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Re: the tolerance debate

Administrative Note:

Week's Agenda: Economy

At 11:43 AM 10/16/98 -0700, you wrote:

>> Anyway, I am sick & tired of this debate on religion. Looks like all
>> open-ended debates between 2 Indians end up at this point!
>> - manoj 
>      AMEN TO THAT! Me sick too!

I am too! However, nothing is more trickier, and more important, than the
politics of social relations, esp in a poor developing nation. We cannot
ignore religion, caste, language, etc, as they are the first obstacles to
implementing our other economic policies (although IP is only a discussion
group, I assumed that we acted as if these policies were to be implemented
by an 'enlightned leadership').

In the process of modernization, where certain people win and others lose
(relatively speaking, but hopefully not on an absolute scale), it seems that
people naturally (or are scared into doing so) fall into certain groups and
attempt to win scarce resources fighting as such groups. In this context, if
we do not address these issues, such other policies (e.g., economic,
defense, educational, etc) will not every materialize as politicians
opposing 'our reforms' will fall on the people's fears again to oppose such

Basically, if once cannot devise a consensus on social policies, one will
never get a chance to implement other policies.

I am a little confused as to the theme in the debate, but here is my spin
anyway. Any physical force (in proselytization) should be vigorously opposed
by the state. However, that a person is willing to convert to another
religion for, say $100, is a 'crude' attempt by him to place a monetary
value on retaining his faith. If the state feels that  the "AMOUNT" of money
is too low for such conversions, then it should work on creating wealth
(along with income redistribution) so that, 20 years from now, the 'going
price' for a conversion (after basic needs are met) is, say, $100,000. 

Some may say that it is not a matter of money. My response is, would you
object to an Indian (perhaps yourself) changing his religion for $100? How
about for $1,000,000,000? (Please do not discount this argument because I
use one billion dollars.) As for myself, the first offer sounds ludicrous,
but the second, I must admit, sounds very, very tempting.

To sum up, here is my view: the state should not attempt to regulate faith.
However, as the current poverty is India is creating the perception that
monetary awards for conversion are too low (esp in teh context of the
majority religion is non-proselytizing),  the state, for the sake of
communal harmony, has an interest in trying to minimize such conversions
(i.e., vs economic rewards) for a period of 20yrs (more important than the
number of years is the amount of time needed such that enough wealth has
been created, with enough income distribution, to meet basic needs for the
vast majority of people, such that, it becomes politically acceptable for
the majority, or vast majority, to allow religions to offer monetary rewards
for conversion w/o feeling that the Indians are forced to do so in order to
meet basic needs. (Whew!)

(P.S. I am assuming that the objection to economic incentives in conversions
is only when dealing with the poor in India. Please correct me if I am wrong.)

However, there are may important questions to ask now?
1) What form of govt intervention is appropriate? I think that, at the most,
perhaps govt funding of organizations that promote communal harmony, etc.
2) At what point does it become politically acceptable to allow (w/o
political resistance) conversions for monetary rewards? That is, how much
development is neede? My view is that the process will be gradual. That is,
as development increases, the basic needs of the people will increase, and,
as such, the resistance to such type of conversions decrease. (Also, as
development does increase, then, I believe, the number of conversions for
the sake of money will decrease, and thus the conversion that do occur will
be because of faith!)

I apologize if the above is confusing, but I believe that it solves the
problem in a dynamic way. It provides for a method (albeit controversial) to
preserve communal harmony now. (Remember that the British govt also
intervened to rid Hinduism of sati.) At the same time, it allows for a
gradual move to the ultimate goal here, the complete freedom of religion
(even conversions).

- Pratap Raju

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