masinter at nova.edu
Mon Dec 20 12:32:32 PST 2004
I think Will's objection should be directed to the lexicographers.
Wordnet offers this definition of proselytize:
The verb "proselytize" has 1 sense in WordNet.
1. proselytize, proselytise -- (convert to another faith or religion)
Merriam-Webster's online dictionary offers as its first definition:
1 : to induce someone to convert to one's faith
More authoritatively, the OED offers this definition of the transitive
To make a proselyte of; to cause to come over or turn from one opinion,
belief, creed, or party to another; esp. to convert from one religious
faith or sect to another; to proselytize.
I suspect the lexicography reflects a longstanding recognition that
religious conversion is qualitatively different from switching political
allegiance; to suggest otherwise would seem to trivialize religious
Michael R. Masinter Visiting Professor of Law
On Leave From University of Miami Law School
Nova Southeastern University (305) 284-3870 (voice)
Shepard Broad Law Center (305) 284-6619 (fax)
masinter at nova.edu Chair, ACLU of Florida Legal Panel
On Mon, 20 Dec 2004, Will Linden wrote:
> As with "cult", and the sarcastic example by another poster, this runs up
> against the cognitive disconnect between denotative and connotative
> meaning. In ACTUAL USAGE, "proselytize", like "superstition", is one of
> those funny words which by definition can only apply to the other guy. We
> share, you preach, they proselytize. We are a church, you are a sect, they
> are a cult.
> There is also the situation, which continually irritates me, that the
> identical BEHAVIOR escapes being labeled "proselytizing" as long as it is
> not in the "religion" pigeonhole. We never hear "Bill Clinton was in town
> PROSELYTIZING for the Democrats!"
> At 10:32 AM 12/18/04 -0500, you wrote:
> >Prof. Lipkin was proselytized by his neighbor. They both handled it with
> >tolerance and maturity. How does that change the fact of
> >proselytization? How does what the neighbor did not constitute an
> >inducement to change religions -- the definition of proselytize? This was
> >no mere "it came up in conversation" or informal, impromptu exchange of
> >views over the backyard fence when doing lawn chores. That the neighbor
> >lacked evangelical fervor (militant relentless advocacy) does not change
> >the proselytization -- the inducement to change beliefs to something else.
> >On Saturday, December 18, 2004, at 08:25 AM, JMHACLJ at aol.com wrote:
> >>In a message dated 12/17/2004 3:22:37 PM Eastern Standard Time,
> >>RJLipkin at aol.com writes:
> >>I had a neighbor, who characterized himself as "a born again
> >>Christian." Knowing that I am Jewish, he one day presented me with
> >>literature from "Jews for Jesus." He explained to me his reasons for
> >>doing so, and I told him that I've thought about religion a great deal,
> >>even taught the philosophy of religion, and I have well-decided beliefs
> >>on the matter and essentially concluded thanks but no thanks. Our "good
> >>neighbor" relationship was none the worse--indeed, it probably became
> >>richer--as a result of this episode. Had he pursued his religious
> >>inclinations to convert me, or had I persisted in challenging his
> >>convictions, our relationship might not have withstood the test of time.
> >>This narrative is evidence aplenty that the discussion can move forward
> >>in meaningful ways without the "proselytizing" crutch to aid it. Notice
> >>that you say he "presented" you the material and he "explained" his
> >>reasons for doing so.
> >>It's a small matter to make these mortals so happy.
> >>Jim Henderson
> >>Senior Counsel
> >>To post, send message to Religionlaw at lists.ucla.edu
> >>To subscribe, unsubscribe, change options, or get password, see
> >>Please note that messages sent to this large list cannot be viewed as
> >>private. Anyone can subscribe to the list and read messages that are
> >>posted; people can read the Web archives; and list members can (rightly
> >>or wrongly) forward the messages to others.
> >Prof. Steven D. Jamar vox: 202-806-8017
> >Howard University School of Law fax: 202-806-8428
> >2900 Van Ness Street
> ><mailto:sjamar at law.howard.edu>mailto:sjamar at law.howard.edu
> >DC 20008
> >"God, give us grace to accept with serenity the things that cannot be
> >changed, courage to change the things which should be changed, and the
> >wisdom to distinguish the one from the other."
> >Reinhold Neibuhr 1943
> ><div>To post, send message to Religionlaw at lists.ucla.edu</div>
> ><div>To subscribe, unsubscribe, change options, or get password, see <a
> ><div>Please note that messages sent to this large list cannot be viewed as
> >private. Anyone can subscribe to the list and read messages that are
> >posted; people can read the Web archives; and list members can (rightly or
> >wrongly) forward the messages to others.</div>
> ><div>No virus found in this incoming message.</div>
> ><div>Checked by AVG Anti-Virus.</div>
> ><div>Version: 7.0.296 / Virus Database: 265.5.4 - Release Date: 12/15/04</div>
More information about the Religionlaw