Wednesday, April 4, 2012

A to Z: Door to Door Proselytizers

Ding-Dong: Door to Door Proselytizer Calling!

In my theme of things which inspire & things which annoy, following up from cigarettes, we continue with another Rant.

Catch me on a bad day, or where I'm simply too busy, and the intrusion of these folks illicit nothing from me but annoyance and scorn.  On the other hand, I sometimes am quite happy about it, though not in any way they will appreciate, as you'll come to see.

Disclaimer: One of the few things I truly appreciate about the U.S. is a cultural tradition of, and legal protection for freedom of consciousness and the right to act upon it. It is a basic human right that not all countries allow (though a lot do- something it seems a lot of Americans don't know... hey, we're not the only ones!).  One of those aspects, freedom of religion, when coupled with another, freedom of speech, means anyone can believe anything they wish regardless of presence of proof or soundness of logic and are free to admit it in public.  Doesn't hurt anyone, so why not?

I am a big fan of religious fanatics waving signs and yelling out the end is nigh. I love these guys!
A city isn't a city if it doesn't have street musicians and religious crazies. It's just part of the atmosphere.
They say "Save your soul!" and thrust a pamphlet at me, I say "save the paper" and know I'm in a city. 

If I feel that, how can I have such a negative reaction to these door to door religion hawkers?

Because it is rude.

It is a simple matter of etiquette and consideration. Yes, they have the right, but it is exceedingly bad manners to act on that right and flat out insulting to the people who's doorbell they are ringing.
There is a time & place for practicing one's rights of religion and speech, but at a stranger's door isn't really the place for it.
This is the age of information.  If I'm interested I can find it myself.  Even if selling a two-thousand year old idea, the modern world still has many more user-friendly ways to find the information than having their day interrupted by a stranger at the door.

The claim of rudeness is self-explanatory, but the more serious charge of insulting deserves an explanation.
These people mean well.  Or more accurately, they believe they mean well.  But what they are doing is beyond insulting.  To engage in this behavior requires the person to believe that he possesses the absolute universal truth and so this gives them the right to interrupt your day and tell you you are wrong and going to hell unless you throw off your beliefs and switch to theirs.  Thank goodness! There I was in the middle of making a sandwich when it suddenly struck me that I did not have the slightest how I was going to avoid an eternal burning pit.  Lucky for me the doorbell rang!

This is the height of arrogance.

It is one of my pet peeves about absolutists religions.  When a religion makes a claim to have the absolute truth, and the absolute truth for everybody, then those who believe it now think they can do anything they wish provided it helps them convert people to their truth.. which of course is the only truth.
This notion has lead to crimes such as enslavement, war, torture, inquisition, death by immolation and the interruption of brunch.

I work from home. I paint miniatures.  I don't need to be interrupted from my work many times a week because someone is deluded into thinking they have the one and only solution to save my soul.
The general notion of which I find silly even in theory.  Souls, if they exist, are under no threat and have no need to be 'saved' but my orcs are in need of brush attention. And while I am pretty confident in that belief I have no burning desire to interrupt others' lives by going door to door to tell them this.

I think they do it because of a sense of insecurity.  They believe they have 'the one truth' but since so many others claim to have a different 'the one truth' it threatens them with doubt.  The best way to dispell that doubt?  Have this insecurity erased by convincing a new person that your truth is 'the one truth.'  If they believe it, then they must be right.  Phew. But wait, there are still others who don't believe... so there is still insecurity!  Must go out and convince those too or the doubt might start speaking louder. Can't have that.

I try to be patient with them, because of their misconception that they mean well.  But it is hard because the fact is, they are insulting me.  To come to me with this belief is saying "I am right, you are wrong and I am here to change you." True, I also think I am right and they are wrong, but I'm not going about trying to change them. I leave them in peace.  Because I don't care that they are 'wrong': if it makes them happy, motivates them to be good people, so much the better- with the exception of going door to door to harass people, or worse things like meddling in laws to insert their religious notions, but that gets on to another topic.

