Email forwards are an odd beast and not to sound too clichéd but I get way too many of them – they break down into the following categories:
1. Long survey’s about people’s favorite salad dressings
2. Bad humor about how stupid men are (it’s MENopause folks hahahahah!!!)
3. Religious/political chest thumping
I have to admit that I’m not sure why people I hardly know (friends from 2nd grade, distant acquaintances, etc) think I want to know if they believe in love at first sight or have ever thrown up on a roller coaster but I kind of like the surveys. Trivia is a lot like gossip and I love gossip. The bad humor mostly comes from my mom and her friends all of whom are over 50 and I tend to cut those ladies some slack because I consider it a win that they can even operate a PC. So we’re left with only #3 for me to be particularly bothered by.
My mother’s family (with a few notable expectations) is fairly religious. In the past (long long ago before the Midwest discovered email forwards) I received a letter from my (at the time) 13 year old cousin basically saying “I wish you would love Jesus more so I don’t have to miss you when I’m in heaven.” It turns out the letter was written by the pastor at her church who asked everyone to send it out to people they knew that had “not accepted Jesus as their personal savior.” I’m not sure how such a letter is supposed to convert me. “You’re going to hell and making your family sad!” isn’t an argument for conversion if you don’t believe in the premise of the religion but I have no doubt that conversion was the goal. Unfortunately I think this is a fairly bad approach to bringing more sheep into the flock -- rather than an attempt at conversions this seems to be an argument for faking belief. I could start going to church just so my family feels better about their prospects for friendship in heaven – but that won’t make me Christian. (Incidentally, if people actually want to convert others they would be smart to pick the carrot over the stick -- Guilt tripping me and using a child for the purposes of proselytizing actually makes me *less* likely to join your religion.) Luckily I’m pretty sure my cousin now has lots of devout friends at her Christian high school and will hardly miss my heathen ass come the afterlife.
More recently I’ve been receiving around 2 email forwards a week preaching the religious ideology of the extreme right (mainly about how American schools obviously hate religion since they won’t lead children in Christian prayers -- even Ben Stein says so and he’s A JEW!!!).
I’m not sure what such emails are supposed to do but I suspect that changing my mind is not the goal. I occasionally (very occasionally actually) am forwarded “George W Bush is so stupid!” humor and I giggle and think “yes, I agree! I’m so smart! The person who sent this to me is so smart!” and everyone is happy (expect perhaps the fish forced to live in polluted water and the people being tortured in US military prisons….). I think this feeling of mutual superiority, not conversion, is the intended outcome of a political/religious forward. Which means… my mom’s family thinks the “you’re going to hell!” letter worked and I’m now on board with prayer in schools (this also assumes that *all* Christians are pro public school prayer which is a whole different level of arrogant misinformation…). Huh. That’s annoying. I probably can’t disillusion them without offending, right?