The Jehovah’s Witnesses at My Doorstep

And the reason why I spent 30 minutes talking to them.

The other day, a pair of Jehovah’s Witnesses showed up on my doorstep. I knew they were Jehovah’s Witnesses when I caught sight of them on my driveway, walking up to the house. Two women, one older carrying a book and pamphlet, one much younger. Nicely dressed, looking very out of place.

Understand that I live at the end of a road — actually, beyond the end of a road. To get to my house, you need to drive at least a mile past where the pavement ends. The last stretch is a very steep — think 10% grade — and deeply rutted because one of my neighbors (and his family and friends) doesn’t know how to drive up a steep dirt road without spinning tires. One you get past that, you’re in a dry wash where there are three driveways, one of which is mine.

Because of this, we don’t get many strangers stopping by. The folks who do make the trek are either paid to do so — UPS, FedEx, USPS, repair guys, etc. — or very motivated.

Perhaps motivated by God.

I opened the door just as they rang the bell, prepared to tell them how not interested I was and send them politely on their way. Although a lot of people are very rude to Jehovah’s Witnesses, I don’t get rude unless they get stubborn. Although I’m an atheist, I respect people’s rights to believe whatever they want to believe — as long as they don’t use my tax dollars to spread their religious word. (And yes, I don’t think churches should get any kind of tax break; they should be operated like businesses and pay the taxes at the same rates that my businesses do. But that’s another topic for another blog post. Save your comments, folks.)

I got right to the point without even looking at them: “Jehovah’s Witnesses?” I don’t even think I gave them a chance to reply. “I’m sorry, but I’m really not interested at all. You’d be totally wasting your time with me.”

I really don’t remember what the older woman replied, because by that point, I’d gotten a good look at the younger woman. Woman is being generous. She was a girl, perhaps in her late teens. She had an interesting round face that reminded me of the actress that played Wednesday Addams in the Addams Family movies. She even had the long, straight brown hair, parted in the middle. (The IMDb tells me it’s Christina Ricci; if you follow the link, be sure to look at her Addams Family shots, too.) Of course, she didn’t have Wednesday Addams’ glum features. Instead, her face looked more non-committal.

And my heart was instantly filled with sadness.

Here’s my reason — which took quite a while for me to figure out afterwards: Here was a young girl, perhaps just getting started with her “mission” of spreading the word of God (or whatever they say their mission is). She’d be knocking on doors, likely facing rude, obnoxious people every day she hit the streets. People who would ignore her knock (if she was lucky) or people who would answer the door, curse her out, and then slam the door in her face. How often did Jehovah’s Witnesses actually score a “hit”? Get a door answered by someone who wanted to listen to their line? Judging by the people on Twitter who chided me about talking to them for 30 minutes, not very many.

I thought about these two women, going door to door in rural Arizona on whatever schedule they might need to keep. And I thought about all that time utterly wasted. Life is so short — why don’t people see that? — and it can be snatched away at any time. In fact, during our conversation, I suggested that they might better spend their time doing something more interesting together, like going shopping or learning to knit. My words were directed toward the girl, even though I said them to the woman. I was hoping to plant a seed.

And I guess that’s the reason I spoke to them for 30 minutes. I was trying hard to plant seeds in her young mind, hoping to give her real food for thought. Our conversation covered my beliefs — or lack thereof — and some of their standard line about prophecies. I was pleasantly surprised when I gently told them that I didn’t believe God existed and they didn’t get offended or angry.

We talked about the Bible and I told her what I think of it: It’s a collection of stories written by normal people who may have been inspired by faith. I did not believe it was the word of God — how could I if I didn’t believe there was a god? The older woman, who did most of the talking, tried to convince me that the Bible was more than I thought, using Ezekiel’s prophecy regarding Tyre as “evidence” (her word) for the Bible being God’s word.

I was not familiar with the prophecy, which surprised me. Despite being a non-believer, I’ve done a considerable amount of research into the bible — although, admittedly, mostly New Testament material. Because I looked at things with a skeptical eye, if this prophecy was such strong evidence in favor of the Bible, I thought I might have heard of it before. It puzzled me that I hadn’t.

They went on to tell me that the prophecy, which was given by God to Ezekiel, had come completely true — that the Island of Tyre had been destroyed and no longer existed. Not having any facts at hand, I was not willing to debate their claim, yet I told them that I still did not believe the bible was the word of God.

That’s when the young girl chimed in, asking if I believed then that it was just a coincidence that the prophecy had come true. I told her that if it had indeed come true, I did believe it was a coincidence since I did not believe in God. To their credit, they took that with ease. I suppose they must hear all kinds of things from the people they talk to.

The WatchtowerThe older woman tried to give me references to the Prophecy of Tyre, but I assured her that I didn’t need them and that I would Google it later on. She also tried to give me a copy of The Watchtower, which she had with her, but I wouldn’t take it.

