Sep 17

Oppose Belief Opportunists: My Thoughts On Modern-Day Uighur Christians

Written by Damai on Wednesday, September 17th, 2008 at 2:35 am
Filed under:-mini-posts, culture, language, religion | Tags:, , ,
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I had meant to post this sooner, but a quick Mid-Autumn Festival vacation trip got in the way. Admin previously provided me with several passages written by ksjqjy, the host of the Minkaohan forum, and I thought I would post some of them which dealt with religion, given the the timely relevance to Ramadan.

This is the first of two posts on religion from ksjqjy of the Minkaohan forum, and though they can’t compare in excitement to baby formula scandals or the ever-popular Western media bias topics, it’s interesting to look at the role of religion in some people’s lives versus others, the connection of said religion with one’s culture, and the subsequent effect this has on the way people perceive the world around them.

Oppose Belief Opportunists: My Thoughts On Modern-Day Uighur Christians

With the rapid expansion of Christianity within China, Xinjiang has also seen an increase in the number of Christians. This is especially true of some Minkaohan who have converted and subsequently caused Minkaohan overall to be viewed as troubled or lost youth by the mainstream. The following are some of my thoughts:

1.) Beliefs are an individual’s prerogative and choice.
2.) The pursuit of true belief is worthy of respect.
3.) Individuals should have a full and deep understanding of one’s belief, as well as of one’s duty/obligation.
4.) The Islamic faith’s existence is facing a series of issues; however, these issues/problems are people-based, not doctrine-based.
5.) Because Christianity is strong today, many people have converted to Christianity. If Islam becomes strong tomorrow, then people may convert to Islam. This is not the pursuit of true belief; rather it is opportunistic belief – using beliefs to obtain profit/benefits.
6.) Islam has already become the core value component in the traditional culture of many ethnicities, including Uighur, as well as others. Abandoning Islam is tantamount to severing the bond with one’s ethnic background. Today it is religion that is abandoned; tomorrow perhaps it is our ethnicity.
7.) Young people usually go through a process of exploration and personal experience when it comes to beliefs. It is their nature to pursue fashion and we shouldn’t pick on them for this. After all, we live in a secular society, not a religious society.
8.) Encourage and respect individual development. Also respect individual growth, value, freedom and rights in people’s pursuit of true belief.

In summary: pursuing real and true belief is respectable, but being a belief opportunist is not.

Added by admin. Original Chinese posts written by ksjqjy is here.

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41 Responses to “Oppose Belief Opportunists: My Thoughts On Modern-Day Uighur Christians”

  1. TommyBahamas Says:

    “pursuing real and true belief is respectable, but being a belief opportunist is not.”

    Yes, respect the respectable while do not let your guards down entirely either. Be very aware that religion of any kind tend to attract and harbors the most foul of criminals, and is therefore one of the most common niche for Con-artists, aka belief Opportunists — not only common among the congregations of like faith, but particularly dangerous are those trusted as man-of-the-cloth with their fancy theological degrees, possessing the Devil’s knowledge of ancient scriptures with some sensational “special divine revelation” to boot. These wolves among sheep operates in the high offices of leadership, of either or both in the administrative, financial, or so-called spiritual oversees capacities.
    I am an agnostic, not because I am against faith & hope in Providence, but precisely as the author Damai herein condemns — to be a pawn, a scapegoat or a fool for the belief opportunists.

  2. Damai Says:

    Whoa, perhaps I should make the intro a bit clearer. This post was not originally mine, it’s a translation of a post from the Minkaohan forum.

  3. admin Says:


    You made it! 🙂

    Thank you very much for the translation. I just edited the post to add a link to the Minkaohan forum.

  4. TommyBahamas Says:


    My BAD. Many apologies, sir/ma’am….

    Since I am here, let me elaborate just a little. As Oli so well said in another thread:

    In what buddhism is it “normative” for buddhists to go about assaulting others, destroying other people’s property or burn other people to death? Where in the world on the Eightfold Path did Buddha himself ever said that it was “normative” to have “buddhist leaders” or that it was “normative” to accept or bestow such titles or honours? Talk about dressing up the “cow dung” of human desire with the “flowers” of Buddhism. Personally, I have more sympathy for the Burmese monks than those Tibetan pseudo monks involved in the riots and their Western followers, who wouldn’t even recognise enlightenment if Buddha himself comes along and sove it up their you know where.

    I, too have the same question in regards to those who call themselves the citizens of Christendom. Where in the Holy Writs or the recorded teaching and parables of the meek and lowly son of a carpenter say that the incarceration, torture and the masacre of millions of cleric deemed heretics is how the Kingdom of Heaven is to be built on earth? Is not the heavenly mandate or so-called Great Commission by the founder of the religion of faith, hope, love and asolute forgiveness, validated by the new covenant of eternal redemption through the sacrifice of the Lamb of God, to be spread to the ends of the world to include all human race, and united in the spirit of grace to resist the evil of tyrany through self sacrifice and non -violence, so that the Kingdom of Heaven may one day be a reality on Earth? Anything short of the founder’s mandated “standards & practices,” so to speak, is an abberation from real and true belief, is how I see it. Therefore like the rich man who turned away lamenting, “This is Hard Teachings who can follow?” deserved greater respects than any of the dime-a-dozen hypocrites that take up pews to listen to easy sermons.

  5. Allen Says:

    Personally I think there is nothing wrong with the way religion is approached by this post. Religion is often helpful as a guide for self introspection – and self introspection, for me, is a journey we can all devote more time to.

