrible things they’re saying about themselves and their religion when they write or say this kind of stuff. Grantley Morris isn’t any different from other fundagelicals. He operates under the same principles as the rest of them do; he says the same kinds of things; he makes the same exact threats and recommendations. In essence, he is a basic fundie. He might be in Australia, but he would fit in just fine with any fundagelical church congregation in America.
When you hear a Christian talk about “soulwinning,” or saying he or she wishes to be a “soulwinner,” you can count on that person to have the following traits and to make the following mistakes.
First: Everybody Totally Already Believes in Their God.
The major problem that soulwinners think they must overcome in their marks is that of denial. They don’t need to demonstrate any evidence supporting their various claims, because they think everyone already knows that’s true.
See, people who are not already Christian simply deny their belief. And they deny their belief because they want to sin with impunity (usually this means having unapproved sex, in which case I demand a do-over because I clearly partied with the wrong crowd after deconversion). Sometimes you’ll hear this worldview phrased as those mean ole atheists just don’t want to be accountable to anybody.
Christians like Morris say that because they think that if there wasn’t a god judging them after they die, that they’d run around doing all kinds of terrible things–and they assume we’re the same way.
That exact lamentation shows up in Morris’ work multiple times and informs his entire worldview. He offers up what he views as the “two reasons why people run from God.” These are a fear of judgment and a desire to “remain in sin,” respectively. Both of these hinge upon belief in his god. That we aren’t running from anything and aren’t afraid of a boogeyman who doesn’t exist do not enter into the equation at all, nor that we don’t view our lives as sinful because sin is a concept that exists in Christian theology, not in reality.
You might have noticed that one could apply these two reasons to Morris himself. We could accuse him of not believing in the Egyptian gods because he’s secretly afraid of Osiris’ judgment and getting devoured by Ammit. We could speculate about his secret desire to remain mired in sins against those gods and his impulse to flee from their all-knowing eyes. We could demand that he start sacrificing to those gods and doing the things they’ve commanded to avoid annihilation. We could take every single one of his objections to that demand as being a petulant form of denial and we could shake our heads sadly at his hard-heartedness.
Until Christian salespeople understand that non-belief is simply a lack of belief rather than denial, they will not be able to honestly engage with non-believers. The second a Christian tries to tell me what I believe and think, I know I can totally check out of that conversation. They aren’t talking to me. They’re talking to a construct of me that they’ve created in their heads, and that construct always acts like and says exactly what they need to successfully convert me. That construct totally secretly believes in their drivel, so obviously the real me does too.
When I don’t cooperate with their script like the construct does, they get angry with me for refusing to play along.
Second: They Think that Belief is Totally a Choice.
Grantley Morris, along with pretty much all fundagelicals ever, thinks of faith as a choice that is consciously made. Therefore, anybody who is not a Christian has simply chosen not to believe. In other words, it’s their fault that his loving and merciful god is going to brutally torture them forever after they die.
It’s important to understand that Christians who buy into soulwinning also operate in a bubble tainted with the just world hypothesis, which means that almost nothing upsets and bothers them more than someone defying them and refusing to buy their product–and then never facing punishment for that refusal. In their bubble, Christians get an eternal reward for obedience, while non-believers are viciously punished forever for their recalcitrance. We sinners will get what’s coming to us, and all the TRUE CHRISTIANS™ will eternally gloat over our anguish and pain in their party van.
But they can’t enjoy our torture unless they think we really deserved it. Just as they can’t really enjoy discriminating against same-sex couples unless those couples chose to be gay or bi, they need non-Christians to have chosen non-belief. No matter how gracious or kind or charitable we are as people, if we lack belief in the Christian god then we are wicked people who fully deserve our own terrifying fates.
It will always be easier for Christians to blame us for choosing to be tortured forever than for them to contemplate the fact that they believe something truly horrific and nonsensical for no good reason at all.
Third: They Consider Themselves Totally Superior To Those They Are Evangelizing.
It’s not uncommon to hear Christians say that they think it’s important to show respect to the people they’re evangelizing. But their actions speak much louder than those fine words. Evangelism itself requires Christians to assume a parental or guiding role to those they are trying to recruit. They are telling those marks, My way is far better than yours, and you should change to be like me.
