Converting from "newer" religions to "older"

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Posted by Dawud on July 01, 2101 at 18:03:23:

In Reply to: Re: Request For Aswer anon (# 3) posted by anon on July 01, 2101 at 12:39:38:

Excuse me for interjecting, but I can't resist. anon says

"For example, when people change religions, it is not that often that people go "back" in religious history. As I am now seeing this in my life too, you do not see many people convert from Islam to Chirstianity... it is normally the other way around."

Let's see now, survey SAYS.... (this is a phrase from a TV game show, for those of you who are deprived of the enlightening culture of American television)

Most converts to Judaism come from European Christianity, not (let's see) Zoroastrianism or Hinduism or what have you. I know of a Palestinian Muslim convert to Judaism, he's in Arafat's cabinet.

Converts to Christianity come from all over the map. There have been some conversions from Islam (and reversions from the Baha'i religion--one of my professors would fit this description), but the general pattern over the past fifty years or so has been for Christians and Muslims to polarize against each other and try to grab unallied members of tribal religions (e.g. in sub-Saharan Africa, Indonesia). The newer denominations (Mormonism, Adventism) tend to be most successful among traditionally Christian areas, plus the South Pacific for some reason.

Conversions to Islam in the past few centuries, have come mainly through reaching out to the oppressed groups in other religions (blacks in America, scheduled castes in India), forced conversions (Sudan, Pakistan), and as a byproduct of the oppression of tribal religions (Russian Central Asia, Indonesia).

Conversions to Buddhism in the last century have predominantly consisted of Abednekar Buddhists in India, and then I guess liberal Westerners from Jewish or Christian backgrounds would be the next-largest group. Go back another century or so, and we find Czarist Russia supporting Buddhist missionary activity among the Buryat Mongols (and Islamic proselytizing among the Turks, and Orthodox missions too--what they hated most was uninstitutionalized tribal religions which they couldn't control).

A number of liberal Westerners have turned to recreations (often fanciful) of tribal shamanism or the pagan religions of Europe and the Mediterranean. There are probably more Wiccans than Baha'is in the United States, for example, and this movement is likely to continue growing.

Sadly perhaps, smaller religions like witchcraft and the Baha'i religion and tribal religions hardly show up on the map demographically. You've got several million followers, for instance, but that's nothing compared to natural increase among Muslims and Christians. In other words, they outstrip you without even trying. The fact that Islam and Christianity--the religions most likely to draw converts--are "later" religions could easily be coincidence. I note that Sikhism, which Baha'is aren't sure whether they recognize or not, is newer than Islam but not nearly as successful at (or these days, interested in) attracting converts.

Baha'is like to see religion as progressive, but I think this is a mistake. The naive view is that Judaism is older than Christianity is older than Islam is older than the Baha'i religion, and there's certainly some truth to this, but it also distorts the situation. I would rather say all four share certain roots in the prophetic tradition, then one by one diverge into competing historical traditions. Muslims say that Abraham is the first Muslim. Baha'is give the date 1844 for their founding, but acknowledge earlier roots in the Shaykhyi tradition as well, and thence Islam. So you're not really more RECENT than your Muslim cousins, you're just more radical! Or more of you became more radical more recently...? Aw, you see what I mean.

Another example: Our knee-jerk reaction is to think of the Hare Krishna as being more recent than the Episcopalians, but the Krishnas participate in a tradition reaching back to medieval bhakti movements, the Bhagavadgita (say, about the time of Christ), and to hear them tell it, gazillions of years back to Creation. Episcopalians meanwhile have lots of traditional elements that postdate the Bible--the creeds, the 39 Articles, the cute little dresses, etc. So who's to say which one is older than the other? And the same is true for most religions.

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