I'm sure most of you have read the story of Rick's pretty pamphlet by now. If you're one of the five non-Pharyngula readers, go ahead and click through - we'll wait.
(Dude - you know what we Pharyngula fans need to do this Christmas? Rewrite all the carols to the theme of squid. Nice, eh?)
You guys back? Excellent. So, I'm sure you noticed a pattern to that church's pamphlet: it started out all warm and fluffy and then bludgeoned you with the "You're gonna rot in HELL if you don't BELIEVE!!1!!1!!!" These things always end in threats, and frequently tears, don't they?
It brought to mind one of my favorite stories from Garrett. His friend Steve Stone, who's a pagan and a Jew (great combo!) got a letter from one of the local churches "inviting" him to join. He announced this to the pagan church he belongs to one outing.
They all crowded 'round. "Steve, what'd it say?"
"Well," Steve said, "it was kinda like this." He put on his best Mafia don voice and paraphrased, "You come to church, you pay your tithe, we don't gotta problem. You don't come to church, you don't pay your tithe, we gots a problem."
Every single proselytizer I've spoken to has come down to the same thing in the end: threats. The answer to "Why should I believe?" isn't "Because it will enrich your life beyond measure." It's always, "Because if you don't, you'll burn in Hell." Some of them don't state it quite so baldly, but that's always the subtext. They get that fearful look in their eyes. They go pale and clammy and animated and babble about how it's not a good idea to piss of God.
You know something? If God's that much of an asshole, I'd rather end up in Hell anyway, thanks ever so much. At least the people there will be quite a bit more interesting, and from what I've read of Satan, he could hold a lively conversation and likes good music.
If you have to resort to threats to get people to convert, your religion's got some serious issues.
And what the fuck is up with these sunlit-clouds motifs? Every evangelical religious site and pamphlet is infested with kitschy sunlit-cloud photos. It's so vapid. And it's totally at odds with the whole "God loves you unless you don't toe the line - then he's really gonna be pissed" motif. Why not illustrate with something like this: