Last week, some Jehovah’s Witnesses had stopped by while I was out on my walk. They left a pamphlet tucked in the screen door, folded so it wouldn’t blow away. It had that standard Jehovah’s Witness art on it, with a softball question on the front. I just took it out, unlocked the door, and threw it in the trash.
I’ve been polite, but I’ve never expressed an interest in becoming a Witness myself.
It’s gotten to the point where I wished I’d caught the people leaving the pamphlet. I wanted to tell them that they really shouldn’t come by anymore. While I’d try to do it in a civil manner, I’d also remind them that I don’t go to their houses and try to convince them to leave their faith. Their pamphlets express belief similar to many other churches around, and the Bible verses they leave are the same vanilla fluff I could find in any building with a steeple.
I felt bad because I wasn’t able to tell them to leave me alone, and then I realized I shouldn’t even have to do that. Although I understand why they go knocking on doors and leaving bits of paper behind, it reminds me about how pushy that brand of faith can be. At no point have I accosted or verbally abused any proselytizer at my door, despite being subjected to beliefs I’ve heard about, learned about, and ultimately rejected. Seeing these people or their pamphlets is like a toddler asking me repeatedly if I’ve changed my mind.
All I want right now is room to breathe.
Being patient with all of this is tiresome. If I treated religious people around me exactly as they treat me, I’d be in a world of hurt and fear. Lacking religious beliefs is not safe where I live, so I get to exist in a perpetual state of anxiety about people who choose to get angry about it. I don’t know if they’ll just yell, throw things, or actually try to get violent. Anything is possible.
I really don’t think I’d have this apprehension if I lived in a different part of the country, and I’m not exactly on a crusade to rid the world of religion. Yes, I get that people believe in angels and demons and deities that grant stupid wishes, but those beliefs do not justify people getting to push them on me. The saddest thing is that I might even have a more positive outlook on things if Christians, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and whoever else would just leave me alone about joining their social clubs.
Life is too short to worry about souls.
I wish there was a magic phrase that would convince religious salespeople I know what they’re offering, I have given it more thought than it rightfully deserves, and nothing they’re offering can change my mind. Although I would love nothing more than to get along with most people I meet, trying to get me to drink the Jesus juice is going to prevent that from happening. There are only so many tricks in the (not-quite)good book to win souls, and I grew up hearing about all of them.
What matters to me is that I really don’t want to give much thought about magical gardens and blood sacrifices. It dominated too much of my early life in a way that I can only charitably describe as unhealthy. However, I can’t do that when I get asked by people to just please reconsider this belief system again. None of it includes real evidence, and real evidence is what it would take to convince me of anything fantastical.
Sometimes I feel bad for not being more assertive about this.
Maybe if I did it more often, I’d be contributing to the notion that it’s not okay to just go around insisting everyone share your unproven view of reality. It might let Christians where I live understand that not everyone is interested in what they’re selling, that some people really just want to practice living their lives in peace. There are times where I wonder if I try to be a little more insistent on stopping people before they make the spiritual sales pitch, I’d be carving out a serene place for the non-religious to relax and be themselves.
Of course, there are better ways of accomplishing that goal. Giving deconverts support when they leave the faith is one thing, and encouraging them to find new ways of enjoying a godless life is another. While I can’t stop the Jehovah’s Witnesses or other churches from showing up, I can take solace in knowing I don’t have to waste one day out of the week singing songs to a wall or trying to stay awake listening to a sermon. No, it’s not as much space to unwind as I might want, but it’s enough space to catch my breath.