There is nothing wrong with accepting money to change your religion. Everyone knows that brands can offer incentives to promote their products. So what is wrong with religions tempting people with money, food, or education to join their club? <br></br>
creative commons licensed (BY-NC-SA) flickr photo by Albert Freeman: http://flickr.com/photos/albertfreeman/8642760030

What is Wrong with Religious Conversions for Money?

I see nothing wrong with organizations like the RSS and VHP paying people to convert (or reconvert) back to Hinduism. This “Ghar Wapsi” project is exactly what they should be doing. As long as there is no force or physical coercion involved, paying people to convert is exactly the same as Christian missionaries increasing the flock by promising better education or food.

Let’s face it – religion is a product. A club. Now when Pepsi wants to increase its market share, what does it do? It entices customers. It provides coupons, discounts, special draws, prizes, organizes events and what not. And if Coke wants to match that, it needs to come up with counter offers of its own. That’s how the free market works. If you want others to consume your product, you need to give them a reason to convert. Why should religion be any different?

Belonging to a religion is exactly like belonging to a club. You just need a club ID card.

“But religion isn’t a product!” you say. But why not? This whole nonsense about “conversion” has nothing to do with beliefs. It never has. You think a Christian priest has the power to magically reach into someone’s head and make them believe something all at once? Is there any test, any exam before a person formally changes their religion? No! It’s all about what you put on paper as your religion. That’s all religion is – a piece of paper. Get it out of your head that all this conversion bullshit has anything to do with actual belief.

Belonging to a religion is exactly like belonging to a club. To be a member, you need a club ID card, that is all. It doesn’t matter if you never go to the club, or if you don’t believe in the club’s “ideals”. What matters is only one thing: “What ID card do you have?”

Now if someone tries to use illegal force to threaten someone into carrying a “Hindu” ID card, I have a problem with that. Whatever happens, needs to be done out of a person’s free will – and that includes converting for incentives. There are those who illogically argue that offering someone money or food is “forced conversion”. That’s a load of crap. There is no such thing as a forced conversion – at least not in modern India. Unless someone holds a gun or a sword to your head and threatens to kill you if you don’t convert, all conversions are voluntary by definition.

There is no such thing as a forced conversion

Most of the time I find myself at odds with the RSS’s ideologies and the Hindutva types in general. But on this issue, I perfectly agree. They have realized that religion is a free market. Like any product, it has to be advertised and promoted. To do that, you need incentives. And Christian missionaries as well as Islamic leaders have been doing this for decades. Not just in India, but everywhere else.

Why should Hinduism be denied the opportunity to get a piece of the action? Not allowing the RSS to pay people to convert to Hinduism is unfair competition. Just like Reliance Broadband needs to provide me with incentives to use their service, the RSS is giving people benefits to carry their “Hinduism” membership card. What is wrong with that?

In fact, we need to take this one step further. People should wisen up and not sell their religion cheaply. We need to have a platform where various religions can bid for the allegiance of any given person. For example, if I proclaim that I want to change my religion, I should be able to receive bids from the RSS, the Christian missionaries, and the Islamic leaders. Let these bids be publicly visible so I can get a better price.

And what’s more, I want to keep doing this regularly. This week, I take 2 lakhs to become a Hindu. Tomorrow, I will accept 5 lakhs to be a Christian. After all, there are no contracts, and no “minimum terms” for conversion right?

I think this is a great time to be a consumer in the religion market. There are lots of service providers, each of which is vying for my attention. I will carry the membership card of that religious club which offers me the best benefits.

Why should the government interfere?

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