It's been a while since the first in this series, so to refresh those of you who remember the first one, and for the benefit of new readers, I thought I'd go over the ground rules.
The Devil's Advocate discussion series is an excercise in critical thinking and argument. I will postulate a scenario based on a philosophical question, and it is up to the members of this group to argue for or against the statement.
This episode's scenario is as follows:
I am what could be described as a Religious man. My whole life has been devoted to the study of the religious texts of my faith, and from my research and pious observation of the rules, it has occured to me that anyone not following the True Path of my faith is in peril of losing or corrupting their immortal soul. In order to save them, I have decided that it is my duty to enlighten others as to the error of their ways, regardless of their current faith or lack thereof. I know in my heart that this is the right thing to do, but would be interested to hear your opinions about my mission.
Please note that the view expressed above is not necessarily the view held by the author and is for educaitonal purposes only.
Part of many religions is the belief that humans have free will and part of how they may be judged, depending on your belief, is how they choose to use this free will. If you do not respect the free will of others are you truly doing what is right.
You should enlighten anyone that wants to be enlightened but you should not attempt to convert strangers, in public areas, that do not show interest in learning about your beliefs. There are many ways you can try to help people, if you truly believe that following the True Path of your faith will save them, but by forcing your beliefs on people you are more likely to drive them away. This serves the opposite purpose of your intentions. Provide information to those who want it and for everyone else you will just have to wait for them to find the need to change on their own. They may be on a different path then you and may one day arrive where they are supposed to be.
All of human interaction is an exercise in attempting to enlighten, cajole, or otherwise persuade other people to see things our way. Whether the goal is to convince them of the superiority of our baseball team or to enable them to see the sublime beauty of a particular band, sculpture, or book; the end must never justify the means.
In the case of the baseball team we put our best case forward based on stats, anecdotes, or their current relative ranking. In the case of the arts we try our best to encapsulate the ephemeral nature of the beauty we perceive in such a way as to impart at least respect, if not true understanding. The urge to proselytize in religious matters should be treated no differently.
1) If you know in your heart that it's the right thing to do, and you have the courage to follow through on your convictions, then why are you asking for my opinion? Irrelevant.
2) Suppose a drowning man refused an invitation to be rescued, because of the affront that it would cause to his dignity to be pulled soaking wet from the ocean. As the man breathes his last breath, would he wish that he had laid aside his pride and taken up the offer? Would the perceived hurt to his pride be worth it, to save his life?
Puting it in this context, after a man has lost his immortal soul for all eternity and is suffering in some form of corruption or another (not clarified in the question), then after the first 5,000 years or so of suffering, with no end in sight (immortal soul, remember), would the suffering man gladly rush back and take up the offer of salvation that was originally extended, if he could? What if he couldn't?
If our hypothetical religious man is convinced that those around him are in danger of losing or corrupting their immortal souls, and he has the means by which they could be removed from this danger, then it is binding on him to act, lest the responsibility for their souls be on his hands. He cannot be absolved of responsibility for them until he has made the effort to tell them what they need to hear, whether they want to hear it or not.
It might be fitting to add a proviso regarding practical application here -- no man can be forced to follow a path he doesn't want to follow, so making an appeal to the man is fine, but trying to spread a religion by coercive force doesn't sit right with me ... I imagine that most people agree, but I'd love to hear why that's the case, or why not, if you disagree.
IMHO a religious man who hasn't decided to be so isn't a religious man at all -- in most cases, he's a carnal man who's yet to be honest with himself...
Jesus Christ commanded his followers to go forth and spread the Good News. But he also said that if the Good News should be rejected, his followers are to shake the dust of that town from their sandals and move on. Jesus knew from first-hand experience that his message would be rejected by many for many different reasons, and indeed, the rejection might be violent. But he did not command us to convert any unbelievers against their will. This is where Christianity, as practiced today---but not necessarily in the past---differs from Islam, as it is practiced today by a minority of Muslims, although it is a vocal and influential minority, who wish to convert by the power of the sword, not the power of persuasion.