    The only time religion becomes a problem is when it is harnessed as a political force that opportunistically taps into people’s primordial sense of identity, causing people to kill each other in the name of we vs. them – good vs. evil…

  6. S.K. Cheung Says:

    I think the first 3 points, in that order, are bang-on. I think religion is best when it is internalized, such that one seeks increasing understanding between oneself and one’s chosen deity. I think problems arise when religion is externalized, and you get POV’s like those who don’t believe in the Prophet Mohammad are infidels, and those who don’t believe in God are destined for eternal damnation.

  7. davesgonechina Says:

    This is actually really interesting, but allow me, Damai, to fill in some of the context here.

    Minkaohan cop a fair amount of grief for having Putonghua as their primary language. Language divides children in Xinjiang into one of two education streams. Overwhelmingly this language divide is also ethnic, because really no Han children grow up learning Uighur and the majority of Uighur children learn Putonghua as a second language. So Minkaohan end up crossing over both linguistic and ethnic divisions and end up growing up acculturated to a more Han environment. I’ve met Minkaohan who really don’t have any Uighur Minkaomin friends and feel awkward in very Uighur social situations.

    Most Uighurs are very protective of their cultural and ethnic identity. I think this is partly because they feel defensive in the face of Han Chinese migration and (perceived) economic and political power, but I also believe that it’s a bit of a cultural trait and that attitude wouldn’t be very different even if there were no Han Chinese around. Uighurs define their own identity based on biological heritage, language, customs and, as the poster above mentions, religion. Now Minkaohan already lack one criteria for identifying as Uighur in a very self-conscious ethnic group – giving up Islam as well would really be pushing it and removing oneself farther from the tribe.

    The poster above seems to be pretty reasonable: youth ought to be able to explore, belief is a personal issue and it should be driven by sincere motives. But he’s clearly taking a shot at those who convert to Christianity because they see some opportunity in it. From time to time in Urumqi I heard gossip about certain people converting because a) it helped them improve their English and hence their job prospects and b) it helped them marry a foreigner and go abroad. I can’t say if anyone really did these things for those reasons, but those stories are common, and those who are suspected of such things face derision and ostracism.

  8. TommyBahamas Says:

    I am an agnostic because I have no spiritual sense, but I went to parochial school, so would occassionally pay attention to religious articles: Lately, I flipped through a book on Christendom:”The Myth of a Christian Nation.” According to Gregory Boyd the author of this, his best seller, he says, when you look at religions, look at their founders. In the case of Christianity, the founder is Jesus. He was a completely different from all the religious teachers before and of his time. He befriended the poor masses, the social outcasts, tax collectors, fishermen, hookers, lepers, the untouchables and confronted the elites. He was a vagabond, never held nor desired official titles or political power. Those are the hallmarks of true religion. Buddha, I guess was like that. What Boyd, I think, is saying is that if one claims to be a Christian, i.e. a follower of the founder of this particular faith, then one must literally follow the footstep of the one they profess to follow. Jesus told his fellow men to love their enemy, which included the Romans, the oppressors of Jews. He said visit the prisoners, take care of widows and orphans, share your belongings. Could this be the seed of socialism, even Communism, except they incorporate faith in the divine, barring any politcal ambition?

    The Myth of a Christian Nation by Gregory A. Boyd.


  9. Hongkonger Says:

    ” those who convert to Christianity because they see some opportunity in it. …(a) it helped them improve their English and hence their job prospects and (b) it helped them marry a foreigner and go abroad……..
    and those who are suspected of such things face derision and ostracism.”

    Before Hong Kong experienced economic boom, I hear religious organisations used to attract the poor locals with free meals, free movies, milk powders, rice, etc. to become members. Nowadays, it’s the opposite, religious organisations ask for monetory donations from their members. These are the dividends of Long term investment.

  10. Netizen K Says:

    Religious conversion is a dicy proposition and should be discouraged if it is in large scale. It only causes communal division.

  11. Joel Says:

    @S.K. Cheung (and @Netizen)
    What you’ve said is a popular idea, but I don’t think actually makes any sense. I think it’s a misunderstanding that comes from a legitimate desire to ‘separate church and state’:

    “I think religion is best when it is internalized, such that one seeks increasing understanding between oneself and one’s chosen deity. I think problems arise when religion is externalized…”

    Two main problems, which together reveal an arbitrary, irrational prejudice against certain ideas.

    (1) Unfair double standard. What if I told you this: “Whatever you think about the way things really are, you should not let it affect how you behave or make decisions or have relationships. When you make decisions and interact with people, you should ignore what you think, and just act according to something else.” Obviously that’s ridiculous, but that’s what the “religion should only be a private affair” idea is essentially saying.

    (2) “Religion” is a flawed category. It comes from an (often subconscious) arbitrary bias against (or sometimes for) certain ideas and puts them in an artificial and irrational category called ‘religion,’ even though many of them have little similarity to one another and more in common with other ideas that aren’t labeled ‘religion.’ The only reason discussing ‘religion’ seems to work is because we all have a vague, generally agreed-upon idea of what we mean when we say ‘religion.’ But it doesn’t actually make much sense as a category, and therefore ideas generally labeled ‘religious’ are subject to unfair prejudicial treatment. Other ways of categorizing ideas make more sense, such as “absolutes” and “non-absolutes.”

    “Religious conversion is a dicy proposition and should be discouraged if it is in large scale. It only causes communal division.
    If the problem is communal division, then wouldn’t large scale conversion be better, as it’s more of a communal event?

