In Good Faith

How can the motivation to convert others to your religion be considered ethical? Doesn’t it deny the integrity of another person’s sensibility?

Bryan Garner - Ceremonial Magician

Rev. Bryan Garner is a published author, Ninjutsu instructor, lecturer and western ceremonial magician, ordained in the Apostolic Gnostic Priesthood of the Apostolic Johannite Church.

Within the Gnostic Church I am ordained in, converting others is not part of its mission. The clergy within the AJC are encouraged to assist others in finding their individual connection to Divinity rather than adhere to religious dogma or philosophical doctrine. In truth, the concept of salvation for Gnostics is not based on what a person “believes” but an experiential union with the Divine in whatever form that may take. Within the philosophy of the church, it is appreciated that every person has a unique and deeply personal connection to God. Most forms of proselytism run counter to the core principles in that we affirm that there are many ways in which gnosis may be experienced. Thus, freedom of thought is encouraged. 

Julia McKay - Unitarian Universalist

Rev. Julia McKay is the minister of High Plains Church Unitarian Universalist and a professional spiritual companion dedicated to embodied life practices that enhance our deepest ways of knowing.

UUs do not lift up the concept of conversion. In fact, our tradition was founded in the 16th century as the fight for the free exercise of religious conscience. Conversion connotes adherence to a single way of moving through the world religiously, and Unitarian Universalists tend to resist exclusive theological concepts and ideas. Some understand what it feels like to be suppressed by tradition, which is often why people leave organized religion. For them, personal liberation can come from stepping into a free and responsible search for truth and meaning — which often takes great moral courage in the face of pressure to believe and live a particular way. Then what a joy to find a spiritual home with others who also dared the road less traveled! 

Jim Daly - Christian

Jim Daly is president of Focus on the Family, an organization dedicated to helping families thrive. He and his wife are raising two boys. Visit focusonthefamily.com.

Not in the least. To understand why, I think we need to reframe the issue by removing a couple of highly loaded and easily misunderstood words from the discussion: “convert” and “religion.” As I see it, this isn’t a matter of “my ‘religion’ versus yours.” It’s a question of reality and truth and our willingness to examine them together honestly. If I know where a great treasure is to be found and I share that discovery with you, does that mean that I’m “denying the integrity of your sensibility?” Hardly. The apostle Paul never “converted” anyone. Instead, he reasoned with them and persuaded them with evidence and proof that Jesus is the Messiah (Acts 9:22; 18:5, 28; 28:23). Ultimately, the choice to believe was theirs.

Ahriana Platten - New Thought - Unity

Dr. Ahriana Platten is founder-executive director of In Good Faith, leads Unity Spiritual Center and speaks around the country on the topics of interfaith and intercultural understanding.

Most people in our country are able to say “yes” or “no” to faith leaders who attempt to coerce them into religious conversion. Each of us is able to make our own choice in regard to who and what we follow. That said, there are people who are poverty-stricken and without hope and these folks are sometimes manipulated into following a religious path by missionaries who bring relief supplies. I have personally met people who had just such an experience. This, I think, has ethical considerations. No one should be made to feel they must convert to a particular religious path in order to receive food for their children or themselves. It is important that we meet the needs of those suffering without religious requirements.