Unethical Prevention of Conversions

What exactly is an ‘unethical’ conversion? The religious-extremist-nationalists have been trying hard to get the government to ban these ‘unethical’ conversions, but nobody is really bothering to properly define ‘unethical’. Let me tell you what the only type of unethical conversion is — if you put a sword to somebody’s throat and say ‘convert or else’, that’s an unethical conversion. Everything else is perfectly ethical.

I can hear all the objections now. I’ll tell you why I’m perfectly aware of them all but continue to disregard them. First of all, no government, no organization, no group ANYWHERE can tell ANYBODY what to think or believe. If a Buddhist government attempts to keep a Buddhist from embracing another religion, then THAT’S an unethical conversion. If an Islamic community or a Christian community pressures one of their own to not embrace another religion, THAT’S an unethical conversion. Or more accurately, an unethical prevention of conversion.

Promises and Incentives
So that’s the first reason. If somebody is promised food and medicine or even money in return for converting, it may be unethical in the eyes of whatever higher power the converter or the convert believes in. But it cannot be unethical in the eyes of the Law. It is wrong to promise what your religion does not promise. But it’s not illegal.

If a Buddhist promises Nirvana, peace of mind or happiness and riches in the next life to a potential convert, that alright by all counts. If a Christian promises heaven and miracles to a potential convert that’s also fine by all counts. Those are all promises of that particular faith. But if a Buddhist promises immortality or a Christian promises the power to levitate then that’s wrong spiritually. But the Law has no business poking its nose there. And no one group has the right to manipulate the law into doing such nose-poking.

If I were to decide to become say Jewish, I don’t want anybody getting in my way. If I believe Judaism is right for me, for whatever reason, I want to be able to publicly, proudly and freely declare it, to be able to freely practice it and not be persecuted for it. If my practice hurts no one then it doesn’t matter whether my choice is Judaism, Christianity, Buddhism, Islam, Confucianism or African Voodoo. What’s more, the law has no right going after my rabbi, my priest, my minister, my monk or my witch doctor.

But what if I convert for benefits? Then that’s not a real conversion is it? Me and my converter are likely to rot in at least one of our hells for it. But like I said, the law can touch neither. What if I’m ‘tricked’ into converting? Tricked? How so? By being promised something that cannot be delivered? Last time I checked, EVERY religion promises things with no definite delivery date. That’s the nature of religion and why religion requires something called faith. These are things that cannot be regulated or legislated. People doing “Unethical” conversions should be dealt with by their own religion’s hierarchy. Potential “victims” should be enlightened by their own religious authorities. Nothing more. Unless of course if you’re drugged or something. In that case you don’t need additional anti-conversion laws — regular criminal law would do just fine.

Let’s be fair. And realistic. ALL decent religions spread by conversion. There are only two other means of spreading a religion — one is conquest, the other is rapid reproduction. Neither of those are very virtuous methods. So conversion it is then. If these “unethical conversion” laws had existed two thousand years ago, both Jesus Christ and Gautama Buddha would have been in jail.


One Response to Unethical Prevention of Conversions

  1. suren says:


    It may seem quite fashionable to play the part of the keen intellectual and criticize the existing Sri Lankan social institutions etc. Is the true picture quite that simple, or are we simply, at some level, trying to tell ourselves that we, as a race, are a bunch of cowardly, barbaric, uncivilised fools and suggest that the western forms of thought, living etc are to emulated lock, stock and barrel ? (Actually , I hear that certain people in Sri Lanka are switching to using toilet paper instead of water. Perhaps it is because its the cool thing to do nowadays).

    There is much to be proud of, as well as to reject, but are we doing doing ourselves justice?

    EG 1: It is inarguably true that the current Buddhist clergy has become politicised, intolerant etc, but is the Christian clergy any better? Is their practice of forcing superstitious nonsense abouts gods and virgin births etc down the throats of uneducated peasants acceptable? But I see the criticisms only being levelled at the former group.

    EG 2: Dutugemunu was not a pleasant fellow, but he did kick out the invaders and unite the country etc. So is it wrong to give him some recognition for that? Or alternately do we praise the virtues of the invader Elara, due to his acts of kindness, justice etc? Which is better?

    EG3: The Westeners, (the Portuguese, Dutch and the British) who invaded us were nothing more than pirates who plundered the riches of this country and murdered our ancestors who had the guts to fight back. (Still it was through their unwitting influence that we are on the current, and in my opinion, correct path towards development. So due credit must be given). In such a setting is it wrong to be proud of the meagre military victories that we had against a far more powerful enemy? Doesn’t it fill your heart with pride that we are decended from a courageous race , evidently quite unlike the average Sri Lankan today? Or do we downplay these events and simply ape the west?

    Its refreshing, to be sure, to hear people casting off the traditional and biased forms of thinking, but here we see the the danger of overdoing it. In such cases we would become no different from those TV intellectuals whom we despise.

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