    This sounds almost like saying people shouldn’t think for themselves because it might make 不好意思 in the community if someone expressed an independent, contrary idea. If contrary opinions are that big a deal, the problem is with the nature of the community that can’t handle the opinions, not with the ability of people to think for themselves.

  12. Joel Says:

    First, I basically agree with the author’s assumption that when people are deciding for themselves what to believe about the world, it’s best to decide that based on what you think is the truth. ‘Believing’ something for the perks actually makes little sense, because “opportunistic [Christian] believers” as defined by the author (aka ‘rice Christians’) don’t truly ‘believe’ the life and teachings of Jesus – they’re just making an affiliation with an advantageous social group. What they truly think about the world is revealed by their choices and actions – in this case opportunism – just like how all of our true beliefs are revealed. Second, I agree that the thoughtless introduction of unbeneficial things and superficial, passing fads and ideas is not worth the trauma it causes to the people/families whose identity and way of life is suddenly drastically changed.

    But these general agreements aside, I think this article has a couple very large problems.

    1. Cultures are always changing, and there’s nothing we can really do about it. Questions about what should and shouldn’t be done in a given situation are still relevant, but they won’t stop the change. Forces are at work that no one can stop (like macro economics and environmental degradation). Boycott a particular religion all you want, but the culture will be changed drastically, one way or another.

    2. How can we tell a person’s true motives? Often people themselves don’t know their true motives, and usually our motives for doing anything are mixed. So ‘oppose opportunist belief’ – fine. But just what are proposing to do? I’m all for encouraging people to think critically, ask good questions, and take their time exploring ideas, but what after that? (Even promoting that suggestion would be a cultural-altering import in many areas that developed outside the influence of the Western Enlightenment.) Are we going to oppose people who we judge as thinking their thoughts for the wrong reasons? How will we oppose them? Cast them out of our cultural/ethnic group identity? And how are we to decide what the right reasons are? Besides, the particular nature of the specific ideas in question might in part determine legitimate and non-legitimate reasons for that belief. In most cases, it’s too arrogant to assume we know why someone else “really” converted to X. People’s motives aren’t that simplistic, and they change over time.

    3. It is (subconsciously?) biased against (other?) religion. I don’t mean the author is a rabid atheist or anti-Christian or anything like that. I mean the article separates out certain kinds of opinions about the world and ways of living (here called ‘religion’) into its own artificial and unhelpful category. But what about wealth and economic progress, higher standards of living? Electric appliances? TV? Cars? Internet? Air travel? University education? Not to mention values like gender equality, basic individual rights, or debate over conservative and liberal approaches to government and economics? Introducing any of these things into a people group will irreparably alter their culture and identity, or as Netizen K said, “cause communal division.” Should we apply the treatment we give to certain ideas labeled ‘other religions’ to all other potent foreign ideas and things as well, and oppose the pursuit/promotion of these things unless they are pursued out of ‘good’ motives?

    4. If changing your beliefs is tantamount to severing your bonds with your ethnic background (as it is in many instances), then the problem is the dysfunctional relationship between ethnic and religious identities – perhaps a religious identity or other idea (choice) has been inappropriately piggybacking on a biological identity (no choice). When the distinction between what ought to be a choice and what can’t be a choice gets blurred, we have a very serious problem. People should be able to redefine their own identity and the part of their group that they themselves comprise as they see fit. I imagine the author would agree with this. (Children, of course, are a slightly different matter.)

    (ps – i realize that what we often call a ‘religion’ can’t be reduced to merely an idea. my word choice here is just for convenience.)

  13. Netizen K Says:


    Large scale is different from wholesale. Many european countries have problems with large number of muslims in their mids. Although not due to conversion, the problem of communal harmony is evident, if one doesn’t his head in the sand.

  14. Daniel Says:

    I think for many people, not just some of the commentators here, have a hard time understanding the biological/ethnic affiliation with religion. In ancient times and in certain cultures, this wouldn’t have been a problem. Back then, many communities were quite distinict from each other, even if lets say they were only so-so kms apart. Each one had their own particular diety to worship and customs (many aspects of “culture”) that were particular to their own. Any traveller who would stay among them, and was willing to follow their particular ways—hence worshiping their diety, would be adopted by the community and become a full member of their tribe. I read online that this was the origin of conversion.

    Like Joel said, cultures change overtime but also common beliefs and ideas. No doubt with globalization, the stress of modernity and due to history, many around the world are sharing certain similar dreams, in their own unique sense. One of the problems we have is looking at others with a modern-secular twist (I would say bias but I know the negative connotations many have with this term). For some, it is normal, almost natural, for others maybe not so much. A lot of the aspects of what many considered modernity, like cars, air travel, T.V. education and such are seen as commentary. Depending on whom, one can almost argue you don’t need to mix beliefs with them or just use what is appropriate…filter out the rest. However, certain things are universal because it happens everywhere, and there’s really little that any particular religion or culture can claim to.

  15. pamhogeweide Says:

    When religion is being marketed as a means of gaining social/economic/academic advantages, then it is already corrupt and proving that it is not true religion but easy beliefism. I agree with the Uigher writer in that it is a fair description to call some who “convert” as belief opportunists.

    I knew an American military officer who lived and served in Russia many years ago, in the era of Glasnost. He told stories of Russian leaders feigning Catholic or Protestant conversion in order to garner favor with Westerners.

    In my neck of the woods we call this sort of phenomena, Jailhouse Religion.

