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Is Proselytizing Wrong on Principle? Discuss.


Soldier of the One

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This is a thought that occurred to me when I was walking down the street the other day and saw some proselytizers in action.

Given that - at least theoretically - we are all free to operate in the marketplace of ideas, is 'proselytizing' wrong on principle? What do you think?

Discuss :) (And yes, I am keeping the terms as broad as possible).

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I think that if you want me to hear about you're beliefs you better be damn ready to hear about mine! If you refuse to listen to what I believe you can take your tracts and shove them.

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Is "discuss" a new code word for "I want to start a fight so here's some fuel for the fire"?

The first fundy who comes in here "discussing" the legitimacy of evangelism is surely going to be inviting another pb war.

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Well, I think it's always offensive, but I wouldn't say it's morally wrong unless there's some kind of power imbalance, ie: missionaries proselytizing to poverty-stricken, illiterate villagers; adults proselytizing to trusting, impressionable children; people proselytizing to an unsuspecting, captive audience, etc. Using the U.S. government to proselytize is also big on my list.

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I think it's okay AS LONG AS YOU STOP WHEN PEOPLE ASK YOU TO STOP. Yes, you have the right to ask me if I've heard about Jesus Christ and I have the right to say "I'm not interested" and have you respect that wish.

But when there is an imbalance of power, as in proselityzing to poor/starving/sick people, then I think there is something morally wrong with that.

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If we're talking about people proselytizing on a street corner, I wouldn't say it's "wrong"--free speech means free speech--but I certainly consider it weird and annoying and will go well out of my way to avoid proselytizers. Unless they have snark-worthy tracts!

Any form of evangelism at public schools is definitely wrong.

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Is "discuss" a new code word for "I want to start a fight so here's some fuel for the fire"?

The first fundy who comes in here "discussing" the legitimacy of evangelism is surely going to be inviting another pb war.

Discuss the the term used in some circles to mean "everyone talk about your opinions on it but keep it polite".

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Is "discuss" a new code word for "I want to start a fight so here's some fuel for the fire"?

The first fundy who comes in here "discussing" the legitimacy of evangelism is surely going to be inviting another pb war.

No. I am hardly a fundie. And I don't proselytize.

As a Jew, I am more often a 'victim' of proselytizers than not. It's a mental exercise. Apart from the potential obnoxiousness of soliciting unwanted worldviews upon random strangers, is it actually morally problematic?

If a proselytizing Christian tries to 'save' me by offering me Christ, then isn't that person doing their duty according to their own worldview?

And are there cases in which 'proselytizing' can be a good thing? (I am sure the early Suffragettes proselytized in a manner of speaking. How about unions? Liberal Christians who were abolitionists? Any number of social causes?)

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Discuss the the term used in some circles to mean "everyone talk about your opinions on it but keep it polite".

This.

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I've had parents send their children to my door and hang back, knowing I'd have to be a complete asshole to turn children away harshly. That is complete bull shit.

In general, I think coming to my door is wrong. If people want to minister, they should go to the rain forest, where a few people still haven't heard of the gospel. I can Google your church, if I care to attend.

I also agree that it's wrong when people keep going after they've been asked to stop, and it's disgusting when people give poor families money but force religion upon them.

As for the Christian "duty," I am pretty sure this was referring to bringing the message to people who have not heard it. Again, modern evangelicals are welcome to go to the Amazon and get shot at with poisoned darts to demonstrate their devotion. I am totally fine with that.

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I look at it this way; in Western society who doesn't know the very basics of the Bible? If you want to know more, you know where to go. You just get yourself into the nearest church.

I don't like proselytising. Street corner preachers are annoying. There was one in my town last week who was handing out tracts. I told him no, but he still tried to shove one in my hand and insisted that he had "good news* for me. It was only when I said I was an atheist that he backed off.

I'm singling out Christianity here as I have yet to meet a proselytising Jew or Muslim.

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If we're talking about people proselytizing on a street corner, I wouldn't say it's "wrong"--free speech means free speech--but I certainly consider it weird and annoying and will go well out of my way to avoid proselytizers. Unless they have snark-worthy tracts!

Any form of evangelism at public schools is definitely wrong.

I'm talking about the street corner/door knocker variety, of course. In the public marketplace of ideas. Public schools have an obligation to provide a neutral space. Proselytizers are definitely not neutral.

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It's OK by me as long as they don't come knocking on my door at eight in the morning on a Saturday or Sunday because if I'm awake, I'm still in my jammies, enjoying my breakfast and will be pissed if I have to interrupt my chowing down to answer the door. If I'm still asleep, I will be royally pissed to be woken up.

