Monday, June 27, 2005

Why don't we encourage conversions

It's been discouraged for thousands of years, but it wasn't always the case. Prior to the popularization of Christianity, there were many non Jews that either converted to Judaism or were halfway there as "G-d Fearers". They attended synagogues and lead a Jewish like lifestyle.

Conversion is a great way to swell our ranks and frankly the only way to ensure our demographic survival. Why should we always suffer as a tiny minority. Lets assume that we can convert 10 million people to Judaism. That would double the number of Jews in the world in the span of one generation.

Is this impossible? Not if we think Judaism is something worthwhile. Both Islam and Christianity obviously grew their ranks through conversion and not procreation.

Does this mean that we need to give up our principles? I don't think so. Even assume that we follow strictly Orthodox conversions to satisfy all factions of Judaism it is not at all impossible. You may not be very successful in Belgium, but what about South America or Africa or even the United States. There are plenty of people that are looking for a way to connect spiritually and Judaism can certainly provide as good a conduit as the other major religions.

So why the taboo?


Blogger Sechel said...

You're right. We need to stop with the phobia about conversion already. Somewhere in the gemora is a statement that the whole reason for the exile is to gather converts. If so, perhaps we can't expect the exile to end until we do our job and get the converts we're supposed to be gathering. So what if the other religions don't like it?; they can hardly complain when they're doing their best to convert us to their own brand of faith.

BTW, I have a different take on the "authenticity" of conversion than most do. There's a tendency to see converts who convert for ideological reasons as being more kosher than those who convert for love. I think the truth is the exact opposite.

Here's why: Ideologues structure their lives around ideas. They tend to be less emotionally stable, and are more likely to become extremists. In fact most of the most evil individuals in history have been ideologues.

Those who convert for love, however, structure their lives around human beings. More firmly anchored in reality, they are less likely to become extremists. They are more stable, more deeply attached to human realtionships, which are the strongest basis for developing compassion, love, and all the many important ethico-religious qualities that ideologues are typically deficient in. What they may lack in zeal they more than make up for in basic humanity.

August 04, 2005 6:25 AM  
Blogger e-kvetcher said...

Sechel, I sometimes wonder what would happen if the entire world would become the same religion. Since the odds of this are 0.0, I may as well have some fun speculating. I suspect the following will happen: immediately, there will be splinter groups who will fight bitter battles against each other over petty differences. Pretty soon, the splitner groups will differ enough to qualify as different religions.

I don't think there's anything wrong with people that convert because of a relationship. In some ways this illustrates that they are definitely not religious ideologues since they are willing to give up their religion to convert to another one. However, it almost seems to indicate that religion is a way to exacerbate strife and tensions between people who love one another.

August 06, 2005 9:09 PM  
Blogger Sechel said...

Despite religion's downside, as you point out, I still think the balance of the evidence overall is in favor of religion as a force for good in the world. Without religion we'd have little or no concept of charity, honesty, individual rights, etc. It would just be dog-eat-dog.

No question, though, it's common for religions to completely be the opposite of what they purportedly were supposed to be all about. I think we see convincing evidence that Islam in particular is a distorted charicature of what a religion should be. It's more of an insult to G-d than a way of loving Him, when Muslims yell out Allah Akbar! after they commit yet another perverse act of violence against the innocent.

When you say religion seems to be a way to exacerbate strife among people who love each other you are talking more about interfaith marriage?

August 07, 2005 8:04 AM  
Blogger e-kvetcher said...

When you say religion seems to be a way to exacerbate strife among people who love each other you are talking more about interfaith marriage?

That's exactly what I'm talking about! It was a statement regarding a personal relationship, not a philosophical truism.

August 07, 2005 8:04 PM  
Blogger fear from love. said...

s4e, just started reading your blog, from the beginning, and decided i must comment.
why dont we encourage conversions? one of the points you made was that it would swell our ranks, and that it would end our suffering. which brings to mid two prophecies in the torah, a) that we are to be a small nation and b) that we are to suffer at times. point b) is joined to point a)
the jewish nation doesnt suffer because we are a small minority of all people on earth. we suffer for the reasons outlined in behaalosecha, because we dont do what we must.
which leads me on to my next point if we were doing what we are meant to be doing, i.e. being a light unto the nations people would join the ranks, there would be queues all around the world looking to sign along the dotted lines. Abraham changed the world because he was a great human being, one of the most amazing examples of what one person can achieve, people listened to him and wanted to sign up for his message, if we all truly aspired to be as great and connected and showed the world how great it is to be a yid everyone would come along.
however the whole world isnt meant to convert and become jewish, the purpose for the world is for everyone to realise there is one G-d who we call HaShem, unlike other religions we dont see Non jews as being invaluable and that they lack any purpose without being jewish, on the contrary even non jews can enter the world to come and in this world assist the world towards its destination of the messianic era. a time where there isnt a mass conversion, rather everyone is judged jew and no jew based on how they helped propel the world to perfection.
there is no taboo, people can convert, but we dont actively advertise because we have enough problems, too many jews arent observant themselves, lets take care of ourselves, and when we do then well see people clamoring to climb aboard

May 18, 2009 8:33 AM  

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