Talking about your spiritual path

There are different ways to talk about one’s religion: interfaith dialogue, enthusiasm without any underlying agenda, evangelizing, and proselytizing. Each of these has different underlying assumptions and values.

Interfaith dialogue is where I tell you about my religion and you tell me about yours, with no attempt at converting the dialogue partner; just a mutual exchange of information. Interfaith dialogue comes from a place of respect for the dialogue partner and their religion. It includes the willingness to listen to a different perspective.

I can talk enthusiastically about Paganism for hours, but with absolutely no underlying agenda of trying to convert my listeners, because I don’t believe that you can be converted to Paganism; either it wells up within you as a response to the beauty of the world, or not. Either Pagan theology (animism, polytheism, pantheism etc) makes sense to you, or it doesn’t.

Similarly, I might tell you how much I enjoy kayaking, but I am not going to start saying stuff like “you’d love kayaking — it’ll change your life”. Either you feel like trying it, or you don’t. A juggling enthusiast tried to tell me that about juggling once. I did not take up juggling.

Then there’s evangelizing, which is where the evangelist tries to persuade the audience to convert to the shtick he or she is selling, by saying that it will make them happier or more fulfilled (the old “Jesus loves you” soap).

In the case of colonialist missionary efforts, they would tell Indigenous Peoples that their way of life, languages, cultures, and religions were inferior and even devilish. Most missionary efforts were the thin end of the wedge of colonialism; and Christian supremacism was the root and origin of white supremacism. Later, Christian supremacism and white supremacism were mutually reinforcing.

Interestingly, Orthodox Christian missiology takes a different approach, which is to show up, build a small church, chop wood, carry water, and wait. They also do their best to respect and preserve the culture and traditions of the cultures that they work with. I’m still not keen on missionary efforts in general, but theirs is a much more respectful approach.

Then there’s proselytizing, where the proselytizer tells the audience that they will go to hell if they don’t believe in the shtick being peddled.

It is impossible for Pagans to proselytize because we don’t believe in any form of eternal punishment.

One occasionally hears of misguided Pagans trying to evangelize people, but it is offensive, disrespectful, and pointless. Don’t do it, people.

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