I'm not picking on any one type over another, I'm an equal-opportunity skeptic.  But I have noticed that out of the absolutists religions, it tends to be the youngest ones that do the most pavement pounding. I've never had Catholics knock on my door. I suspect they've been at the religious game so long they're just tired- or too busy trying to keep Africa free of condoms, take your pick.
You never see Jews trying to convert door to door. I think it is because their brand of absolute truth is more of an exclusive club: their religion was founded on the notion that their god was their god, who might have made everything and other tribes got stuck with false gods but doesn't change the fact that they are members and you are not.  Just an accident of birth, not that they won't consider letting you join, but they're not going to beat your door down asking for the privilege of your company.
I can respect that.
You don't see Muslims doing it, I guess they're too old for it too, though younger than the older Christians.
Still get some of that convert by the sword notion now and then, mostly dying out now. Christians went through that phase too... oh, teenagers.  But they all grow up eventually.

No, most who knock on your door do so with a bible and are the new theists on the block: Mormons, Jehovah's Witnesses, generic evangelicals, all with less than a couple centuries under their belts.
Kids in the religion game and hungry for new territory.

I'm not picking on them, they came to my door remember.
And so we get to the impish fun.  You don't have to be curt and close the door. You can, but why not enjoy it? I've studied a lot of religions.  I probably know more about Christianity than most Christians. Especially about the history and myths behind it.  That is some fertile ground for fun.

Once back when I was in high school, I had a couple hours to spare and was rewarded by a knock on the door.  Jehovah's Witnesses. I was in the mood, so why not? Now, I know a lot about their beliefs, which a lot of their critics don't it seems, and interestingly enough I suspect their beliefs might be much closer to the first couple generations of Christians' belief than most versions of Christianity- not that it is important or means anything, just an interesting tidbit.  So I knew what they were going to say before they said it, I knew where they'd steer the conversation, and when you know that, you can take the wheel for yourself.

He said "Do you want to live in a perfect world?"
I: "Of course! who wouldn't?"
He: "Well you can, for it is promised that.."
I: interrupting: "No, you can't."
He: "Um, yes..."
I: "No, sorry. It's not possible."
He: "But Jehovah-God will remake the world perfect.."
I: " Can he? I'm not so sure.. well, God is perfect correct?"
He, devoutly: "Yes! of course!"
I: "So as a perfect being, he can create perfection."
He, just glad at this point to have a human to talk to rather than a closed slab of wood "Yes!"
I: "And, he created the angels, to be perfect."
I: " And yet, one of them fell. Rebelled.  Failed to be perfect. Humans are said to have free will, but not angels."
He: "Well..."
I: "So a perfect being tries to create perfection, and fails: conclusion: not a perfect being."
I, continuing: "But everyone get's one foul up eh? The garden of Eden was perfect right?"
He: "Yes, and the whole world will become.."
I: "remains to be seen.. God made man in his image right?"
He: "Yes."
I: "and God is perfect.. implies he made humans perfect, didn't expect them to fall and fail too.  Yet they did."
I: "Sounds like strike 2. But at least Eden was perfect, can't fault him there eh?"
He: "imagine the whole world as the garden.."
I: "What, flawed again? A perfect garden, yet planted there is a tree that must not be touched, by the imperfect creatures he created.  That's a pretty serious design flaw. Let's not even touch the whole reset the world by flood debacle, which was supposed to fix the problem before, didn't, but next time for sure right?  Three times tries to create perfection and fails, what makes you think he'll get it right the 4th time?"

At this point his head was swimming with questions he'd obviously never considered. Could you construct a way around my arguments? possibly. The problem is he'd never once analyzed his belief. Just assumed he was right and with this assurance went out to insult the world until they thanked him for it and took on his assumed belief as well.

