Recovering from Religion - Phoenix Message Board › The Impulse to Proselytize

The Impulse to Proselytize

Bob
user 2326427
Phoenix, AZ
Post #: 230
As recovering former religionists, we may feel ecstatic about the freedom that we have discovered (or perhaps re-discovered) to live our lives apart from the often negative influence of religion. And at times we may feel compelled to share our newly-found lack of faith with friends and family who are religious. But we should ask ourselves: does this proselytizing behavior serve to promote or interfere with our own religious recovery process?

When we were religious, many of us eagerly shared our faith with others when the opportunity arose, ostensibly out of concern for them (or for the fate of their souls!). But evangelizing also served to reinforce our own religious mind-set. Eric Hoffer theorized that "the proselytizing fanatic strengthens his own faith by converting others." As religious believers, we often had recurring doubts about our beliefs, and trying to convince unbelievers that we were "right" by (for example) witnessing for Christ often helped us to contain those doubts. So now, when we act on the urge to share our lack of belief with religious persons, are we subtly attempting to reinforce our own non-religious mind-set, which we may not yet have fully developed and thus may be vulnerable to persuasive counter-arguments?

As recovering former religionists, engaging in metaphysical discussions with religious persons reveals our continuing preoccupation with the same perplexing questions that we had as believers, except that now our answers (if we have any!) lack the certitude of faith (and it was often the certainty of those old answers that initially made religion so attractive to us). Eric Hoffer speculated that "proselytizing is more a passionate search for something not yet found than a desire to bestow upon the world something we already have." So when we actively promote a non-religious perspective through metaphysical discussions with religious persons, could we be perceived as lacking meaningful answers to long-debated questions concerning the nature of reality and the reasons for being?

Richard Yao observed that "there is nothing wrong with taking a breather from religion." And as recovering former religionists, we enthusiastically agree! He also felt strongly that, if recovering former religionists are to successfully transition to a healthier lifestyle, it was "important that they give their obsessive questions about religion a rest." Though as recovering former religionists we are to be commended for having had the courage to abandon an unhealthy religious lifestyle, we may unknowingly be interfering with our own religious recovery process when we regularly engage in metaphysical discussions or debates with religious persons.
Dana D.
user 90187162
Surprise, AZ
Post #: 4
I can certainly relate to the set-backs of being pre-occupied with obsessive questions about religion after becoming an ex-religionist, but it never occured to me before that even this is a form of proselytizing. It actually is!
I can remember the first time I approached a woman from my church hoping to engage in conversation about the problems with the bible and she promptly told me she was not interested in having her faith challenged, as it was too important for her to question.
This response surprised me, but I respected it and dropped the subject. It occured to me then that to lose one's faith, or abandon your religion is an individual and personal decision. Maybe people can get "saved" in groups but to vacate, that you must do alone. But the attraction to online discussions over religion came immediately afterwards, and that can be exhausting, as it never seems to end or even have a specific goal.

Thank you Bob! Great advice. I could use a breather from the religious debates so as to begin to grow again. smile
Bob
user 2326427
Phoenix, AZ
Post #: 231
I suspect that those people who are the most insecure about their own belief or lack of belief, as the case may be, are the people most actively engaged in trying to convince other people that they are "right." Not that there's anything wrong with feeling insecure about your own Weltanschauung, of course!
Dana D.
user 90187162
Surprise, AZ
Post #: 5
This morning while reading the book The God Virus: How Religion Infects Our Lives and Culture I found this quote by Robert M. Pirsig, which seems to resonate well with the topic as I understand it.

"You are never dedicated to do something you have complete confidence in. No one is fanatically shouting that the sun is going to rise tomorrow. They know it's going to rise tomorrow. When people are fanatically dedicated to political or religious faiths or any other kind of dogmas or goals, it's always because these dogmas or goals are in doubt."
Bob
user 2326427
Phoenix, AZ
Post #: 232
Here's a relevant one-liner from Robert Greene's book Mastery:

"The need for certainty is the greatest disease the mind faces." pg. 183
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