I wonder how anyone here would feel if a Christian evangelist became a member here and started posting about how Jesus was the answer. I'm not talking about people who have faith and are open about having faith; we've had at least a couple of those here, though neither that I'm aware of is currently active. I'm talking specifically about people who try to push their religious viewpoint on you, who attack your faith or lack of it, assuming your beliefs aren't already similar to theirs; people who tell you you are going to Hell if you don't conform to their beliefs or simply that you're an idiot if you don't.
I have a religion. I make no secret of that. However, one of the tenets of my religion is that we do not seek converts. I have never criticized anyone here for not holding some sort of Jewish beliefs. I have never countered a scientific explanation with a Biblical one, not that I ever would, because I tend to accept scientific explanations - that's not what I use my religion for.
I have experienced online evangelism. I used to participate in AOL's Jewish chat, and we got a lot of people through who attempted to do that, including people calling themselves Messianic Jews, the main sect in that area being known as Jews For Jesus (J4J in Jewish shorthand). They in particular came after Jews hard. I never appreciated it because I thought they had no business attacking my faith if I didn't throw my faith in their faces. I mean as a faith; being Jewish also encompasses ethnicity/culture, which makes defining my particular religion confusing. People attacking my faith without my provoking such a move make me feel like I as a Jew am not welcome.
When I chatted regularly, before I came to Open Salon and started blogging, I'd occasionally visit AOL's Muslim chat. At the time, I hadn't really spoken to Muslims about religion and I was curious. I was respectful. One thing that frequently happened in that chatroom was that they had other visitors, plenty of them, and they tended to be hostile. I heard the usual crap about "Why don't you denounce terrorism?" as if the questioners would know if they already had. And I heard attacks on Islam itself, including from Jews, with accusations about how Allah was a moon god. This is of course bullshit and that the Muslim God and the Jewish God are considered to be the same God is recognized by rabbinic law. I would fight with the idiots on the side of the residents of the room. I made some friends there. As a Jew, I'm sensitive to religious intolerance, regardless of its direction. That's why I occasionally post about intolerance toward Muslims in America. As an American, I believe that religious tolerance is fundamentally American and I'm proud to live in a place that makes a point of emphasizing that. And ashamed when it fails to.
I also visited AOL's Atheist chat once in a while. Interesting crowd. One of the things I noticed there was that I frequently ran across something I came to refer to as atheistic evangelism - the attempt to convert people to atheism. They were startled when I used that term. Of course, I was in their chatroom, so I wasn't going to object too strenuously.
But I'm not in their chatroom here. Here I'm on what should be neutral ground but, when it comes to having a religion, neutral ground is not a good description. Every once in a while someone writes a post blaming "religion" for whatever's on their mind that day. I normally find that annoying because the characteristics of what's on their mind tend not to apply to my branch of my religion, and my branch is the largest American branch. I don't appreciate being branded as something I'm not, which people feel free to do because my own branch is something of an outlier, and because it's atypical I guess I'm supposed to assume that as a person practicing a religion this somehow doesn't apply to me. If I assume it applies to me, I have no choice but to take it personally. In any case, the message is that whoever writes this would be happier with me if I ditched my religion, even though I don't use my religion to inconvenience them, and even though I would argue that some of what they like about me may actually come from my religion.
Sometimes the evangelism is more direct, more typical of evangelism, not targeted at the ostensible behaviors of people with religion but at our beliefs. If this were defensive in nature I'd say that whoever tried to convert the author had it coming, though if it were me I'd do what I could to limit collateral damage. I didn't get the impression that the atheistic evangelistic post I read here yesterday was a specific response to any recent conversion attempt; it was just an evangelistic message posted because the author felt like it and felt free to do it.
All of this is accepted here. I generally respond to this sort of thing because they're often written as if they don't expect an answer that contains any thought, and I think it is my responsibility to help them realize that matters are rarely so simple as they portray them to be.
What I'm beginning to wonder is if I'm accepted here or, to be more precise about it, if I'm accepted in spite of being a practicing Jew. Truth be told, I'm not sure I'm comfortable with that arrangement.
Now that I've figured out what I'm seeing, I realize I may not belong here.