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Is Proselytizing Wrong on Principle? Discuss.

Soldier of the One

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I am pointing out that it isn't just missionaries that go into foreign countries and have an impact on local cultures. It can be as simple as tourists going into a foreign culture or humanitarian workers. Have missionaries caused damage to cultures? Yes, I'm not saying they haven't. But the same can be said for humanitarian workers, tourists, explorers, etc. Any influence from outside a culture can have a huge negative impact on a culture. Just as some humanitarian aid or foreign money can be good or useful, so can a missionary have an impact for good. There are many hospitals, clinics, schools, orphanages, etc. that have been set up and still continue to be run by missionaries. There are many missionaries who simply share their beliefs and do not force anyone to believe anything in order to receive medical care, schooling, clothing, food, etc.

But you're pointing to these other groups to excuse what the missionaries do. Just because other people do it, it doesn't make it all right for missionaries to do it.

Unintended consequences aside, tourists and humanitarian workers do not go into an area with the express goal of wiping out the local religion. It's a false comparison. No matter what good they might do, the fact remains that missionaries are not content simply to offer food and medical care. They want the native people to convert to Christianity.

This sets up a power imblance, since impoverished people in the developing world have no way of verifying what the missionaries are telling them. It's not like a member of the Yanomami tribe can hop on the Internet to fact-check the missionaries' stories. They are presenting these stories to them as truth, not merely their opinion, and uneducated, illiterate people have no way of knowing that there are other options available to them. Christian missionaries sure aren't going to tell them about the billions of people around the world who don't follow Christianity. They're not going to introduce them to other holy books. They're not going to tell them that plenty of people don't believe in the biblical deity.

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