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.

Saturday, May 27, 2006

Price of Tolerance

NewsToday
May 22 2006

A multi-religious society that India is has to respect different faiths in order to protect the right of the individual to pursue his or her chosen faith. This naturally provokes the need to ensure that followers of different faiths do not clash with each other.

Clashes can never arise if one is changing one's religion on the basis of one's conviction or, as had happened to a celebrated individual, through a vision he had. The zeal for one religion could induce the urge to procure for others its grace. That is the theory.

Problems arise precisely because those that seek to convert others almost always attempt to carry conviction by comparisons which are intrinsically odious in having to eulogise the superiority of the new faith by denigrating the native faith of the potential convert. This causes friction culminating in violence.

It is moonshine to expect persuasion by logic and example to change minds especially when the preachers, who are very ordinary intellects, do not have the competence to propagate the new faith through honest persuasion. Hence the common purveyance of conviction through temptation such as offer of money, food and shelter.

The predecessor of the present Pope declared that Asia and particularly India should be won for Christ. His present successor is castigating the Indian government for 'unconstitutionally' denying religious freedom by overlooking efforts by some regional governments to ban conversion. The reference is to Jayalalithaa's law, since rescinded, and the Bill of the Rajasthan government seeking to impose a ban on conversions, which lies now with the President of India.

The reason behind the ban is the fact of conversions being forced by tempting offers that try to exploit poverty of the illiterate and ignorant poor. Preachers never tire of vivifying in inflammable rhetoric the burning of Staines and his sons but would hide the factor that caused it, namely the denigration of Indian God and custom and the breach of repeated warnings that it would invite death. Of course, Hindus are guilty insofar as they have never tried to ameliorate the sufferings of the poor. Also, but for a few exceptions, most Hindu parents are, because of their own ignorance about their religion, are unable to answer even the elementary doubts about their religion posed to them by their children. And the latter grow up with a sort of arrogant ignorance that makes them join in the uninformed tirade against it.

The time has certainly arrived to establish before critics that Hinduism is not the outcome of mental primitivity but is rich in words, guidelines and values that have catered to enlightenment of honest souls down the many centuries of human existence and particularly when the remote ancestors of Christians had not come down from the trees.

The more serious detail is that the flag followed the Bible. Both Christianity and Islam were at one in land-grabbing as the sheet anchor of their faiths involving violence. If the desire is to win Asia for Christ or Allah, its aim has to be to build a Christian empire or the Caliphate of universal Islam.

When conversion bids fair to win footsoldiers for it, would it not be the path of prudence for effectively nipping the effort in the bud by regulations culminating in a ban on its insidious activities? As things stand, this is not a religious but political issue of national solidarity.

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