We talked about what’s going down in the world — how everything seems to be “going to hell in a handbasket” — my phrase; not used in the conversation, but you get the idea. They apparently believe that it’s a sign of the end of days. I obviously don’t. I told them that most of the world’s problems are caused by greed and selfishness. We agreed that if people would consider the consequences of their actions as they affect other people before taking them, they might think twice about taking those actions. We talked about some local and national level examples — for example, the scraping clean of the desert to build huge housing subdivisions that, because of the housing bubble bursting were never built. The natural landscape destroyed because of greed, with no consideration for others. I told the girl that I felt bad for young people like her who were inheriting this mess.

Then we talked a little about the young birds accompanying their moms to bird feeders and letting their moms feed them seeds. The older woman was amazed that the fledgeling chicks were nearly as big as their moms but wouldn’t feed themselves.

They were nice people and I felt bad for them. When we said goodbye, I told them to have a good life. My words were addressed primarily to the young girl, who still had her whole life ahead of her.

When they left, I went back into my office and Googled the Tyre Prophecy. I found two kinds of articles. One kind were created by believers to support their claim that the prophecy had come true, thus proving that Ezekiel had basically written down what God told him. The other kind were created by skeptics, like me, which presented detailed analyses about the facts of the prophecy, actual history, and the current situation. I found this one by Dave Matson that takes the prophecy, point by point, and details how it differs from reality. It is supported by actual bible quotes and a multitude of documents that are all cross-referenced at the article’s end.

In short: Ezekiel’s prophecy did not come true. So, as “evidence,” this particular prophesy falls far short of what I need to be convinced.

Did I waste 30 minutes of my day? I don’t think so.

I admit that I am fascinated by true believers — and these people — especially the older woman — definitely fell into that category. Why else would you go door-to-door relentlessly, getting the foul treatment handed out by people who simply don’t want to be bothered? These people have true faith — which is something most people claiming to be Christians don’t really have and something I definitely don’t have.

They didn’t convince me — although they did get me to do a bit of research and expand my knowledge of the Bible and religion. I didn’t convince them — although I demonstrated that a non-believer could be reasonable and share some of the same non-religious views. We had a nice discussion and perhaps — just perhaps — I planted a few seeds of reason in that girl’s head.

And, by the way, if you’re tempted to use the comments feature to blast me for my religious non-beliefs, don’t waste your time. After “The Bible in the Refrigerator” debacle, I no longer allow any personal attacks on anyone to appear on this blog. If you feel compelled to show your un-Christianity, show it elsewhere.

19 thoughts on “The Jehovah’s Witnesses at My Doorstep

  1. I work with a friend who is a JW that I respect for having spent years in a Cuban prison for his beliefs. I don’t believe anything on the basis of having faith that it is true. I also don’t believe that you need the fear of god to keep from spending eternity in unbelievable pain. If there is a loving god, I wonder why there is so much hate in this loving god’s kingdom. I mean how loving can one be to allow so much pain? Seriously, explain god’s intention of a baby being born seriously deformed. It’s like the old saying goes: “With friends like that, who needs enemies?” It’s hard to believe that just because Adam and Eve made love, that everyone in the world has to suffer. That’s the original sin, so my first cousin the priest tells me. (The forbidden fruit in the garden of Eden). I’m a believer alright. I believe that when I die, it will be just like before I was born. And that’s fine with me.

    • Mike: Our conversation did touch upon Eden and the original sin. But I think the sin was disobeying God and eating from the tree of knowledge. I don’t think it was sex. After all, there was a bit about being fruitful and multiplying.

      I agree; when I die, I’ll just cease to exist. Never thought about it as being the same as before I was born, but you’re definitely right about that. Interesting way to look at it.

  2. All good points, Maria. Had to chime in with my thoughts.

    The thing that gets me is that there are better things these JW could be doing with their time that would be more productive and benefit their fellow man — teach reading or swimming or knitting, give blood or platelets or bone marrow, build schools or clinics or Habitat homes.

    What sort of God could think this is the best way for his people to spend their days, or the best way for his young people to learn the way of the world?

  3. Good article, especially because you didn’t chase them away.
    I was a Baha’I back in the 1970s and actually got to know some Witnesses.
    They were coming around all thge time to proselytize. Instead of
    Them just showing up and interrupting what I was doing, I suggested
    A once a week get together. One week they could tell me about their
    Faith and I would tell them about Baha’I on the other.
    We kept this up for almost a year. Most Witnesses are honest and
    Quite intelligent. I can’t buy the religion, but some of the
    People are surprisingly cool.
    Sorry abou the formatiing on this. My blackberry insists on
    Starting every new line with a capital.

    • Glenn: In all honesty, it was the very first time I’d ever spoken to Jehovah’s Witnesses. I usually politely but firmly turn them away. It was the girl that hooked me. And my absolute fascination with people who have that much faith.

      Your arrangement sounds interesting. I went to the Baha’i temple in the Chicago area once. (Same thing, right? Or am I setting myself up for embarrassment here?) Beautiful building that was a real pleasure to visit.

