Monday, 7 March 2011

An annoying conversation

An hour ago I was just starting to work on the second of two presentations I will give at the International Association for the Study of Dreams conference in the Netherlands. I heard the doorbell ring downstairs, so I hustled down two flights of stairs and answered the door. It was G, a woman traveling door to door to discuss God. I don't mind discussing God in some circumstances, but standing there in my bare feet with icy wind creeping up my toes while I was trying to get some work done was not ideal.

She wanted to give me a copy of Watchtower magazine, which is perfectly fine with me because my wife sometimes reads them, but as she went on about things that sounded not only dogmatic but wrong, I pointed out that I had my own source for this kind of information. At the time she had been saying how God connects to us through the church (her church) and reading "his word" (their dogma). So I showed her my book. A bit cheeky, but I thought that would solve my need to get back to typing upstairs. When she saw the word "Psychic" on the cover, she had to remark on it. As soon as she started talking, I knew the Demons, Hellfire, and Satan Express was headed my way.

G whipped out a different copy of Watchtower headlined "Occultisme" ("Occultism" in Dutch). I tried explaining to her that "Occultism" and "psychic" aren't necessarily the same thing, and that religion is based on what we would now call psychic or paranormal events. However, she now had to defend herself against a person who wasn't just interested in "occultisme" (which I'm not by the way) but who had written a book about it (again, I didn't write about occultism). So at the same time as she wanted to show me the light to change my ways, she was simultaneously concerned about defending herself from my ideas. These, she spared no energy describing as inspired by Satan to deceive me and everyone else. During all this, as ungracious as it was for me to notice, I was wishing she would wipe off the lipstick she had all over her teeth. Listening to her leap from "psychic" to "Occultisme" to "Satan" to me while looking at her teeth and freezing at the front door was pretty uncomfortable.

What will be next? Is it equally possible that she will now shun our house in the future or will instead bring crusaders to the door? I hope she shuns us, but have a feeling that she now has a duty to annoy my family.

And all I had to do was not show her my book. The fact is that she has come by several times over the past few years to talk to my wife. My wife tolerates the visits but is not impressed by this woman's church. She wishes they would stop coming by, but doesn't know how to say it nicely. I figured showing my book would do the trick, but I obviously wasn't thinking strategically or I would have realized that I'd just given red meat to a hungry dog.


  1. It's been a while since a church lady came to our door. I'm thankful that our cold Canadian winters tend to be too challenging for them, lol.

  2. Where I am, we get this every couple weeks. The village I am living in is quite friendly to a range of door-to-door activities. We get roofers, people who want to repaint our house, little girls selling flowers picked from various neighbor's lawns, many charities, the church-lady types, and sometimes, people we actually know.

  3. Certain "religious" people are really caught in a bind. On the one hand, they see all that humanity has accomplished as the result of God's love ... so, if a person creates something that benefits the world or does some act that benefits the world in an approved/accepted way this is seen as a result or consistent with God's plan for humans ... yet, in creating this thing or performing that act, the person might have had to use his/her brain, make a judgement, ask him/herself a number of questions that led to other questions that might not have been anticipated. Yet, when the same person asks different questions or has a different way of interpreting an event or seems to get information in a different way then some religious folk see this as a mind that's been corrupted by Satan, etc, etc.

    I guess if you take the position that God controls our every thought and thoughts that deviate are poisonous (which seems to be counter to free will/choice) then the psychic is dangerous; but if you take this position then you've got to explain why humanity have brains, or, better, why humanity asks questions about anything at all.

    I think a consistent strain throughout the way some people practice religion is fear of the human mind. Fear of what choices a free mind might exercise, fear that a free mind might see the world in a different (even religious) way from the "official" religious narrative.

  4. @mobius: This is quite frustrating to me also. I understand that going to church and insisting on an inerrant Bible is a way to limit distracting factors, or potential for confusion, but by locking down their mental flexibility this way, they lose one of the most valuable things they are born with: the ability to make their own decisions.

    As I see it, learning to decide well, or to exercise good judgment, is a central theme of our lives on earth. If we abrogate that responsibility to our priests or to a book, assuming that all answers to all things could be contained in such a place, we lose the benefit of an excellent training exercise.

    Plenty of religious people look at these things as for guidance or instruction only, rather than ready-made decisions, and that is what may divide them from the dogmatists.