Which Religion Is “Winning”?

Based on a post from a Christian collegue of mine, I’m going to say something that might sound crazy:

It’s great if a young Hindu in India starts believing in Jesus and converts to Christianity.

Good for her! I’m so glad she’s found a path that makes her happy and inspires her to do good in this world.

It’s great if a white American finds Islam to be the perfect path for her. It’s great if someone from Switzerland decides to become a Buddhist. It’s great if someone who grew up Muslim decides to become a Hindu.

The only thing that bothers me about these stories is that they are used as weapons against other religions.

You know what I mean, don’t you?

“Oh look, someone who was a Hindu has become a Christian. Clearly Christianity is the TRUTH.”

“Look at this person who has discovered Hinduism and rejected Islam. Clearly Hinduism is the TRUTH.”

“So many people are converting to Islam. Clearly it is the TRUTH.”

Why does one person’s choice of which path is best for him become representative of everyone, everywhere, across all time?

I very much believe that there are different “paths up the mountain” as the saying goes. Different paths, different religions, work for different people depending on their history,personality, experiences, etc.

Hinduism is so clearly the perfect path for me.

But I am never going to think that it is the best path for everyone. This attitude is what makes the prosthelitizying religions such a problem. They rub in our faces every time someone goes from Hinduism to their religion. And then we feel like we have to do the same thing back just to keep up.

Sometimes people born Hindu are going to decide it’s not the right path for them. Maybe someday they’ll be back, maybe in another lifetime, maybe they won’t. That’s their choice.

Sometimes people are born another religion and come to Hinduism because they see God and Truth most clearly here.

None of this means that one religon or another is “winning.” 

People, individual people, are finding their path. It doesn’t extrapolate to all people from all time!

This isn’t a competition for bigger numbers. The only competition is within our own hearts. How can we more fully live a dharmic life? Stop looking at other people’s test papers! Let them worry about their own exam and you worry about yours. You get the best answers you can!

If you’re always obsessing over the other person’s paper, how will you have any time or energy to focus on your own?

People are going to keep moving from one religion to another. Some will leave your religion and others will join it. An example of one single person coming to your religion is not representative of the overall number of followers there are.

Why can’t we just be happy for people rather than trying to use them and manipulate their story to try to take over the world?

I know I hate when that’s done to me. You can’t just take my image and not take me with it: my ideas and my thoughts. I’m a person, not a weapon for your arsenal. “Look at this white girl who is a Hindu, clearly Hinduism is the TRUTH.” I’m not a tool for you to use to prove your religion is better than others. My image comes with my perspective.

My new glasses do look cute though, don’t they?

So someone has a dream vision of Jesus Christ. That doesn’t make Jesus more real than Ganesha. It’s selection bias. You shout this story of a vision of Christ all over the place, but you convieniently neglect to mention any of the stories of people having visions of Ganesha and leaving the church for Hinduism or for Paganism.

This is our LIVES. Not a popularity contest.

If you’re worried about people leaving your religion, then focus on being kind, being welcoming, being the best example your religion has to offer. Be the good example that makes people want to join you. And when they do, don’t gloat. Because I’ll just point out all the people who left.

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About Ambaa Choate

Ambaa is an American woman of European ancestry who is also a practicing Hindu. She is fascinated with questions of philosophy, culture, and the meaning of life. Join her in the journey to explore how a non-Indian convert to Hinduism experiences her religion.

  • Saumitra Gupta

    This article is like a gush of fresh air in a deep cave. We need a lot and lot of other people who think like you and express it too! Looks like the essence of Hinduism comes naturally to you.
    P.S. 1 – Ritualistic Conversion anyways is all driven by human ego.
    P.S. 2 – Your glasses look the same my grandma used to wear :-) cool

    • Ambaa

      Aw, thank you! I so appreciate your comments!

    • http://www.deafdrummer.org Stephanie Ellison

      Saumitra – “Conversion anyways is all driven by human ego”

      I have a sneaking suspicion about that when I am reading the book, “How to become a (Better) Hindu.” The idea of cutting oneself off from former churches (that I can understand), but the formal name change ceremony, and the other rigid requirements? I think it overlooks the fact that if you are Hindu inside, NOTHING in the outside world is going to change that. I mean, you can do EVERYTHING, including dying in your present body and having the world’s paranormal cameras on your body to watch for your spiritual travel from there to a baby being born to a Hindu couple in a different part of the hospital just minutes later (“Yes, it’s real, it’s real!! It really does happen!!”), and if you’re not Hindu inside, nothing is going to change that. I just can’t do it. I’m reading the book, perhaps to understand better why I would not be suited to be a Saivite Hindu. I have not nailed down what I would be, even an Ancient Hindu or a hybrid of some sort (yes, I watch The Vampire Diaries and The Originals. The ONLY things I watch online on my computer, and when these go off the air, I will never run up to my data cap again). May I hazard a guess that it might be years before I can really determine a place in Hinduism, if there is one?