      Seems to me that the world would be a better place if we’d all just tolerate each other’s religion and perhaps learn from them. I’m so sick of the phobias and hatred in our own country against people who aren’t Christian.

  4. As one of Jehovah’s Witnesses, I appreciate that you were willing to discuss these matters with my sisters. Like the girl at your door, I’m a relatively young person with full faith in the Bible and its promises, and I’m happier for it.

    Some of the reasons I chose to accept the Bible, including fulfilled prophecy, are outlined in this article: http://www.watchtower.org/e/200711/article_03.htm As for the skeptic response to prophecies and so forth, all I can say is ‘beware the sound of one hand clapping’. I’ve found that many of such answers don’t hold up well to real scrutiny (at times I’ve even gone to the ancient documents cited as proof). In fact, the Bible itself foretells of the criticism that would be leveled against it in these times at 2 Peter 3:3-4; so in a way, such critics prove that Bible prophecy is really fulfilled.

    And even if you don’t accept our message, I hope you can see that such dedication to a set of principles, including the love of neighbors, is *not* a waste of time. For example, would you say that this terrible sacrifice by the Witnesses, linked to below, was a waste? Or was it a worthy stance to take? http://tinyurl.com/23kfvo8

    Thanks.

    • TJ: You need to understand that I’m really not interested in accepting the Bible as the word of God. There’s nothing that will change my mind on this. For every link you provide, I can provide 10 others that illustrate that your beliefs are built on half-facts.

      As someone else pointed out, a better use of your time would be to volunteer in a soup kitchen or retirement home. Or perhaps get involved in community service or donate blood. You want to help your neighbors? Knocking on their doors to sell them your religion — because that is what you’re trying to do — is not the way. All you’re doing is getting a bad reputation for your religion and your beliefs.

  5. Hi Maria
    Many years ago a couple of JW came to my house -back then I was too polite to chase them away- so for a few weeks they came by and talked – I was an environmental studies major and they told me not to worry about the earth- since it was going to be restored when God came back (or Jesus or something I don’t recall the details) – I was incredulous – I said so its ok for your kids to drink poisoned water and breathe poisoned air? What about being good stewards of the earth? I don’t recall their responses – but I know I did not change their thoughts and they only reinforced my feelings about organized religion.

    • Cheryl: I know you’re right, that trying to reason with them or even “plant seeds” was likely a waste of time. But I had to try. It’s sad to me that people are so willing to put faith in god (who I don’t think exists) when they have the power in them to work together to fix the world’s problems. It’s like people with a sick kid who pray for a cure rather than take the kid to a doctor and get medicine that will do the trick. Why? I’ll never understand.

  6. Thank you for listening. You were not converted, but you were given the chance to hear the message. Thank you for your open minded view. It is refreshing when we are turned away without the abuse.

  7. @Maria Langer
    I respectfully disagree with you there, Maria. Perhaps you don’t see it, but helping others to build a life centered around scriptural principles is beneficial to society. Have a nice day.

    • TJ: Then we agree to disagree.

      The way I see it, building a life around a supernatural being that doesn’t exist or around a book written in ancient times is nonproductive and rather wasteful. Spending your free time trying to get others to do the same is even worse. I’ll never see how either activity is beneficial to society when there are so many more important things — like helping others in need to simply survive — that we can be doing with our time.

  8. Hi Maria,
    I was very impressed by your considerateness. A great example for all of us. I couldn’t help but think, though, of how many think that the witness visits are a waste of time – especially dealing with Athiests. But the thought occurred to me, that their visits could be like those annoying safety demos we get every time we fly. Of course the plane won’t crash.. why would I be flying? (of course there is no God..)But hang on.. there may be a very slim chance.. so I’d better listen.. and who better to listen to than those who know their Bible better than anyone else? Every time I’ve researched what they’ve read – it’s been spot on. Nonproductive? A bit like safety demos.. there’s worse things they could be doing.

    • Steve: There ARE worse things, but there are plenty of better things, too. It’s sad to see two people wasting time like that. I listened, I looked up what they said, I wasn’t convinced. I remain an atheist. Wish they would have spent the time doing something fun together instead.

      As for airplane safety briefings — well, I’ve heard enough of those that I could give them. Do I learn anything new each time? No.

  9. Thank you for sharing. I have spent almost 3 years now with Jehovah’s Witnesses. Since I am passionate and study philosophy of religion and theology, my wife and I have open our home for Witnesses. She makes coffee and cakes, while I listen to them, and challenge what they believe, using simple questions.

    I have made friends, visit their homes, place of worship, which they call Kingdom Hall, and their headquarter here Copenhagen, Denmark. I have got very close to one of the leaders of the local Kingdom Hall and in our friendship I can criticize Watchtower’s poor scholarship in their magazines, books and articles, which I often read cover to cover, without hurting his feels.

    Unlike many, my wife and I chose to love and respect them as we would do to any other human being. I discover that I can not change what they believe, but I can at least challenge and help them in love, gentleness, respect and friendship begin to think for themselves.

What do you think?