I have been very lucky in the past month or so. I have had both the Mormons and the JWs call on me.
The Mormons called first. Two very attractive young girls who were very charming and quite bright. Both had been bought up as Mormons and both had had doubts. The one that interested me the most was the one who went to university to do Chemistry. She confessed that going to university had caused her a huge crisis in her faith, but that she had gotten over it by just relying on her faith and it taught her not to question too much and just believe.
There were a few things that I have wanted to ask the Mormons for a while now. I wanted to challenge their belief that the Native Americans were the descendants of the two lost tribes of Israel. The first thing that I was interested to know was how they get around the fact that the Native Indians of America don’t descend from the Middle East, as they claim, but rather they descend from Asia. The simple answer was that they didn’t trust the science which claims the Indian’s DNA points to them coming from Asia. They claimed that their DNA would have diluted over the years and that is the reason why there is no trace of Middle Eastern decent in their DNA.
I could have pushed the issue but I wanted to move on.
I then wanted to know about their belief of coming to earth to learn and then returning back to heaven. I wanted to know what we learn coming to earth if we have no recollection of who we were in a pre-existence in heaven. They told me that it was the will of god and that every human has the chance to find god and learn about the pre-existence and that was why they were calling on my door. So I asked them if they thought that this life is a proper way to learn anything and what exactly did it teach us about god. They went into detail about how adversity helps us understand god better. So I asked them why we have to age in order to die and go back to god. I asked why we had to get old and decay while still being alive and what exactly were we to learn from the indignity of old age, apart from the conclusion that god is merciless. I put it to them that if we were sent to earth to learn, why couldn’t god allow us to learn all the lessons required and then beam us back up to heaven in a rapture instead of letting mankind grow old and die while rotting to death. They were both rather stumped by my question and didn’t know how to answer it.
I then asked them what a child learns who dies only a few years old, or even one that dies during birth. I put a scenario to them about a child who is only 4 weeks old, who is starving because they have no food and they are pecked to death by vultures. I then asked them what that child would learn about this earth before going back to heaven apart from the fact that life is rather vile and painful. Again they didn’t have an answer and so we went onto another interesting subject.
I asked them how they could know if their god was who they believed he was. I explained that I used to be a JW and I had wondered about this question when I was going along. I asked them how they could know for sure that their book of Mormon was not written by some kind of malevolent force, assuming such deities actually exist. I asked them if they could know for sure that Shiva didn’t write the book of Mormon to throw a lot of people into confusion. They didn’t know how to answer at first. One of them asked me the reason why Shiva would do such a thing. I said that it didn’t matter why. I could make up all kind of reasons why. The important question was not why but how could anyone know if it was not true. So they then said that they didn’t believe that god would allow Shiva to do such a thing. I knew at this point they hadn’t understood fully my illustration. I then pointed out that Shiva was god and he had made up Yahweh for whatever reason he wished.
Both girls at this point were stunned. So then I asked them if they had seen the film the Matrix. Both of them had. I asked them how they could possibly know if they were not in a computer simulation and pointed out that if they were then all that they believed was false. Again they were totally blank and the silence was deafening. At this point I felt for them, so I broke the silence by saying that it was those kind of questions that caused me to leave the JWs. Both girls looked devastated at this point and luckily for them it was time to leave.
I thanked them both for their visit and they left.
That was a few months ago. So last weekend I had the JWs call round. Two very nice woman, one was a long time JW and the other was a very nice young lady who had only got baptised 2 years ago.
They called promoting a Watchtower on the subject of comfort, asking where we can find it in today’s world. Not really a topic that I find interesting to talk about. But I answered the question about where people find comfort, then they said that they found that the bible was a good source of comfort.
I was intrigued to see how the JWs dealt with the same question that I put to the Mormons a few weeks previously. I asked them how they could know that the bible was not written by Satan or Zeus, assuming such entities existed.
Disappointingly, it took a good half an hour for them to grasp the concept of what I was proposing. The Mormons were far quicker on the up take. So I had to explain myself more, and so I asked if Jesus appeared in my living room right now, and even performed a miracle in front of everyone, how would we know that it actually was Jesus.
They still didn’t get where I was coming from and one of them thought she would be clever and asked how she could know for sure that I even existed. This played right into the point I was making. I agreed with her and then pointed out that if she could question my existence, even though she could see me sitting opposite her, how on earth could she know that some invisible deity exists, and if these deities actually do exist, how did she know that it wasn’t Zeus playing a trick on her.
She still didn’t get the point. She then asked me if I knew the story of the Israelites leaving Egypt and the parting of the Red Sea. I said that I knew the bible quite well and that I was familiar with the story. (I didn’t tell them that I had been a JW). She highlighted the fact that the people were questioning god until he parted the Red Sea and saved them all.
I asked her how the Israelites could know for sure that it was Yahweh who parted the Red Sea and not Zeus. Finally she got the point. She had the same stunned look on her face that the Mormons had a few weeks before.
At that moment I thought I would challenge them with the same point I had made about the film the Matrix with the Mormons. I asked them if they had seen the film and the younger one had. So I asked how she would be able to tell if she was living in a Matrix, and pointed out that if she found out that she was living in one, wouldn’t that prove that her faith was redundant. It was all too much of a point for her to take in at once but she said rather amusingly that she felt that she was in a situation like the Matrix, that she knew the truth about what was going on in the world and that she had taken the ‘red pill’. I laughed inside at the irony.
I then went onto ask how they could know that the bible was the word of god and not the Qu’ran. I disclosed that I had studied the Qu’ran over the winter. The elderly lady informed me that she had never read the Qu’ran. I asked her how she could know for sure that the Qu’ran was not the true revelation of god, being that she had never read it. She told me that she had read a book that explained about it. So I pointed out to her that the book she read was just someone else’s opinion. I asked her how she could know that if she read the Qu'ran that Allah’s holy spirit wouldn’t speak to her and that she would ‘see the light’.
At this point the younger woman said that her grandmother had been a Muslim and had converted to a JW when the girl’s mother was a child. She then went onto say that the reason why she didn’t believe in Islam is because of the fact that it tells you what to believe in… you don’t have the ability to question your beliefs. I couldn’t challenge her on this point because it would reveal that I had been a JW and I didn’t wish to expose that fact to them, but as far as I’m concerned that is exactly the same with the JWs.
So I asked her why not being able to question belief was a problem. She said that humans were born with the desire to have freedom of choice. I pointed out to her that her opinion is due to being brought up in western culture. I said that in the countries that are governed by Islam they don’t have such a problem with not questioning their beliefs. So she said that the people were not happy because they were not able to question the belief in Islam. I disagreed and pointed out that many Muslims are happy and don’t need to question their faith at all.
We disagreed for a while and then she said that it was all to do with what we personally believe. I said that what we personally believe doesn’t prove that we have the truth. I said that a Muslim would personally believe in Islam but she as a JW would claim that the Muslim didn’t have the truth, and I pointed out that the Muslim would make the same claim about her. She didn’t know what to say then.
So she asked me what I believed. I said that I really didn’t know and that my philosophy is ‘I don’t know’. This took her back somewhat.
She then tried to claim that belief in the bible made more sense with the world around us. She said that it makes more sense for there to be only one god. I challenged her on that point and said that it wasn't necessarily so. What would be wrong with there being many gods and that Yahweh was only one of them. I went onto point out that believing in the god of the bible could itself be faulty reasoning because the god of the bible was a rather unpleasant character and nothing like what believers would like him to be. But I have made this point to JWs before and I wanted to challenge them on other things.
So I took control of the conversation and asked both of them outright what it would take to prove to them that their faith was not true. Both of them again looked stunned. The mature woman said that there was nothing that could prove that it wasn’t true. I quickly came back with the fact that if I asked this question to a Muslim, the Muslim could also say the same thing. I then pointed out that if they were talking to that Muslim, they would conclude that the Muslim was not open minded and would be wrong. This answer put them in a very vulnerable position. If they continued to claim that they had no doubts, then they were going to see themselves as the unreasonable Muslim I had just referred to. So they had to come back with something that would cause them to doubt.
I said that it was a very good question that I like to ask believers because they spend such a lot of effort in trying to promote what they believe, but they never take the time to look at the other side of things and consider what it would take for them to doubt their faith. Amusingly they agreed with my point.
The younger one said that if there was inconsistency in the organisation’s teachings then that would cause her to have doubts. I can’t tell you how tempted I was at this point to reveal my position and go into the failed predictions and the flip-flops that the society have come out with over the years. I took due note of this point though.
The conversation then went on to the reason why they believe the bible and they mentioned bible prophesy. So the first thing I did was to point out that if Zeus had written the bible as a hoax, then there is no reason why he couldn’t have made the prophesy come true himself. But as we had already gone through this point in detail, I allowed her to continue.
They both then started to tell me about how bad the world is and so I challenged that point. I said that I didn’t agree that the world is worse than it has ever been as they claimed. I said that I believed that it is probably the best time for man to have ever existed and times have never been better. I point out that we have medicine, that child mortality and death in child birth is much better than it has ever been, that we are not constantly worrying about being killed for what we own, and things like that. The trouble is they didn’t actually hear what I was saying and they agreed with me, thinking that I was agreeing with them about how bad the world was. I had to stop them and point out that I didn’t agree with them and repeat that I thought that the world has never been better than it is now.
They got the point, so then I said that was why I didn’t believe their bible prophesies, because when they say that the world is terrible and this was one of the signs Jesus gave, I don’t see conditions anywhere near what they claim. So their prophesy has to be incorrect. They were getting rather speechless at this point.
So the younger one decided to read me Revelation about no more tears, death no more, etc… so after she read it to me I challenged her and asked her if she knew that the book of Revelation was not accepted by some of the early Christians. I went onto tell her that other books of the bible that were in the canon in the first century are no longer there. I pointed out to her that there were different bibles for different Christians around that time and I went on to name some of the books that are no longer in the bible.
She had never heard of some of the books I mentioned. So I asked her if she knew for sure that the book of Revelation that she had just read should hold any testimony as inspired of god. The trouble is my point wasn’t made fully because she was obviously unaware of the history of the canon, so this made my point difficult to make. So she said that she would go and do some research on the topic and that she would come back in two weeks.
At this point they were both very rattled. They had tried to promote themselves in a confident manner as the ‘teachers’ but I had undermined every point they had made and asked them some very searching questions.
So I left them with some homework. She said that she would go away and look up about the book of Revelation and get back to me. So I asked her also to come back to me on the point that I made about what it would take for her to question her religion.
I can't see them coming back next week, but what stood out to me with both the Mormans and the JWs is that their minds are so locked into a certain way of thinking. Being so focused on 'believing' had caused them to consider everything from their one, very limited perspective. They both really struggled to grasp the alternative concepts I was challenging them with. But it was fantastic to see, that for just one brief moment, their minds opened up to see beyond the limitations their faith imposed on them.
We will see if the JWs are brave enough to come back next week.