Jehovah’s Witnesses and genial insanity

One thing I forgot to mention about yesterday’s trip: As I was sitting outside the airport waiting for the SkyRide bus from Denver to Boulder to arrive, a guy who had been standing next to me for several minutes turned to me and said, “So, how are you to day?” I immediately knew: evangelical, proselytizer. The only question was which “faith” and since Mormons seem to travel in pairs, I was pretty sure I knew.

I told the guy I was doing just great. Sure enough, his next question as about my “relationship with Jesus Christ” and whether I read the Bible. I told him I’d memorized it just to see what he’s do, but I don’t think he heard me in his haste to launch into a spiel. He produced not only the Watchtower but a companion pubication called Awake!, which describes the myriad ways in which Earth is clearly designed for life. As he leaned over my shoulder pointing out keep passages and emphasizing how “none of this could have been an accident, there’s an intelligent design,” I started to clench my teeth, but then realized (and this shows you the typical mind of a connected person c. 2009) I could just blog about it later.

These Jehovah’s Witnesses are invariably pleasant people. I could never be rude to one no matter what sort of crazy, unwelcome shit they produce. In fact, I don’t even have the heart to argue–although my primary reason for letting them have their say and taking copies of their rags is because it’s the path of least resistance and gets rid of them more quickly.

So when the guy said that if the Earth were not 96 million miles from the sun (OK, he was closer than most Americans ever will be), life could not exist and it is therefore obvious God put the Earth there for the benefit of humankind (which apparently came first), I didn’t say, “Isn’t it obvious to you that one of the planets happened to form in an orbit that allowed for conditions favoring carbon-based life, and that’s why we only see it on Earth? And do you know how inhospitable most of Earth is?” I just shut up and tried to appear pensive.

One other weird thing he said: “We don’t get involved in government, because Jehovah is going to destroy all governments anyway.” It’s true that Jehovah’s Witnesses aren’t active in trying to fuck things up for everyone like Evangelical Christians are (not that they have the numbers to do much), but their apparent motivation seems a little offbeat.

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  1. #1 by catgirl on June 17, 2009 - 1:31 pm

    There are several fun ways to deal with people like this. You could try just pretending that you already agree with them about everything, and then just take it to ridiculous levels, like saying that bananas must be designed because they are so convenient, then wondering why God made oranges so delicious, yet so messy. Is it a way of testing us, or is the work of Satan?

    The other thing that’s fun is to innocently ask them what they think evolution actually is. It’s cute when they get all flustered because they have no idea, unless you get one of those weirdos who truly believes all the straw man descriptions of evolution. Occasionally you’ll meet someone whose heart really isn’t into converting people, and they are there because of peer pressure. In that case, you might actually teach them something valuable about evolution by natural selection, if you’re polite enough about it.

  2. #2 by Ed Darrell on June 18, 2009 - 2:02 pm

    I have lived and worked among the Mormons. I have many Mormon friends. Heck, buildings at Brigham Young University are named after my cousins and uncles, as are towns and other places in Utah, where I did much growing up. Just background.

    I worked with one formerly very successful Mormon missionary who taught me a grand trick. We used to have to walk to lunch past a corner where Scientologists waited to spring if the “Don’t Walk” lights favored them. It was always a pain to explain to them we’d already answered their survey, and no, we didn’t have four hours for a torture session at their storefront down the way . . .

    Walking with the missionary, the light stopped us; the Scientologists sprang! The former missionary was cool. With a big grin he said he’d be happy to answer the survey, and grabbing the clipboard and pen from the Scientologist, he said loud enough for all of them to hear, “By the way, what do you know about the Mormons? Would you like to know more?”

    All of the Scientologists paled. While my friend clung to the clipboard, they explained there was some emergency back at the Mother Ship that they suddenly had to get to. “But I haven’t filled out the whole survey,” my friend complained as they fairly ripped the board from his hands and retreated a full city block.

    I’m not a Mormon, nor am I a friend of Bill Wilson, but I use their techniques when possible. You should have seen the look of terror on the woman’s face when I got her seated with a glass of water, took her Watchtower and pulled out a copy of Carl Zimmer’s Evolution, and then asked her with a smile, “Say, do you know much about the Mormons? I’d like to tell you a lot more.”

    The phone in her pocket was vibrating with an emergency message, she said. She had to leave.

    It doesn’t work with Mormon missionaries, though. They have records, and they know better.

  3. #3 by The Ridger on June 21, 2009 - 5:48 pm

    Since the only JW I ever knew personally was a guy who told his children that their mother was going to hell since she was an Episcopalian, I have a hard time thinking of them as “pleasant people”.

  4. #4 by Theo Bromine on June 21, 2009 - 6:10 pm

    A JW came to my door yesterday. Unfortunately, I was working and had no time to engage him in conversation, so I simply said (very politely), “I’m an atheist, so I’m not interested in your literature.” Somewhat to my surprise, he responded, “Thanks, have a nice day”, and left without another word.

  5. #5 by hinschelwood on June 23, 2009 - 3:25 am

    I’ve only been visited by the JWs once. I got out of bed on a Sunday morning to tell them politely that I wasn’t interested and then went back to bed.

    What I should have done is said, “I’m not interested, but I’ll see if my boyfriend is.” If that didn’t scare them away (what with me being male), I could pop into my (empty) bedroom and come back and tell them that he wasn’t interested either.

  6. #6 by SouthernFriedSkeptic on June 29, 2009 - 4:59 pm

    Living in the deep south, visits from those spreading the “good news” are quite common. My most recent visit was JW. Having been raised as in an evangelical home, I always try to be polite and let them say their peace if I have time. But I refuse to agree just to be agreeable. Their pitch began by asking if I had noticed the world seemed to be in decline with wars and disease increasing and moral behavior decreasing. A poor opening pitch, since I promptly replied, “no”. Then went on to discuss how I think moral behavior has increased on the whole over the course of history by pointing out that we condemn slavery, we don’t burn witches, we promote individual rights and freedom of worship, we attempt to provide equality under the law. It’s not perfect, but it’s better than the theocracies of the middle ages. Also, though disease exists, modern science has greatly increased life expectency and decreased infant mortality. Many deadly diseases are no longer given a second thought thanks to vaccines. And while war is still a terrible blight on society, I think it would be hard to argue that war today is more frequent, deadly, or miserable than it was during most of human history, including the world wars.

    They nodded, laughed uncomfortably, handed me a pamphlet and left. I never even got to tell them I was an atheist or discuss the finer points of their accepted beliefs. Sometimes thinking is to fundamentalists what garlic is to vampires

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