    True religion is revealed in how people who have no power are treated by that religion’s followers. I don’t care how pious someone behaves. I wanna know how they treat their cleaning lady and the street beggars they walk by everyday.

  16. FOARP Says:

    Let me first say that I am against attacks on religious faith, against the restriction of religious assembly without good cause, and against the idea that separation of church and state necessitates having a populace kept away from religious instruction. All the same, I, and, I believe, the majority of expats in China, loathe the missionaries. They are, in the main, young men who seem very keen to ‘convert’ impressionable young women. The majority that I met were Chinese students who did not even bother attending classes, they were mainly Texans but there were also a few from British Columbia as well as other places. Their knowledge of the bible seemed minimal, with the ones I spoke to seemingly being ignorant of even some of the most well known scripture (“rendering unto Caesar that which is Caesar’s” for example). The worst were the Mormons, who in Taiwan insist on riding around on bicycles wearing white shirts, black ties and trousers, and wear badges identifying them as ‘Elder’ (as a friend of mine said “Older than who?”) – their converts in the main seemed to consist of lonely middle-aged women. These people see their job as ‘spreading the truth’, but instead the main result of their efforts is, as S.K. Cheung said, “To de-bunk with their own bunk”.

  17. Hongkonger Says:

    ” I, and, I believe, the majority of expats in China, loathe the missionaries. They are, in the main, young men who seem very keen to ‘convert’ impressionable young women.”

    Yikes! Come to think of it, you are right. Now that you mentioned it, I recall talking to two Chinese business ladies last year who told me they had found joy and peace through faith in god which wealth and marriage failed to bless them with. It turned out they had joined the Jehovah Witness sect. I remember thinking to myself, now, why would these intelligent, well off (even beautiful) stylish women fall for such nonsense? Of course I did not respond to their “witnessings,” favorably and so they stopped contacting me. Damn, one of them was really attractive too.

    Even as a non-follower of any religion myself, I’ve always had great respects for the practicians of true religions. For example, expat & local missionaries, especially in the old days of the pre-20th centuries era, were very much involved in social work. MIssionaries and religious laymen were known to be consistent and reliable human resources with high moral standards. They contributed a great deal to the enhancement of cross-cultural altruism, promoted the arts, participated in charity works and fought for human rights. Missionaries [were] highly respected scholars and scientists who were dedicated to the education of common folks. Many helped establish orphanages, built hospitals. Many helped write & established effective scholastic and academic programs. Missionaries were known to be generous in sharing their time and homes. They shared and served through new discoveries, such as the modern sciences of medicine, innovative architectural and engineering methods, greatly promoted cultural exchanges, particularly in expanding language and cultural awareness and skills, etc. Indeed true religion, whether be from the West or East, are revealed by their deed of charity in helping and in empowering the powerless. The followers of religions were NEVER taught to play god, as judge and jury or political revolutionaries — This is why I have no patience nor respects for violent monks, self-righteous fundamentalist evangelists/televangalists, or hate-mongering rabbis, revangeful clerics or anti-governmental religious sects of whatever persuations.

  18. Ted Says:

    “6.) Islam has already become the core value component in the traditional culture of many ethnicities, including Uighur, as well as others. Abandoning Islam is tantamount to severing the bond with one’s ethnic background. Today it is religion that is abandoned; tomorrow perhaps it is our ethnicity.”

    I think this is the author’s central point. The other points are meant to frame 6 and demonstrate to the reader that the author wishes to have a balanced and reasonable dialogue. Interestingly, it is one of only two points when the author actually includes himself, “our ethnicity”, the second time is point 7 when he states “we shouldn’t” (was there any more to the original post?).

    In my opinion, the author states in point 6 that, because Islam is the Uighurs’ “core value component”, many do not *currently* feel they can comfortably sustain their cultural or ethnic identity in an increasingly secularized and diverse society. Therefore, limitations on the practice of their faith is a very sensitive issue.

    In point 7 he accepts the changes are taking place, recoginzes the value of a secular society, and states that “we” should be as accepting of others as “we” wish them to be of us.

    I think this is a wonderful post overall and don’t see any bias on the part of the author. If anything, I would recommend the author specifically state that “true belief” does not have to mean religious belief. Thereby acknowledging that an individual can cobble together one’s values from various systems, secular and/or religious. In the end, isn’t that what the founders of the world’s various governments and religions did?

    **Finally, I think the author’s observation in point 5 provides an interesting parallel to the discussions we have had on differing systems of government.

  19. BMY Says:

    FOARP has said exactly I wanted to say. But I can’t help of still typing in.

    Same as FOARP , I will say same”first say that I am against attacks on religious faith”

    years ago when I just arrived and I hardly spoke English(only could read.), there was a Mormon church two blocks away from where I was living. There were always a group of boys with “white shirts, black ties and trousers, and wear badges identifying them as ‘Elder’ ” standing in the street trying to talk to people. Many of them could speak mandarin. most of them were from north America. They told me the church had “free English class every week” which was what I needed. I went to the English class and church service once and found out most of the new converters were young to mid aged Chinese women. It’s just nature that women are easily be convinced by young,neat,polite,nice men. These days they seem to have more ethnic Chinese boys from America joined the missionaries.

    I have few friends who go to local Anglican (Chinese) church every Sunday for few years. I had a chat with them weeks ago about the Bibile and found out they knew very little of the bible after the years of Sunday service. My guess is many of the Chinese converters here just use the Sunday service as a sort of community/friends gathering which is not a bad thing. kids play together. Adults chat , sing and have lunch together.

