October 31st, 2008
I grew up going to a Christian church, and for the past 3+ years I have been a Linux user, so you can bet I have heard and participated in a lot of debates about whether it is right and/or effective to evangelize to gain more “converts” or not.
The evangelism (for religion, operating system, or anything else) usually comes from good intentions. Although sometimes it can feel to the person being evangelized to that the intention is more “I’m right, and you’re wrong, and you’d better see things my way”; the intention is usually more, “I didn’t realize what I was missing until I saw this, so I want you to see it too.”
I was an extremely argumentative child and adolescent, and even though I thought I had some pretty good arguments, logic, and examples, there were few arguments I ever won or lost. Pretty soon I realized that arguments for the purposes of convincing someone to adopt a new outlook or change her mind are a waste of time. Arguments as intellectual exercises or fun pastimes are fine. And you can sometimes bully someone into giving up fighting you, but you haven’t really changed her mind. You’ve just intimidated her. To see how this is done, watch Bill O’Reilly on Fox News. It basically consists of a lot of interrupting and yelling.
So if you’re someone who truly thinks “I didn’t realize what I was missing until I had this” instead of “Ha ha! I’m right and you’re wrong”; think about the last time you changed your mind on an issue or decided to try something new. What was the impetus for that change? Was it someone arguing with you? How did you start seeing things in a different way or open yourself up to trying a new product or lifestyle?
For me (I won’t even try to speak for anyone else)—whether it was my outlooks on race and gender, my choice of operating system, or my mode of transportation—any time I opened myself up to something new or changed my mind, it had nothing to do with getting into arguments with people. In fact, when folks argued with me, I tended to cling more strongly to the familiar than to open myself up to something new.
I change my mind or embrace something new when I come to it instead of it coming to me. I need the resources to come to, of course, but I need to come to those resources. I don’t want someone knocking on my door trying to sell me something. I don’t want a friend pestering me to switch to something or to change my mind about something. I do want, however, many books and websites available on the topic. I want the pros and cons clearly laid out in as unbiased a fashion as is humanly possible.
Thus, in the spirit of the golden rule, I’m going to do unto others as I would have them do unto me. I will write my opinions and leave them here as a resource. If you disagree with me, I don’t want to get into a futile argument with you. You can lay out your own opinions, and I will read them when I am ready to read them. You can also read my opinions when you’re ready to read them.