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struggle4progress Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Jun-01-08 02:18 AM
Original message
Question of Proselytizing
I generally am not enthusiastic about street preachers or door to door missionaries: they are usually providing a POV I find not very helpful

I generally assume, however, that the activity is acceptable, though the message not to my taste. I assume this because, from time to time, I have proselytized myself. As a practical matter, essentially all my proselytizing has taken the form of completely secular action on topics which can be understood in purely secular terms. I have distributed leaflets to strangers on public streets; I have organized teach-ins and movie discussions; I have made extensive phone calls to people who I was told were sympathetic to action on a related issue, when I wanted action on an emerging issue; I have gone door-to-door distributing literature for political candidates and so on

People differ widely in what they consider intrusive. A certain number of people are always interested in issues and are glad for whatever information. Whatever the issue is, many people are simply uninterested, and many simply show neither interest nor irritation if one reads the lack of interest correctly and does not press the matter.

Finally, there are the people who are irritated. It is not a homogeneous group. Some people become quite irritated by materials they find thumbtacked to public bulletin board (which exist primarily so that one can thumbtack stuff there); some do not like strangers offering handouts on the street; if you turn your back, some will try to steal (and throw away) your entire literature pile from the table; some dislike having people come to the door; some dislike being called at home, though they themselves gave you their phone number for that purpose

Some irritation is clearly dishonest: I once stood on a traffic island at a stop light, offering literature to stopped drivers, very carefully avoiding all intrusive behaviors such as touching cars, knocking on windows, doing anything that might distract drivers while the light was green; and a number of entirely dishonest anonymous complaints to the police resulted, claiming that I was forcing cars to stop by jumping into the travel lanes or throwing trash into cars if they did not accept my literature et cetera

Now -- is it really impermissible to attempt to sway the emotions and opinions of strangers regarding important issues?

I assume the technique used must respect other people's persons and properties, of course: I am not asking about people who try to shove leaflets into your pants pocket or down the front of your blouse; I am not asking about strangers who ring the doorbell even though you have a no trespassing sign in the drive or people who call you again after you ask them not to call

But is it wrong to walk door to door and ask people to take a stand against torture? Is it wrong to call up people to ask them to take action to stop the war in Iraq -- and if they are sympathetic, ask them to provide the names and phone numbers of several friends who should also get the phone call? Is it wrong to offer people leaflets as they pass on the sidewalk and to offer to discuss some important issue with them. These are all forms of proselytizing, aren't they? Perhaps one even has a moral obligation to engage in such proselytizing





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TZ Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Jun-01-08 07:59 AM
Response to Original message
1. okay...I'll bite
Yeah I found proselytizing VERY irritating. You make some good points---- however, the people who try to do that to me are very convinced what they need to tell me is important, that they really feel like they have to save my poor heathen soul. Whats the difference between them and talking about democratic talking points in the same way? As much as I would like to get the progressive agenda heard, this kind of behavior is well, something I strongly dislike and I think a lot of people feel the same way..If you want to post fliers that's okay or set up a table without aggressively chasing people down fine..
I recently had someone out of the blue come up to me at a mall and ask if I knew "God's plan for me". Suffice it to say that really ticked me off.
Let people come to you, not vice versa. Because if you don't it feels like you are trying to shove your POV down someone's throat and that never goes over well
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struggle4progress Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Jun-01-08 01:42 PM
Response to Reply #1
6. But surely in some contexts, one may have a moral obligation to try to make people
Edited on Sun Jun-01-08 01:43 PM by struggle4progress
hear a POV towards which they may be unsympathetic and resistant?

