DEAR ABBY: Your advice to "Happy Hindu in the Bible Belt," whose Christian friends tuck religious pamphlets into holiday boxes of baked goodies in an effort to convert her, was off base. You advised her to ignore the brochures and enjoy the goodies -- unless she had lost her appetite -- in which case she should donate the treats to a shelter or take them to the office.
I disagree. That lovely lady should politely tell her friends that she likes her own religion and ask them to please stop with the religious literature. If they continue, she should end the friendship. If converting her is more important than her friendship, there IS no friendship. -- BEEN THERE, TOO, IN BEND, ORE.
DEAR B.T.T.: Your answer is better than mine. Interestingly, "Happy Hindu's" problem appears to be widespread. That letter brought in a bushel of mail. Read on:
DEAR ABBY: I am Jewish. A friend from college kept sending me "Jesus Loves You" Christmas cards. I told her it hurt my feelings that she didn't respect my beliefs. I made it clear that I am Jewish and will always remain Jewish, as it is my religious and cultural background.
Like "Hindu," I know that some of these gestures are well-intentioned, but I would never dream of sending my friend Hanukkah cards. I send cards that say "Season's Greetings" or "Happy Holidays." It's good to learn about other people's beliefs and be open to them -- but not when they're forced on you. -- JILL IN SACRAMENTO
DEAR JILL: I regret that I did not advise "Happy Hindu" to be as outspoken and upfront as you and "Been There."
DEAR ABBY: Your answer to "Happy Hindu" offended me as a Christian. If the circumstances were different, would you tell me to ignore my Buddhist friends, but enjoy their treats if I didn't gag first? Why is evangelical Christianity the only religion we shouldn't tolerate? -- MARY S., ELLIJAY, GA.
DEAR MARY S.: It's not. Anyone who proselytizes is treading on "sacred ground." It's regarded as offensive, even if it is heartfelt.
DEAR ABBY: Hard as it is to live with some evangelicals, they are easier to take than people who feel justified in resorting to violence against those they feel are "lost." You have to understand that with evangelicals, it is an article of faith, and it's their Christian duty to preach their version of the Gospel, especially if they care about you and are genuinely concerned about your soul. -- DOLLY IN LACEY, WASH.
DEAR DOLLY: I am aware of that. A devout and very sweet lady once told me she was "sad" because she loved me and knew she wouldn't see me in heaven. I asked her why. She said, "Because you haven't been saved!" Once I got over the shock that her heaven was segregated, I assured her that even though I might not be in hers, she would definitely be in mine, so please not to worry any further.
DEAR ABBY: Many people have stopped me on the street or come to my door with religious tracts, so I had cards printed with the following: "I never told my own religion nor scrutinized that of another. I never attempted to make a convert, nor wished to change another's creed. I am satisfied that yours must be an excellent religion to have produced a life of such exemplary virtue and correctness. For it is in our lives, not from our words, that our religion must be judged." (Thomas Jefferson to Mrs. H. Harrison Smith, 1816) -- KAYE IN N.Y.C.
DEAR KAYE: I agree with his timeless and profound conclusion.
To order "How to Write Letters for All Occasions," send a business-sized, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $5 (U.S. funds) to: Dear Abby -- Letter Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Postage is included in the price.)
4520 Main St., Kansas City, Mo. 64111; (816) 932-6600