The Conversion Agenda

"Freedom to convert" is counterproductive as a generalized doctrine. It fails to come to terms with the complex interrelationships between self and society that make the concept of individual choice meaningful. Hence, religious conversion undermines, and in extremes would dissolve, that individual autonomy and human freedom.

Monday, March 28, 2005

Coercive Religious Conversion: A Crime against Humanity

by Dr. Babu Suseelan (babususeelan@hotmail.com)
Professor in Clinical Psychology and the Director of Addiction Research Institute, Pennsylvania.

Religious conversion of Hindus is threatening individuals, families, communities and the nation. Coercive religious conversion of Hindus contains a threat to spiritual tradition and the freedom of choice. If carried unchecked, coercive religious conversion would threaten the very existence of India as a nation.

Armed with a rigid dogma, and millions of foreign money, missionaries are on a warpath to forcefully convert hundreds and thousands of innocent Hindus. If unchecked, coercive religious conversion will have a cataclysmic impact on our freedom.

"Freedom to convert" is counterproductive as a generalized doctrine. It fails to come to terms with the complex interrelationships between self and society that make the concept of individual choice meaningful. Hence, religious conversion undermines, and in extremes would dissolve, that individual autonomy and human freedom.

Missionaries are trying to deconstruct Hindu society by waging a psychological war. The purpose of the war is to create personal, social and political disorganization. Their dogmatic notion of truth is inappropriate, even dangerous to a pluralistic society. Christian dogmas, by nature are non-deductible, non-negotiable and in fact non-verifiable, whereas an open exchange of ideas, a readiness to give and take, is vital to the survival of a pluralistic society.

Christian preaching tends to be a process of indoctrination in unshakable beliefs. Religion as indoctrination is suited to a totalitarian regime intent on not having people think independently. By contrast, Hinduism helps in liberating, not closing of minds of individuals. All Hindus, by their very nature, stand for and accept free expression, spiritual progression, and freedom of choice. But once converted to Christianity, the church is not eager to cultivate habits of intellectual freedom among its followers.

Missionary propaganda is deceptive and can be described as the state of mind of a salesman who habitually believes in his own propaganda and the superiority/supremacy of his 'only' product which he wants to push in the market, by hook or crook, at the cost of all existing alternatives. The church's ideological pretensions are smokescreens to destroy Hindus and the all inclusive, liberating Hindu value system.

When a church group takes a position on a political or social issue, it typically does so by claiming divine inspiration. Not only does this inhibit debate, but also it replaces rational discourse. Citing "God's Will"/ "God's Word" in a discussion is meant to silence, not convince, an opponent. Public discussion, so intrinsic to a democratic society, requires public debate. A democracy is degraded when its members, seduced by the desire to play God, get in the habit of pontificating infallible truths on subjects of public policy. Such a practice must culminate, if unchecked, either in theocracy, or in chaos.

One does not find in the Christian theology a conception of human beings as having both the right and the ability through Sadhana to control one's destiny. Concepts such as individual freedom, civil rights, human initiative, and secular programs are basically foreign to holy writ.

It is wrong to draw ideological parallels between Christianity and Hinduism. It is pointless to contrast dogmas as original sin, eternal damnation, and the absolutism of the Kingdom of God with that of the experiential reality of the Hindu Darshanaas which proclaim: "Each soul is potentially Divine", and teach the authentic way and means to discover, realize and manifest in day to day life the inherent divinity equally present in all. Hinduism and Christianity represent incompatible modes of thought and irreconcilable value systems.

Hinduism is dedicated to individual freedoms and rights. The philosophy of Hinduism and Christianity does not mix. Equating Hinduism (or, indeed, any religion of the book) would be doubly regrettable. A strict ban on religious conversion is in the best interest of all Indians because, to quote the wisdom of a common sense poet, "Good fences make good neighbors".

Evangelism is an irrational impulse, a form of tyranny over the mind. Freedom of religion is equivalent to freedom from someone's religion. Hindus have every right to expect that they will not be proselytized away from their own faith and into an all-exclusive, rigid dogma. Every citizen should be free from foreign sponsored missionary groups. An individual converting under psychological duress is loosing his very freewill and freedom of choice and conscience.

