One thing I've often thought would be fun to do for a laugh is to go round and knock on the door of Jehovah's Witnesses and (in the event you actually find them in) then try and talk to them about atheism. One could even carry around copies of New Humanist
and The Blind Watchmaker
instead of the Watchtower
and the Bible.
Of course, the good thing about not having an imaginary friend is that there's no pressure on me to do anything like that, so I can just muse on it as a idea rather than have to go out and face the scorn and incomprohension on the doorstep. Plus, there's the job of actually finding where Witnesses live, though reputedly round here many of them live in the same street as their Kingdom Hall.
Still, that brings me on to this article
(found via Randy
), about an American missionary's experience of trying to proselytize in the Czech Republic
. Having just avoided a rather-depressed looking American Mormon missionary (as always, I would have liked the
heated discussion, but I was short of time) in the street last week, I found it quite amusing:
Because of the more Christian mindset at home, it is a constant struggle to understand the Czech mentality. They are bitter people who have lived through painful decades of darkness. They do not want to believe in a God who they think was not there for them during the darkest hours of their history. They are educated and intellectual people. They do not want to believe in a God in whom they see no scientific evidence to prove His existence. It is their bitterness and their pride that will not let them take that leap of faith needed for a relationship with God.
Yep, it's all down to their 'bitterness and pride' rather than rationality and ability to observe the world around them. I can't help but wonder if this article was edited to remove "Facts? You can prove anything with facts!
" from within it.
From a British perspective, I've discussed this issue with friends before, and most people I know can't really understand why American churches (especially the Mormons) send so many missionaries over here. Obviously we understand that they're over here to try and make converts, but there's a sense of 'why do you want to come here? We've already got enough religious nutters of our own knocking on doors and accosting people in town centres.' There's also, I think, a difference of opinion over what a missionary is - rather than someone knocking on doors in leafy streets, there's a lasting colonial imagery of British missionaries beating a path to the heart of Africa. Of course then you get into the whole Evangelical issue of only being saved by faith rather than by works which I think runs contrary to the British expectation - even though we're a mostly secular country now - that Christians lead as much by example as by preaching.
Still, I'm sure they'll continue to keep coming - I often see groups of Mormon missionaries at Liverpool Street obviously all about to travel somewhere (the Netherlands, maybe?) - and maybe we're having our own effect on them by making one or two of them think 'hold on, maybe they've got a point. What if this all is a delusion on my part?' I can but hope.