A message from a UK born desi who is my reader: ”Why don’t you write about forceful religious conversion happening in India by Vishwa Hindu Parishad and others?”
I asked her: “Have you ever heard of the “Coonan Cross Oath”?”
“No. But you are trying to change the subject”
“The oath, known as “Koonan Kurishu Satyam”, was taken by Saint Thomas Christian community of Kerala state in India on 3rd January 1653. It was against forceful conversion by barbarian Portuguese missionaries and to maintain the real secular life in India. The oath resulted in declaration of the sovereignty of Malankara Church in 1665 AD, denying the Pope.”
It was not Hindus, but Christians who had revolted against forceful conversion to Christianity! They raised voice even against Pope!
Lot of good Christians are distressed seeing misuse of the name of Jesus Christ for business of conversion. Religious conversion is an offshore MLM (multi-level marketing) business for these traders.
“You mean to say conversion is business and trade?”
“Yes, of course. Spirituality is the biggest industry in the world. The fights between religions are just about the market share. Religion marketing can be defined as the art of separating the rich from their money and the poor from their traditions, under the pretext of saving the former from their guilt and the later from their poverty.”
I am not talking about the true religious followers. Here the discussion is about the industry run in the name of religions. First, let us take Christianity for instance. For, this industry has mastered a business model better than others. It has become heavily institutionalized involving giant multinational religious enterprises. They run huge offshore MLM business. If business is bad, who will pay for the luxurious life in palatial bungalows for those priests?
The various denominations (sects, cults, castes – now nearly 40,000) inside the industry (religion) can be termed as corporate (companies or firms). All of these firms are involved in the trade of conversion.
With corporate head quarters in the West, these firms did excellent offshore business to make it to No.1 in the world with huge size of staff and revenues. Currently, many firms in that industry make sure that the pastors go get degree (MBA) in marketing too.
If you take Indian market, you would find at least 25,000 retail outlets and more than 5 million salesmen for these firms. Just take a look at any major city in India and do a little bit research on the land owned by various companies in this religion. The asset base of each firm is beyond one’s imagination. (Did you know that this global industry has a strong public relations department – there are more than 4,000 TV and radio stations?
Every year 30,000 new book titles of literature are published. And there are 36,500 periodicals and magazines!) Now, what’s the revenue model for the corporate?
To make it simple, I shall explain a personal experience. Once a salesman (pastor) came to my house with “good news” – that there is a vacant seat in the heaven and I can get it, if I get converted or join his company.
Since I neither believe in heaven and nor want to go there, he couldn’t sell his product/service to me. But I was very hospitable and we became friendly with each other.
I asked him: “Sir, no business can run without a strong revenue model…You are offering up to Rs 1 lakh per person to get converted. But how does your company make money? How would it pay your salary and commission?”
The firm invests Rs 1 lakh on one person and converts him. Naturally, all other members of his family will be compelled to convert. Thus, suppose a five-member-family joined this firm. All ceremonies of the family’s- including birth, marriage and death – are now linked to the firm’s local branch (Church). The branch and office staffs (clergy) get huge fees and commission. The Church can get up to (at least) Rs 5 lakh per person from ceremonies connected from birth to death. 5×5 = 25 lakhs.
Simple mathematics! What investment will give you 25 times return? There are bonuses – the management (priesthood) of the firm can negotiate with the local and national political parties by showing the power of vote bank!
There are auxiliary revenues from other buildings they build for education and healthcare. When all these things are done in the name of religion, nobody can question them too.
So the conversion is NOT to Christianity or Jesus Christ’s teachings. It’s all about business and how to make money out of it. Good Christians always fought against such firms. But these corporate are more powerful and influential so the religion will become a puppet.
Now, take Islam. Its business model is different. What happens to most of the converts? His/her worldview alters. His holy places are now in Arab lands. His sacred language becomes Arabic. His idea of history alters. He rejects his own history. Then he becomes (whether he likes it or not) a part of the Arab story.
That’s why Islamic invaders could destroy the past of the conquered people, their religious places, temples, books and centers of learning. And even forcefully convert their identity into becoming as Arabic as possible. Hence Arabic culture becomes centre of attraction and those economies will flourish. And those oil-rich nations know very well how to intimidate peaceful countries by pumping in monies to nourish terrorists in those countries. Terrorism was a spin-off or diversification of spiritual trade. But it has the status of a separate industry now.
So, in Islam too – the conversion is not the real issue. There is nothing wrong in believing Allah and following Islam and converting people to Islam. But turning normal people into Arabs and then dying and killing for Arabs makes this industry unholy. The irony is that the original Arabs won’t accept the converts as Arabs, even if they dress-up like them or follow their culture. At the best, Arabs can accept you as slaves.
Good Muslims know these facts. They know that Islam is not about being converted to Arab.
Now, take Hinduism – it doesn’t believe in conversion. Still many firms, claiming Hindu background, are in the business of conversion, but in different forms. Hinduism is also now an emerging industry and there are lots of proprietary firms run by businessmen in the name of bhagavan, guru, master, baba, matha, etc.
Some business owners accumulate enormous wealth. Here investment is very less – the businessman (godman) should know a bit of magic (initially), few Sanskrit mantras or words and should have a very good marketing team. He/she should appear in public in fancy dresses (Saffron or white attire). Here, conversion happens not directly in the name of religion, but they use ethos of religion very well. It’s kind of cult-formation.
Good Hindus should understand this and defend our Dharma.
I don’t know if any religious conversion happened in India on merit basis. I personally know few instances abroad were people read and understood Buddhism and Sanatan Dharma and got converted themselves. But I hardly met anybody who got converted to Abrahamic religions without any external pressure. All conversions happened by force, cheating, trapping, exploiting etc. Poverty was the main reason behind most of the conversions. A large chunk of Hindus got converted to Christianity in the South because they were given Bulgur wheat that was provided to India by USA during the famine in early 1900s.
“Not only economy, there were social issues too. History says that people got converted to Islam and Christianity in India to escape from the clutches of Brahmin domination…”
“History written by whom? Missionaries and communists? Caste system in the present form was unknown to India before invaders after 1000AD. India never had Brahmin domination. If the conversion happened to oppose Brahmanism, how come people like Sheik Abdulla and prominent personalities in Kashmir proudly claim that they had Brahmin ancestors! Almost all Syrian Christians in Kerala claim that they are descendants of Brahmins! Why do all elite class Christians and Muslims desperately try to establish their Brahmin ancestry? Such claims themselves are contradictory and baseless”
What’s more there are millions of newly converted Christians in India. They are being told by the converting companies that: “You change your faith and be loyal to the Church. But do not change your names, caste or religion in official records – so that you can avail benefits given to Dalits.” Isn’t this plain cheating? So how can you raise social issue here?
The UK born desi girl didn’t talk for a moment. Then asked me: “Hmm…Uday Sir, now I understand that all religious institutions are commercialized and make money out of their ignorant followers. I understand that like any corporate, they need to increase market share by conversion. But how to stop this conversion issues…”
“Why should we stop it? We know today religions have nothing to do with divinity and humanism. It is cut-throat business, nothing else. The government should encourage this conversion industry but make it accountable. Let more and more entrepreneurs come to the field. But, like any other industry, the companies and employees MUST pay income tax and sales tax. Government should allow conversion, but fix registration fee for conversions”
Our culture, Indian culture, is an inclusive one – so we need all religions here. But all religions should be treated equally. There should be a common law for all citizens of a country, irrespective of the religion he/she follows.