A few minute ago, two handsome young men in well-tailored suits knocked on my door, clutching beautiful leather-bound books in manicured fingers. Under the guise of doing volunteer work they asked if I thought religion had any role to play in our world. I shook my head and began closing the door, “I don’t think so. Thank you.”
“Why not?” The young man asked.
An old instinct kept my hand. Politeness – an instinct that compels one to invite a guest in, offer tea, and ask after their family. I paused. “I grew up very religious and didn’t find any value that it brought to my life. Now, I’m quite busy, thank you.” I reached behind me for the doorknob again.
“What turned you off?”
Rehearsed questions. I could picture them in a room somewhere, role-playing these encounters. Talking past the objections with specific questions inspired to keep the person talking long enough that they can get a pitch in, or even a step into the door. It wouldn’t really matter what I might say in reply to the questions, but some ideas came to mind.
I might have mentioned my absolute hatred for the institution of prayer – that cornerstone of the faithful – and my disgust with the belief of any sort of interventionist divinity. On a more material note, I might have gone into the corruption of religious orders, the manipulation of texts to fit trending political ideologies, the institutional racism, sexism, and the hatred of sexuality; not to mention the role religion has played over and over in global conflict. To put a cap on the shit-mountain, I might have mentioned the offensive act of evangelism itself.
For a second, I even considered inviting this person in to actually fight it out, but nothing depresses me more than atheists and theists talk past each other for hours accomplishing nothing, and I didn’t want to include myself among that doomed population. I’ve managed so far in life to be content with my own lack of belief seeking to inspire no-one else and I think that might be the best way to live.
So, I laughed, shook my head at the arrogance of this man who assumed I might discuss such intimate topics with a stranger and told him that I didn’t need to talk about this right now, bid them both a good night, and finally, shut the door.
And then I winced, because I didn’t offer them a cup of tea. If only they had wanted to discuss relief work in Africa, environmental preservation, increase government oversight of corporations, removing outsider funding of political campaigns, or, hell, game theory, the current console war, the slew of Oscar nominated films, the new M83 album, Game of Thrones theories, True Detective, Batman, anything but my personal belief about God, I wouldn’t have hesitated in inviting them in.