Saturday, October 06, 2018

Saying No Thanks to Religious Proselytizers



A young woman, probably still in high school, just knocked on my door. She was accompanied by an older lady using a walker. When I answered, the young woman, holding an electronic tablet and some literature in her hands, asked me if I was much of a "Bible-reader" and if I'd like to talk with her for a moment about the Bible. I gave her an almost rote response honed by countless similar turnings-away of religious proselytizers at my door by saying something like, "I'm really not interested in discussing it, but thank you anyway," at which point, she and the older lady politely took their leave.

I felt uncomfortable about the robotic delivery of my refusal and, as I always do in such circumstances, about declining to talk with this sweet young woman. I'm one of those hapless individuals who hates to say "No" to people and who will often go to considerable lengths to avoid it and invariably feels vaguely guilty about it afterward, as though I have some moral obligation to say "Yes" even to unreasonable requests.

As they walked away en route to the next front porch, I also contemplated the effect decades of arguing my non-belief face-to-face and online with theists has had on me. I used to relish confronting believers with probing questions about and passionate counterarguments to their beliefs, but that thrill is pretty much gone. Not only have I become bored with such pursuits, but given the sad state of America and the world today in so many respects, I find myself increasingly sympathetic to those who argue that they need to believe in divine goodness and posthumous release into everlasting bliss from the travails and chaos of this earthly life to make this life tolerably "meaningful."

Still, I wonder if the best way to make this life better is to believe in what I regard as patent nonsense and to go door-to-door trying to lure others into the fold of embracing fairy tales dressed up as momentous facts. And I wonder if I might and should have said something to that young woman that might, just might have set her to thinking and questioning and maybe someday have helped lead to her abandoning her foolish "faith" for something truer and potentially more fulfilling.

But then I thought, "Leave the poor girl be." My decades of fruitlessly arguing religion with believers has largely convinced me that such activity is pointlessly ineffectual. I couldn't persuade her to abandon her faith even if I really wanted to and truly had something better to offer in its place, and I'm not even sure that I do on either count.

Yes, I think I did the right thing firmly but respectfully turning her and her mentor away.


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