The Condescending Nature of Proselytizing

VCU Proselytizing
VCU Proselytizing (Photo credit: Gamma Man)

When it comes to things that annoy atheists, at least those that annoy this atheist, religious proselytizing ranks toward the top. And yet, I've had a difficult time putting my finger on exactly what it is about proselytizing that I find so annoying. I do not like anybody knocking on my door in the first place, but opening the door to find someone selling something is not quite as bad as finding someone who wants to rot my mind with their religious delusion. That seems insulting in a way that trying to sell me tangible garbage I don't need can't quite match.

I've long thought that the reason I'm so annoyed by religious proselytizing is that it amounts to peddling delusion, but another atheist blogger recently helped me realize that there is a bit more to it than that.

Here's how Rick Levy (Towards a Rational America and an Enlightened Judaism) opened a recent post:

One of the objectionable customs of many religions especially most theistic ones is proselytization. I consider this practice rude and condescending because of its implication that the adherent's beliefs are superior to those of other people's and thus they need to be saved from the error of their ways.
Yes! I am not sure why I did not see it earlier. It is precisely the condescending nature of proselytizing that I find so objectionable. As Levy says, it carries with it the not-so-subtle implication that the beliefs of the proselytizer are superior to those of everyone else. I think this goes a long way of explaining why I react the way I do when faced with it. Religious proselytizing is disrepectful, and who enjoys being disrespected? Not me.

If Christians want to persuade me to believe something as far-fetched as their Jesus nonsense, they'll need to approach me in a more respectful and less condescending way. I'm not saying that will enable them to successfully convert me, but it might slow the speed with which I shut the door in their faces.