  20. BMY Says:

    @Ted said “was there any more to the original post?”

    I am afraid not. If you read Chinese, Admin has put the original post(in Chinese) on the Chinese session of this blog with few other posts from the same author.

  21. Daniel Says:

    It’s probably not intentional but the impression I’m getting whenever I read articles like this and the reactions/commentary towards it, they seem to lean or emphasize a lot on the biblical religions like Christianity and Islam. Even though many say their words are meant for all religions, I think there are significant distinctions between all of them to a certain degree where we can’t lump them together all the time.

    If one was to read up on the history, you can actually see how not just cultures, but religions themselves changed a lot over time. Also the concept of religion as well. In the past, not just with Islam, but also Christianity, religion–culture/political life were at times, inseperatable. Your identity was sealed with it and despite the secular image many want to portray today, there are so many aspects of this that still survives. I don’t know how much of it is true, but many of the “Pagan” or indigenous religions that got absorbed by Christianity and Islam were articulated with it. Imaginitively speaking, I think if Jesus and many of the early Christians were to see how their practices became today, I honestly think they might want to seperate themselves from it or focused exclusively on the charity rather than the rituals and salvation (which from my personal experiences, had more similarities to an “Insurance policy”).

    Putting aside the turbulent issues, many activities that Hongkonger mentioned are particularly well-known.

  22. Hongkonger Says:


    Hey, free English classes, that’s great. Any Strings attached?

    Which country are you talking about? England I assume? I used to like to visit Anglican / Catholic Churches in Hong Kong too, for my weekly dose of English-listening practices. Thing was, people
    tended to be friendly and would soon invite me to their homes for Bible studies. Man, I remember this Malaysia/Singapore couple — OMG, they served the best curry and stuff at their home gatherings. And there was this bloke from …can’t remember if he was from US or UK. He had hundreds of movies on Laser Discs in his apartment and fine wine and liquer too. This was before DVD days. Funny thing was, I don’t remember anything about what was discussed now, but I sure remember the meals. I did also make quite a few friends. Some of them were wealthy folks, which a poor junior clerk like me at the time wouldn’t dared dream of making acquaintence with let alone be their guests. But then, all good things must come to an end. As 1997 approached, almost all of these church friends of mine started gradually leaving HK. And wow, that was over eleven years ago!
    But not the Mormons, though. They keep coming. I see these young “elders” every where in the SAR still, but they have never once approached me all these years. I have never actually talked to a Mormon~!
    I guess I must not look approachable or gullible or whatever. I wouldn’t mind chatting with the Mormon girls, though (some are very cute) but then I understand they are only allowed to approach same sex targets. Oh well.

  23. S.K. Cheung Says:

    To Joel #11:
    ““Whatever you think about the way things really are, you should not let it affect how you behave or make decisions or have relationships. When you make decisions and interact with people, you should ignore what you think, and just act according to something else.” – you’re the one not making sense.
    When I say internalize, one can do with one’s understanding of their faith however they please. So if one wants to let religion affect their behaviour, or their decision-making, or their personal interactions, that’s entirely for them to decide.
    But that shouldn’t be externalized, so that one can’t or shouldn’t expect others to behave, make decisions, or interact using the same parameters. In other words, it’s fine for you to subscribe to it, but don’t necessarily expect others to share your enthusiasms. That is what “religion should be a private affair” actually means.

  24. Wukailong Says:

    @Hongkonger: I’ve talked to Mormons once, and boy, was that a weird experience.

    I was soon going back to China, and strolled around in a student’s area in my hometown in Sweden when I saw two young men in some sort of uniforms walking towards me. One walked over to me and said, in Swedish with a heavy American accent:
    – Nice shoes you got there!
    Then the other one asked me where I thought they were from. I said the US.
    – Where in the US, do you think?
    I still haven’t figured out they were mormons, but saw that they had titles on their suits, “First hatch” and “Second hatch”, respectively (don’t ask). Then one of them said:
    – Salt Lake City, Utah. Do you know about that place?
    It was getting hilarious at this point, but I kept my manners and said: – Er, yes, I know the place.
    – God has a very important message for you. Would you like to hear it?
    I politely said that I would be very interested, but I had a bus to catch.
    – But God really wants you to hear this.
    – I’m sorry, I said, I really have to run to that bus.

    So I said goodbye to them and left. Afterwards I’ve thought at times – if God really had a message for me, and I chose the bus instead, I really have my priorities wrong. 🙂

  25. S.K. Cheung Says:

    To Wukailong:
    that sounds a lot like the door-to-door visits we get from Jehovah’s witnesses. They also travel in pairs.

    Perhaps God’s message for you that time was that you really needed to catch that bus…and so you went and caught it. The real kicker would be to think about how your life might be different had you not caught it.

  26. pamhogeweide Says:

    @wkl: So I said goodbye to them and left. Afterwards I’ve thought at times – if God really had a message for me, and I chose the bus instead, I really have my priorities wrong.


    When I lived in Hong Kong forever ago I would sometimes bump into a young Mormon female missionary. At that time (forever ago) there were not many Westerners in my area. So I was quite interested in connecting to another American woman who was living in Tai Po like I was. One evening I introduced myself to her. She introduced her self in kind as Sister whoever. I ignored the sister title and chatting happily kept asking her, “Let’s get together for coffee sometime.” Each time she would correct me, Please address me as sister.

    Finally I had to ask her. “Why must I call you sister?”