I did talk to a couple Mormons not long ago, and one of them admitted, or at least accepted my argument that there was no real way for one absolutist claim to be chosen over another. That 'faith' in one was really more a matter of arbitrary choice or an individual's gut instinct than something that could be weighed and evaluated like scientific theories can. Since they're based on 'revealed truth' and that 'revealed truth' is deemed truth because it was 'revealed', when you get a bunch of them together all spinning in circular logic it does seem kind of pointless to try to convince someone of one over another.  They believe because it is written, they believe what is written because they believe.  To his credit he accepted that. He said his worked for him and just hoped it would for others too.  Fair enough I suppose.  But maybe you should let them come to you from now on and lay off the doorbell.

Possibly my wisest and funniest friend lived next to a storefront church and often got religious callers.
Some classics that should be shared:
Preacher calls out "Do you have Jesus?"
Reply: "Yeah! I have 2! Do you want one?"

Knock on the door. Opens. Interrupts them "Are you Christians?"
They say "Yes".
"Forgive Me."
Door slams.

For the Gamers:
This one is tougher, but I could certainly see the possibility of some proselytizer minis being fun for a Zombie Apocalypse skirmish game!

I am actually glad there are so many different religions.

I think it is great fun to see the variety of ideas and cultures humans create- just like languages and cuisines.
Just stop taking it so seriously, relax and enjoy each other's ideas, quit battering down the doors trying to impose your ideas instead of sharing back and forth.  What a boring world if it all became uniform.
So stop all this converting, you're dulling up the planet!

But if they're going to keep it up, perhaps they should try this approach... Enjoy!

This has been an A-Z Challenge post. 
For the month of April there will be an update for each letter within the theme of: Things that influence and inspire me, or the converse: things which I find distressing or make me want to rail at the world.
Some of these will pertain to the miniatures hobby, but many will venture off to atypical territory for the duration of the challenge, then it will be back to normal with mostly minis and an occasional blithering.
You can find out more about the A-Z challenge my clicking the logo at the top left of the page. 


Michael Awdry said...

Another brilliant post, honest, heartfelt and balanced; although I have a sneaky feeling you may have pulled the wings off flies as a child. ;-)

Spacejacker said...


Mr. Lee said...

Am really enjoying this set you have going here LF..

However Muslims ( or at least the ones in Turkey ) attempt to convert whenever you walk past them in their neighborhood mosques. And considering the amount of them, some days it can feel like a gauntlet challenge to avoid them!

Paul of the Man Cave said...

You know, its only happened to me once, ever. But I must say I didn't enjoy the experience so I can quite appreciate your perspective!

styx said...

Love the post!

I hate door to door people, in college we had someone come to our apartment complex (won't say the religion) trying to turn us heathens to the good lord I guess. So, we grabbed our Renfair garb and light a bunch of candles...when they knocked we invited them in and said if they could wait a moment to allow us to finish our servie we would be happy to hear about their religion..we also had one guy on the floor with his shirt off with a pentagram on his chest with some other funny markings painted on him quickly with lipstick (yea we had a girl living with us)and we had some chanting music on in the background and I was holding my ball python....never saw two guys move so fast to the next apartment.

We have the Scientologists here the Tampa about a cult, they seem so brainwashed, conformed...very scarey stuff....

One of my favorite HP Lovecraft Quotes:

If religion were true, its followers would not try to bludgeon their young into an artificial conformity; but would merely insist on their unbending quest for truth, irrespective of artificial backgrounds or practical consequences.

and the best...

Bunch together a group of people deliberately chosen for strong religious feelings, and you have a practical guarantee of dark morbidities expressed in crime, perversion, and insanity.

styx said...

One last Lovecraft quote and this is the topper and how I feel:

“Religion is still useful among the herd - that it helps their orderly conduct as nothing else could. The crude human animal is in-eradicably superstitious, and there is every biological reason why they should be.
Take away his Christian god and saints, and he will worship something else...”

S. L. Hennessy said...

I am SO with you about absolutism - not everyone can be right, so EVERYONE should at least be open to the idea that someone else might be. And for the love of god, leave me out of it. I work from home too - writing - and I do not appreciated being interrupted when I'm in the middle of a really good scene.

