On Religious Conversions


Our scientific understanding of the world arises from systematic exploration of the natural world and/or by learning about the results of such studies. However, this calls for serious study, experimentation, clarity of analysis, and the like. The scientific understanding of the physical world can be enriching and uplifting, but it is not required for everyday living.

Our religious affiliation often arises from how and where we are brought up.

We are enriched spiritually and humanized ethically by enlightened religious guidance. Every religion lauds the glory of God. Someone said here recently that extolling the glory of God is something Hindu. True enough, but is also Jewish: Hebrew psalms extol God’s glory.  Christians sing in Church: in exelsis Deo (in God’s Glory). Arab Muslims sometimes greet with the phrase: al-hamdu lillah (glory to God), In the Bible we read: all to the glory of God.

As we grow and acquire new knowledge and experience, our religious convictions are strengthened or weakened, confirmed or unconfirmed, depending on our by personal experiences. Often in the face of deep disappointment, in context of facing some difficult, even unbearable situations, while reflecting on social injustices, natural disasters, and the like, one refines, modifies, rejects or switches one’s religious beliefs.

Proselytizing religions do not subscribe to this (from our point of view enlightened) view of religion. Traditionally, they believed that they convert people in order to <save> their souls from a terrible after-life (called Hell).

Right or wrong, as a result of their zeal, today those religions (Christianity + Islam) together have more than three billion adherents of all races and in all regions, whereas Hindus number barely 900 million.

There can also be intra-religious conversion. This can be of two kinds: (a) sectarian: e.g. Catholics to Protestants; Vaishnavism to Shaivism (rare these days); (b) interpretations unenlightened to enlightened: Orthodox to Reformed Judaism, caste-observing to caste-rejecting Hinduism; traditional to Unitarian Christianity.

February 26, 2009

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About Varadaraja V. Raman

Physicist, philosopher, explorer of ideas, bridge-builder, devotee of Modern Science and Enlightenment, respecter of whatever is good and noble in religious traditions as well as in secular humanism,versifier and humorist, public speaker, dreamer of inter-cultural,international,inter-religious peace.
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