    “Because I’m here to serve God for two years so addressing me as sister is a reminder that I have devoted two years of service to him.”

    Being the snarky, outspoken woman I am I replied, “Well, I’ve devoted my entire life to God and you don’t have to call me sister. But do you want to get together for coffee anyway?”

    She blew me off after that last remark. I figured I was just too snipey about the whole call-me-sister-thing. Until it dawned on me: oh yeah, mormons don’t drink coffee. They avoid caffiene.

    And that was that. Me, the fast talking coffee drinking Vegas girl unable to successfully engage with a pious caffiene virgin from Utah.

  27. FOARP Says:

    @Hongkonger – Don’t get me wrong, Christian missionaries and charities do much good work in the third world, and in many parts of Africa are the only reliable source of education or medical treatment. In China, however, they are forbidden from operating openly and can only come in on the pretext of studying Chinese, they do no good work, and none of the ones I met even had that much knowledge of the bible. The Mormons are in a completely different league, I am unaware of them ever having conducted much in the way of charitable work, and their outward appearance is ridiculous. However, as annoying as I find these people, I still do not agree with the ban on their activities.

  28. Hongkonger Says:

    Ban who, and of what activities? Do you mean proselytism?

    Speaking of proselytism, I understand that it is indeed against the law to proselytize in Greece, the cradle of western civilization, democracy and the Orthodox Church faith.

    Maybe you are refering to something else. If so just ignore my following comment:

    Incidently, the 50 millionth Bible printed in China — yes, 50,000,000 made-in-China bibles — has rolled off the presses in Nanjing, on December 8, 2007. Unlike in the West where church membership are actually declining, there is now in China unprecedented church growth and revitalization with churches being reopened, and newly built at a steady rate of 50 church buildings per month for nearly three decades. You do the math.
    The United Methodist Church Global Ministry:http://gbgm-umc.org/global_news/full_article.cfm?articleid=4822
    “After the Cultural Revolution ended and churches began reopening in 1979, the most immediate priority was the printing of Bibles, getting scripture into the hands of Chinese Christians,” explains the Rev. Dr. Cao Shengjie, president of the China Christian Council.

    In the early 1980s Protestant Christian leaders challenged the government that since citizens of China had had restored to them the Constitutional right to religious freedom, the government had the responsibility to provide facilities so that the church could print Christian scriptures, specifically the Holy Bible. The government agreed and in those very early days the first Bibles printed in China after the Cultural Revolution era came off the only presses available at that time, owned by the People’s Liberation Army.

  29. FOARP Says:

    @Hongkonger – On the other hand, if I stood outside the KFC at the corner of Shiziqiao and Hunan Lu in Nanjing handing out leaflets saying that Jesus can save you, I would get my ass arrested – this is the ban I talked about. And I guess I must have missed the bit where I wrote ‘China is the only place where this happens’, because the fact that something happens in Greece makes me, a British citizen who has never been to Greece, guilty of applying a double standard.

    In actuality, the Greek law has to be interpreted in light of the European Convention on Human Rights, and according to Howard M. Friedman, a law professor at the University of Toledo, only applies where the proselytisation is not “covert or co-ercive”. According to the Greek courts, where proselytisation is “open” it is allowed:


    Still, I do not see why there should be a ban on “covert” proselytisation, and there are other laws covering “coercive” behaviour, but so long as Greece fulfils its responsibilities under the ECHR, I see no problem with that government’s policies.

    So therefore, it seems that you are quite wrong, Greece does not have a ban on proselytisation per se.

    As a side note, for those who think of Human Rights Watch and Amnesty as CIA tools used especially for slandering China, read the reports of these organisations on the human rights situation in “the cradle of western civilization, democracy and the Orthodox Church faith”:



  30. Daniel Says:

    Hmm…I’m not sure entirely but I’ve heard of other places where proselytism isn’t allowed. Don’t know if it’s by law or if some authorities use certain aspects of the laws to justified their actions. One of my classmates from Saudi Arabia (he isn’t saudi but one of the American kids who grew up there…basically live there for a long time) mentioned something similar to me.

    I guess it depends how and where you are doing this type of work. Sometimes it can be disturbing or very distracting in a few public places.

  31. Hongkonger Says:

    FOARP: “you are quite wrong, Greece does not have a ban on proselytisation per se. ”

    Ok, I’m cool with that, So, it’s just a question of incovenience in Greece for the proselytizers (Is that a word?)

    So, ok views on proselytism do differ radically. Some feel that freedom of speech should have no limits and that virtually anyone, anywhere should have the right to talk about anything they see fit. Others see all sorts of proselytism as a nuisance and an intrusion and would like to see them restricted, either completely or to a limited arena. It is a question of the perceived right of a person to express his or her views—versus the perceived right of a person not to be exposed to views that he or she does not wish to hear. This is kinda like the banning of smoking in public venues in HK and I understand USA. I don’t suppose there is a ban of sorts in Europe , is there? Personally, I really don’t mind street preaching, I had found them entertaining at times, but others are concerned about their children and teenagers, I suppose.

    From a legal standpoint there do appear to be certain criteria in distinguishing licit from illicit proselytism:
    The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights Article 18 states; well, so as not to bore you with details here’s one example:
    Freedom to manifest one’s religion or beliefs may be subject only to such limitations as are prescribed by law and are necessary to protect public safety, order, health, or morals or the fundamental rights and freedoms of others. Pretty cool.

