Last weekend I was talking with someone who insisted to me that the urge to proselytize signals a weak faith. He argued that if someone was truly strong in their faith, they would not feel any such strong need to have everyone else around them agree with them. I said in reply that he must have never been a believer and he laughed and said something to the effect that he had apparently revealed himself.
The reason I said he could not have really ever believed was that he was completely not able to empathize with the frame of mind in which you really believe as, a matter of literal truth, that everyone outside your faith is going to hell and so really are motivated by actual concern for their souls, and not necessarily by any hidden agenda of not simply being afraid of being alone in your beliefs. I also pointed out to him that proselytizing was typically only found in religions like Christianity or Islam where it is actively insisted upon by the religious founders. Jews rarely proselytize and not because they are somehow less insecure but rather because theirs is simply an ethnic religion in which they understand themselves to be a uniquely chosen people. It’s not meant to be a religion for everyone and so they usually feel no impetus to convert others. Christianity and Islam have proselytization baked into their self-understanding and so for logical reasons many Christians and Muslims feel like their beliefs simply require that they try to turn outsiders to their faith.
Do you think I was right? If you once believed and were concerned about proselytization, do you think it was really because you felt Jesus had obliged you in the Great Commission or that Muhammad’s comparable injunctions to convert and to conquer were binding upon you as a believer? Or, in retrospect, do you think it is reasonable to charge you with, deep down, simply being insecure in your faith and needing the validation of having everyone else agree with you in order to reassure yourself?
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