04 June, 2008

Fun With Proselytizers, Part the Second

In our previous installment of "Fun With Proselytizers," I promised to tell you a story involving an arrest. I shan't keep you waiting:

Our neighborhood in Page had a rather strict "No Soliciters" law, which always amused me to no end, considering that if we were going by British definitions, that would mean a whole subset of lawyers wouldn't be able to set foot in the place. My dad took the definition even beyond that.

One day, he was summoned to the door by two Mormon missionaries, who always come in pairs and never seem to give up. My dad was in one of his Moods. "You know we have a law against solicitation," he informed them.

"We're not solicitors," the missionaries said, displaying the sin of Pride. They proceeded to lecture my father on their rights.

When Dad's in a Mood, you don't push the issue. He went to the phone, called the police, and said, "I have a couple of solicitors here who won't leave, and I want them arrested."

Sergeant R. promptly showed up and bunged the severely surprised missionaries into the back of his patrol car. He then asked my dad if he'd like to press charges. Dad would. Sergeant R went back to his car for the proper paperwork, and in the course of digging that out and informing the poor young men that they faced charges, discovered what exactly it was he had in the car.

He came back to the door sheet white and shaking. "Brent, I can't arrest them! They're missionaries."

My dad replied with perfect, unruffled calm, "Yep. And they were selling religion. I want them arrested."

Sergeant R spent a frantic half-hour on the phone with his superiors, looking for a loophole, visions of impending annihilation from the very powerful Mormon church dancing in his head, while the missionaries got a rest in the back of the patrol car. No loopholes were found. The situation would have been very black indeed if Dad hadn't relented after he figured the lesson had sunk in.

His house, strangely enough, was never visited again. He became something of a neighborhood celebrity, though. Even our devout Mormon neighbors thought it was funny, if scandulous.

I don't think they were quite as offended as Christchurch George was the day he met Jesus.

The story comes to me by way of my friend John from New Zealand. John used to live in Christchurch, Australia, with an interesting bloke named Toby. Every Sunday morning, regular as clockwork, George would come over after church in the valliant but vain attempt to convert these two heathen college students to the Lord. They'd always invite him in for coffee and have a spirited discussion about the salvation of souls, but George always left disappointed.

One day, after a hard Saturday night, John was lying abed when he heard the bell go. It's only George, he thought, and rolled over to go back to sleep, in too delicate a state for God talk. He'd let Toby entertain alone today.

Until he heard Toby's hearty voice announce, "George, I have great news for ya! Jesus is in our home!"

"Halleluja!" George shouted.

What the fuck? John thought. Memories of the night before weren't so fuzzy that he would've forgotten something like converting to Christianity. And yet here was Toby, proclaiming Jesus was in their home, and George beside himself with glee. John decided further investigation was warranted, and scrambled for a pair of pants.

He reached the living room just as Toby was saying, "Yeah, he's in the kitchen. I'll go get him."

George registered confusion, but he was too happy to question that odd statement. Toby vanished. George pressed John for more details. "I don't have any idea," John said, mystified.

Toby emerged from the kitchen carrying a kitten they'd acquired the night before and hadn't yet named. "George," he said proudly, "meet Jesus."

George glared at the kitten, glared at Toby, and glared at John, who was falling down the wall laughing. "Blasphemers!" he spat, and huffed out, never to return.

Enough to bring tears to your eyes, isn't it? I'll never be able to top it. Although it is fun to whip out an argument no Christian has ever been able to refute: God told me to become an atheist.

A while back, when I was living in Flagstaff, a Jehovah's Witness came to the door. I usually give them pretty short shrift - I figure neither of us needs to waste our time - but this was an Asian gentleman, and I have to admit I was fascinated. I'd never met an Asian Jehovah's Witness before. I advised up front in kindly terms that I'm an atheist.

"I can understand that," he said. "I'm a physicist."

What the fuck is a physicist doing doorknocking for the Witnesses? I wondered, but immediately on the heels of this was the thought: Dana, this is an opportunity. So I invited him in. Look - the bugger showed up at my house wanting to convert, the least he could do was answer some tough physics questions I had for my worldbuilding.

Alas, either I wasn't able to explain what I needed, or he was a piss-poor physicist. In light of the evidence, I plump for the latter: he was useless, and of course had an annoying way of turning every bit of physics conversation back to God, which drove me nuts. I decided to bludgeon him with Zen Master Seung Sahn's cup-and-rainbow argument, but that only works for Zen Masters faced with Christian missionaries - the only answer I could get to "who made the cup? Who made the rainbow?" was "God." That was his stock answer for everything, and as for philosophical judo, it was like trying to wrestle a limbless man.

