So I was just about to sit down for lunch. I had a ham and cheese sandwich on the plate, an open bag of Doritos on the table, and the op-ed section of the local paper opened to the Letters to the Editor. I was in the process of opening a Red Stripe when I noticed the Jehovahs walking down the sidewalk to our front door.
The two elderly black men wore very nice suits, and each carried a black covered book in his right hand. One held pamphlets in his left hand. I went from the kitchen to the front door, opened it, and addressed them in advance of their inevitable knock.
Normally, I'm fairly tolerant of these types of things. Young people peddling magazines, exterminators dropping by to let us know they've got all the chemicals necessary to rid our domicile of crawling creepies, those wandering salesmen who want to check our roof for hail damage? It's not my nature to be abruptly rude to people who are merely trying to make a living, so I usually engage them in some sort of friendly banter before letting them know I'm not interested in whatever they're selling. No point in being a jerk about it, right? Just play along for a minute or two, then plead poverty or something.
But on this particular day, I wasn't in the mood for a discussion of my eternal options. I was in the mood for a ham and melted cheese sandwich on toast, and the Red Stripe was already open. Not a good time for a Jehovahs convention on the front porch. Maybe that explains why I was uncharacteristically abrupt and rude to those two gentlemen.
"Good morning. I can't help you fellows with whatever your problem is. But thanks, anyway."
The man with one free hand moved the Bible over to his left, then extended his right hand with a smile, saying, "I like your attitude! You've got a good attitude!"
Suddenly, I found myself shaking the hand of a guy who was thanking me for being a prick. It was disconcerting, to say the least.
I shook my head, and said, "No... I don't. I don't have a good attitude. Sorry about that. It's just that I don't have time for...."
But I didn't get to finish, because the guy with the Bible in one hand and my hand in the other explained to me that he admired the fact that I was "to the point", because it saved he and his companion a lot of time for the next house in the neighborhood.
When I got my hand back and closed the door, I had an urge to reopen the door to apologize again, but thought better of it. After all, lunch was on the table, and that beer wasn't getting any colder sitting on the counter (although, in our house, that sometimes happens, because my lovely and dangerous wife likes to keep the thermostat set on "frozen tundra").
I posted a short comment about this encounter on Facebook, and most of my FB "friends" (and how loosely do we use THAT word on Facebook...) were in general agreement about Jehovahs and their unannounced visits. But one woman took offense to the word "assholes" in one of my comments, and I was reminded that we should admire people for being strong enough in their faith to go door to door with their beliefs. Her son and daughter-in-law were Jehovahs, and they weren't assholes. In fact, anyone who said they were, WAS.
Well. Guess she told me. We kissed and made up, and she's still my FB "friend". Actually, she's an elderly former neighbor, and we'd be friends regardless. But I digress...
The reason I'm telling you this tale of mystery and intrigue (yawn...) is because I've been thinking about the reactions one might get if he took his atheism door to door in the manner of the Jehovah's Witnesses.
I mean, would people be equally offended to have their day interrupted by an atheist's knock at the door, complete with pamphlets of quotes from Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens? Would it annoy them more, or less, than having a Jesus freak on their porch?
What if a person could point out obvious truths about the destructive nature of organized religion in today's world? What if you had all your ducks in a row, and could rattle off the statistics for wars, famines, terrorist atrocities, child molestations, and toss in a few factoids about Papal mandates to suppress the use of condoms in sub-Saharan Africa's AIDs fight? Would it be possible to change hearts and minds with such a campaign?
Because belief is one of those things you either have, or you don't. And if you're a believer (whatever the faith) you're not likely to be swayed by liberal doses of reality brought to your doorstep by well-meaning atheists... No more than an atheist is likely to have a come-to-Jesus moment when he's trying to get at his lunch.
Here's a song about belief. It has a line or two near the end worth hearing, regardless of what you might think of John Mayer's music (and critics abound).
"What puts a hundred thousand children in the sand,
Belief can, belief can...
What puts a folded flag inside his mother's hand,
Belief can, belief can..."