Last minute religious conversions, when patients are about to die, are not uncommon phenomena. Anyone who has worked in a hospital will tell you this.
Sometimes, when a person is very ill, religious workers (who are not of the dying person’s faith) will visit, comfort and perhaps even pray for the patient. Sometimes the dying person is asked to pray with them. Often this is done when the patient’s relatives are not around.
So, when the person dies, a dispute can sometimes occur. The religious workers will come forward and claim that the deceased person embraced their faith at the last minute and very often it is their word against the relatives’ word.
When a person is very ill, he might not be in the right frame of mind to decide whether or not to stick to the faith he has practiced his entire life. Very often, he might allow these workers to pray for him either out of courtesy or the apprehension of approaching death. Or he might be so ill that he does not know what is really going on around him.
It is really inconceivable to think that a person could suddenly abandon something he has believed in his entire life and embrace a new religion. It is also inconceivable that he could understand and believe in something within such a short timespan.
When a dispute arises out of this, the people that suffer most will be the spouse and the family. Just look at the photograph of the late Gan Eng Gor's widow which has been posted on many blogs lately. The lady was crying so helplessly.
All religions teach compassion. No religion would want to be the cause of such great suffering and sadness for a family. It is only the actions of overzealous religious followers who, in following the form but not the true spirit of their religious teachings, cause so much suffering and bitterness.
God would not condone this. God would not want a family to be separated, either in life or in death. By all means, pray for the dying person. By all means, do all the good deeds to help him. But if ever he wishes to be converted on his deathbed, please, let the family know in advance.
It would be better to try to convert someone when they are healthy and kicking so that they are in the right frame of mind to decide whether there is anything in the new faith worth abandoning their old faith for.
To convert someone just for the sake of converting, or for the sake of statistics, is not what God wishes. If you wish to convert someone, you must make sure that he really understands and fully believes in the teachings of that particular faith. Otherwise, you may separate the body and heart. This is not what religion is about.
The world would be a much better place if only we remembered a simple teaching from Confucius: Do not do onto others what you do not want others to do onto you.