Miniatures? That sounds really, really cool. What for?

Anne said...

My dogs are a pretty effective deterrent for solicitors. And I do agree with you on matters religion. It's never worth it to try to change someone's mind or to push your own belief's on them. Live and let live.

Paws on the Run said...

Great post. I especially love the Jim Hunt cartoon.

Laughing Ferret said...

Michael: Never! Oh I've killed plenty of flies of course- maddening to have them buzzing around inside the house- one of the things that drove me nuts about living in Belarus: extremely uncommon for windows to have screens. But I'd never relish inflicting pain in an animal. Toying with causing some mental anguish among fellow humans though.. well, that's a different matter ;)

Mr. Lee: well that is disappointing, but not surprising: I guess it's a matter of geography & percentage of like-minded. I visited a Mosque in St.Petersburg, Russia, and talked to the old guy maintaining the place- he was happy to show a couple heathens around and try to answer questions, but didn't try to convert or sell us on it, just seemed happy for a chance to meet some folks from another country. The ones I visited in Istanbul i didn't get that, but then, I was just one more tourist choking the place ;)

Laughing Ferret said...

Paul: once? wow. I can't count how often it's happened to me.

One time, when I was in uni, I was home in the day, so was one of my housemates, answered the door but wasn't in the mood, just said quickly 'have studied it, not interested in it for a belief system' he asked about others, seeing someone in the room behind me, I said "sorry, there's a buddhist, athiest, wiccan and a pagan here, all of the same mind on the topic." and closed the door. My friend was laughing, hard. I said 'what? i don't get it- it really wasn't funny' -he said, no.. your shirt". i looked at my shirt, it was from a Negativeland concert.. rather unusual band, and from one of their singles. The shirt simply said "Christianity is Stupid: Give Up." -which was the title of the song, and the main refrain. I'm surprised the shirt alone wasn't enough to have sent him off.

Styx: nice quotes! Think he's right, esp on that last one- humans have an instinct for it for sure.

Laughing Ferret said...

SLH: Lots of minis here on the blog- most of the blog is actually. I deviate from time to time with a "Blithering" and have decided to take this April challenge for a chance to spread some writing wings, since I enjoy writing but haven't found the time to do it as much (understatement) as I'd like.

The minis are mostly for gaming, though also for collecting. Genres of Fantasy, Sci-fi & Historical. There's a link to the business website on the left as well under 'Visit the Studio' to browse some of the galleries.

Anne: I have a couple cats, and had a ferret, but they never seemed to be a deterrent to anyone ;)

Paws: Thanks!

S. L. Hennessy said...

Yeah, after I responded here I actually saw the link (Silly me for just reading your posts and not investigating the other aspects of your blog before) and checked it out. They're all so cool! I didn't realize you did stuff like that. Definitely impressive.

Glad you're taking some time for writing with this challenge. Your posts have been a lot of fun to read, and I enjoy checking them for each letter.

GDMNW said...

I liked the first Lovecraft quote but on second and third thoughts it seems only halfway there.

There are many things which are demonstrably true which are largely ignored despite the clear advantages which might be obtained were better heed paid to them.

The third thought was that insisting on an unbending quest for truth is itself bludgeoning the young into a yet another form of conformity, proselyting if you will the religion of empirical truth.

Enjoyable post, Thank you.

Laughing Ferret said...

GD: Thanks, glad you enjoyed it!

On your comment on the 'third thought' on the lovecraft quote, I think you might be reading more into it than is there. I didn't see it saying anything about empircal truth. As I read it, it sounded like it was meaning 'don't train a young mind to be closed, encourage it to seek truth." but nothing about limiting that to measurable and repeatable truth, reads to me like it is still open to other experiences of understanding 'truth'. But then, I wasn't familiar with the quotes and don't know their context, but standing alone it doesn't see to say truth must be empirical.

Related, I'd agree with the implication that there is value to internalizing impressions and feelings to understand truth for the individual.

Scott B. Lesch said...

I am glad to read that there is another skeptic among collector, gamers.

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