From a moral standpoint, Hindus respect all religions. But that respect is limited by our own mutual obligation to observe boundaries that have a reasonable relationship to the needs of the society and of the individuals in it. Once a person is converted by devious means, he or she is reduced to creatures of the church in which conformity to generalized mediocrity becomes the rule.

Freedom to propagate hatred, dogma and hostility must be restricted because the ideas expressed in such rigid dogma have led to murder and suffering of millions of people throughout history. Terrorism, social upheaval, community conflict, and hostility towards non-believers are caused in part by the philosophy that underlies the concept of freedom to forcefully convert non-believers. Even the capability to conceive of direct harm to others will be seriously diminished if we restrict coercive religious conversion.

Government should ban religious conversion and the free flow of foreign money for missionary activities. Ban on religious conversion will reinforce our values and identification and that protects our freedom. These are values that would be threatened if religious conversion were carried out extensively. Not everything that can be labeled "free expression" is worth protecting or immune from legal regulation for the general good. Given the gravity of the danger and destruction of missionary activities, anti-conversion alarm is sensible.

Hindus must initiate a much more wide-ranging debate about religious conversion, missionary activities and the free flow of foreign money for conversion activities. Hindus must go on the offensive and stop being baited by those who call our defense of Hindu society as communal. Hindus must stop allowing them to set the agenda for what is and what is not religious freedom.

Our survival as a nation is in crisis. But realistic solutions are within our reach, if we all work together. So I urge you, become activists on behalf our Hindus who have no one else to speak on their behalf, for yourselves, and for the nation.

- - - - - -
Coercive religious conversion

Coercive religious conversion of Hindus is one of the most important issues of the day. Religious conversion of Hindus is threatening individuals, families, communities and the nation. Coercive religious conversion of Hindus contains a greater threat to spiritual tradition and the freedom of choice than European colonialism ever posed. If carried unchecked, coercive religious conversion would threaten the very existence of India as a nation.

A dark future

Today as we look down the road toward the future, we see the warning
sign: "Danger Ahead". The danger is not limited to our freedom to practice our Dharma; we see threats to our progress as a democratic, pluralistic society. Christian tyrannical missionary groups are determined to destroy our society, our spiritual way of life and the nation. Armed with a rigid dogma, and millions of foreign money, missionaries are on a warpath to forcefully convert hundreds and thousands of innocent Hindus. If unchecked, coercive religious conversion will have a cataclysmic impact on our freedom.

"Freedom to convert" is counterproductive as a generalized doctrine. It fails to come to terms with the complex interrelationships between self and society that make the concept of individual choice meaningful. Hence, religious conversion, rather than supporting, it undermines, and in extremes would dissolve, that individual autonomy and human freedom. In effect, it would serve no one, neither the subject, nor the nation. As a rule, missionaries attack cultural symbols, rituals, and samskaraas of Hindus. Hindu symbols and rituals are real and powerful and they influence behavior. Symbols, rituals, festivals and religious practices have the power to unite and motivate people. These are the élan vital of a nation. Individual and society are symbiotic. When an individual is forced out of his/her role into a strange, dogmatic belief system, he/she would have to readjust to the new realities. Forced out of the system of meaningful social bonds, they would begin to lose the sense of identity and symbiotic relationship with the larger society. They would become rudderless ships adjusting to momentary pressures without a sense of direction. It is this most terrible condition, even worse than death that the missionaries impose on Hindus.

Christianity promotes their sectarian values and symbols over the interests of the society as a whole. Missionaries are trying to deconstruct Hindu society by waging a psychological war. The purpose of the war is to create personal, social and political disorganization. As the war continues, individuals, families, groups and society find it difficult to maintain proper reality orientation.

As the battle progresses, only parts of the problems are seen by the victim, and a collective cognitive disorder sets in. The social and political reality is distorted. As a result, family and community are disorganized. Individuals find it difficult to find the right concepts, ideas, words and thinking will become fragmented. The person and society lose a sense of identity and direction. A sense of cultural continuity and connection disappears almost entirely. This results in distorted thinking and dysfunctional behavior. Individuals act impulsively and blame the culture and religion that provide psychological equilibrium. They act irrationally and join with the oppressor. Eventually, they act as enemy within. Clearly, if the missionaries win finally in their psychological warfare, India as a nation is crushed.

