Today I had some unexpected visitors, in the form of members of the World Mission Society Church of God (which is rather a mouthful). They were students at the church’s religious college with their supervisor, fulfilling a door-knocking assignment. I tried to turn them away , telling them that we were a household of atheists, but they asked really rather nicely if I would help them complete their assignment, as all I had to do was listen to a three-minute spiel. They were very happy when I acquiesced to their request. Much happier than they would be fifteen minutes later.
They started off with rather a leading question: “Would you like to live forever?”. The expected result would be some variety of affirmative, and they were rather startled when I said “no”. You could see the thought process on their faces – “wait what she was supposed to say yes what do I do now I’ll just go onto the next line like that never happened”. So we went on to the Heavenly Mother and how she could offer eternal life.
The next question was whether I knew about the Heavenly Mother, and I almost laughed at the timing. I’ve just finished a Part of my religious studies paper that covered female deities in the Tanakh (The Jewish bible/Christian New Testament). And so my response was unexpected – “She was the Jewish God’s consort in the early part of Israelite history, but the Yahwist purists attempted to erase he from the bible and create a true monotheistic religion, and so her worship became taboo” (or something to that effect). There were more stunned looks. They managed to pick themselves up fairly quickly and carry on with the modern incarnation of this Heavenly Mother.
I’ll give them credit, it wasn’t a spiel that I had heard before, so I let them do the rest of their thing without interruption. It was cute, the girl who was talking to me was so earnest, she’d practised what she was supposed to say until she had it down perfectly, and she reeled it off very well. I even gave her the expected answers to what she asked, so she wasn’t flustered any further. I wanted her to get a good grade, after all.
Well, she got to the end of her prepared speech, and it all started dissolving. The final bit she had to say was “so wouldn’t you like to live forever in spirit?” The answer was “It might be nice, if I believed in spirits and heavens”. I think this is where they should have smiled, thanked me, and left. But apparently their script had them pressing on, perhaps to challenge my beliefs or something. I don’t know, but I do know that their not leaving me doorstep was probably something they regret. They lost much face, when they ended up retreating in shame.
I was annoyed that they had stayed well past their three minutes (I don’t like standing in my doorway talking to utter strangers for prolonged periods). So I started challenging them. Why would I want to live forever with a god that was so cruel? How do you explain Elisha and the bears (2 Kings 2:23-4)? What about the flood? What kind of God wipes almost all of his creatures out like that? And what about the exit from paradise? What kind of Father leaves temptation in plain sight and then permanently bans his children from paradise?
About two questions in, the supervisor took over. He had verses about God’s love, and the Mother’s compassion, and so on. He told me that we have so much to be thankful for, and we owe it all to the goodness of the Father. So I asked about those who are not so fortunate, who struggle and starve and die in poorer places. He said that he had colleagues in South Africa, and they were even more joyful because heaven will be so much better in comparison. When I pressed further into the plight of the poorest on the planet, asking why God, in all his power and goodness and mercy, allowed such suffering in the world. He avoided the question adroitly by switching back to the hope we get from the Heavenly Mother.
The back-and-forth carried on for a good ten minutes or so, with argument and counterargument or dodge. Finally, I was asking what kind of shitty father God was if he threw everyone out of paradise for sinning against him, and why he had no mercy for his creations then, when suddenly the supervisor said “Thankyou for your time. Goodbye.” and fair ran from the door. His students followed at a much slower pace, but they had not words of farewell at all.
In the first part of all this, I threw them some curve balls but I let them do their thing, as requested. When they started trying to convert me, I was not happy, first because I told them that I was very atheist, and second because they ignored the time limit they agreed to. Making the supervisor try and back his beliefs up was a bit cruel, I suppose. But it’s sometimes fun to pull apart religious folk, that intrude into your space, with their own holy book.