Don’t superimpose the negativity of proselytizing on sharing
Some people, alarmed by reports of overzealous missionaries, feel that proselytizing should be banned. It’s sadly true that some proselytizers do convert by hook or crook – they financially allure, emotionally manipulate, ideologically indoctrinate, politically pressurize and even physically threaten.
But such ulterior motives don’t characterize all religious communication – some of it may well be inspired by the simple human desire to share. Suppose a patient after a long fruitless search for treatment finally finds a cure. They will naturally want to share the cure with other patients. Similarly, some people search a long time for meaning and purpose. When they finally find a wisdom-tradition that provides coherent answers and adds value to their lives, they naturally want to share that tradition with others.
Moreover, sharing is innate to us humans. All established schools of thought, including science, have become influential because they have been shared. If every school of thought has a right to share, why should religious schools of thought be deprived of that right? If they are to be deprived because they talk about God, then atheists should also be deprived – they too talk about God by arguing that he doesn’t exist. And some hardline atheists are just as aggressive proselytizers for atheism as are some religious zealots.
The root problem with proselytization, religious or anti-religious, is not the content, but the method: a holier-than-thou attitude and an ends-justify-means modus operandi. Religious messages can be shared respectfully, as is demonstrated in the Bhagavad-gita. Krishna asks Arjuna (18.63) to deliberate on his message and then to do as he desires. Here is a vision of God who respects human intelligence and independence; he doesn’t issue diktats, but invites deliberation.
If we all could adopt this mood while sharing our thoughts, the world would see far lesser strife and much greater wisdom.
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