Consider, for example, the problem facing someone who is concerned about the rule of law and the possibility of injustice, in a social context in which lynching is common. One knows that mob executions tend to be grisly and sadistic affairs; the advocates of lynching have always held that the victim got "what he/she deserved." One also knows that extrajudicial executions tend not to be squeamish about the niceties of evidence and proof; the advocates of lynching have always held that guilt is obvious. A number of similar comments are possible -- but it is certainly true in the US that apparently innocent people have been horridly murdered by crowds from time to time. At least until the 1930s, and perhaps somewhat past that in some locales, politicians (in regions where lynching was common) often refused to take any stand against it

Of course, telling people what they don't want to hear will generally irritate them. But is it your claim that everyone always has a right not to be irritated? For example, is it your claim that in such circumstances opponents of lynching were not entitled to confront those with whom they disagreed? "Hey, Jack! I hear you lynched a harmless idiot for brushing against a little girl as he fell after tripping on a sidewalk board! Good work! :sarcasm:" There's no question that people did not want to hear such criticism: newspapers were sometimes burned to the ground for indicating this kind of disapproval after the fact; while one knows from historical accounts that anyone who actually tried to dissuade a ready lynch mob took a considerable personal risk

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Warpy Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Jun-01-08 02:38 PM
Response to Reply #6
7. I think there is a line being crossed here that needs some recognition
People who are standing on boxes surrounded by fetus fetish signs and lecturing the heathen passers by are in the public sphere and have an absolute right to be as crazy as they want to be, just like I have an absolute right to ignore them as I walk past them.

However, when they bang on my door or call me on the phone, they are intruding into my private life and that is unwelcome. I don't care whether they're trying to sell me Jesus or a cemetery plot. The intrusion is what I find irritating and they will hear about it.



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struggle4progress Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Jun-01-08 03:04 PM
Response to Reply #7
9. But perhaps "public space" is not the central issue. One may, in fact, be harassed
more intrusively in the public space by someone who never actually approaches, than by another person who actually rings the doorbell

I remember a particular street-preacher in a town I once inhabited, who was actually silenced by court order, to almost universal acclaim. Typically, I am somewhat of a free speech fundamentalist: people have the right to express themselves in a manner that allows their message to be heard -- but in this case, I really didn't care that the court made the preacher shut up. What he did, day after day, was this: he found somewhere with a lot of foot-traffic, and hour after hour, Bible in hand, he screamed at whatever woman was passing that she was a whore and a slut and a fornicating baby-killer who was going to Hell. A few people suspected the fellow had failed to develop basic socialization skills and could have some issues with women. He probably didn't actually know any of the women at whom he was shouting, but a number of them disliked the daily experience, felt harassed and slandered, tried to avoid him -- and eventually a few of them filed some complaint against him that produced an injunction.
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Warpy Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Jun-01-08 03:47 PM
Response to Reply #9
10. He was also not proselytizing, merely screaming hatred
at a group of people who are put into a group through no choice of their own. That was verbal abuse, not proselytizing. There's a line there, too.

The bottom line is this: you can lecture all you want in public. If you invade my private space at my inconvenience to do so, you will find out what a pungent command of the English language I have. You will not make the same unmannerly mistake twice.

Get the differences yet?
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struggle4progress Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Jun-01-08 06:07 PM
Response to Reply #10
15. So it is your view that no issue can have such moral importance that
it may justify someone getting in your face about it?
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Warpy Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Jun-01-08 07:15 PM
Response to Reply #15
17. That's your strawman
I've already answered your question.

Now go play with the strawman before he gets lonely.
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struggle4progress Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Jun-01-08 09:49 PM
Response to Reply #17
19. No: it's the question I raised in the OP and again in #6
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TZ Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Jun-01-08 04:26 PM
Response to Reply #6
11. If they are unsympathetic or resistant...
I doubt they are gonna listen period. Especially if they feel like you are "in their space". Irritated people tend to tune out, even if it might be something they are normally willing to consider. I think its the same way with political solicitations. I am interested in politics obviously but I can't tell you how much the robo calls or door knockers irritate me, even if they might be candidates that I like.
Its less about people having the right not to be irritated but about the basic psychology of people. I really think that the majority of people are not converted to believe by this kind of behavior.
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struggle4progress Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Jun-01-08 06:05 PM
Response to Reply #11
14. Of course, if one tells people what they don't want to hear they tune out
But perhaps sometimes one might still have a moral obligation to tell them what they don't want to hear?

