Sunday, August 10, 2014

Annual Jehovah’s Witness Visit: Hump bets his atheism, finds no taker



A car sets off the driveway alarm on this beautiful Sunday afternoon.   I pop out to greet a minivan loaded with six middle aged folks dressed in suits and dresses.  Only the leader of the pack ventured forth: a forty-something, short stocky guy in a pinstripe suit, dark blue shirt, and floral tie. With a tie bar. 

“Lemme guess…don’t tell me.”  I implored, ”JW’s right?”
”Yes, how did you know?”
”Because the Mormons usually wear short sleeve white shirts, black ties and no jackets…and only travel in twos or threes.  You seem to have the whole congregation with you.”  He smiled broadly.

Right off the bat I give my bona fides: atheist; author of two books on religion; write an atheist / anti-theist blog; been atheist since my teens;  atheist in a foxhole; studied religion as a minor in college; read the KJV and NIV; and dismiss all religion and all gods as a throw back to when men believed the sky was a firmament. 

He began to sweat, and mopped his brow with his free hand. In the other he held copies of their Watch Tower publication, the Bible, and another pamphlet. I offered him and his hoard a cold drink and use of the bathroom.  He declined graciously on their behalf.

”If you read the Bible you know it has all the answers.”  He offered. “I didn’t fully understand God until I read the Bible.”  I explained that having read the bible only reinforced my dismissal of god as fable and myth, and the original writers as misogynistic, blood thirsty, Bronze Age and first century C.E. cultists. He looked perplexed.

”If the bible has all the answers then you should be able to answer this:  Why did god command a woman’s hand be chopped off, and for her to be shown no mercy, for coming to the aid of her husband and grabbing the genitals of her husband’s attacker?”

He had zero idea what I was talking about. 
“Deuteronomy 25, I think. That’s the Old Testament” I offered snarkishly.   “And please, no ‘CONTEXT’ reply, since I’ve yet to hear anyone give me the context in which god comes off looking good, kind, loving and merciful for demanding a ‘hand sandwich’ for a grope.”   

He thumbed feverishly to find the verse.  While he searched  I asked how is it if god has all the answers that there are 30,000 Christian  sects and denominations who perceive the so called answers differently, as well as the questions? Why couldn’t his god been more specific?

And how is it god forgot to out law slavery, and instead established rules for when a master can beat a slave? And why no prohibition against pedophilia?  

He was digging for his glasses now, fumbling with his bible. “Well, we don’t go by the Old Testament anyway…Jesus established a New Covenant replacing the old.”

”Oh, so what’s your position on gay rights and gay marriage?”  I queried.
”Well, we are obviously opposed to it, since it is an abomination to God.”
”But, that’s the OLD Testament, the OLD Covenant”  I reminded him, “Jesus established a New Covenant.  So unless you are keeping Kosher, and stoning your unruly child, are you saying you are cherry picking what parts of the ‘old covenant’ you will keep as god’s law and what parts you’ll disregard?”

This is where he asked me what I meant by “kosher.” I patiently explained about pork, shell fish, and other food sources that the Old Testament prohibits. He nodded as though he had heard of this but had briefly forgotten.

”Well…no, we don’t pick and choose. But being against gay marriage is just common sense be sides, it’s in the New Testament. There are rules against homosexuality there as well.”  

”Ah…but any reference against homosexuality in the New Testament would have been by Paul.  I thought you followed the word of Jehovah, and his son Jesus Christ…not Paul as an intermediary, who never even met Jesus. You’re not Paulists are you?”

”No, no, not at all!  But I’m sure Jesus said something about homosexuality.” he offered feebly.  He started leafing through the Bible again, abandoning the Deuteronomy amputation clause research.  Things were obviously not going according to his plan and script. He was frazzled.

”Tell you what.  If you find where Jesus specifically speaks against homosexuality… against man lying with man, or woman with woman; I’ll become a JW.”

I could have sworn at that instant the guy was having a vision of heaven, or was hearing a heavenly choir, or experiencing religious ecstasy. He positively lit up. He asked for my email and said he’d find and send the chapter and verse to me.  He extended his hand as if he was about to make a deal with the Devil which he figured was at worst a no lose situation. That’s when I hit him with the down side clause:

”Naturally… if you can’t find Jesus’ personal admonishment against homosexuality, you’re going to give up your faith and become an atheist. Right?” He withdrew his hand, with a sheepish smile and quickly opted out of the bet.

As we said our goodbyes, the group asked where the camels were, referring to the Camel Ranch sign at the top of the driveway .  I explained we’re between camels right now…well… except for me. “I’m known as the Atheist Camel. You can find me on Google.”   They smiled and chuckled softly, then drove down the drive way to their next…hopefully less educated … potential convert.

19 comments:

Vince Levasseur said...

Great Sunday read Bart. Thanks for the entertainment! (Wish I could have been there) Dover doesn't seem to get to much of that - at least not where I live.

