My question pertains to how a Buddhist should deal with religious solicitation, specifically Jehovah’s Witnesses. They’ve yet to stop at my house, but other people I know have already had them come to the door and I’m trying to decide the best approach to what I feel is an awkward situation. I’d hate to be blatantly rude to them, they mean well in their own way, but I just don’t agree with the idea of ‚Äúbothering‚Äù people at home to try and peddle your religion. I feel like I should be receptive to anyone who means well, and in a perfect world I’d like to be hospitable and invite these people in to sit down- I recognize they must face a lot of very negative people during their day and my heart would want to be sympathetic and understanding, but this isn’t a perfect world, and I was brought up that you do not talk to strangers, much less invite them in your house. Is it better to be straight forward and say ‚Äúno thanks I’m content with what I’m currently doing‚Äù and risk seeming rude, or should I let them make their speech? I feel like the latter may be misleading since I really have no interest in converting, so is that lying? So‚Ä¶WWBD? What would Buddha do if someone knocked at his door? any thoughts you or any other reader/listening might have would be much appreciated.
This annoys me. I know, as a Buddhist, I shouldn’t get annoyed. Let’s call it a pet peeve then.
I have to admit, in my younger days, I’d always quickly explain that, “I can’t talk right now, I’m sacrificing a goat in the basement,” and hastily close the door. Was it rude? Yes. Was it ethically wrong? I’m not so sure. Let’s look at all the factors here:
You want to invite them into your house and be hospitable to them. That’s nice. I’m sure they do meet many negative people during their travels; that’s because they are bothering people with ideas with which they disagree. If you could have a legitimate conversation with them, and explain your beliefs to them, that might be a valuable opportunity for both “sides” to learn, but it just doesn’t work that way; like any good sales professional, they know how to get around your objections.
You say they mean well; that they have your best interests at heart. That’s probably true in most cases, but here’s something that many people don’t know. Did you realize that some of these groups actually have quotas on the number of hours per month that they MUST knock on doors and proselytize? It’s a requirement of membership in the church. So don’t necessarily just assume they are doing it out of their love for you or desire to save your souls; they simply have no choice.
I think everyone should be made aware of what the major religions teach; I’d love to see Comparative Religions as a required course in high school (Yes, in all high schools). I know roughly what the Jehovah’s Witnesses, Mormons, and other groups believe, and I don’t believe in it. I am aware of it, and I have made an informed decision to disagree. There is nothing in Buddhism that says you cannot listen to other groups preach their religions; they all have some good ideas. So if you are curious about them and actually want to sit through a lesson or lecture, then there’s no harm in listening. But if you are happy where you are, and already know that you aren’t going to convert, then by inviting them in, you are wasting their time as much as they are yours.
Buddhism is the FOURTH largest religion in the world, after Christianity, Islam, and Hinduism. Why is it only number four? Generally speaking, it’s because Buddhists are more passive and do not actively proselytize and evangelize looking for converts. There are very few “Buddhist Missionaries” out there. It’s better that people make the decision to follow the Buddha’s Path on their own. Forcing them to do it, or annoying them into giving in to it, isn’t the Buddhist way.
So no, I think closing the door on them and getting them to move on in the fastest possible way is going to be less frustrating for you as well as less time-wasting for them, reducing suffering for all. Choose your battles wisely, this is one you won’t be able to win.
Am I being overly harsh here? I don’t know, maybe. As I said earlier, it’s one of my big pet peeves. And, as always, feel free to comment in the section below if you agree, disagree, or want to share your own experience on this.