I found a cart, this one was manned by an elder (i recognized his face from assemblies) and a woman i presume was his wife. I stopped and looked at their cart at the mags and books.
ELDER: Hi. Would you like to take one?
ME: Im just looking thanks. Which religion is this?
ELDER: We're Jehovah's Witnesses.
ME: Oh right. Ok. I've spoke to you people before. On my door a while back.
ELDER: Oh yes? Have you read any of our magazines before?
ME: I study religion in generally actually. I have a copy of your bible at home. It's a new one isnt it? I collect different translations of the bible.
ELDER: Oh thats good. So do you have a belief in god?
ME: I used to. But when i studied it after a number of years i concluded that Jesus was a very wise and good man but only a man. And i dont think he started a religion. To me, it looks as though he gave some great lessons for life and thats great. But people shouldn't be made to follow him. I mean Buddha and Lao Tsu said some profound things too dont you think?
WOMAN: Well we believe that the bible is inspired of God. Have you seen this scripture? (She reads 2 Timothy 3:16 "All scripture is inspired of God..."
ME: Yes but that doesnt mean it's true does it? The bible cant claim to be true because it says it is.
(I wanted to steer the conversation to "shunning" so after some blah blah about the bible being scientifically accurate (ha!) i said:)
ME: It's good that you feel zealous enough to preach. I mean im sure you're not compelled to do it or anything. But is it true that you people shun people who leave?
WOMAN: ... (thinks)
ELDER: People who want to leave a free to leave.
ME: I know but would they be shunned for leaving? That's what im asking.
ELDER: Well we have a responsibility to keep the congregation clean, and that means cutting off association with those who dont want to serve Jehovah.
ME: What if, for example, a person genuinely didn't believe it. They say "i love you, i respect you, but i just dont believe this is the truth so im gonna go join another religion" would they be shunned? Because they're living the same morals and want to worship their god in the way they feel is right.
ELDER: I know it sounds harsh. But usually this wakes the person up and rekindles their love for Jehovah and they return. If they return they're welcomed into the congregation and accepted back again.
ME: Well thats good. So they could come back like a week later and everything would be ok again?
ELDER: Well... it depends.
ME: Can you show me a scriptural reference for this by the way?
(They get out their bibles and shuffle some pages)
ME: Because i've read the bible many times and i know Jesus didnt sanction this.
ELDER: Here. 1 Corinthians 5:11-13 "blah blah blah remove the wicked one from among you"
ME: Wicked? Im not talking about a wicked person. I mean if someone doesnt agree that this religion is true.
ELDER: Maybe you'd like to read this book, it explains it clearly from the scriptures (Bible Teach Book)
ME: But you have the scriptures in front of you. Can you show me yourself?
ELDER & WOMAN: ...
ME: Look, im not trying to be funny with you or anything. It just seems to me like anyone who leaves your religion is considered "wicked". Now, am i wrong there?
WOMAN: No, not at all. We work with non witnesses, we treat them with kindness.
ME: So can you treat someone who leaves with kindness?
ELDER: Look, this is turning into an argument now. Lets just leave it there.
ME: Im not trying to argue sir, im just asking questions. I know shunnng isnt in the bible. And maybe you're getting a little embarrassed because you - deep inside - know it's not right.
ELDER: Embarrassed? Im not getting embarrassed.
ME: Well that's good because i dont want you to. Im a theologian myself and i wanted to ask a real JW rather than looking it up online or asking ex-witnesses.
They then just ignored me and pretended i wasn't there. Both holding the Watchtower out to... no one. I took my leave.
ME: Well, i hope you have a nice day. Merry Christmas.