A brief note on missionary tactics:
The missionary is not out to educate. He does not attempt to persuade with reasoned arguments. And he is not interested in an exchange of ideas. He has his viewpoint, and he does not care about yours. Generally speaking, he is not listening to you, while he demands that his own voice be heeded. In this regard, Christian missionaries and atheist missionaries are quite similar.
Both groups of missionaries like to put undue pressure upon their target. The Christian missionary has two main tricks up his sleeve in this regard, guilt and fear. The Christian missionary argues that disbelief in Jesus will place one in eternal torment. It is more reasonable to accept his propositions, however dubious, than to risk eternal punishment. He uses this fear to coerce belief.
Similarly he plays on one’s sense of guilt. Because of your wrongdoing, Jesus had to die, he will tell you. One cannot but be horrified at the idea that a man should die a horrible death on his behalf. If a man should then reject this crucified man, he only seems to compound the wrongs done to him, wrongs that are supposed to be due to one’s guilt. Rejection of Jesus only seems to compound that guilt. This guilt also helps to coerce belief.
The atheist missionary also attempts to coerce assent to his propositions. His tools are a little different. He uses social pressure, rather than fear or guilt. He will attempt to make his target fear appearing foolish and small-minded. He employs words like “oogity boogity” and “poofism” in an attempt to humiliate his target and any opposition. This is not argument. This is bullying. The atheist says, in effect: “You do not want to look stupid, do you?” He is appealing to the target’s ego not his intellect.
Much like the Christian missionary, the atheist missionary will brook no dissent. The atheist missionary knows that he is right and he cannot be questioned or contradicted. He will assert that atheists are the very best people he knows, the most open-minded and the most reasonable. To question one is not to be tolerated. Atheists release studies that show themselves to be the most intelligent people in the world. This too is mere bullying. Who does not wish to be considered intelligent? But if you are not an atheist, you are obviously feeble-minded. (One must wonder if one’s I.Q. automatically jump 30 points when abandoning his religion.) If one should ask if an atheist could have erred on some point, one is accused of stereo-typing atheists.
Missionaries do not give a fair hearing to their opponents; they are convinced of their perfect rectitude. They do not allow argument. The Christian missionary declares all those resistant to their message blind, regardless of the evidences and arguments presented. The atheist missionary is not much different in this regard. He too will insist that you listen to his message. But he will take up a mocking attitude when you point to the flaws in his claims. Just as the Christian missionary calls his target blind, the atheist missionary calls his target biased, ignorant, or a “true believer.” Both the atheist and the Christian missionary sidestep the arguments with personal attacks and often with hostility.
Both missionaries will also consider themselves a greater expert in Torah than the Jew who studies and practices it daily. He is not only an expert in his field but yours as well. When he misrepresents Torah through his ignorance, he will maintain that really he is much more versed than the person who has devoted so much time to it. Address his field, however, and he assumes your ignorance. The Christian will tell the Jew that he just does not understand the NT. The atheist (who claims that science is his purview) will say that anyone who criticizes a scientific conclusion or a dishonest method just does not understand science. Still, he will not grant that the Jew knows Torah better than he does. The Jew is supposed by the missionary to be too blind or stupid to understand his own books, history, or heritage.
One should not allow such distasteful tactics to influence his decisions. If the missionary claims are true, they should demand assent by virtue of reason, not emotional appeals. One need not allow himself to be bullied by guilt, fear, or social pressure. One must carefully analyze arguments and not be moved by the idea that he will be burn in hell or be perceived as intellectually inferior. These manipulations are not the tools of the educator but the bully.
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Yisroel C. Blumenthal