The use of force to convert doesn’t expand faith – it reduces faith
Some religious groups force others to convert to their faith, “Convert or die.”
But faith is a choice of the heart that can’t be forced. Though force may compel some to mouth a faith-pledge, that doesn’t constitute the change of heart at the heart of true faith. Brute force reduces faith from a matter of the heart to a matter of the lips.
That fanatics celebrate as religious victories converting others to such reduced faith shows that they grossly overrate the externals of their faith. Might they have never known the essence of faith: its security and sweetness? Might they be masking their inner emptiness by outer aggressiveness? Sadly, all traditions have been guilty, to greater or lesser degrees, of such superficiality.
Might fanatics be masking their inner emptiness by outer aggressiveness?
Can faith be shared while respecting people and their God-given free will? Yes, the Bhagavad-gita demonstrates how faith transmission can be respectful and successful: through education and experience.
The Gita’s narrative aims to persuade Arjuna to have faith in Krishna and do his duty. Rephrasing according to our context, Krishna wants to convert Arjuna. Yet he doesn’t resort to force, though he being God commands all the force in all of existence. Instead, he appeals to Arjuna’s reason by outlining a majestic worldview that makes faith the natural and desirable choice. And he offers Arjuna a divine experience by demonstrating his universal form. After making his case, the Gita (18.63) states that Krishna leaves Arjuna free to deliberate and decide. When Arjuna voluntarily chooses to do Krishna’s will, that choice demonstrates an authentic conversion, a triumph of faith.
The truly faithful similarly share with others scriptural wisdom to illumine their intelligence and yogic processes to help them experience the divine. Those who instead resort to force to convert simply expose their intellectual and experiential bankruptcy.
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