Proselytizing, I can’t stand it. The abstraction of my soul and how God interacts with it is my business! Religion might have the positive intention, and perhaps might provide the benefit of a person gaining a primary understanding of spirituality; but it is something that should be sought out by the individual, not sold or marketed to them.
There is a key element of communication to be noted here: missionary action is a method to keep you talking, and therefore engaged. This provides the first seeds of trust, even though behind it there lies an agenda. As soon as the person has emptied, the wearing down begins. As long as someone has you talking, they have your attention. It is up to you to decide what to do next. Mirror, Break-off entirely, engage them in debate, or tell them off. In the first two instances, you experience the greatest chance of preserving your own energy.
Religion stands as the single abstraction (some idea that man has created into a concept or institution) of creation that can generate the greatest amount of “intense” emotion of any kind. It plays upon the structure of family and exaggerates issues of love, loyalty, duty, obedience, responsibility and power in the hierarchy. For those who actively proselytize others the motivation is always the same: causing you to feel approved of. To the open soul, the approval from the missionary might be to engender in you an internal sense of personal validation of worth. That further lays the foundation for intimacy (one way intimacy, mind you), then, just like a Pavlovian trigger the proselytizer seeks to capitalize upon that safety and then deliver the coup de grace and inform you that their pipeline to God is the answer to all your prayers. Vulnerability is not a bad thing, but making decisions when high emotion and low cognitive filters are present, might be.
Redemption is the payoff! But not the redemption of sins or forgiveness of a higher power, though the word and the promised achievement aims to convince. No, the actual feeling of redemption lies in the person having an emotional experience that temporarily relieves them of the guilt or shame or fear or hopelessness, they hold about their lives. For each “testimonial” is the exhilaration of a rapturous and righteous experience which stimulates those brain chemicals in the pleasure, and the reinforcement of confidence at being on the right side of an idea or argument: “loved by God, and better than you!” Proselytizing is a bit like being at the amusement park and exchanging your money (allegiance or time) to the act of membership, for the tokens of neuro-chemicals that can be redeemed for a spot in some far off heaven.
Proselytizing is not just the chosen method of religious zealots alone. Heck, any extreme or emotionally changed fanatical belief system can darn this strategy. Republican, Democrat, Al-Qaeda, NFL fan, NRA, Right-to-Life, New Age, Earth First, Dr. Phil Fan’s, you name it. Driven by enough monetary or power incentives, the same kind of adulation can be simulated and transferred to the marketplace, sports team, and racial group, as well. Advertising is the psychological application of proselytizing. The message is sent not by a person, at the door, the booth, or the meeting place, but by carefully orchestrated images and words in a disembodied and ubiquitous medium: TV, radio, Internet.
All forms of proselytizing have but one end, to substitute words for real deeds. These words and trappings described and often fail to be deliver, are those promised deeds, feeling, and outcomes, which cause the person to “forgive and forget”. We can’t only blame religion today, however. Sports teams, product loyalties, and political parties all use the same tactics to get your buy-in! In the long run, any message using proselytizing is not bad or wrong; its end is simply more interested in converts than progress.
For those who proselytize, the payoff is simple: approval by inclusion, reward with favors, or feelings of superiority. At the bottom of all external sources of motivation, pressing the safety and reward button within the heart of the individual is the ultimate strategy. Whatever group, doctrine or individual can ferret out the specific need in someone, then conversion occurs and manipulation begins.
No one can ever escape having a spirit within, but how one decides to define it, express it, and interact with it, is all a matter of Free Will, not dogma or ideology.