If you take nothing from this post today, then take this: To be fundagelical is not only to live in fear, but to exist in a world of rigid, fixed, unchanging hierarchies. Every person they encounter is either higher than them on the ladder or lower than them. They must endure abuse from those above them, and can inflict abuse on those below them–so their goal is to climb as high up that ladder as they can. Evangelism fixes in their minds their own superiority over others. It reinforces their self-perception as wise, discerning parental figures trying to counsel and repair the broken subhumans all around themselves.
Christians’ very desire to force others to change to be more like them tells us that they do not respect us. It’s not respectful to make another human being into a DIY project. Neither is trying to fix people who didn’t ask for that help–or who don’t share the opinion that they are broken in the first place. Nor is interrupting people with a sales pitch that they have not indicated that they want.
Soulwinning, at its heart, is disrespectful. And the people doing it have been taught that their sense of urgency overrides conventions of civility and courtesy. Sometimes you’ll hear them talk about how their disrespectful behavior is justified because they are trying to push something on others that is just like a cure for cancer or an escape from an oncoming bus. But these analogies fail utterly because they can’t demonstrate that there’s actually any kind of valid threat coming anybody’s way–not to mention that we can actually see cures for cancer or a bus rushing safely past us.
Morris repeatedly says he thinks that showing respect toward others is important. But he also visualizes his marks as naked fleeing subhumans, calls us “ignorant,” and outright accuses us of childish behavior and petulance. None of that sounds respectful to me. I don’t think he understands what respect actually means–and that’s a common problem in broken systems like fundagelicalism. The very word’s been warped repeatedly by Christians, to the point where it now means whatever the Christian using it wants it to mean. If you watch carefully you can see them slip between various meanings of the word “respect” in the same sentence.
Fourth: They Don’t Understand Why People Object to Fear-Based Marketing.
It never takes much to scratch the surface of a fundagelical to find terror and fear under that sweet sunny Jesus wuvs oo, won’t oo let poor widdle Jesus in? tripe. Lurid threats are part and parcel of the Christian salesbot’s worldview. They view them as enormously successful in forcing compliance. Morris’ advice to would-be soulwinners is filled with them even when he’s only trying to hype them up enough to go out and SELL SELL SELL.
At one point he insists that “the reason people don’t flock to Jesus is not because people believe in evolution, nor because they think there are errors in the Bible.” No, the reason is actually that we don’t ever want to be “shamefully naked in the presence of Almighty God, to whom they must one day give account.” This is an explicit threat of future harm that Morris thinks will happen to non-believers.
Later on he says that he uses threats of Hell because he thinks it’ll influence non-believers to decide to become Christian. He doesn’t need evidence for his claims, he thinks, because as mentioned earlier everyone already knows that his god exists exactly as he imagines that god to be; he just needs to come up with lurid, imaginative, and violent enough threats to push his victims out of their denial. For all his simpering about how threats actually “become something positive” when he offers a way out of that eternal torture, there is never a point where a meritless threat becomes okay.
When he pairs his threats with claims of his deity being loving and merciful, his religion becomes not only false but grotesque. Fear cannot co-exist with love. We cannot truly love that which threatens us.
We are not obligated to agree with Morris about any of his claims, even if it’d really help him out if we would. In fact, we are perfectly within our rights to end all conversation with any Christian who even dares utter a single threat to us about anything. They threaten us because threats worked on them and they see threats working all the time in their broken system.
They don’t realize that out here in Reality-Land, we look for evidence before buying into a threat. If we do not find any, we dismiss the threat.
Fifth: They’ll Do Anything To Avoid The Elephant in the Room.
That elephant, of course, is that they have no evidence whatsoever of their various claims.
The reason they use threats instead of facts to sway their marks is because they lack facts. We seem to have evolved to take threats very seriously, even when there’s no reason to be afraid. That “What if???” haunts some of us long after deconversion, long past the time we realized that Christianity is a pack of lies designed to keep victims compliant.
That’s why deconverting is usually so devastating; we bought into those threats and fears for so long that freeing ourselves from those shackles usually requires enormous emotional resources–and more than a little luck. I remember there being many times when I rolled the dice–and failed the throw over and over again, before finally getting a critical success. Even then, my last night as a Christian was filled with terror as I tossed and turned in my bed. In my head I knew Christianity was untrue. In my heart, however, fear had ruled there for so long that I had to struggle hard to move past it.