History of repression

Let us turn to a logical examination of several key features of Christian thinking. The religion was founded and its theology elaborated under the dual influence of theocracy and imperialism. Its very conception of truth reflects political environment in which it evolved. It has crystallized orthodoxy, or a core of inalterable dogmas that its followers are expected to steadfastly profess.

Now, it is precisely, such a notion of truth is inappropriate, even dangerous to a pluralistic society. Christian dogmas, by nature are non-deductible and non-negotiable. Where as an open exchange of ideas, a readiness to give and take, is vital to the survival of a pluralistic society.

Christian preaching tends to be a process of indoctrination in unshakable beliefs. Religion as indoctrination is suited to a totalitarian regime intent on not having people think independently.
By contrast, Hinduism helps in liberating, not closing of minds.

Hindus accept free expression, spiritual progression, and freedom of choice. But once converted to Christianity, the church is not eager to cultivate habits of intellectual freedom among its followers.

Missionaries use Biblical quotations to rationalize vested interests of the Church. Very frequently such views systematically distort social reality in much the same way that a neurotic deny, deform or reinterpret aspects of life that are inconsistent to him. Missionary propaganda is deceptive and can be described as the state of mind of a salesman who habitually believes his own propaganda. The church's ideological pretensions are smokescreens to destroy Hindus and the all inclusive, liberating Hindu value system.

When a church group takes a position on a political or social issue, it typically does so by claiming divine inspiration. Not only does this inhibit debate, but also it replaces rational discourse. Citing "God's Will" in a discussion is meant to silence, not convince, an opponent.

The entire history of biblical exegesis shows that almost any personal or collective conviction can find support in divine revelation. Thus, the bible always obliges a true believer by miraculously saying whatever he or she wants it to say. When the true believer quotes "God's Word" to confirm an opinion, what he or she expresses is the wish to raise personal opinion to the level of absolute truth. Put more bluntly, the true believer pretends to speak with godlike authority as if he or she was God. Public discussion, so intrinsic to a democratic society, requires public debate. A democracy is degraded when its members, seduced by the desire to play God, get in the habit of pontificating infallible truths on subjects of public policy. Such a practice must culminate, if unchecked, either in theocracy, or in chaos.

The shackles of Christianity

It is an awkward fact that neither personal liberty nor civil rights have biblical sanction. On the contrary, scripture is at pains to tell us just the reverse: that we must submit all things to the will of a Supreme ruler against whom we have no acerbate rights. The bible is an undemocratic and anti-libertarian text. The Ten Commandments, like the parables of Jesus, say nothing about individual freedoms and rights but a great deal obedience and surrender, and "law" that all must obey. The essence of the bible is thus constraint, not freedom, oppression not liberation.

One does not find in the Christian theology a conception of human beings as having both the right and the ability through Sadhana to control one's destiny. What the bible gives us, in contrast, is a picture of human nature caught powerlessly between two factors--God and Satan--along with the caveat that no "salvation" is possible without total surrender to God's wishes. Concepts such as individual freedom, civil rights, human initiative, and secular programs are basically foreign to holy writ. The believers are docile vassals of the "Lord".

It is wrong to draw ideological parallels between Christianity and Hinduism. It is pointless to contrast dogmas as original sin, eternal damnation, and the absolutism of the Kingdom of God with that of the experiential reality of the Hindu Darshanaas which proclaim: "Each soul is potentially Divine", and teach the authentic way and means to discover, realize and manifest in day to day life the inherent divinity equally present in all.

Hinduism and Christianity represent incompatible modes of thought and irreconcilable value systems. Hinduism is dedicated to individual freedoms and rights. The philosophy of Hinduism and Christianity does not mix. Equating Hinduism (or, indeed, any religion of the book) would be doubly regrettable. A strict ban on religious conversion is in the best interest of all Indians because, to quote the wisdom of a common sense poet, "Good fences make good neighbors".

The value of Religious Freedom

Evangelism is an irrational impulse, a form of tyranny over the mind. Freedom of religion is equivalent to freedom from someone's religion. Hindus have every right to expect that they will not be proselytized away from their own faith and into an all-exclusive, rigid dogma.

