Friday, December 18, 2009

Religious Conversion as an Economic Enterprise..!!!

Religious Conversion as an Economic Enterprise

By R. Samarasinghe

Religious conversion has to be examined in its global context, because coerced conversion is not a spiritual but a political act with economic motives. So was colonization; though they said they came to civilize us! The so-called religious wars such as the Crusades were about wealth and dominance.

War is not an option any more because it is no longer economically viable. It can lead to expensive recurring conflict, and though beneficial to the Western military industrial complex, have negative political implications at home for the politicians. Therefore cultural hegemony achieved through conversion is an effective political and economic strategy.

The imposition of the belief of cultural superiority of the colonizer was particularly important in effecting social control of the colonized. It also underpinned their racial superiority firmly. This process, defined as hegemony enabled the wheels of capitalist system to move efficiently. The colonizers also created a comprador class, whom they educated, trained and some times christianized to continue their work when they eventually withdrew their military forces of domination. This class has completely internalized the idea of European cultural and racial superiority. Present new missionary activity is simply a readjustment of colonial strategy to suit the new global order.

The British colonizers had an existing developed literary and cultural tradition which they used to good effect through education, to create a tame brown elite in colonized countries; to carry out their policies. But in US, which later became the dominant capitalist state, religion provided the basis for social solidarity in place of a shared culture and it was but natural that they would use controlling forms of Christianity to establish hegemony over people they wished to dominate. This form of Christianity arose from Puritanism, a strict, narrow and literal interpretation of the Bible and has evolved into the present day Fundamentalism. Economically, religion has proved to be a cost-effective form of social control.

Fundamentalist Christian groups, funded mainly from America have continued to use religion as a weapon, funding ‘local’ groups to convert the ‘heathens’. They conduct a spiritual war using sophisticated, psychologically devised forms of mind control and aggressive marketing strategies using electronic media and incorporating them into proselytizing in India and Sri Lanka and other parts of Asia as well as Africa.

It is an attempt to retain economic dominance through cultural/religious hegemony in order to maintain control of valuable resources.

At these mass rallies for conversion they use religion as propaganda. The methods used in conversion are the same as those used in advertising and war fare. They attack the mind from several directions, breaking down the buyers’ or enemies’ resistance.

Buddhism which appeals to reason and focuses on disciplining the mind and promotes critical thinking stand little chance against this onslaught. There are many morally reprehensible methods used in conversion but only a few can be dealt with here.

One of the main techniques used by missionaries is to create a state of cognitive dissonance in their victims’ minds. That is, they would create doubts about the validity of their existing belief systems, at the same time offering some thing ‘far superior’ which would advance them materially and spiritually. The interpretation of reality offered by their original religions as well as the customs etc. will be shown to have less status and usefulness.

Holding two contradictory views at the same time would cause psychological tension, motivating the person to reduce dissonance by changing their attitudes, beliefs or behavious. Aggressive missionary activity would create dissonance and convince some, that their beliefs and culture was inferior; leading them to avoid this emotional tension or cognitive dissonance by changing them. The targeted would shift their allegiance to the spiritual colonizers and identify with them, while seeing the ‘natives’ and their religions through the missionaries’ interpretation.

At some of the prayer meetings where new recruits had been lured, they had been asked to bring a statue or picture of the Buddha or Shiva etc or a picture of the Pope. Then after the initial preamble of denigrating their religions, the recruits would be asked to smash the statue or tear and trample the holy pictures. This would create a situation of ‘no return’ spiritually. The prayer leaders are powerfully persuasive, similar to modern salesmen and use the vulnerability and weakness of the victims to their own advantage, so that they would be forced to conform with the group.

The idea of purifying one’s soul through confession and completely washing away one’s sins (total immersion baptism) has existed since early biblical times. Since man was ‘born of sin’ he had to be made ‘pure’.

During the Cold War, enterprising psychiatrists began to experiment with electric shock therapy and mind altering drugs on their patients. According to Naomi Klein, (The Shock Doctrine 2007), Dr. Ewen Cameron, who had been the president of the American Psychiatrist Association and later of the World Psychiatrist Association, rejected Freud’s talk therapy and began using electroshock therapy as well as a cocktail of newly discovered mind altering drugs to try to return the minds of patients to a state of tabula rasa, where the earlier personality was wiped out, so that he could reprogram them as he wished.

For example, the sheer volume of noise at one of these ‘prayer meetings’ shuts out thoughts and one has no choice but to listen to the magnified voice of the Pastor. His shouting and Halleluiahs are interspaced with loud religious pop music and shouting to Satan, Mahasona (a local demon) and related demons etc to leave forthwith! The confused patients allow manipulation through being stunned by the force of persuasion. Sometimes physical force is used to restrain them. Sometimes it is not only their freedom to think that is murdered but their bodies as well.

In the recent deaths that took place at one of these Evangelical Meetings in Viharamaha Devi Park, one of the women who subsequently died was tied up and isolated in a cage, and her father or relatives were forcibly prevented from accessing her. Thus isolated and intimidated by a screaming Pastor and a shouting and singing mass of unfamiliar people she had gone into shock, as they would have expected, and then they would have reprogrammed her, or ‘saved her soul’; but her body was not prepared for the violence imposed on it. It was a very public execution, all in the name of religion.

There are usually thousands at these conversion meetings and many who come due to sickness or poverty or helplessness are intimidated and coerced by the weight of sheer numbers. The total power of the presiding Pastor backed by the shouting, singing and praying congregation shocks the victims into compliance.

As anyone who reads the history of the Christian religion will know that it has a long history of torture and murder of those who reject their views.

According to Klein, Dr Cameron used what he called “input-overload” or use of six times the normal electroshock to change behavior.

Dr Cameron spoke of ‘wearing down of defenses’ and the ‘breaking down of the individual under continuous interrogation’. The label applied to ‘the enemy’ then was Communist, and now it is ‘infested by Satan’ which really mean non-believer. The word that is repeated again and again is “Jesus” so that Satan is driven out and that word replaces Buddha or Shiva etc. It is ‘shock and awe’ by other means.

Hitler and Mussolini used similar methods very successfully. For them the Satan was the non Aryan Jews and Slavs etc.

The conversions are a two pronged attack against society. They target the poor and vulnerable, because in a democracy numbers mean power, but they also hunt the vulnerable among the power elite. Here, they are able to manipulate the nation through internal interference with the machinery of power, subtly. They target the lonely or the bereaved and depressed among the rich and powerful and promise personal peace and of course salvation. The prayer group provides a substitute family to the lonely and the real family and community are gradually ripped apart.

The core of a culture is religion. The foundation of a nation is its culture. The loss of culture and religion weakens a people and naturally and instinctively we tend to react emotionally and irrationally when our way of life is threatened by alien forces. But in modern context this is not skillful. It is made out into an attack on freedom of choice and therefore a rights issue and also since ‘their’ right to ‘save our souls’ has been given to them by God. Our actions have to be justified through rational behavior and the use of law.

In acting like victims we become disempowered and taking the law into our own hands criminalizes us and makes them, into martyrs - which is what these Evangelists want; in order to obtain more funding from their donors. There is no accountability to the donors or the Government who is responsible for the people they prey on, as to how this vast amount of money is spent.

We are no longer fighting the Portuguese but sophisticated, well funded pseudo-religious organizations who use criminal methods against our society to re-colonize us again. Therefore we should use the law against them but, also ask ourselves why, with free education and free healthcare people still flock to these false messiahs.


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