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Missionaries

Recently I watched a video on YouTube where a girl was talking about how she was involved in a “service” project aimed at helping missionaries give food, water, and medical supplies to a third world country. I have to say that this type of thing makes me sick to my stomach. While I am all for sending food, water, and medical supplies to third world countries, I think they need to leave Jesus at home.

It isn’t a “service” to use people’s hunger and poverty as a tool to convert more followers. A real service would be if one gave them those things without the missionaries. To me, this type of “service” does harm in two main ways. First, if uses people’s hunger and poverty as a recruiting tool and second, Churches use this type of thing as a public relations stunt to get more recruits here in America.

While I don’t think most missionaries are as diabolical as Saint Teresa who would literally bribe people with food. She wanted people to denounce their native religion and pray to Jesus in order to get food and if they don’t, than they can starve until they do. Still, even if most missionaries aren’t in that category and are being much less in-your-face about their proselytizing, the fact is that is their “mission,” hence the term “missionary.” Saint Teresa was just more honest about it.

Some people will tell me that these poor people are getting what they need and does it really matter that they are being taken advantage of by these predators as long as they are getting fed and aren’t starving to death? I think it does matter. For one thing, the ends don’t justify the means. So while I am happy that starving people are getting food and that these people are getting the medical supplies that they need, that still doesn’t justify the intentions of the missionary groups.

Once again, I can pull out the old Staks Test of Church/State Separation and see what is really going on. Let’s say that Tom Cruise decided to lead a team of Scientologists to Ethiopia. They brought with them lots of food, water, and medical supplies for thousands of people. Plus, out of the kindness of their hearts, they decided to give everyone a free personality test and discounted auditing session. What do you think most Americans would think about Tom Cruise’s generosity? What would most Christians think? “Well, at least the Scientologists are feeding all those starving people.” Or would they think, “Those despicable Scientologists are taking advantage of those poor people.”

The only difference here is that instead of free personality tests with every meal, these people get free Bibles with every meal. I hardly call this a service. It is despicable and those who attempt to take advantage of these poor people by using their poverty and hunger against them should be ashamed of themselves. I am all for feeding the hungry and sending medical supplies to those in need, but keep your Jesus out of it.

There are many secular organizations people can support which go into third world countries with food, water, and medical supplies. These organizations are not there to win converts. They are there to help people: DoctorsWithoutBorders.org, UNICEF.org, S.H.A.R.E, The Fred Hollows Foundation, and The Foundation for AIDS Research.

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  • http://myspace.com/scott888 Scott

    Missionary trips are my pet peeve. I meet women that do these things and they think it is the greatest thing ever. My brother who is 18 found a girl he liked and it turns out her family is religious. So he decided to give up what I taught him for a woman. Last June her whole family went to New Guinea. The reasoning behind it is because it’s a great way to visit another country. Missionaries using church money to explore the world. I imagine they will only put minimal effort into converting.

    Since I moved back to my parents house I have worked common sense into him. Yet he is still going to visit them in December, the plane ticket is already bought. So he is still going to visit them for the sake of seeing another country for a week or two but he seems to have realized he can’t hide his disdain of religion forever. He went to church with them once and he saw first hand what happens in church. That is badmouthing evolution and he referred to what he saw as a “cult”.

  • http://MAYSPACE LORD OF DARKNESS

    I HATE MISSIONARYS ONE THING THEY DO TO IS BRING A BAD LIGHT ON AMERICA, FOR INSTANCE GOING TO THE MIDDLE EAST AND PREACHING THERE WAY CREATES HATE FOR ALL AMERICANS, AND IF THEY HATE US THEY BOMB US, JUST MY OPINION

  • Jim

    Just as you other posts seem to suggest that all Religions are bad, thus all Missionary work is bad as well. Nothing could be further from the truth.