Every citizen should be free from foreign sponsored missionary groups. An individual converting under psychological duress is loosing his freewill and freedom of choice and conscience. From a moral standpoint, Hindus respect all religions. But that respect is limited by our own mutual obligation to observe boundaries that have a reasonable relationship to the needs of the society and of the individuals in it. Once a person is converted by devious means, he or she is reduced to creatures of the church in which conformity to generalized mediocrity becomes the rule.

Freedom to propagate hatred, dogma and hostility must be restricted because the ideas expressed in such rigid dogma have led to murder and suffering of millions of people throughout history. The genocidal usurpation of the western hemisphere, the genocidal enslavement of Africans, Hindus, Buddhists, worldwide colonialism, holocaust against Jews and Gypsies, dropping of the atom bomb on Japan, the Vietnam war, colonialism, slavery and apartheid-these are the bitter fruits of Christian propaganda. Christianity is arguably, history's greatest crime against humanity. The solid evidence of history in the long and short term gives proof beyond a reasonable doubt, nay any doubt, that there is no greater social evil than biblical movements. Their dogmatic ideas are like small pox. It is not worth preserving it.

Time for activism

Terrorism, social upheaval, community conflict, and hostility towards non-believers are caused in part by the philosophy that underlies the concept of freedom to forcefully convert non-believers. Even the capability to conceive of direct harm to others will be seriously diminished if we restrict coercive religious conversion.

It is painfully obvious that political leaders, westernized media pundits, and the bureaucrats in India lack the requisite social and political knowledge, and philosophical skills to understand the devious activities of the church. They lack a firm national, religious, cultural commitment. They are driven to extreme and idiosyncratic decision by the lack of historical context of their judgments.

Government should ban religious conversion and the free flow of foreign money for missionary activities. Almost invariably, ban on religious conversion will drive missionaries out of business. For the politicians it is a dilemma. But life is filled with dilemmas that we can attempt to ameliorate but we cannot entirely avoid. Ban on religious conversion will reinforce our values and identification and that protects our freedom. These are values that would be threatened if religious conversion were carried out extensively.

Not everything that can be labeled "free expression" is worth protecting or immune from legal regulation for the general good. Given the gravity of the danger and destruction of missionary activities, anti-conversion alarm is sensible. We should not wait until Christianity takes over India. On the individual level as well as the genocidal level the effects of dogmatic missionary preaching justify its prohibition.

Hindus must initiate a much more wide-ranging debate about religious conversion, missionary activities and the free flow of foreign money for conversion activities. Hindus must go on the offensive and stop being baited by those who call our defense of Hindu society as communal. Hindus must stop allowing them to set the agenda for what is and what is not religious freedom.

Hindus must wage a battle against violence, intolerance, rigidity, and thought control. Hindus must put an end to the imperialistic, missionary culture, and end to religious conversion. It's time to name our real enemies. Our enemies arise in part from our silence, but also from passivity. Our survival as a nation is in crisis. But realistic solutions are within our reach, if we all work together. So I urge you, become activists on behalf our Hindus who have no one else to speak on their behalf, for yourselves, and for the nation.

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2 Comments:

At 7/06/2007 06:18:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree completely to what the author says. Christianity basically asks its followers to become Jesus supremists. Coercive conversion is a form of slavery and should be banned. People giving money to churches engaged in conversion should feel ashamed of themselves.

 
At 6/17/2008 05:33:00 PM, Blogger CD-Host said...

I know this is an old post. I don't think I could disagree more. I certainly agree with the author in his relative assessment of the differences between the spirit of Hinduism and militant Christianity. But to use the power of the state, that is violence as a means to promote and protect Hinduism would completely undermine the very openness he is seeking to protect. A full fledged state suppression of a religion is a brutal horrible awful thing.

Moreover it would poison relations so fundamentally between the west and India, as to destroy the kinds of contacts that Indian currently depends on. A small group of Protestants are likely to bring flavor to India's religious fabric.

And all that is besides the moral fact that it is a fundamental human right for all people to declare they no longer want to be part of their faith. No one should be compelled to be part of a religious community because where they were born or who born to.

 

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