After a couple of visits, I finally decided we were done. He brought up the need for me to turn to God once again, and I said, "Why would I do that when it was God who wanted me to become an atheist?"

I always get spectacular results with that one. He got the hit-by-a-hockey-puck look. His mouth opened. It closed. He finally said, "What do you mean?"

"When I made the decision to walk away from religion, I prayed about it," I told him. "I told God that I felt He was nudging me to do this, and that I was going to do it, but if it was the wrong thing to do, all I needed was a sign from Him letting me know. Since that day, my life has done nothing but improve. If God exists, it seems I'm doing what He wanted me to do, so how can I defy Him? If He doesn't exist, why would I come back to a religion that made me miserable?"

The poor JW couldn't think of a single thing to say. He made a brief, lame and quickly aborted attempt to come back with the "could it be Satan?" counter-argument, but he'd lost, and he knew it. He left me to my happy godlessness.

Those are just some of my many stories about encounters with evangelists. I hope they've kept you entertained. I'm sure you've got plenty more. Please do feel free to share them!


NP said...

I *love* your story about the Jehovah's Witness! For some, it is inconceivable that prayer could lead to anything except their church door, Bible in one hand, offering check in the other.

JB said...

I think I may have summoned the Mormons to my house. I was filling out a form online to get a free Mormon bible (you know, to read up on the other side).

I had done it for a Quran and a regular bible, and they just said "thanks, we'll mail one soon". The Mormon site, however, said "thanks, missionaries will be sent to contact you soon". Oh shit, what have I done?

At least now I have some ideas to try if they keep coming back. Any suggestions for a good way to say "thanks for the bible, now never come back here ever again"?

Unknown said...

I usually ask them specifics about things in the old testament where there they kill everyone.

"If you find it is true and can prove that such a detestable act has occurred among you, you must attack that town and completely destroy all its inhabitants, as well as all the livestock" Deuteronomy 13:13-19

I read the quote, then look shocked and sad, "Why, that's genocide! We don't have that kind of nonsense in our household." The best thing about people who bring the bible is that it is loaded with ridiculous quotes that are totally embarrassing to read. You'd think that they'd edit it or something. I _pray_ that they'd let me edit it!

Or I ask them the minimum that I need to do to be saved in their church. I let them know that I'm collecting salvations in every religion "just in case". This turns Pascal's wager around. Pascal assumed that there was one thing to do to be a "believer" that could save you from damnation. We know know that as there are countless religions, there are countless ways to be saved. Thus according to Pascal's logic, we should do them all, just in case.

One other one (yes, I have a lot of spare time to think of bullshit) is to claim to have spoken with God like personally. Why not? God spoke to people all the time in the bible, who says that he stopped? Didn't they know that there's something wrong with them if God does NOT personally speak with them? If he doesn't talk to them how do they know he exists?

Now I have the sock puppet, I can say anything I want. The best part is that every argument can be won by, "But God _told_ me personally." If they doubt this, then it's all up for grabs at this point. I mean after all someone coming and telling you stuff is a little more believable than reading it in a very old book.

Oh, sometimes, I like to say that I believe that there is only one sin that gets you into hell and that is talking about God. I say that I believe in God, but he told me not to talk about it or I'll go to hell. Oh wait!

Dana Hunter said...

@NP: Glad you liked it! Thought we all needed a little light entertainment after the weekend. ;-)

@Jolly Bloger: See what happens when you conjure up demons without a proper magic circle? Oh, wait, the Mormons aren't demons. Sorry, hard to tell when they've just knocked you out of bed. ;-D Anyway, bestest way to get rid of them is to spend a week highlighting every contradiction between the Book of Mormon and the Bible, and on their next visit, ask them to explain those away. Works a charm. Also, check out Atheist Chaplain's comment in Part the First - he did a brilliant job as well!

@Leroy: Now I have another thing on my list of things to do before I die: I really, really want to be at your house when proselytizers show up. Popcorn a must. ROFLMAO!

Efrique said...

Hi Dana:

Re your Christchurch story - Christchurch is in New Zealand, so either it happened in NZ rather than Australia, or it happened in Australia but somewhere other than Christchurch.

Anonymous said...

Whenever christian missionaries (mormon, Jehova's witness, ...) came to my grandmothers house asking to talk about Jesus, she would say, "I'm sorry, I'm too busy at the moment. But if you could wait for a minute, I'm sure my brother, the rabbi, would be happy to spend some time with you."
She would leave them outside the door & walk into the house. When she returned (by herself) 2 minutes later, there was always an empty porch...