Document Type


Publication Date

April 2015

Publication Title

Open Theology


Critics of Christianity in India have frequently accused Christianity of being a predatory, imperialistic religion with absolutist tendencies, and have framed Christian evangelism as an aggressive, uncouth act. More recently, however, and in an idiom that resonates with many contemporary Indians, Swami Dayananda Saraswati (1930-) has made the more controversial claim that the attempt to convert another person is itself an act of violence. In three parts, the paper 1) describes Dayananda’s claims, while bringing them into conversation with the arguments of earlier critics of Christianity (e.g., Mahatma Gandhi, Sita Ram Goel, Ashok Chowgule, Arun Shourie), 2) analyzes and critique Dayananda’s use of the term “violence,” and 3) demonstrate how the claim that conversion is an act of violence blurs somewhat easily into a justification of acts of violence against those who attempt to convert others. In the end, I argue that whether Dayananda’s claim that proselytization is a form of violence makes sense depends not only on one’s definition of “violence,” but also on one’s definition of “religion.”