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trotsky Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Jun-02-08 10:51 AM
Response to Reply #1
21. You left out one little detail, sue.
It wasn't just ANY mall that you were accosted at. It was the MALL OF AMERICA. So by extension, by hating proselytizers at the Mall of America, you therefore hate America. But then we already knew that. ;-)
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HamdenRice Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Jun-01-08 08:22 AM
Response to Original message
2. I think politics is different from religion for a few reasons
Edited on Sun Jun-01-08 08:24 AM by HamdenRice
It is assumed within our democratic culture that people make political choices based on reason. That probably is not true for many, many people (consider the conservatives who will never vote Democratic under any circumstances), but that is the basic premise. Part of political reasoning is discussion, debate and reading.

So if you are handing out political literature or talking to people in the street you are engaging in behavior that is accepted in the political domain.

Religion is generally thought to be a matter of deep personal emotional commitment, as well as family and community identity. According to this model, no amount of discussion, literature and debate is likely to turn a Catholic into a Baptist. So the Baptist's street corner preaching in a Catholic neighborhood seems not just presumptuous and insensitive, but ultimately futile.

I also think the style of proslytizing is annoying to people. Here in New York, the worst are the subway preachers. They get on the train during rush hour and begin preaching -- loudly. Passengers are literally a captive audience because all the doors of the train car are locked. Because this is New York which is very diverse, they don't express any judgment about other religions, but they do actively promote their own religion in an "in your face" way. I think that this stylistic issue is why some political proslytizing is equally annoying -- the "in our face" politics of the street demonstration wherein the demonstrators walk up to individual bystanders to loudly make their point. PETA comes to mind.

On the other hand, I find it difficult to get very annoyed at Jehovah's Witnesses, because generally their proslytizing is a lot like political proslytizing -- it's usually just, "would you like something to read today?" The only annoying part is that they seem to have radar that knows when I am in the middle of some home improvement project and therefore precisely when is the very worst time of day to ring the doorbell!
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smoogatz Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Jun-01-08 09:24 AM
Response to Original message
3. I have no objection to proselytizing in public spaces,
as long as I'm free to walk away. I do object very much to having people come to my door or call on the phone to proselytize: these are unwanted interruptions and invasions of my space and I resent them on that level. I'm also frankly not interested in other people's religions: I've heard pretty much everything there is to hear about the evangelical creeds by now, and I'm more convinced than ever that their god is a human invention. As for political leafletting, I may support your cause but still find you annoying. If I want to engage in political discussion, I'll do so in a place and time of my choosing and I'm likely to resent anyone who fails to respect my privacy and my space.
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struggle4progress Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Jun-01-08 02:46 PM
Response to Reply #3
8. These seem to be a natural views, shared by a non-negligible segment of the population
and I think that as a general rule people are entitled not to be pestered

Still, if one explicitly asks "May we call you about related issues?" a substantial number of people will volunteer their phone numbers and yet when contacted express real irritation that they are being pestered. Apparently something else is going on

And -- might an issue to be so important that one had a moral obligation to attempt to pester people about it?
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smoogatz Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Jun-02-08 03:14 PM
Response to Reply #8
24. I never give out our phone number.
I just don't. Those who do should certainly expect to be called, yes, though their annoyance when that happens isn't all that surprising. Who said people are supposed to be consistent? Or smart? If DHS was rounding up subversives and sending them off to the KBR detention camps I'd want to know about it. If that happens, you can definitely call me. Short of that, I'll catch it on DU, thanks very much.
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More Than A Feeling Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Jun-01-08 09:56 AM
Response to Original message
4. Truth? I don't mind proselytizing one bit (except in one special case)
Talking about religion in real time is a nice change of pace from the internet, and I feel more than able to rationally defend myself in argument from strangers preaching outdated cultural dogmas. Also, I will claim my right to attempt to de-convert them once they have tried to convert me.

I think the most defensible objections that can be made to proselytizing are (1) if it happens at times when any message promotion would be a hassle (2) Morally, we want to see truth prevail and lies defeated in the marketplace of ideas, and proselytizing is energy wasted on lies that, in the opinion of the target, have been already refuted.
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JerseygirlCT Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Jun-01-08 01:30 PM
Response to Original message
5. It's not a question of the arriving at the door for me
it's how politely they leave when asked to do so!

