Being one of those people who are annoyed by door-to-door sales people and wandering religious missionaries in particular, I had placed a “No Soliciting” sign right above my door bell some time back. So then what do the unwanted visitors do? They knock on the door! Explaining the sign to sales people is fruitless; they plead ignorance regarding what “soliciting” is. Religious solicitors don’t believe what they are doing is “soliciting” either – after all, they are on a Higher Mission.
Back then I was very abrupt with visiting religious proselytizers; but not so today. While working on my documentary about magician and inventor, Jerry Andrus, I adopted his approach with missionaries. Jerry was a vocal Agnostic but a very sweet and engaging personality. He would invite visiting missionaries into his home and engage them in debate. Jerry had studied the bible thoroughly and often knew more about the book than the iterate evangelists. Neither, I am sure, believed they were going to change any minds, but Jerry at least hoped they would leave with some alternate concept to consider.
Shortly after moving into our new home, a couple of Jehovah’s Witnesses came to my door; I welcomed them filled with joyful spirit and rapture.
Had I heard about the testament of Jesus Christ, they inquired? I had indeed, was my enthusiastic response; in fact I had been motivated to make all manner of study of the Christian beliefs to such a thorough extent at which I became convinced that there is no such thing as god(s).
The gentleman’s hand froze as he was about to pull a copy of “The Watchtower” from his valise. But surely, the woman missionary interjected, I believed the bible was the “word of god”? “Which bible”, I asked? There are dozens of versions. Clearly none were penned directly by the “almighty” but were rather inspired in the minds of mortal men. I further explained that the people of Jesus’ time spoke Aramaic but the earliest fragments of bible copies (as we have no original) were written in Greek. Surely she didn’t think that Jesus walked around in his time uttering “thee” and “thou”… that is Olde English.
I explained to the woman that, unlike the Bible, the Book of Mormon is claimed to be a “first-hand” account written by a known author, Joseph Smith. I inquired of them both if they thought the Book of Mormon to be a true testament of god? They strongly declined. I suggested that it certainly is easy to make up wonderful and fanciful stories, offering them as “evidence”. But I also reassured them that I didn’t believe that books written about Robin Hood and King Arthur were evidence that those characters were real as well.
By this time the gentleman had tucked his “Watchtower” pamphlet back into his valise; he clearly was not wanting to waste his booklet on the likes of me. As they attempted to back away I explained why I thought the concept of Heaven to be a silly idea and how boring it must be there for people such as me with such creative consciousness to have to spend eternity praising the glory of the lord. By the time I had launched into the findings in Stephen Hawking's new book explaining about Dark Matter and Dark Energy and pre-universe conditions, I clearly had lost them.
I wished them a hearty “Thank you for stopping by”, and sent them on their way with a smile and a friendly wave.
Now I have an inkling of what it must feel like to be filled with the rapture of the Holy Spirit.
Note: After this and a second encounter with Mormon missionaries, I decided to prepare my own pamphlet to hand out in future encounters. You can download a copy of my non-theist pamphlet from my web site. It is not copyrighted so feel free to adapt it for your own use.