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I've had parents send their children to my door and hang back, knowing I'd have to be a complete asshole to turn children away harshly. That is complete bull shit.

In general, I think coming to my door is wrong. If people want to minister, they should go to the rain forest, where a few people still haven't heard of the gospel. I can Google your church, if I care to attend.

I also agree that it's wrong when people keep going after they've been asked to stop, and it's disgusting when people give poor families money but force religion upon them.

As for the Christian "duty," I am pretty sure this was referring to bringing the message to people who have not heard it. Again, modern evangelicals are welcome to go to the Amazon and get shot at with poisoned darts to demonstrate their devotion. I am totally fine with that.

Actually, I am less fine with that because there is such a clear imbalance of power between a Fourth World person and a 'modern', Western missionary. That power imbalance is bound to work in favor of said missionary, so I find that hugely morally problematic. Proselytizing among people culturally similar to yourself, in a way, levels the philosophical playing field more.

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I'm a pretty big advocate of free speech, so as long as they respect my polite "no thanks" I don't have a problem with it. The guys that stand on the street corners at 2 a.m. in my hometown with Jesus signs and shout at me and my friends that we're going to hell for being at a bar...that's slightly more annoying. However, again, free speech. They have a right to shout we're all going to hell and I have a right to tell them to fuck off.

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I look at it this way; in Western society who doesn't know the very basics of the Bible? If you want to know more, you know where to go. You just get yourself into the nearest church.

I don't like proselytising. Street corner preachers are annoying. There was one in my town last week who was handing out tracts. I told him no, but he still tried to shove one in my hand and insisted that he had "good news* for me. It was only when I said I was an atheist that he backed off.

I'm singling out Christianity here as I have yet to meet a proselytising Jew or Muslim.

Proselytizing Jews? Not gonna happen. Unless you consider Chabad to be proselytizers, but they only proselytize OTHER Jews. So technically, that's inreach, not outreach.

The proselytizers that I mentioned in the OP were Muslims. I was intrigued.

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I'm a pretty big advocate of free speech, so as long as they respect my polite "no thanks" I don't have a problem with it. The guys that stand on the street corners at 2 a.m. in my hometown with Jesus signs and shout at me and my friends that we're going to hell for being at a bar...that's slightly more annoying. However, again, free speech. They have a right to shout we're all going to hell and I have a right to tell them to fuck off.

This.

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Guest Anonymous

Proselytizing on the street is annoying but not morally wrong, IMO. It's bordering on wrong when they use PA systems and sing though - that's a real assault on the eardrums. Door-knocking is really rude. Our local council gives out stickers people can put on the door to say "No door to door sales please" I wish they would add "No evangelism either." as we have an unusually fundie-like church that has sprung up in the village and they piss me off to high heaven during "Mission week".

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I think that if you want me to hear about you're beliefs you better be damn ready to hear about mine! If you refuse to listen to what I believe you can take your tracts and shove them.

Exactly. That's part of the social contract, isn't it? Although I don't proselytize back (that doesn't make much sense, nor do I have the interest), I do 'share' my personal worldview with door knockers, just to offer my perspective. It's only fair :D

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Proselytizing Jews? Not gonna happen. Unless you consider Chabad to be proselytizers, but they only proselytize OTHER Jews. So technically, that's inreach, not outreach.

The proselytizers that I mentioned in the OP were Muslims. I was intrigued.

Now that is interesting. I have never met a proselytising Muslim and I live in an area with a huge Muslim population and know many Muslims myself.

What happened?

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I agree with whoever said that proselytising isn't wrong, but methods of doing so often are.

Some evangelists won't take a polite "no, thank you" for an answer. In fact, I can't remember anyone who approached me who didn't either respond with threats of hell or passive-aggressive whinging "you seem very unhappy with your life right now... I only wanted to let you know there's someone who can help you with your obvious problems...I know how it is when you're suffering depression..."

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In Toronto last year I was proselytized to by a Muslim man. There was a small group of Muslims standing on a street corner (during a library festival) handing out booklets on the need for submission to Allah. The literature (I read it when I got home) was pretty intense and definitely relied heavily on fear of punishment by God (similar to Christian tracts). One man in particular tried twice to engage me in a discussion about whether I "had submitted to Allah". I just got away, it made me uncomfortable.

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Proselytizing among people culturally similar to yourself, in a way, levels the philosophical playing field more.

I agree. I still think it's rude, but if it's between adults of a similar background, then at least everyone is free to investigate and then accept or reject the claims that the proselytizers make.

I can't stand when people target children, though. That happened to me once, at Disneyland when I was 11.

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