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Evangelism: yes, it really is this terrifying.
Preach to the choir
Icon religion.svg
Crux of the matter
Speak of the devil
An act of faith

Evangelism involves the act of proselytizing a position — usually Christianity or some other religion, but not always — on the basis of some "truth value". The term is also used for the promotion of various philosophies in politics and in technical fields, particularly in computing, and has become marketing jargon. The term, believe it or not, is formed from the noun evangel and the suffix -ism.[1] "Evangel" itself ultimately comes from the Greek word ευαγγελος ("euangelos"), meaning "bringing good news".[2]

Evangelism, as a form of public relations, tends to focus on the positives of the message it aims to spread, sometimes even misrepresenting the message to make it more palatable to newcomers. For example, Scientology refers to this technique as "gradient", which they claim helps new members understand difficult concepts[3] (read: bullshit about aliens and Dianetics). Meanwhile, Mormons use the somewhat less technical phrase "milk before meat".[4] Both concepts implicitly recognize the difficulties that outsiders often have with accepting weird doctrines.

Most denominations of Christianity and Islam insist on trying to bringing in new members, sometimes even with the threat of violence. Various parts of the Bible, like Matthew 28:19-20 ("Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you[...]") make it a divine mandate to bring new members into the fold.

Not all religions actively engage in proselytization. For example, Judaism does not prohibit proselytization, but historically, Jews have rarely sought out converts for a variety of reasons. According to Reuven Firestone, before their turn towards monotheism, the Israelites believed that each tribe had its own specific god, and each god had power only over their specific tribe, so to them, it didn't make sense to bring in people from other tribes. Therefore, when their religion took a more monotheistic turn, the idea of conversion was still foreign to them. In addition, centuries of antisemitic persecution has also dampened enthusiasm for proselytization.[5] It has also been argued that laws prohibiting Jewish proselytization under the Roman Empire and general Gentile hostility to Jews led followers to focus inward rather than seek out new members,[5] though this narrative has been challenged by scholars such as Louis H. Feldman.[6]

Native American religions are also generally averse to evangelism. Native religious traditions are considered specific to each tribe, and many of these practices are tied to particular geographic features or regions.[7] As a result, a lot of Native Americans are uneasy about the idea of converting people who aren't of Native descent[8] (and having non-Natives involved in Native American ceremonies in general),[9][10] because in their eyes, that would be bringing in outsiders who have no ties to their particular culture and therefore do not belong.

Meanwhile, Shinto — which is based more around Japanese geography and culture than around dogma[11] — generally lacks the concept of "conversion" altogether.[12][13] With that said, in the 1860s and 1870s, the government of Japan did attempt to promote Shintoism under the kyōdōshoku system to counterbalance Christian evangelism, with limited success.[14]

The Druze also do not allow people to convert to their religion, or from it for that matter.[15]

See also[edit]


  1. Evangelism, Dictionary.com
  2. Evangel, Merriam-Webster
  3. Barriers to Study, The Scientology Handbook
  4. To Those Who Are Investigating "Mormonism" by Richard Packham (Last revised June 15, 2011) Recovery from Mormonism
  5. 5.0 5.1 Why Jews Don't Proselytize by Reuven Firestone (June 12, 2019) Renatio
  6. Proselytism by Jews in the Third, Fourth, and Fifth Centuries by L. H. Feldman (June 1993) Journal for the Study of Judaism in the Persian, Hellenistic, and Roman Period, Vol. 24, No. 1, pp. 1-58
  7. Religion by George E. Tinker, Encyclopedia of North American Indians, Houghton Mifflin Company
  8. Seeking Native American Spirituality: Read This First! by Orrin Lewis, Native Languages of the Americas
  9. DLN Issues : The Selling of Indian Culture Protection of Ceremonies O-mini-c'i-ya-pi by Chief Arvol Looking Horse, New Age Frauds and Plastic Shamans
  10. Spiritual Hucksterism:The Rise of the Plastic Medicine Men by Ward Churchill (May 7, 2010) Cultural Survival
  11. Shinto at a glance (Last updated October 7, 2011) BBC
  12. About Shinto, Meiji Jingu
  13. What is Shinto? A Shinto Priest Explains by Megan Manson (November 14, 2016) Patheos
  14. Shinto Missionaries: Civilizing the People, Encyclopedia of Shinto, Kokugakuin University.
  15. Druze, Encyclopedia Britannica