Once upon a time someone knocked at my door. It was in the afternoon of one of those days when the New Year was still rather young. When I opened the door I saw two ladies, who almost immediately asked me: “What do you think about misfortunes, suffering and evil that rule the world nowadays?.
If I still were a Catholic (as it used to be in the olden times), my reaction would have been simple and predictable in 99% – “Thank you, I don’t have time for that, goodbye”. Observing my parents behaving in this way for more than a dozen of years would make me adapt such way of dealing with those things and that wouldn’t even be strange.
And as a side note – that way of dealing with Jehovah’s Witnesses is pretty interesting in and on itself. It seems to me that Catholics are dead set on avoiding virtually any conversation that might undermine that set of myths they happen to believe. It must be said loud and clear – evangelizing Witnesses know the Bible (the Catholic one) better than 99% of Catholics themselves. And that is the case probably not only for evangelizing ones – your average witnesses probably know it better as well.
Armed with that knowledge and specific techniques they are able to use the “foot in the door” method (which is widely used by many religions all around the world) to sow a seed of doubt in the intellectually infertile soil of Catholic’s mind. It is not therefore so strange that most of Catholics have an allergic reaction to any contact with Jehovah’s – maybe because of ugly specter of cognitive dissonance looming over theirs (Catholics’) heads? It’s rather hard to state it authoritatively but there are many reasons that allows us to think it is not too far from the truth.
Having said that, I’m no longer a Catholic. Moreover, I don’t believe in souls, ghosts, apparitions, angels, tooth fairies, Santa, Jesus, Easter Bunny, vampires, zombies (sorry for repetition here) and all those other creatures that populate fertile human imagination. That fact alone cuts the offensive power of the Witness by half…
Discussion at the door was nice, courteous and interesting. It went to the topic of the Biblical translations. They said they’d been using the Catholic version for a long time (New World edition – Polish “Przekład Nowego Świata” – relatively new), which was parried by me stating that it is irrelevant since there is a number of different Catholic versions, not mentioning English NIV or King James versions. So if the Holy Word of the Creator is so unclear, how should I know that it is THEIR interpretation that is right, and not someone else’s? I also gave the example of a controversial line (and to be honest I had zero problems finding one) and we agreed to meet in a week.
After a week someone knocked at the door. I couldn’t wait. I invited the ladies to my home, we sat at the kitchen table and started talking. The conversation was pretty smooth – courteous, nice and all. We started from that controversy, which they explained to me (I knew the explanation beforehand). I said that this only confirms my words: in various version of the Bible they were translated totally differently and it was so to such extent that getting to the original version of the verse (the same as the first copy of the manuscript (the original was lost in prehistory)) was extremely hard for someone who is not accustomed to biblical hermeneutics.
Three hours passed quickly. We covered a wide range of subjects: from interpretation of the Bible, to prophecies that came and didn’t come true, to morality and Jesus’ historicity, to God’s cruelty, to 144 000 places for souls in Heaven. And not only that. It’s quite hard to quote here every single subject we touched – partially because of my senile memory, partly because subjects were plenty.
In the end ladies were leaving for 20 minutes or more because I was stopping them with new subjects and intermissions. After they’d left, it occurred to me that it’s pretty hilarious that Jehovah’s Witness is desperately trying to leave someone’s house because that someone doesn’t want to stop talking to him.
Some time had passed and Witnesses came to me again. At this point I need to clarify something: the first visit was by two ladies, slightly in their fifties I presume. One of them was the talking one, the other lady was only listening (probably as a part of training). The second visit was a bit different, it was by the first lady, but the second person was a man. In hindsight it seems he was some kind of higher-level wizard since this time it was him who was talking and the lady was only listening.
I invited them again to the kitchen, we sat at the table and began talking. Even though we touched those topics we talked during the first meeting, this time we focused more on Witnesses themselves – especially on raising children, blood issue and shunning. Shunning is a practice of separating sinners from their families and other close ones from within the congregation. People who sinned gravely, who didn’t listen to the elderly of the congregation, who stopped being Witnesses are all ‘thrown out’ by their families and friends. It took me quite a bit of time to explain that those practices are not justified, that adult, grown up people should not punish their loved ones for having different beliefs. I even gave an example that if I acted according to their rules I would not be able to live in my current relationship (I’m an atheist and she’s a Catholic).
Wizard’s attempts to use some analogies, oftentimes quite childish, were futile in the face of the fact that they were adult people that were aware of their beliefs and quite often not in control of those beliefs and thoughts. And separating people on that basis (he tried to argue that this phenomenon is so rare almost nonexistent) is evil and immoral.
We’ve also talked about the blood – they obviously quoted the Bible. I stated (yet once again) that quoting the Bible is of no effect here since we can find almost any justification for almost any cruelty or belief and whatnot (such as Holocaust). I also said that it is ridiculous. Assuming that our morality comes from God (JW do not “believe” in the Evolution; I told them it is not something one can believe or not but it’s a fact) why do I feel so good when I donate my blood? Why there is so much satisfaction when I help others by doing that? Why am I deeply convinced that it is a good deed, for which the God, if he existed, would have praised me? Isn’t the sin supposed to weigh on your conscience? Setting psychopaths aside, normal people who commit sins should feel bad for doing it, right? Why then isn’t it the case with me? And why helping others would be a bad thing?
I didn’t get answers to those questions because the wizard suddenly noticed it is quite late and he has got something important to do. We said our goodbyes and we made an appointment to meet in a week.
I must confess that there were moments that I felt quite uncomfortable. Why? Well, most of the time it was the wizard who was talking. When the lady tried to interject couple of words, the wizard was silencing her, subtly but firmly. The gap in their statuses was quite wide and I didn’t like it a lot. Sadly my hands were tied. How can I lecture that lady on the manner her colleague should refer to her? If she herself agrees to that ‘godly’ division of roles and accepts it with all here dedication?
So that would be it. They haven’t come and some time after the meeting I received the mail in which the lady said I was being close-minded and I didn’t want to get to know God so they don’t have time for me. She asked me to read some of their publications and I, in return, asked her to read http://whynogod.wordpress.com/, to which she responded that it was devoid of facts…
“Too bad” I thought. I liked those conversations, as I said they were nice and courteous. There was no win/lose attitude but instead it was about transparency. Since the very beginning they said they wanted me to believe in God and I told them I wanted them to see that we shouldn’t believe in it. Maybe it was a mistake on my side? I don’t know…
So I’m a bit disappointed about all this, I notified them they are always welcome in my home and I think that our conversations gave a lot to both sides. Well, I’m pretty sure about me but I have my suspicions that they also got something from that. Maybe Catholic’s fear of Cognitive Dissonance caused by Witnesses’ questions was somehow transfered to Witnesses themselves and now they get it from atheists’ questions? There is this proverb here that if you fight with a sword, you die by the sword. I think it fits here pretty well and I don’t see any other proverb coming close enough…
Since I published the above in Polish things have changed a bit. A new pair of low-level witnesses visited my home and I have an appointment with them for this week. I can’t wait to see how this one goes…