This is not written as a formal paper or argument, so do not judge it as such.
Christianity and its many forms call for proselytizing, as does Islam (and many others I’m sure). Throughout history, both religions have held a viewpoint of “Convert or die!” Sadly, that viewpoint is still in existence today. The holy books of both religions give examples of such ideology and/or call for the death of unbelievers. Thankfully it is only the more extreme, hardcore believers that would still put that ideology into practice today, but such an awful concept is displayed and put into the minds of all who read/hear. My knowledge of Islam is limited, so I shall now speak about what I know – Christianity.
The Old Testament is full of stories in which people, such as the Canaanites, are slaughtered (usually without being given the chance to convert) simply because they aren’t Jews, they don’t believe in the right god, and they own the land the Jews want. As a child, I found the OT both fascinating and disgusting. The bizarre stories it contained were largely skipped over by my teachers and pastors (probably because of the confusing and even horrendous nature of said stories) at both church and school (I attended a Christian school), but I still read through my Bible and found them. When I attended a Christian college, and we worked through the whole Bible in two survey classes, the bizarre stories came to light again, and were passed over by the teacher either entirely or after he’d only said a few words. We discussed the children of Israel and their long battle to claim Canaan, but no-one ever said a word about how awful it was that they were being ordered to massacre people. During the time of the OT, if you weren’t a Jew, tough luck – you’re either going to be serving the Jews, distant enemies, or massacred for your land (unless you were lucky enough to be a virgin, and God said they could take you alive, which didn’t always happen). Once you hit the New Testament, this ideology largely disappears, because now Jesus is telling the Jews to love their neighbors, enemies, and everyone else. The Jews of the OT were an exclusive bunch and did very little proselytizing. In the NT, Jesus seeks for converts, but focuses on the Jews. It isn’t until after Christ’s death that the conversion of gentiles is sought after. From that point on, history is full of Christian attempts to proselytize the rest of the world, be it with love or force. Heretics are burned at the stake (even by such illustrious leaders as John Calvin), those suspected of witchcraft are tortured and killed, and on the list of things done in the names of Christianity and God goes.
Most modern Christians focus on the aspects of love found in the Bible, rather than try to work out the odd and awful things. Modern Christians want to embrace the rest of the world in love, acceptance, and peace. Having studied the Bible, I can say that modern Christianity is not really Biblical, but it’s a heck of a lot better than hardcore, fundamental Christianity. Those who seek to live in obedience to all of the Bible, and all at the same time, will eventually realize it’s not possible and settle for focusing on the areas that they deem most important. Every group of Christians, and every individual Christian, has favorite parts of the Bible they champion and pet sins that they preach against (this principle is true of any aspect of life, as we are all human and therefore different). Some believers pull from Scripture ideologies that are extreme and far from loving.
I will not give any names here, and ask that any who comment refrain from identifying the parties involved, but I will give an example of extreme ideology from a Christian that ties in with what I’ve said here. A woman leaves Christianity and chooses to post her decision on facebook. A friend of hers, who is still a Christian, says some nasty things to her via commenting on her post. They have a heated discussion about the usual things Christians and non-Christians discuss – people going to hell, what the Bible says, what a reprobate the non-Christian is, etc. Finally, the Christian friend posts on facebook a status in which he calls for Christians to pray for the death of this woman who has left Christianity and now speaks against it. Other Christians join him and approve of his status, while many more, Christians and non, disapprove and are appalled at the thought of praying for another’s death. Many who read the status thought it sounded very much like the Islamic stance of convert or die. This, readers, is an example of extreme ideology in proselytizing.
I said all of the above to say this:
I don’t care what you believe in, I just care that it makes you happy and gives you peace. If you’re happy, that’s wonderful, and I’m not going to hand you an anti-Bible tract on the street and tell you why leaving Christianity was the best decision I’ve ever made. Do me a favor, Christians, and offer me the same respect. You may believe I’m totally wrong and on my way to hell, but don’t force your beliefs onto me. I think your beliefs are totally wrong too, but I won’t stand on the side of the road holding a sign or knock on your door to inform you of your errors. Christians wonder why people get so offended when they’re told that they are awful people who need to depend on Jesus for everything and “get saved” so they won’t go to hell and writhe in flames for all eternity… because God loves them. If you’re a Christian reading this, please realize that, no matter how wonderful your intentions are, people deserve respect, so if they say they aren’t interested in Christianity, don’t push them or try guilt trip them. Yeah, the Bible tells Christians they are the only ones who have it right when it comes to their faith… but take a look around you… is the rest of the world totally wrong while only the Christians are right? If so, then what kind of God chooses to save a few while leaving the billions to perish? Maybe the God of the OT, but not the God of Jesus.
This world isn’t going to get anywhere until people choose to accept others, complete with their differences in religion and lifestyles, and seek a community of respect and love. Aren’t we tired of genocide and holy wars yet? Racism and the subservience of women are ancient problems, yet we still can’t get over them. Why, people… why? Get out of the box and start thinking for yourselves – don’t stay confined within the walls of exclusionary traditions.
Okay, I’m done for now. Yes, it’s unpolished and even scattered, but it contains my soul. Read it carefully and see it for what it is, not what it isn’t.