  32. TommyBahamas Says:

    Speaking of the C I of A….When the CIA was launched in 1947 at the beginning of the Cold War, these pioneers felt that they had both the right and the duty to secretly manipulate the masses for the greater good. Alongside those Greek morality plays and Biblical injunctions, we are also reminded by history itself that the use of unethical means to achieve a worthy end can be self-destructive. Power, by definition, is isolated from the correcting signals of external criticism. Or perhaps the feeling of fighting evil fits so comfortably, that it’s difficult to shed even after objective circumstances change. By mid-1953 the department was operating with 7,200 personnel and 74 percent of the CIA’s total budget.
    The CIA’s global network funded the Italian elections in 1948, sent paramilitary teams into Albania, trained Nationalist Chinese on Taiwan, and pumped money into the Congress for Cultural Freedom, the National Student Association, and the Center for International Studies at MIT. Key leaders and labor unions in western Europe received subsidies, and Radio Free Europe and Radio Liberty were launched. The Wurlitzer, an organ designed for film productions, could imitate sounds such as rain, thunder, or an auto horn. The C I A was at the keyboard, directing history. The ethos of the fight against fascism carried over into the fight against godless communism — Yes, Communism the ideology, but not anymore. China, for example, once dubbed as atheistic China, is reportedly to have greater religious diversity, activities and practicians than, say, the continent of Europe. Allah be praised, Halelujah, 阿弥托佛, shaka~!

  33. Otto Kerner Says:

    Why is religion in pursuit of strength bad but religion in pursuit of ethnic identity good? My personal proclivities lead me to be interested in neither. However, I’m not sure that either case necessarily means that a person’s faith is dishonest. Suppose someone converted to Christianity and explained himself with the logic, “The Christian countries tend to be stronger and wealthier than the Muslim countries of the world. Since God is the ruler of the world, this implies that God favours the Christian countries, which implies that the Christian religion is more pleasing to God. Therefore, I have converted to Christianity in hopes of receiving the dual blessings of God’s favour in eternity as well as security and prosperity in this life.” I don’t actually agree with the conclusion, but I can’t say the logic badly flawed. Given a few basic premises, that person has made a sensible analysis of the situation.

    Other than that, I think that the author makes some good points.

  34. Daniel Says:

    It’s not good or bad per se, but more like that’s how life was for many—especially in the past. Also, religion is viewed differently in several parts of the world. That’s also one of the reason why I think looking at people from a supposedly “secular-modern” perspective entirely may not be helpful in understanding others.

    One of the points Otto made regarding how many people and I personally witness Christianity was being pursuit…as gaining blessings and favours or security and such (or else for some beliefs); probably for most of us who read and comment on this blog, it does make sense but for others it is absurb. People who take religion seriously see things not necessary in an extreme light but in another perspective.

    For example, one of the monotheistic faiths (maybe more) does not have or doesn’t place importance on duality of God…good vs evil. God is one, there is no other power. It doesn’t make sense in making such confession of faith or other religious actions that people normally associate with Christianity. There’s a lot more to it but this is just one small detail I want to add in removing some mountain pebbles related to the topic.

    This is also one of the significant reasons why I wouldn’t recommend lumping all religions together when discussing topics like this.

  35. Wukailong Says:

    “That’s also one of the reason why I think looking at people from a supposedly “secular-modern” perspective entirely may not be helpful in understanding others.”

    I agree with that. First of all you need to understand how others think, and for a deeply religious person, things like separation between church and state, or the idea that religion is private, might just seem wrong. That’s no reason not to separate state and church, but we must be aware that a lot of people think like that.

    If we want secular states, I think we must admit that we don’t want people to be fundamentalists, or only want to them to be a minority.

  36. Hongkonger Says:

    Wukailong says it well, “If we want secular states, I think we must admit that we don’t want people to be fundamentalists, or only want them to be a minority.”

    Here, in China, we are a Secular State, where the law forbids public proselytisation, straight and simple. There are of course other forms of government which also limit such activities, namely certain Islamic Theocractic states, and even the so-called Christendom of America where there’re even the “Bible-Belt states.”
    What immediately comes to mind is, unfortunately, the millenium or so long hellish conflicts between these two theocracies. In the present world, I think the relatively weaker fundamentalist terrorist groups with their smaller scale killing in pursue for vengeance versus the super terrorist’s mass killings in pursue for show of strength to scare and continue to oppress are BOTH anti-religion. Much of the profound animosity Islamic terrorists feel towards America, for example, a so-called Christian-Nation, is fueled by a cultural memory of what the soldiers of Christendom did to Muslims during the Crusades, and, that the deeply embedded religious grudge are easily ressurrected enmass be it with the effrontery of a military invasion, or the cruel and humiliating treatment of Iraqi prisoners by some US soldiers at Abu Gharib, a bias press report every bnow and then, or a proxy assassination, coup or military actions. This is where I agree with Otto Kerner’s partial question-statment that “religion in pursuit of strength [is] bad.” But more importantly, I appreciate even more with Daniel’s sentiment, “This is also one of the significant reasons why I wouldn’t recommend lumping all religions together when discussing topics like this.”
    Truly, if there is a god, my only prayer request is that in his or her greatness — to please let the followers of all religions learn to love this albeit temporal life, while the rest of the secular world to be respectful and honor the choices of every person; that the future human race will truly, forever, live in peace and harmony on this our only home, our fantastic, lovely blue earth.

  37. Daniel Says:

    I think before others start rambling off, let me say one thing. If you get large enough number of genuine religious devotees practicing and celebrating their beliefs together, in one way or another, it will have an effect on people around them—-religious or not. Some religions aren’t as limited as others where their activities are somewhat confined to certain days and locations. Of course, this really depends on the devotees themselves and interpretation some may say.