Dromedary Hump said...

Thanks, Vince. I always enjoy these visits..albeit, THEY don't always seem to. Go figure.

You'd think they'd have a computer listing of what addresses to avoid. It would save them much time..and undo embarrassment.

Looking forward to next year's bunch. ;)

longhorn believer said...

This is an instant classic!

Dromedary Hump said...

longhorn...thanks.
You're too kind.

Anonymous said...

Hump, I don't think there's any sense in them leaving names off of the list - from their point of view. A staunch atheist with a well-researched and supported position against religions like yourself is simply another fallen sinner with a "hard heart", and they just do not subscribe to a belief that anyone who spanks their butts logically and doctrinally is unsaveable, but is simply rather "not in the right spiritual frame of mind to accept the holy message of God unquestioningly". You just lack the trusting, childlike state of the young, feeble-minded or truly distraught, that is the fertile, ready ground for their message. If it is his will, God will reduce you to that state at some future date, and they will be back then!

If they felt personally embarrassed, why, it was only because as imperfect humans, they were unable to quickly and effectively communicate the perfection of God's word and teachings, and they'll study up and try again later. Maybe you'll be mentally enfeebled then - I mean, "receptive to his word"

Dromedary Hump said...

Perhaps you're right. Good point.

I also sense that if and when the guy relayed the details of our convo to his van bound associates, he probably used the old: "Well, even Satan knows the bible."

gerard26 said...

Ah,yes JW's like most members of the many christian sects it is some what shocking how ignorant they all are of the the book they call the "truth and the light." When confronted with a nonbeliever who has actually read their mythic book
and points out its manifest moral contradictions, that always leaves them trapped in the absurdities of their holy book and looking for a way out. Thanks, Hump.

Den!s said...

He may have withdrawn from the Wager With the Devil, but he will be researching his mythterious book of fables. If he finds ANYTHING remotely close to Jebus saying something like that, he'll email you and hilarity will ensue. He will have taken the bait, and you can reel that christer in. Get your popcorn ready.

Helga said...

Brilliant repartee Hump! Good job there were a bunch of them sticking together for dear life....wouldn't want one to get separated from their herd and be forced to actually THINK! Also, shouldn't the Hump hit the road and take the 'book' to these poor, ignorant, cherry-picking god-botherers?

Isaac J. Harris said...

I'm a former JW turned atheist. Another XJW posted a link to your article online so I thought I would take a look.

JWs generally take all their cues from the Watchtower Society. If the WT says it, it must be true. Until the WT changes it, which they often do. Most congregations do, in fact, have a "do not call list." But you have to really challenge their faith (scare them, basically) to get on it. It can happen, though.

They publish all their stuff online. You can find it through Jw.org. You might want to give it a look. You will find some interesting fodder for future articles or books there, especially if you compare their WT articles to the postings on their website. Their site is - frankly - full of half truths and misinformation about what they do and what they believe. Their publications are full of misinformation about the real world, but that's another story. :) They have a few interesting articles about atheists as well.

They're an interesting group. I write guest articles for several atheist sites and it seems that atheists are interested in JWs and probably other small, odd-ball religions.

Anonymous said...

Hi Hump,
Great column as always.
I had almost the same experience as you with two female JWs several months ago. They trapped me while I was outside sweeping my driveway and started with the usual spiel about god and asked if I would like to hear more? I thought, what the hell, I'm retired and have a lot of time on my hands so why not amuse myself at their expense. They asked a lot of questions, trying to feel me out and made many references to what was written in god's word, the bible. But when I asked them to show me where it said such and such they were unable to do so, and just as in your case it was me who knew more about what was written in the bible than they did, and it was me who began to ask them questions and demand explanations?
They were quite taken aback that I knew so much about the bible and became very frustrated and nervous when they could neither answer my questions nor defend all their "biblically based truths." As I knew would happen, one of them looked at her watch and claimed they had another appointment in under 10 minutes so they would have to leave, but they would research the questions I had asked and get back to me within the week. Needless to say, I haven't seen them since!

I also wrote to a Rabbi, an Imam, a Catholic Priest and a United Church minister in reference to a pro-religion article in one of the local papers where they had been quoted. The Imam responded very politely to me, as did the United Church Minister, who further said that he would like to meet with me for coffee; just as soon as he got back from holidays, to discuss our points of view. I haven't heard from him since, but no surprise there as he had also made the same promise to me several years ago and never got back to me! Neither the Rabbi or the Catholic priest replied. Perhaps in reference to the priest because I asked him to explain why there was so much sexual abuse against children in "god's one and only true church?" Man, do they get touchy when that subject is brought up!

