Is (Information) Evangelism Even Possible Any More?

Filed under: — Bravus @ 10:51 am

(I’ve briefly canvassed this question in other places so apologies to anyone for whom it’s repetitive)

(Glenn Weare pointed out that technically the term ‘evangelism’ means ‘spreading the gospel’ and is specific to Christianity – I’m using it more in its everyday sense of sharing any information that people might act on: I’m an evangelist for my hosting company, Siteground, for example, and encourage people to use them)

Evangelism, in the broad sense, is sharing some information with a person who has a need for it, in the hope that the person will change their attitudes, beliefs or behaviours in accordance with the new information.

It’s most effective when it’s ‘just in time’: when the new information is presented at a time when the recipient is feeling a need for it. (This has implications for education but we’ll leave those for another day.)

I was wondering the other day, though, whether that kind of evangelism is even possible any more in the modern world. I know it’s not true for everyone in the world, but for most of the people I know, Google has changed the world. If we need to know something, we can find out instantly by searching.

That means that if we’re experiencing a spiritual crisis (in any direction), a quick search will provide us with an enormous range of relevant information. And it will be ‘just in time’, even if the crisis arises at 2 am. IMO that’s a lot more likely to be effective and efficient than, for example, knocking on someone’s door at a random time on a random day, or posting something on Facebook.

The discussion actually arose in terms of ex-Seventh-Day Adventist friends wanting to share ‘truths’ they had discovered that they felt discredited SDAism, but it immediately occurred to me that the question is far broader:

Information shared at the wrong time will simply be rejected. It’s massively difficult to time planned evangelistic efforts for the ‘right time’. But the web is on all the time.

So how about it? Is evangelism possible in the Information Age?


Awesome work, little Muslim girl!

Filed under: — Bravus @ 6:56 am

…and a piss-poor effort on the part of the bus company:


Little bit more robust sorting out of bullying on their own behalf by kids would be a very healthy move, IMO.


Beyond Moral Relativism

Filed under: — Bravus @ 1:00 pm

I don’t follow Sam Harris all the way in this particular argument – among other things he confuses ‘science’ and ‘scientists’ as sources of moral authority, but a number of the points he makes are very valid. I particularly liked this exchange from a Salon interview:

Why do you think moral relativism is so dangerous?

Many people seem to believe that something in the last 200 years of intellectual progress has made it impossible to speak about moral truth, and that morality is just something that’s drummed into us by culture, or a combination of culture and apish urges that were drummed into us by evolution. Whatever mix of these two variables you fancy, you come out thinking that one way of life can’t be better in an objective sense. Well-educated, liberal, secular people in the West think you should withhold judgment on certain practices. You look at female genital mutilation in a country like Somalia, and you have to say things like “Well, of course this has to be understood in context. Who are we to say that this is evil in any deep sense?” But my argument is that withholding judgment is tantamount to saying that we know absolutely nothing about human well-being. Maybe cutting off a girl’s genitalia with a septic blade at age 8 is just as good as any other practice in terms of raising them to be happy and well-adjusted people. We know that’s not true. And that’s a scientific claim. Without getting into the details of psychology, we know female genital mutilation is a bad practice, and we should act like we know it.

The rest of the interview and article is here: http://www.salon.com/news/atheism/index.html?story=/books/feature/2010/10/17/sam_harris_interview

Kenneth Davidson with some economic and policy truth

Filed under: — Bravus @ 9:19 am

From today’s ‘Age’ newspaper, a really excellent article on priorities for this country… and how we’re still heading in the wrong direction: http://www.theage.com.au/opinion/politics/obsession-with-debt-reduction-puts-nationbuilding-on-hold-20101017-16p0t.html


Fantastic Medium, Fantastic Message

Filed under: — Bravus @ 12:50 pm

I emailed this video to some of my friends and colleagues on Friday, and it got a good response, so I thought I’d share it here too. If you’re not familiar with the RSA Animate talks, they’re well worth checking out.

The animated version is extremely cool, but it’s an excerpt from a longer talk, and does more to pose the problem than to offer solutions. Here’s the video of that longer talk, which has more info:

Great speaker, great ideas.


A politician like whom we need many more

Filed under: — Bravus @ 7:58 am

Arizona’s Republican Attorney General puts doing the right thing for the state and the people ahead of party political loyalty. His letter to his party leadership is well worth a read – and enjoyable: http://www.salon.com/news/the_year_in_sanity/index.html?story=/news/feature/2010/10/13/year_in_sanity_grant_woods


A salutary question

Filed under: — Bravus @ 1:34 pm

Just something that occurred to me on the ride from the St Lucia to the Ipswich campus today (after almost a week of heavy rain, it was magic to be back in the bike in a big sunny afternoon):

If you had the power to force everyone in your city to live the way you live, would you?

I think it’s a simple question that has a lot of dimensions. I don’t have any ulterior motive, and it’s not about judging you. I’ll reveal my answer here quite soon and the reasoning behind it.


Atheists and Anger

Filed under: — Bravus @ 3:50 pm

This is long, so set aside some time, and pretty much everyone I know will disagree with one facet or other of it, but the points it makes are valid ones, and important for people to understand. Try to suspend your judgement for a while and read through the whole thing… or if that’s too tough, read the first 10 short paras and then the ending. And only then, maybe, exercise some critique: http://gretachristina.typepad.com/greta_christinas_weblog/2007/10/atheists-and-an.html

I’m not an atheist, but I have to admit I share a whole lot of these sources of anger. And that anger is based in my ethical and value positions around justice, freedom and equality.

Collapse of an Empire

Filed under: — Bravus @ 12:37 pm



Me at the mosque

Filed under: — Bravus @ 10:37 pm


Combatting widely-circulated fibs about the NBN

Filed under: — Bravus @ 1:25 pm

(and yeah, that stands for ‘National Broadcast network’, not the beloved Newcastle Broadcasting Network Channel 3 of my youth)

Nice correction of some intentional disinformation: http://blogs.news.com.au/couriermail/hitech/index.php/couriermail/comments/the_nbn_is_not_an_urban_myth/


The ‘Invisible Hand’ won’t turn on a fire hydrant

Filed under: — Bravus @ 12:00 pm



New Royal Society report on climate change

Filed under: — Bravus @ 9:48 am

Here’s a new overview report from the Royal Society clarifying the science of climate change: http://royalsociety.org/Royal-Society-launches-new-climate-change-guide/

It’s already being ‘spun’ in some quarters as weakening the claims of climate change, but that’s just dishonesty. What it does is clarify the levels of certainty of the various scientific issues. Some are less certain than others, given the nature and complexity of climate, but their overall conclusion is clear and unambiguous: human greenhouse gas emissions are the predominant cause of climate change.


Now that’s what I call SCIENCE!

Filed under: — Bravus @ 1:39 pm

Testing the effects on rats’ sexual behaviour of ecstasy (MDMA) and loud music:

If I may give away the ending… the effects are not positive.

And even more evidence of the damage wrought by NAPLAN testing

Filed under: — Bravus @ 12:35 pm


The stakes are so high that schools and principals are feeling like they need to ‘cheat’ just to survive. There is so much wrong with this picture.