Conversation with Missionaries – Learning from “How to Talk to a Climate Denier?”

On a regular basis, I have been talking to a group of people coming from various parts of the country through a local missionary organization. From this organization’s website, their mission basically is to reach unreached people experiencing the bondage of their religions. India is one such place and Hindus are one such unreached people.

I should add that those who come, mostly young, are always very pleasant and very respectful.  They ask most sincere questions that require a deep reflection on my part and I try to answer them as best as I can. I can feel that they are trying to reconcile their faith, what they observe, and the path of action they may choose to embark upon.  In this sense, my input can be important – at least, I hope so.

My approach has been to talk to them with utmost respect as to any other group of seekers and to learn from their questions. I have no idea that I am be getting through to them but can only hope that they appreciate my point of view.

It occurred to me that I can learn from the tips in talking to climate-change deniers.  Religion and climate change are two different things: denying climate change is denying science while religion is a matter of faith.  But denying someone else’s faith puts it in the same league as denying the climate change, in my opinion.  While preparing for a course on the topic of combating climate change, I came across three suggestions on a website by National Geographic:

1) Have the conversation.

2) Find common ground.

3) Maintain a sense of humor.

I was suggested two more: 4) Listen, and 5) Don’t catastrophize.

I fully agree with all of them.  But when you feel deeply about a topic, it’s not easy to keep your emotions in check. I can understand the rage that PETA people feel against animal cruelty but their actions seem to have been largely counterproductive.  It’s easy to get angry – “why can’t they see it?” But what good would that do? In the words of Swami Vivekananda “Superstition is an enemy of man but bigotry is worse.”  Should that be pointed out? How guarded should one be?

Bottom line: no easy answers. Any suggestions?

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