I have also been corresponding with an Evangelical preacher for several months in response to a column he submitted to this same paper. He was very enthusiastic at first, but when it became apparent to him that I had literally hundreds of questions and contradictions in reference to the truth of his beliefs that I asked him to explain, he too seemed to suddenly be on holiday or out of town most of the time! He never replied to any of my questions and simply resorted to quoting the same old nonsense in support of his religion that has been debunked many times before, and after several more months of silence I don't believe I will hear from him again? Strange how their certainty in their beliefs suddenly disappears in the face of logic and reason!
Religious belief will probably never totally disappear, but at least we can continue to do our part by questioning all the stupidity and nonsense associated with it. Or just needling them to piss them off?
Keep up the good work.

Rick Wilm

Miriam44 said...

You will love this one! Like you, I took some time with a nice little JW man. Here are a couple of the highlights:
When I pressed him about the Trinity, he said that they were instructed to change the subject when people did so. But he did tell me, surprisingly to me, that JWs do not accept the Trinity They do not believe that JC is god; he is the son of God, but is only ‘god-like.’ Yet they claim to hinge their belief on the NT and ask JC to answer their prayers.

Better still: When I asked him about the evil in the world and why god did not prevent ‘satan’ from doing all those horrible things, he replied, “God didn’t know” Aghast, I asked him how God could NOT know, if he was omniscient—and all that. He said (honest!) “God CHOOSES NOT to know some things He could know them if he wanted.”

Well, there you have it! There was more, but that was the best.

Dromedary Hump said...

Gerard, Den!s, Helga, Isaac, Rick, Miriam:
Thanks for you kind words and for sharing your experiences and insights.

It's of special interest to me that these traveling missionaries seem to be so uninformed about the bible, and so uncomfortable discussing those things that make them a "fringe sect" of Christianity according to mainstream denominations. You'd think they'd be better prepared.
That they are told that the world is just full of heathens ripe for picking who know even less than they do about scripture and JW doctrine certainly seems to be the problem.

Frankly...I find their rejection of the Trinity and Jesus as one in the same as "God" to be a more honest interpretation of the Bible. But that and their weird perspective on how only 144,000 souls will be able to enter heaven, among other unique dogmas certainly does make those mainstream Xtians dismiss them as nutters.

Given the option I'd prefer a JW living next door to me than a Southern Baptist-born again- Dominionist- speaking in tongues-charismatic religio-nutter any day.

Again..many thanks for your well stated input.

Jerry Coates said...

It is hard for me to believe in atheism. Seven and half billion people all taken care of with enough food for all(politics excepted) and all the systems working together for this many is mind bobbling. I can't believe that there isn't someone who arranged all this and keeps it going.

Dromedary Hump said...

Jerry,

If I were a betting man, I'd proffer you were being sardonic.
:)

That said... let's assume you're actually serious. First, no "belief" in atheism is necessary or even possible, since atheism isn't a "belief system". One either believes in God/gods, thus is a religionist, or one doesn't thus an atheist. Period. "Belief" therefore is antithetical to atheism.

As for your second offering: Yeah..things are going just swell on this planet- 25,000 children dying each day from starvation/malnutrition...tens of thousands more from AIDS and other incurable illnesses. At least six wars going on where people are being brutalized, tortured, raped, maimed and murdered for their differing "beliefs" or sociological, or political reasons. The planet undergoing climate change, ebola epidemic in Africa, repression and discrimination of people because they are female or gay.

I could go on, but then I'm pretty sure you were only playing the unthinking religionist buffoon.

Miriam44 said...

For all those who condemn the Egyptian Pharaoh and the rest of us with those "hardened hearts," I do recall reading repeatedly that "God hardened Pharoah's heart" every time poor Pharaoh promised to let Moses's people go. Folks, therefore, it was god, not Pharaoh who was making these decisions. Don'cha know. So, if you would, please talk to god about this hardened heart business. We just can't help it!

Dromedary Hump said...

Miriam...LOL. exactly.
So much for the religionists' much touted "God gave man free will" .

Anonymous said...

Great story. I have no time for the missionaries and usually send them packing (I can always argue with God-bothers on Facebook).

I do have one question... You said:

"He thumbed feverishly to find the verse. While he searched I asked how is it if god has all the answers that there are 30,000 Christian sects and denominations who perceive the so called answers differently, as well as the questions? "

I recently used the 30000 denomination/sects and was told it's 40000. Since this is such an even simple approximation, I tried to find sources that would break this down or at least how the approximation is made. No luck. Do you know?

-Fastthumbs

Dromedary Hump said...

Fastthumbs...
Yeah, I've seen 41,000 denominations too. But I go with this one:
http://www.philvaz.com/apologetics/a106.htmhh

The actual number , when it gets into the tens of thousands, really isn't important to me.

What's important is that it demonstrates that there are so many interpretations of what Christianity is/ or should be; what the bible means/or should mean, etc. What their god thing demands/or doesn't; etc, etc...that it demonstrates the fallibility of their doctrine & scripture, and is like mercury trying to pin down "who are the TRUE Xtians".

Not to mention the "God given Word" implies their god was an inarticulate douche-bag who couldn't even edit a book to make it easily understood and interpreted only one way.