Both the term and any activities associated with proselytization today have been cast in a pejorative light. This is not to suggest that proselytism is on a decline, but only that those who proselytize must now regularly defend the appropriateness of their intentions and actions. In short, a near consensus has emerged among scholars and practitioners of religion alike that genuine respect for the religiously Other must entail the toleration of religious differences or at least preclude what has been called “evangelistic malpractice.” It remains to be seen, however, whether this view of respect upon which much contemporary anti-proselytization rests can itself be justified, and if so, how?
As a way of addressing this question, I will provide a typology of ways to argue for anti-proselytization. As will become clear, the plurality of these “ideal types” can be partially explained by the multiple, even if sometimes mutually opposing, accounts of what proselytism and its primary objective, conversion, even entail. To provide a working definition, then, the aim of proselytism is to bring about a significant change in the pre-existing religious commitments, identity, membership, or lack thereof of others. Those who respond positively to such recommendations might undergo one of several types of conversion, from intensifying their dedication to the religion with which they were only nominally affiliated, switching denominations to match that of the proselytizer, or beginning the process of adopting an entirely new religious tradition altogether (Rambo 1993, 12–14).