    Went on a missionary trip with my Church last year to a very remote area of Peru. No electricity and certainly the sanitary conditions were very bad–I and a few others came back with slight cases of disentary. No one in our group pushed our beliefs in Christ on anyone. We did, however tell people about Christ when asked. Helped build a church down there and showed the locals how to do such things as basic carpentry–how to work with their plentiful wood instead of the traditional mud brick used in most of their houses and structures. Took down many toys for the children and items of clothing which we left with them. Food was not an issue as just about every fruit grows year around down there about 100 miles from the Equator.

    One vital aspect is in what that trip taught us. That all the “plenty” here in America doesn’t make for more happiness–we just think it does. It certainly has impacted many of my priorities as to “stuff” we all accumulate and the false need for continual entertainment plus, all the other things I think I need at times.

    Hopefully in this village, we put a good face on this America which some there said was full of arrogant, selfish, rude people. Lots of hugs when we left and even had to take along a couple of chickens which they gave us as a gift. Refusing this gift would have been an affront, as we were told.

    • http://www.dangeroustalk.net Staks

      Thank you Jim for illustrating the point! So you went around telling them about Jesus and you built a church. While I can’t say all Christian missionaries take advantage of those in poor nations, I can say that you and your group certainly did. Like I said before, just help others and leave Jesus at home. You built them a church and you don’t think that is pushing your religion on them? Really? If Tom Cruise built them an Auditing Center, what would you think? I just don’t understand how you cannot see what you did as taking advantage of people. That is just amazing to me.

      • Jim

        You assume too much–wrongly I may add. We went down there more-or-less as an answer to a request for help from the pastor of this already established church group. In fact, members of our church had been going down for about 6 years to the area. The pastor of this church down there was a local—Jesus Christ was already taught a lot, so we weren’t pushing any “Religion” on anyone who hadn’t already heard about Him. Historically, the area had been somewhat controlled by the Catholic Church as to the religious aspect–we presented a Faith that was far different than the controlling aspect of Catholicism.

        Taking advantage of people?–I think not, because while we worked, the locals too were eventually motivated to finish the projects with us.

        • http://www.dangeroustalk.net Staks

          Jim you are not helping your case. First you claim that your fellow Christians have already pushed their religion on these people for 6 years now and then you claim that most of the people have already had Catholicism pushed in their face and that your Christian sect is going to push their version on them instead. You show up there with technology, food, and supplies, of course these people are going to think you have all the answers to life’s questions and and worship as you tell them you do. It isn’t like most Christians claim to be unsure of whether or not their beliefs are true. Most Christians claim to “know” the “Truth” with a capital “T.” If that doesn’t say arrogance, than I don’t know what does.

          • Jim

            You seem to falsely assume that all Christians “push” Religion. Well, we could discuss what “Religion” entail and really why Religion, in and of itself isn’t the answer.

            More importantly though, just as I discuss what I Believe with you—it isn’t with some sort of false hope that you will believe as I do but rather that instead of you having this generalized view of Christians and how we are all supposedly pushing what we believe onto others—some of us actually try to do things in a truly compassionate way.

            You write that most Christians claim to know their version of Truth and how that equates to arrogance. Arrogance is excessive pride or vanity–all pointing to self. It’s true that many Christians get caught up in “self” and the vanity and arrogance that comes with saying “I have the truth”, but many of us do recognize that danger and instead focus on the compassionate side that resides in all of us. I too, abhor the rabid Christian Right that seems to attempt to represent all of us because it’s so vocal and very full of hipocracy.

            • http://www.dangeroustalk.net Staks

              Jim, first let me set the record straight. I didn’t say nor do I believe that ALL Christians push their religion. I did say that the mission of missionaries is to do just that, push their religion. That’s the mission. Hence the term mission-ary.

              Second, while not all Christians and maybe not even all missionaries push their religion on those who are vulnerable, you and your mission clearly did.

              While I am glad to have you as an ally against the Religious Fundamentalists, the fact is that your delusional belief is still dangerous and still not supported by any facts whatsoever. If you really want to help people for their sake and not your sake, you will leave Jesus at home next time and instead of building a Church to your God, you will build a school or a hospital for those people.