Whether it’s their numerous and hilarious claims about the supernatural or their very earthly claims, there is simply no real reason to believe anything that Christians say about their religion. Apologetics is a joke that only looks good to people who already believe and Christian pseudoscience is even worse.
As the saying goes, extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. Christians, alas, have none at all. Grantley Morris would be cut off at the pass completely by simply asking him how he knows that Hell is a threat to anybody. Not why he believes it is, but how he can demonstrate that knowledge using objective facts that do not change with one’s belief level in any particular religion’s claims.
He would not be able to do it.
Believers in just about all religions have been trying to come up with a single good, valid, credible reason to believe in their respective supernatural claims for quite a long time. Not one of them’s managed the trick yet. Nobody’s even managed to demonstrate that anything supernatural exists at all, much less that there’s some supernatural dimension humans go to when we die, where we can feel pain and hunger despite lacking any hormones, glands, brain-parts, or nerve endings with which to construct and then perceive those feelings, much less that we are in danger of going there if we don’t comply with the particular demands of any religious salespeople.
(This avoidance might also explain why Christian leaders tend to focus on pushing their followers to doing whatever they’ve always been doing, except more of it and harder. They literally cannot make changes to their tactics without conceding that their former approach was not in fact given to them by Jesus himself.)
Sixth and Last: They Will Lie Through Their Teeth to Make Sales.
The anecdotes that Morris offers to bolster his credibility are the usual urban legends that all would-be evangelists use. You’ll note that he does not source any of them. There are no last names or identifying details provided, any named locations are vague or far away, and there’s not even a basic attempt made to offer proof that these events went down the way he says they did. They’re just shiny happy stories he’s telling to illustrate how his ideas totally work to win converts.
And I have to say, his anecdotes are the most r/ThatHappened dreck I’ve seen lately. You guize, these things TOTALLY happened, 100000%. Yup. Totally. After those Muslims saw that one lady’s Jesus Aura, they totally offered her “special food” and told her she was “the ideal woman” and they totally wanted to be just like her. Of course they did. Of course a Buddhist guy said she was totally “like the Buddha” and then spoke glowingly of TRUE CHRISTIANS™ like her. They also broke out into applause afterward and gave her 100-dollar bills. Totally. Then a bunch of real live Muslim Sheikhs “invited her to their temple to share her story.” And their name was Albert Einstein. That totally happened, more than any other thing in the entire world has ever happened.
A motivated salesperson, especially one selling fundagelicalism, often sees lying as a necessary evil. It’s okay to lie as long as it’s for a good cause, in their world. Christian testimonies are perhaps the most fanciful works of fiction in the entire world, being designed from the ground up to make their religion sound appealing and plausible to non-believers. Dedicated salesbots-for-Jesus will say whatever they think a potential convert needs to hear. When we get enough details to double-check these glowing reports, we always seem to find that the Christian either exaggerated or fabricated their stories. We’ll be talking later about the ur-testimony, so I’ll let this section stand where it is for now.
The Surest Sign that the Fundagelical Party Line Isn’t Working.
From the looks of Australia’s religious makeup on their last census, it seems that his TOTALLY NEW AND IMPROVED EVANGELISM METHOD Y’ALL did not do a thing toward improving Morris’ situation in that country. If anything, those fervent evangelists appear to have driven off customers–and lost quite a few existing customers! In just one generation, Australia has gone from being almost entirely Christian to barely holding onto a majority of people there. Atheism and other Nones, meanwhile, have risen in the same period from a bare fraction of 1% of the country to representing almost a third of its people.
That stat alone would tell me that whatever that country’s soulwinners are doing, it is working about as well as New Coke and Ayds diet pills did.
But we should not hold our breaths for them to rework their party lines into something that actually makes sales. That’s easily the best part about Morris’ post: he is so sure that he’s right that despite half-a-dozen revisions to the page over the last 15ish years, he still remains doggedly certain that threats and r/ThatHappened anecdotes are exactly how to recruit new people to his toxic religion.
1Post? Thingie? It’s like he’s trying to have a blog but in a Web 1.5 kind of way.