Let’s say Tom Cruise sent a “mission” of Scientologists to Uganda to help people. The group brings food, medical supplies, etc. But the poor starving people in Uganda need more than just food and medical supplies, they need hope too. So Cruise and company offer a free personality test and auditing session for everyone. He isn’t forcing Scientology on anyone, merely introducing it to starving people who are physically, emotionally, and mentally vulnerable. Scientology is helping people in need, right?
One of the big problems I have with Christianity is that it distorts people’s sense of morality. Obviously what Cruise is doing in my imaginary scenario is wrong but when Christians do it, no one has a problem with it. Christian missionaries mean well, but their sense of morality is distorted. They are taking advantage of people when they are vulnerable to advance their religious goals and provide a public relations service at home. What they should be doing is helping people instead of taking advantage of them.
Sure, it is great that they are bringing food and medical supplies to people who need it, but they should do it without the ulterior motive of trying to win converts. If you believe that food and medicine isn’t enough and you really want to give these people hope, then give them real education; don’t preach to them.
When people are starving, they are not in a position to care about whether or not some ridiculous ancient story is true or whether some missionary has the correct interpretation of that story to begin with. They just want food. When people have serious problems and are in a highly charged emotional state, they are not in the mindset to make a thoughtful opinion on religious matters. When people are uneducated about modern science and living in huts, they probably don’t have the prerequisite knowledge to make an informed opinion about religious claims that fly in the face of modern science.
Missionaries are picking on people who are at the moment defenseless against their bullshit. They are using their power to take advantage of people who are in a less powerful position. The ethical thing to do is to provide food, medical supplies, and a real scientific education to these people and when they are no longer in a vulnerable state, then the missionaries can have in intellectual debate about whether or not there is an invisible man in the sky who knows your every thought and will reward you with eternal bliss if you worship him or torture you for all eternity if you don’t. But don’t give them a lump of shit and call it cheese cake when they don’t care or aren’t able to determine the difference.
It is immoral to use people’s misfortune and/or vulnerabilities as recruitment tools. The problem is that those are really the only tools the religious have. It isn’t like they have any actual evidence or anything. No, all religious believers can do is take advantage of people when they are vulnerable and are not in a position to question the bullshit they are being exposed to and who are more vulnerable than poor, sick, starving people with little to no education.