  • http://amarchotoprithibi.blogspot.com/ Andrea

    This is the most articulate way I have ever heard this expressed. I usually do some combination of smiling, nodding, eye-rolling, glaring, and bashing my head into the wall when people regard me in the “the foreigner comes to our temple so we must be the right religion” – why are foreigners the arbiter of truth? I know I am not. And if they knew what was all going on in my head, their little pats of approval would not come as frequently, for sure!

    Also, the glasses are a win. You look so comfy and happy in this picture :)

    • Ambaa

      Thanks! I’m really pleased with the new glasses. They were super cheap too. I used to take my glasses off as often as possible, feeling no pride in them, but these make me feel cute. I like it! And I’m being totally distracted with vanity. lol.

      • http://amarchotoprithibi.blogspot.com/ Andrea

        I felt the same way about the last pair I had… they were SO ME… but I accidentally put them on the other day (I got a new pair in Kolkata) and thought “who is this weirdo looking back at me” … perhaps the glasses suited me… or maybe I suited the glasses… and changed to fit the new ones :D

  • Agni Ashwin

    Which religion is winning? Duh…winning. (Apologies to Charlie Sheen.)

    • Ambaa

      :D

  • Dr_Spence

    Changing from one religion to another is rather sad. If people really looked at the evidence for believing in any religion they will see that it’s not there. Faith is a dangerous thing as it leaves rationality behind.

    • Ambaa

      I don’t think faith has to leave rationality behind. Though it often does. But I see my religion and science working together very well. My dad is both a scientist and a spiritual man so I learned from him that they don’t have to contradict.

      • Mark Gordon

        Of course faith leaves rationality behind. Faith is belief WITHOUT evidence – it is by its nature IRRATIONAL.

        What does “spiritual” mean? For me it is a place-holder for “I dont know yet”. THAT IS ALL.

        religion always conflicts with science. Those who claim otherwise are just ignoring the facts.

        • Ambaa

          I have faith that science will eventually be able to explain all that we experience.

          There are things in the universe that science has not explained yet, but I know that it can.

          I definitely disagree that religion always conflicts with science.

          In Hinduism I have found that the statements made by the sages are often later proven to be true by science. I like to use all the understanding I have at my disposal, both science and statements of my religion.

          My religion has been very willing to see new information and see how it fits into our established framework. There is no conflict, in my experience.

          My religion very much encourages learning and never turning a blind eye to knowledge.

          • Mark Gordon

            We know that there are many things science will never be able to explain. So your faith is misplaced.

            there are things in the universe that science has not explained yet – so? But YOU know that it can? Wow – are you a scientist?

            You definitely disagree that religion always conflicts with science. Its up to you to prove your stance – pick any of your beliefs and you will be shown where it disagrees.

            “In Hinduism I have found that the statements made by the sages are often later proven to be true by science. I like to use all the understanding I have at my disposal, both science and statements of my religion.” – REALLY? Which ones? Tell us just one and we will explain your bias.

            Your religion may well encourage learning – not all do however.

          • BeliefsNrationality

            we know that there are many things science will never explain.so your faith is misplaced…wow you are so delusional we know that science does not even know properly everything about the human body in the least the first thing (eg. synthesis of Vit. D through sunlight) science does not even know what’s beneath the surface of earth (we don’t know for sure the state/composition of Earth’s core) does that mean we stop following science Science created Automobiles but it also did create Atom Bombs so leave science and go back to stone age coz science is Dangerous as Hell….no sir whether u agree or disagree YOU have a BELIEF in science that it will do good so do we all SO we back it up…..
            you think you don’t have a belief How Do you know for sure the Moment you go out on that road you will not be killed by a speeding “science marvel” because you sir have a belief to go on and live.
            there I proved all your beliefs to be a fallacy of your arrogant Science Mindset or whatever you fancy calling yourself …..pick out any such fallacies or BIAS and I shall be more than Happy to let you Learn of your Bias(es) that u might have misunderstood for a scientific fervour.

