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World Religions and Their Missions

Edited By Aaron J. Ghiloni

Schleiermacher maintained that «to make proselytes out of unbelievers is deeply engrained in the character of religion.» But why do religions proselytize? Do all religions seek conversions? How are religions adapting their proclamations in a deeply plural world? This book provides a detailed analysis of the missionary impulse as it is manifested across a range of religious and irreligious traditions. World Religions and Their Missions systematically compares the motives and methods of the «missions» of Atheism, the Bahá'í Faith, Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Islam, and Mormonism. The text also develops innovative frameworks for interreligious encounters and comparative mission studies.
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Chapter 1: The Varieties of Religious Mission


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The Varieties of Religious MissionAARON J. GHILONI


To make proselytes out of unbelievers is deeply engrained in the character of religion; those who impart their own religion can have no other purpose.Friedrich Schleiermacher1

One need not travel the world to be conscious of the global growth impulse of many religions. In familiar places one encounters a religious bazaar in which various faith traditions offer witness. A highway billboard features a frank question written across the vivid red, white, and blue of an American flag: “877-WHY-ISLAM.” A knock at the apartment door on a Saturday afternoon reveals two young men—their name badges stating they are Elders—distributing pamphlets and speaking about a “celestial kingdom.” An airplane is packed with recent high-school graduates forgoing ritual partying in order to build homes for slum dwellers. An urban bookstore is packed for a talk by an eminent writer who encourages people to have faith in humanity rather than churches. A stadium is filled for a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see the Dalai Lama. A flyer appears in the mailbox promoting a Happiness Program helping anxious people gain peace and learn meditation techniques.2 In different ways and for different reasons these are expressions of a similar practice—mission.

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