              • Jim

                Second, while not all Christians and maybe not even all missionaries push their religion on those who are vulnerable, you and your mission clearly did. —-Staks

                Not to belabor this point as to whether I or my group “pushed” any belief system onto anyone—I was there, you weren’t. Your bias as to my having a belief system that is delusional [as you say] is very telling.

                Looking to Webster’s for the definition of mission or missionaries, I find that it could include a lot of things [even secular diplomatic functions] and not necessarily just spreading Faith in God.

                • http://www.dangeroustalk.net Staks

                  You were there and I was not. This is true. If you had not given your first hand account showing that you did in fact push your beliefs on people, I would not have made such a statement. So either you and your church pushed your religion on these people or your account of the events of your mission were not true. You seem like an honest person to me Jim. I have no reason to think you otherwise. So I will take you at your word that you gave a reasonably accurate account of your “mission.” If that is true, than yes you and your church did push your beliefs on vulnerable people.

                  Second, the dictionary is a resource not an authority. The term “missionary” is a religious term. While it can be used as slang for any type of mission to convert, it is derived from the idea that the mission for Christians is to spread the “good news.” That is where the term comes from Jim. That is “the mission.” I do find it hard to believe that your church sends out missionaries that don’t agree with the mission. It is especially hard to believe in light of your claim that your missionaries built a church in this third world country and yet they had no desire to push their religion? Come on Jim, be honest with yourself. Your church group laid out all that tax-exempt money to save souls and you were complicit in that.

  • Eric

    It’s a little hard to believe that the missionary, when he was in Peru, never actively went up to anyone and talked to them about Jesus first, that the locals would come up to him and his group and ask questions about Jesus. I have volunteered several times in the third world and I was never approached by anyone to ask me about Jesus. I’m an American who also happens to be an Atheist. They would have no way of knowing that I was and I would think the locals would assume that I was Christian, but they never wanted to hear about Jesus, they were more interested in knowing about American music, sports, etc. I think this guy may be stretching the truth a little. Plus, why would a church spend it’s money to just have its missionaries wait for the locals to maybe come up to them and “ask about Jesus?”

    • http://www.gravesnovels.com Diana

      Maybe the locals asked the missionaries what the hell they were building in the middle of the village? lol …an invitation to sale an imaginary product if every I saw one, right?

      You know, if some crazy foreigners came to my neighborhood and took my neighbor’s yard and started building a huge structure…I might be inclined to ask what the hell they were building.
      If they told me it was a building where people could worship some god, and there was no one within a hundred miles that worshiped that guy…I would be pissed.
      These pompous foreigners are wasting our resources to build a temple to their god in our town, believeing, arrogantly that we would need it, or could use it. That we would join their cult because they were nice to us…”if you build it they will come”

      But that’s me, and I’m not starving or poor or undereducated or sick, so I can afford to be stubborn. Being a stong stubborn person is a luxury. Cults prey on the weak: the traumatized, the dying, the oppressed, the addicts, the abused, the lonely…religions take advantage of their delicate state of mind.

      But, I think that most people of whatever cult, see these perverse actions as noble, as saving souls…Whatever the reason, if they can get just one person to actually swallow that nonsense, to become as delusional as they are, they have done their god’s work…missionaries are like a pandemic, spreading the brain disease that is religion.

      Of course, religious people don’t see the damage they are causing. Does the swine flue virus see that it is killing it’s child host? No, and the relgious don’t see that they are holding human kind back and that doing so could end us as a species. Humans have lasted this long because we can evolve, and so we must, religions of the world be damned.

      Not to mention they kill in the name of their magical mythologies…does the thought of muslims with nukes scare the shit out of anyone else?

      And has anyone considered homosexuality as an advance in evolution? Think about it…We need more people to be homosexuals for two reasons. One, we have many children without loving homes. Two, we have too many people, we are grossly over populated. Gays and Lesbains can adopt these children and wont add to the population. Homosexuals, in part, can save us and it is the religions of the world that disallow this…just a thought…

      A bit off subject :)

      • Eric

        Very well put. Christians love to invoke the golden rule and I think that’s a perfect way to test the ones who think Missionary work is somehow honorable. I would ask if they would be okay with Muslims coming to their neighborhood and building a mosque, lets say in a poor neighborhood in the Appalachian Mountains, in return for helping build better homes, of course, all this would depend on them converting to Islam. Since they of course, wouldn’t except that, maybe they should “do unto others as they would have done unto them.” The hypocracy and arrogance is alarming!!
        Not only does the thought of Muslim extremists with access to nukes scare the hell out of me, so does “end of days” Christians like George Bush being any where near the nuclear codes!

