Sunday, November 9, 2008

Thinking for Free - Pass it on

Saturday afternoon, and it's pouring rain. My doorbell rings, and on my way to answer it I try to decide if it will be kids selling chocolate bars to raise money for schools or sports teams, or someone who thinks I should pay less (or at least pay them) for my gas or electricity bill. Wrong on both counts - upon opening the door, I see a well-dressed man of 30 or so, accompanied by a boy about 10 (I surmised that they were father and son). The man says that they are going around my neighbourhood talking to people about what is important in life. and asks if they could leave me a pamphlet to look at. (I think they might have identified their church, but it was said so quickly I didn't catch it, but I am reasonably certain that they were neither Mormons nor JWs; likely just run-of-the-mill fundamentalists.)

OK, my sign says "No Flyers Please", but I guess they figure that a pamphlet which proclaims the good news of salvation does not qualify for my prohibition. So, I politely decline, saying that I don't need any more paper. A split second later, I decide that was a pathetically wimpy way to turn away evangelists, and add, "We are atheists here". The man looks a bit surprised, and says something like, "I see. Well, have a nice day", and off they go.

Did the boy ask his father what an atheist is, as they walked down the street, or later that day? I certainly hope so, and I wonder what the father will say in response. (I did feel a twinge of guilt for potentially disturbing the child's faith, but quickly decided that was silly - they were the ones who came to *my* door, and I said nothing rude or otherwise inappropriate.)


AJM said...

It almost amuses me you'd feel even that twinge. I get it, sure, but still, as you said: They're going door to door proselytizing. You're just tellin' 'em, since they told you, where you stand. I'd say it's pretty much the bare minimum of visibility.

I hope the kid did get at least a small eye-opener out of that, anyway... We're here, we're confident you're wrong, get used to it.

Anonymous said...

Hi Theo,

I agree with AJ - I don't see why you should even feel a twinge of guilt.

A while back, I noticed that we hadn't gotten any proselytizers in a long time. Then, wouldn't you know it, two twenty-something white-shirted men showed up last Wednesday morning just as I was scrambling around getting ready to leave for Toronto. The near one saw my obvious impatience and displeasure at the sight of them and blurted out "We just want to leave you one of our tracts ...". I closed the door on them without saying another word.

I've never had one of them show up with children, but if they did, it would be the child I'd go after. Why the child? First of all, it is despicable of them to try to hide behind a child to deflect my wrath. Second, to use the expected and perfectly-justified negative reaction of victims of their proselytizing as an object lesson on how the whole world is against them is likewise despicable and dishonest. Thirdly, the adults are most likely a lost cause, but if you can sow the seed of doubt in the child, we may have one less fundie when the child reaches adulthood.

I'm not saying I'd be as rude or aggressive as I am with the adults, but I would focus on telling the child that his/her parents and pastor are deceiving him/her (echoing their own Satan myth which might resonate) and when the time comes, they will notice inconsistencies in the stories they're being told, and when that happens, to look elsewhere for the answer to the inconsistencies. Something like that, in a calm, non-threatening manner, ignoring any attempt by the parent to draw my attention away from the child. Of course, I've never been in this situation, so I can't say if I'd be able to maintain my composure and accomplish what I'd like to achieve, but that's what I plan to do if the situation arises. What do you think?

As for what the father would say if the child asked what an atheist is, well, we already know pretty well what he'd say from his reaction. You know you've already been demonized, literally. Congratulations, you minion of Satan!