          • Kumar

            Hinduism has no central dogma. There is no central ‘rule’ that all Hindus have to abide by. Our upanishads are full of questions about who we are and where we came from, and they provide a philosophical platform to try and answer these questions. You could try to answer these scientifically or spiritually. All paths are allowed.

          • Mark Gordon

            FAITH = Belief without evidence.

          • Madhu K Agnihotri

            it is because people try to convert for numbers that brought world into chaos do you think greeks were fools macedonian mesopotamian egyptian roman chinese mayan all these were fools? hinduism is a vedic culture and an ancient one and which is not in library but livid 2 rigid religions destroyed all of them hinduism if you try to investigate with rationality without rationality one cannot understand also it makes more than just animal to be a more conscious person evolved human perspective to world all religions give a vision how to look to world to ppl to nature people are running after money but where are humane qualities it is 2 religions made world adharmic yes in all religions it is same

      • Mark Gordon

        “But I see my religion and science working together very well.” – Of course you do – this is the very bias you criticise in your piece.

        • Ambaa

          I’m sorry, I’m confused by your statement. Could you elaborate for me? Thanks! :)

    • Madhu K Agnihotri

      never convert if u find no logic in any religion but believe me this no religion is wrong but religions keep the compositions hidden they lack fundamentals if one understand the fundamentals you dont go against any religion and belong to no religion even in hinduism there are levels of ones understanding if you have scientific curiosity it gives an opportunity to investigate religion have 2 aspects 1 social order (depends on time situation climatic conditions where it born) and mystic level phil (it gives how to look to world orients vision to ppl to nature ) Dont convert conversion is evil in society but we need understanding transformation of just animal to a conscious human

  • Bor1am

    I am a white American who started out Baptist Christian and I left it over forty years ago to become a Pagan. If it became a law that I had to join one of the major world religions, I would become a Hindu without hesitation.

    • Ambaa

      :)

  • Aeryn

    I appreciate your attitude and open-mindedness, however followers of mainstream Christianity and some other religions cannot share this “different strokes for different folks” idea, because it is *part* of their religion that other faiths are wrong and result in eternal damnation.

    • Ambaa

      Yeah. Really sucks, doesn’t it? And the thing is, I’ve met Christians of sects that are not evangelical and don’t have this maniacal obsession with making everyone into the same thing (really reminds me of the Borg on Star Trek, actually!)

      • Pixie5

        You hit the nail on the head with the Borg! With the fundies you have to fit in and be something you are not. And check your brains at the door (or when baptized!) I felt like I was put in a box. Ironically they also put GOD in a box as well! God is bigger than we can imagine, ourselves. No one has a monopoly on the truth. St. Paul said “We see through a glass, darkly” (they did not have good mirrors back then).

  • Aravind Panicker

    Namaste. I really appreciate your article. Its very interesting. As a Hindu there is
    something important you should remember. Hinduism is not a
    religion and there is actually no conversion in Hinduism. It is a culture more than a Religion. :) Thanks!

    • Madhu K Agnihotri

      It is a religion and a way of life a vedic culture it is more than just God so hinduism mother of all religions it is like tree people can pluck fruits & share(religions yoga music art lit etc ) but not a tree itself so no conversion possible if anyone embrace hinduism it is just an appreciation now ambaa’s mom and dad sowed a seed at home

    • Kumar

      Oh man not this crap again. Hinduism is not a culture and no it is not correct that you cannot convert to Hinduism. This is neither historically correct nor is it correct from the standpoint of the scriptures.

      Vedas and upanishads are devoted to truth and anyone should have access to that truth. They always insist on the one-ness not just amongst humans but also amongst the rest of the creation. Then how can this knowledge or viewpoint be denied to anyone.

      Secondly, this is not historically correct. Please read about the history of southeast asia (Thailand, Cambodia, Laos). Our fore-fathers never had any qualms about others ‘converting’ into hinduism. This idea that you cannot convert to Hinduism is a recent construct and is simply incorrect.

      It is however true that Hinduism does not need a ‘conversion’. You can simply wake up and say this is the path I will follow and that would be ok. If that is what you meant then you can ignore my writings above.

  • Agni Puthra
  • Madhu K Agnihotri

    well said :janani janma bhumischya swargadapi gariyasi” mother land is equal to mother so equal to heaven no matter one is muslim hindu christian it is personal matter one belongs to their nation their ppl where their farmers produce food their ppl produce things one take clearly a nationalist first dosent mean to hate other countries just open to other countries under dharmic way share knowledge trade cultural exchange etc


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