    • Jim

      Humanitarian mission work is noble to be sure–but when one adds the aspect of “love thy neighbor as thyself” and recognizes the Source {Christ} as to truly loving people—-it’s far more “solid”. For some Christians, going on missions may be a self-gratifying thing, but for at least me it was very humbling.

      • http://www.dangeroustalk.net Staks

        Jim, I wrote a blog entry about what the Bible means by “neighbor.” You will be so surprised.

        Again though, this shouldn’t be about self-gratification. That is very selfish. If you want to help other people, than help other people. But leave Jesus home.

        • Jim

          I will look for your blog entry and respond to it.

        • SamStaurophobia

          Yeah, it’s a very simple concept. I would gladly help people if it didn’t have to do anything with religion and I could afford it. Just leave the Jesus stuff out of it, you know?

  • Eric

    One more thing, Jim says some of the villagers he visited said that America is full of arrogant, selfish, rude people. I wonder why they would get that impression when a group of Americans, uninvited I’m sure, show up, build a church and make it obvious that their belief system is superior. Like Staks says, next time volunteer your time and do some good, but leave Jesus at home.

    • Jim

      What is this difference between some arrogant, legalistic Church group pushing their Faith onto others and an Atheist such as yourself, demanding that Missionaries be silent about Christ? It’s really all about the control that some want to push onto others because of their own Beliefs or non-beliefs.

      • http://www.dangeroustalk.net Staks

        I’ll tell you since you asked. The organizations that I listed at the bottom of this blog entry are atheistic. But they don’t go to these countries telling them that their is no god. They go to these countries to help those people. The topic of religion doesn’t come up… at all. Doctors without Borders don’t go around telling people to reject their religion. They go and heal the sick. They don’t build humanist temples, they build schools. Demanding that Missionaries act respectful to others and not try to take advantage of those is less fortunate situations is not really an arrogant position to take. It is a position which stresses common respect and decency. Have you no decency, sir? You really have to go to other countries and push your beliefs on others to humble yourself and give yourself gratification? It might be more humbling if you realized that not everyone believes as you do and their beliefs and superstitions are just as well supported as yours. The difference is that your belief has tons of money, technology, food, water, medical supplies, and political power and they just have their poor village.

        • Jim

          You still haven’t answered “what is this difference in you demanding that people such as me keep silent about Christ and some of these very pushy, in-your-face Christian groups that end up taking advantage of the less fortunate?’. It is still all about control based on very strong beliefs or non-beliefs.

          My point is– don’t paint all Christians with the same brush, based on your bias against the Belief system in general.

          Doctors without Borders may be non-Christian in general [the web site says nothing about Atheism], but that doesn’t mean that there aren’t some Christian doctors and nurses that serve with them.

          • http://www.dangeroustalk.net Staks

            I think I did answer your question, but let me be more clear. Most (not all) Christians take advantage of those who are vulnerable in order to push their beliefs. Most Christian parents along with the various churches indoctrinate children into religion. Children aren’t mature enough to understand and reason for themselves what they believe on these matters and yet they are being taken advantage of. When someone dies, Christian ministers and believes descend on those grieving like vultures. When people are in poor, starving, uneducated, and/or lack our modern scientific understanding, missionaries go out and take advantage of them too. Not all Christians do these things, but most do, including yourself. When atheists go out and criticize religion, we don’t purposefully try to take advantage of those who are vulnerable. So when we ask you to do the same and to be respectful of those who are in vulnerable positions without exploiting their vulnerabilities, you accuse us of being pushy. Really? IS asking you to NOT take advantage of people when they are vulnerable really pushing atheism? Are you serious?