IOW, you can start the conversation, but my participation is under *my* control. If a person thinks otherwise, for whatever reason, then we're into rude territory.
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Meshuga Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Jun-01-08 05:10 PM
Response to Original message
12. I see the door-to-door people the same way as I see telemarketers
I am not interested in their products so I turned them down. I am glad to have my phone numbers on the "do not call" list so I do not get the from telemarketers calls anymore (except from my own credit card company trying to sell me insurance or offer more shit).

I wish there was such a thing as the "do not knock list" for people trying to sell me religion, magazine subscription, Kirby vacuum cleaners, new windows, political positions, etc. so they would not waste my time or their own time. However, I usually buy things from kids who knock on my door trying to raise money for their school. But that's it.

The only religious people who knock on my door these days (and rarely) are Mormons who are usually pleasant even when I (always politely) reject their request to discuss religion. They don't insist so I have no beef with mormons knocking on my door. But in my own experience, I cannot say the same about JW's and Evangelicals.

I only take offense to the people who use dishonest means in order to proselytize. For example, Jews for Jesus. It doesn't bother me that there are Jews who decide to follow Christianity but it bothers me when there are people who dress as Jews in order to sell Christianity. But only if they fool me, like the fact that I almost sign my kid up to a "Jesus Camp" type of place thinking it was a Jewish school.
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struggle4progress Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Jun-01-08 05:54 PM
Response to Reply #12
13. In many parts of the country, people who really do not want to be bothered
Edited on Sun Jun-01-08 05:54 PM by struggle4progress
post "No soliciting" or "No trespassing" signs; in some cases, this is not merely a statement of preferences but also implies certain legal presumptions
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Meshuga Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Jun-01-08 06:49 PM
Response to Reply #13
16. I think my homeowners association would have a problem with signs
Edited on Sun Jun-01-08 07:15 PM by MrWiggles
on my door or in my front yard. But I think the "No soliciting" signs are usually ignored anyway. It was true when I lived in an apartment. People knocked on the door anyway.

It doesn't matter. I haven't had a bad experience here in a long time but I think I have just jinxed myself.
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Jokerman Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Jun-02-08 10:28 AM
Response to Reply #13
20. We have a "No Soliciting" sign.
This discourages many of the people pushing products but the people pushing religion ignore it completely.

When I point the sign and ask them to read it they invariably insist that what they're doing isn't "soliciting".


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ayeshahaqqiqa Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Jun-01-08 07:54 PM
Response to Original message
18. I wouldn't know if it is impermissable--but it could be impossible
Anyone who has ever been involved in PR would tell you you are more likely to get "hits" from literature being passed out is to target an audience that is likely to be interested in what you are saying. Yes, torture is wrong, and most folks would probably agree with you--but not all. I wouldn't pass out such literature to some households in Zinc, for example--I know those folks are members of the KKK and would think it quite acceptable to torture certain members of society. Other people may have personal worries to such an extent that they cannot think of anything else. One must be sensitive to these things, especially if your point is to enlist as many people as you can to your cause.
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zonmoy Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Jun-02-08 11:11 AM
Response to Original message
22. For me it depends on how the proselytizing is done
persons gonna bully me into changing my views. particularly after I say to his face that I think that god is an evil bastard that is about the only being that needs killing. then I am not going to be nice to them. If they want an intelligent discussion about my beliefs and why I believe them then that is great. if they run away then I am fine with that.
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Evoman Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Jun-02-08 11:39 AM
Response to Original message
23. Honestly, proselytizers don't bother me all that much.
What I get pissed at more is people who know that I'm atheist and don't respect that. Besides, people don't really approach me all that much. Apart from the Gideons who always give me those small little New Testaments, nobody ever wants to stop me on the street.

I have mormons and JW's walk right past me and accost the people behind me.

I don't know...I'm a friendly looking guy and since I've lost a lot of weight and grown my hair back, I'm not even intimidating anymore.

:shrug:
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Lydia Leftcoast Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Jun-02-08 10:25 PM
Response to Original message
25. If people have questions, I answer them
but I've always been uncomfortable with the missionary mindset, probably because I have had fundamentalists use it on me.

They do NOT consider us liberals to be allies. Far from it: we're the enemy because we demonstrate another way of looking at the Bible and Christian tradition.
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