Conversion or conversation?

I have a set of beliefs. So do you. Nothing can be proven, so who is right? Beliefs that oppose can not be settled with logic, never mind violence. Perhaps they can be integrated, but that’s another matter.

I have two questions about prosyletisation – the attempt actively to convert someone to one’s belief.

Firstly, does prosyletisation or evangelism work? Does anyone who is preached at truly change their beliefs because of that preaching?  Certainly it doesn’t work for me – either when I’m preaching or when I’m being preached down to. (I say preached down to, because it seems to me that there is an arrogance implied in attempted conversion).

It seems to me that much “conversion” works by attracting vulnerable people into a new “group”, with a new identity – be it Christian, Humanist, Atheist, Buddhist or Muslim. I’m not convinced that this is the same as a true change in beliefs.

Personally, what influences me are example and dialogue. I often wonder about the motivations about those who seek actively to convert. (What, for instance, underlies the aggression of  Dawkins’ missionary work?)

My second question is this. Is it right to prosylatise? Returning to my opening statement. I have a set of beliefs. So do you. Mine add up to a system of living that generally brings me joy. Is it not a responsibility to share these with others. Indeed is it not a form of cowardice to hide one’s beliefs in the name of respect for the opinion of others? On the other hand, what gives me the right to prioritise my beliefs over yours? Dialogue and example yes, but I wonder whether an active directed attempt to convert YOU to MY beliefs is really ethical?

To convert or converse – that is the question.


2 thoughts on “Conversion or conversation?

  1. Christianity and Islam are the only proselytising faiths I know. Christianity because of its central tenet of the need to ‘save’ others as Jesus ‘saved’ them and Islam, another religion of the book, also seeks to convert by whatever means it can. Not exactly sure why. Other spiritual traditions it seems to me take a more mature approach, that when the seeker is ready they will begin to search for the path that best suits their needs.

    • Thanks for that. I agree in relation to for instance Buddhism and Hinduism. However, do you not think that the faith that is Atheism has a muscular missionary wing seeking to convert rather than converse?

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