            Doctors without Borders is without religion. What is it you think atheism is? They are a secular organization and they don’t take advantage of those who are vulnerable to push… I don’t know, what do atheists push? We don’t really have a dogmatic belief system to push. Is reason, education, and critical thinking something that can be dogmatically pushed? I guess it can be, but then it wouldn’t be reason and it would be indoctrination not education. So I don’t know what an atheistic organization could push if not knowledge and education. So I guess you got me on that one… maybe? I guess you could say that Communism pushes atheism. But that isn’t what is going on here in America. I for one would speak out against making religious belief (no matter how ridiculous it is) illegal.

  • Kat

    Missionaries are people who think that for every good deed they do, it’s a star on God’s accounting list.The more good deeds, the closer they are to getting into heaven.The work they do as far as feeding and getting medicines to these people is great, but do they do it out of generousity or selfishness.If “Heaven” wasn’t dangling on a string in front of them, how generous would they be?
    I liked Erics comment”I would ask if they would be okay with Muslims coming to their neighborhood and building a mosque, lets say in a poor neighborhood in the Appalachian Mountains, in return for helping build better homes.” Why aren’t these people working HERE? We have sick and poor. How about working in New Orleans?
    Why? Because the people HERE already know about their Jesus..they wouldn’t get NEW recruits…probably wouldn’t get as many gold stars.

  • Eric

    Good point about New Orleans, Kat. I remember about four years ago hearing my sister who’s a born again Christian say that she and some people from her church were going to New Orleans to help after Katrina. When she didn’t end up going she claimed that they were taking a van down there and would have to take too many days off from work. I’m not saying that’s not true, but I think you may be onto something and that perhaps she realized that New Orleans is already quite Christian and that they would actually have to do a lot of hard work with no proselytizing involved.

    • http://www.myspace.com/DD_NU4EVER Diana

      I don’t know about the lack of Christians helping out in New Orleans but I do know that a famous Atheist, Brad Pit, is kicking some serious ass down there. He’s building environmentally safe homes and really putting all he has into helping the people down there…and he’s doing so without pushing Atheism on them even though there’s a huge Christian population in New Orleans.

      I hear that they want him as mayor, making him the first Atheist politician….at least the first that is open about it. But, the mayor thing may just be rumor.

  • Barry

    How about how they don’t do anyting to help these people control the numbe rone thing that is keeping them ungry, which is their birth rate, by providing birth control (and / or abortions)? Their religion tells them not to do this, but that is what these pople need, modern birth control.

  • http://www.myspace.com/andrewtheatheist Andrew the Atheist

    Well, it looks like I’m a bit late to the party. Sorry Staks, but I can’t comment on your blog at work anymore. I did a blog of my own on this topic recently. Someone (a beleiver) told me that while religion HAS been a source of inhumane suffering throughout history, they make up for it with charity and mission work. I responded that missions simply spread more suffering in a different way.

    There ARE certainly chirstian organizations that DO try to leave christ at home and just do the good work. They are ostrisized by the religious community for doing so. The less a mission pushes its faith on the indiginous people, the less respect it garners from the religious community.

  • cneil686

    Not clear what point you are making here, Jayman. That being gay is not a sin provided it isn’t acted on? You blue eyes analogy doesn’t work because having blue eyes is a static position – it doesn’t require being acted on. Having same-sex attraction does. Being gay is not just a disposition it is something people do (unlike blue eyes – no-one, as you appear to concede yourself, ‘does’ blue eyes).

    • http://biblicalscholarship.wordpress.com Jayman

      cneil686:

      Not clear what point you are making here, Jayman. That being gay is not a sin provided it isn’t acted on?

      That’s one of the points.

      You blue eyes analogy doesn’t work because having blue eyes is a static position – it doesn’t require being acted on. Having same-sex attraction does. Being gay is not just a disposition it is something people do (unlike blue eyes – no-one, as you appear to concede yourself, ‘does’ blue eyes).

      The existence of celibate homosexuals contradicts your claim that same-sex attraction requires being acted on.