    I agree with almost everything with Hongkong except I still need to say that one is still free to do such activities in the United States, even in the “Bible-belt”. It’s more like some refrain themselves to do so voluntary, because of common sense and the “vibes” of the environment. It doesn’t mean the people there don’t have issues, as with many countries around the world. Don’t believe what many people say or media, organizations boast about because the majority of Americans do not attend religious activities on a regular basis. Even among the ones who do, the majority are there for sake of tradition rather than subscribing to the level of devotion many presume religious people to be.

    In another matter of speaking, religion is a complex issue, which goes beyond politics. If a majority of people subscribe to a particular set of beliefs in a secular state and they want something that may appear not-so-secular and could possibly effect everyone, where do they want to draw the line?

  38. Allen Says:


    Even without really defining what “religion” is, I agree with you that there is definitely often a conflict between religious values and secular values.

    The easiest cases of such conflicts (in the U.S.) relate to abortion. A couple of parents, being religions, may not want their kid to get an abortion even when their kid accidentally got pregnant. The U.S. federal government, being secular, however goes against the wishes of the parents and mandates the kid a right to abortion.

    Another easy case involve polygamy. While some religious groups allow (even encourages) polygamy, the law (in the U.S. at least) makes it illegal. The recent highly sensationalized case in Eldorado, Texas illustrates an example of such conflicts.

    There are also many cases involving public symbolism. Two recent well-publicized cases involve head scarf bans in France and Turkey. In one country, the highest court ruled the ban unconstitutional, while the other ruled it constitutional.

    The list of conflicts goes on…

    Secularism mandates personal freedom of religion – but only to a certain extent.

  39. TommyBahamas Says:

    Like I earlier wrote, “Power, by definition, is isolated from the correcting signals of external criticism.” This, of course is not from me, I read this somewhere and I think it, most unfortunately, to be very true.
    Watching “Saving Private Ryan” for the third time, I kept asking the question, how can anyone even want to be a soldier or serve their nations in any war? Other than this funny line by Private Ryan: “Picture a girl who took a nosedive from the ugly tree and hit every branch on the way down,” the following not funny at all dialogue reminds me of the distinctions between decent human beings who follow instinct/conscience and decent men who obey orders:
    Captain Miller: Caparzo, get that kid back up there!
    Private Caparzo: Captain, the decent thing to do would be take her over to the next town.
    Captain Miller: We’re not here to do the decent thing, we’re here to follow fucking orders!

    The exposed Caparzo (Van Diesel) was shot by a German sniper as a result of the distraction of “doing the decent thing.”


    “Don’t believe what many people say or media, organizations boast about … This is absolutely good advise….”

    Another excellent sample from the same movie:
    Private Reiben: Hey, so, Captain, what about you? I mean, you don’t gripe at all?
    Captain Miller: I don’t gripe to *you*, Reiben. I’m a captain. There’s a chain of command. Gripes go up, not down. Always up. You gripe to me, I gripe to my superior officer, so on, so on, and so on. I don’t gripe to you. I don’t gripe in front of you. You should know that as a Ranger.
    Private Reiben: I’m sorry, sir, but uh… let’s say you weren’t a captain, or maybe I was a major. What would you say then?
    Captain Miller: Well, in that case… I’d say, “This is an excellent mission, sir, with an extremely valuable objective, sir, worthy of my best efforts, sir. Moreover… I feel heartfelt sorrow for the mother of Private James Ryan and am willing to lay down my life and the lives of my men – especially you, Reiben – to ease her suffering.”
    Mellish: [chuckles] He’s good.

    That’s leadership quality? What comes first? Of course in politcs, as in wars, the orders and the mission come first. To hell with the truth. The inumerable cases of sex-offenses by the men-of-the-cloth for example with the cover-ups and white-washes from the local parish to the Vatican ( ! ), should tell us that it is one thing to believe in higher things but you’d be a fool to trust in people in so-called respectful positions — Indeed, Allen, The list of conflicts goes on…Secularism mandates personal freedom of religion – but only to a certain extent.

  40. Hongkonger Says:

    “the majority of Americans do not attend religious activities on a regular basis. Even among the ones who do, the majority are there for sake of tradition rather than ….”

    Agreed and long understood. Yes. However, As I’d pointed out earlier: “Unlike in the West where church membership are actually declining, there is now in China unprecedented church growth and revitalization with churches being reopened, and newly built at a steady rate of 50 church buildings per month for nearly three decades. You do the math.”
    I don’t really care who believe what or not, as long as the rediculous theology of dominionism doesn’t get into these followers’ head and start another Tai Ping type rebellion. If it were up to me, I’d say let them worship, enjoy fellowship of like minded faith, learn to be an ever more moral & charitable people. The law
    of the land will have to suffice to keep well-defined fanatical elements in line.

    On the other hand, Palin, if she becomes the next VP, and McCain … I don’t want to say it, but let’s just say, due to health reasons, had to step down, there could be another politcized revival of American fundamentalism under her And which as a consequence would take almost nothing for the venom to spill over to this part of the world, to the detriment of peace and harmony of this incrementally permissive secular state, I am very much afraid.

  41. Hongkonger Says:

    Correction: Agreed and long understood. As I’d already pointed out earlier:( #28 )“Unlike in the West where church membership are actually declining, there is now in China unprecedented church growth…

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