I was once an evangelistic Christian. I believed in this endeavour to the point where I went on a mission trip to my home country of India. Prior to the trip I only knew, and learned, what was wrong with Hinduism and why Christianity was the only truth. I did not bother to learn about the culture I’d be placed into nor did I attempt to objectively understand their beliefs of my own people. I truly believed I was doing the work of God in this country. What hurt the most is the memory my grandmother took of me, as being irreverent and intolerant, so much different from the misbehaved yet loving child she had known years prior, as the last memory of me before she passed.
I was in college when I was talking to my friend Tony, who although he still considered himself a Christian, was no longer an evangelical. I asked Tony why we evangelized in the past. I felt like it was caring: that I truly and honestly cared for the people I reached out to in sharing my faith. Was that caring? He believed it was pride. It may have felt like caring, but the reason people preach their religious believes is because they believe they are on the winning side.
There was a lot of talk in the Christian community of “planting the seed.” There was the idea that God didn’t need to use his followers to accomplish his will, but that he wanted to use his followers; that they would make themselves available to spread his message. There was talk about how it usually took several attempts by many people before that seed would grow and that each attempt was important to grow that seed for God. In this way evangelicals felt they were allowing themselves to be used by their God in converting others to their faith, ignoring the fact that this is exactly what advertisers and marketers have been doing for centuries.
Repeatedly talking to people about their religion, or witnessing as evangelical Christians would call it, is a means of indoctrination. Similar to other forms of marking, people are made to feel inadequate about themselves in order compel them to buy a product, or in the case of religion, accept a belief system. This ideology is not limited to Christianity, nor is it limited to religious belief systems as there are those who see their atheism, philosophical beliefs or scientific reasoning as being infallible.
There came a point during my first year at University where I stopped talking and started listening. I started to realize that even within a single religion, individual beliefs were very unique. Although at a high level, most Christians belief’s were very similar, the details of their doctrine or dogma were vastly different, either based on different interpretations of religious text or believes people had created for themselves. There was always this idea, in the evangelistic community, of correcting peoples misinterpretations of scripture, in order to make sure no one was led astray by false teachings.
In the scientific community, papers are continually reviewed. Previous claims which stood up to cross examination with reproducible results can be replaced if better evidence or more precise measuring devices are discovered or developed. There are those who hold onto their scientific world views with the same type of zealous devotion as the religious evangelist. Without doubt, true science is reduced to dogma.
Evangelism requires a degree of unwavering, unquestionable devotion to an ends. When one is dedicated to a cause so fervently, faith becomes something that cannot be questioned. It stands directly opposed to progressivism. When society changes to end discrimination against a race or make slavery illegal, the religious evangelist, rather than stating their faith was wrong, simply says it was misinterpreted.
Blind devotion to a creed or cause, whether it be cultural such as marriage equality, or scientific such as climate change, is detrimental to society as a whole. Without rationally approaching and continually weighing the realities of the situation and examining new evidence, it’s easy to become trapped in an incorrect world view.
Some people believe in Jehovah, others Allah and others do not believe a god exists at all. Some people love their Android phones, others love Apple products and some are dedicated to Windows. Some software developers swear by Ruby, others Java and others C#. But when one is dedicated to their particular belief, product or brand, advocating superiority to all others, it turns into a trivial contest of pride.
In the instance of religion where people have been dedicated to their faiths for years or decades, it may not be so easy to change or cast off their belief systems. The idea that so much has been invested into something that may not be real or rational at all can be a fatal blow to one’s pride, loyalty and even sense of purpose in life. It is this pride that can keep nations subjugated to a belief system that leads to the continuation of discrimination and regressivism.