Visited by Witnesses

I don't live too far away from a Jehovah's Witness church, and occasionally they visit. In the past, they'd drop off a pamphlet and move on. Not recently. Now they're chatting me up. 

I wasn't surprised by the proselytism, where they want me to help them enable their theocracy, but I was surprised they (sort of) did their homework.

It was the normal stuff until I told her that I was an atheist, when she asked, "Have you wondered what God's plan is for your life." No, I haven't wondered that. That's the moment the script changed.

She spoke of people wanting evidence (but apparently doesn't know the requirements of evidence), and the Bible has plenty of that!

She was ready to make the case for the mainstream secular consensus that a historical Jesus existed. I said I was basically fine with that. There's a big difference between some guy named Jesus existing, and someone who does miracles. I'm neutral on the matter. My example was Paul Bunyan[1] - as someone who may have been based on a true person, but whose story grew over time.

Theists don't seem to grant that there's layers to this theological onion. It's all or nothing - either Jesus existed with all the miracles included, or he didn't exist at all.

She went for the tropes, fishing for if something bad happened to me, for why I don't believe. "No, I've just always been basically an atheist."

She brought up the Problem of Evil (I didn't) - I cut that short - I didn't think it was a good argument... that maybe God just wasn't capable of dealing with all the evil, and that a limited God could be better aligned with reality.

"Interesting! I haven't heard that before!", she repeatedly said to each of my responses.

It wasn't the most in-depth conversation, as I stood on my porch, in shorts, in 15°F weather. 

I thought that'd be the last of it when she left, but as I've been informed, by not immediately telling them to shove off, I am essentially inviting multiple visits. That then happened.

She didn't come alone the next week. She brought an elder. I'm not sure why they came back. 

I told her that I didn't think the Bible was a good book. I introduced them to the "Platinum rule" as being better than the golden (that she points out Jesus taught). You'd think the moral compass of the universe would have the best teachings, was my point.

I continued to bat away various arguments, though I was polite about it. I've heard them all.

The one that stuck out in my mind - and I've encountered this one before - essentially this. If your father told you many things in your life and they came true, wouldn't you believe him when he said this new thing? (I'm paraphrasing)

"No", I replied. "I don't think that's a good way to go through life." I didn't articulate it well, so I'd like to try again here.

It's true, I acknowledged, that we tend to do things like that. However, I still vet what my parents - who I trust - say. After all, when they claim Jesus is the son of God, I don't believe that.

If they claim that an IRA is better than a 401k, okay, I'll believe that. Is a Ford better than a Toyota - sure, okay. "I traveled to a distant galaxy last night", my father says. I'm sorry, but no, I don't believe that. There's a threshold for what I'm willing to believe, no matter who says it. 

... and we don't even have to discuss whether the Bible has earned that kind of trust in the first place, as any source of "truth".


Humans operate on many quick/dirty heuristics. They may work in 98% of common mundane understandings of reality, but these theists seem to embrace them as some kind of epistemology that trumps all else. I don't get it.

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