The true believer who sees as his mission from God to convert others to his belief should make every reasonable effort to do so. But ultimately God gave us the gift of free will, and one must recognize that even if it causes the listener to reject your entreaties.
I'd like to make two comments regarding this thread. The first is a comment on how Christianity, which seems to be the only religion consumed by this, can pull itself out of this problem. The second point I'd like to make a broad statement about why religious people of different faiths have so many conflicts.
1) What happened to the emulation of Christ? Conversions can only happen when non-christians see christians living better lives. Conversions occur from a higher ground. I want to look UP and see a happier, more fulfilled, peaceful, loving life. Then I would convert. Conversion through talk be it conversation, cajoling, or persuation simple does not work. Be an example and people will folllow.
2) My second observation is one that could change civilization. If only we all could follow it. Anytime there is a belief that is held so strongly it can not be changed there is the possiblity for war, desent, anger.....you name the affliction. We must be willing to change our views. Religion is an often tightly held view that over centuries has been the justification of many brutal actions. Loosen your grip and if the belief doesn't hold up then you need the change the belief.
I guess to sum up my view....work on yourself, don't worry about anyone else until you can be an example and be flexible. Listen and think and make YOUR beliefs your own.
We attempt to emulate Christ, but a follower of Christ may be no better or even worse in action at "doing good" than someone who follows some other path. As a follower, I desire to do what He did... but I'm not perfect. The difference between a Christ-follower, and a Christ-rejector is this: although both do actions that they believe to be "wrong" at times, one of them has accepted the fact that Someone else who didn't deserve it was punished for these wrongs. The other must either deny his own conscience, or make a futile attempt to pay for the wrongs himself, usually through some sort of religious or humanitarian actions.
I am an atheist, grew up my whole life without religion. I have a wonderful life: I am an air force pilot in training, I volunteer, I live each day to its fullest. I know in my heart that there is no god. I know there is nothing after this life. I believe these things just as strongly as you believe that there is a god and heaven. maybe more so. I have a lot of friends that devote many hours a week to their religion. I know they are wasting precious time on this earth serving a god that does not exist. I want to help them. Is it my duty as a student of life on earth to convince them to drop their religion? They see life as a necessary "test" to get to the afterlife. Should I help them, or let them be?
Why should you even care? And what is "precious" about the time you have on earth? By your admission, it is meaningless. You have no god to explain your actions to... you would be wasting your time, and therefore not living life by your own creed (unless I unfairly assume that your creed is "do whatever makes me happy"). Unless you feel a moral obligation to... however, then you must answer the question of where the morals came from. Dilemma.
It is obvious that to an atheist, the time that he has alive is all the more precious because he knows that that is all there is; there is no afterlife. Reread Joe's post. Nowhere in it did he say that life is meaningless. Furthermore, do you think that everyone's morals derive from religious text? Even monkeys have a sense of morality, and I don't think they are reading any bibles. http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/environment/article5733638.ece
There is a thread of truth, as you say, in all religions... But there is also falsehood. If two disagree, one of them is right, and the other is wrong. What religion contains the most truth? (or which one coincides most with reality) That is the one I want. Which one is this in your opinion?
If you believe, you must attempt to convince others. In my opinion, Christianity is the only religion in which belief (faith) is the only necessity. (example: the thief on the cross) In others, such as Islam, a set of actions is required. (example: the five pillars of islam) These actions can, and historically have been, enforced on those who have no belief in Islam. This can be said of any religion other than true Christianity. (argument will be the Inquisition and Crusades... neither of these followed the teachings of the Bible). If you are a Christian, you attempt to convey truth and change belief. In any other religion, you attempt to change actions. Forcing someone to do something they don't desire to do is usually wrong. Not being man enough to tell someone what they believe is a lie, and the reasons why, is always wrong.