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Thursday, November 20, 2008

I just say no or nothing at all.

I was on vacation back east last week and after an incident where someone was trying to give me some religious literature at a gas station, I was reminded of this woman who posts 'tips and tricks' on how to spread your religious mind virus to others by striking up conversations with them in public. Basically, she writes about how to ambush people and get them to be on WOTM radio and yammer on about what horrible people they are unless they believe in her Jebus.

I wondered to myself why people bother talking to her and I looked around her site. I also wondered what my responses would have been to her had she or one of her religious cronies tried them on me. I should preface this with letting you know that if I even suspect that a person trying to talk to me in public is trying to sell me something or tell me about their invisible friend I ignore them with an air of unapproachability that usually makes them go the other way before they even start their spiel.

First I came across this, in which she hands out her religious blah blah at a gas station. This same thing was tried on me in the incident I referred to above. It didn't work. I do not take things from people simply because they are handing it to me. I also do not engage them in conversation and if 'No thank you' doesn't work the first time I have also found 'Fuck off' works quite well. Of course, she doesn't put the 'Fuck off' responses on her site.

Next, I found a place on her site where she writes 'A Great Springboard to Sharing the Gospel'. There is no link to that section so you have to go about a quarter of the way down the page and look for the 'Why believe in God?' sign. She then writes this:

"This is a great opener to the gospel...Just ask, So, what do you think about these signs?...and would you consider yourself a good person for goodness sake?"

My reply would be to either ignore her completely due to the fact that I generally do not engage in conversations with strangers in public or to proceed to eviscerate her 'good person test'. It would depend on my mood. Neither one of those replies would make it to her site either, since it appears she wants to slant the perception of the reader in such a way that it appears that she is successful on most every attempt.

Then I found this treat. She pays for the food of the person behind her in the drive through fast food line and then asks the fast food worker to do her dirty work for her. She gives him her religious junk and tells him to give it to the person whose food she paid for! That's underhanded. You can't just do something nice for someone, you have to attach strings to it. Welcome to Christian charity.

Personally, if I were the fast food worker I would refuse her literature and I would refuse to pass it on to anyone. That is not part of their job.

There's tons more crap over there if you want to burn a few brain cells, but I hit the high (or maybe low) points.

Now a question to you guys. How do you react when someone in public tries to proselytize to you? I realize that not everyone is as ice cold as I am in public. Or as ice cold as I am in general. For me it's partly a safety issue and partly because I do not want to be bothered with other people's crap. I figure there are enough churches out there that if an adult wants to go find one and find religion they can do it on their own without having it pushed on them. Then again, I was reminded of my INTJ personality last week when my sister-in-law told me that I am not warm and cuddly and not emotional enough. Then again, my sister-in-law is also emotionally disturbed.

And you respond how?


  1. I actually take their propaganda. I have a neat little collection of stuff. I have one of Ray's million dollar bills and Chick Tracks. It is all very amusing to peruse over. I don't talk to the people though, I just take their stuff and walk on.

  2. Beam, maybe one day you could start your own museum dedicated to insane things that people used to believe and use the propaganda you've collected as your examples. ;)

  3. NM you could collect them much easier than I because of where you live. I got some neat stuff on Fremont Street when I was there last.

  4. Beam, true, but I rarely go over to Fremont and the thought of going over there just to be yelled at by some deluded religious nutsack nearly makes my breakfast come back up.

    Ya never know, though. If I'm ever in that area of town I might purposefully get some stuff and scan it in to show you guys.

  5. I've always considered my background (Baha'i, Skeptic, then cautious deist) to have resulted in: I talk to them sincerely if I have time.

    That conclusion may not be valid, however. All I know is that I'm interested in listening to real believers and what they believe in.

    I've mentioned it before, but when I lived in Allston, I think I was the only person on the street that would actually talk to the mormons in the middle of their 2 years of service (re. door-to-door preaching). My room mates would come home and see 2 weird dudes in button-up shirts and bow ties, and give me "the look"; my cookie or beer stash would typically then be raided soon afterwards.

    I have a lot of sympathy for the rational ethical stuff: be a good person, don't torture small animls, try to help other people. But when it comes to the weirdness (re. I'm born doomed to Hell, etc), I begin telling them something to the effect of "No, I just don't think that makes any sense".

    I've been guilty of talking to them until they get bored :) They eventually figure out that, while I am sort of searching for answers to the big questions, I tend to reject those who claim that THEY have 'em.

    There's no evidence that anyone who says he/she knows what it's all about - isn't simply talking out of his/her arse.

  6. If I have the time, I will generally engage them for as long as I am able, or until they awkwardly ask that I move along. Whenever Mormons or Jehovah's Witnesses come knocking, I invite them in.

    I figure that the more time these people spend with me, the less time they spend with people who happen to be insecure and/or vulnerable enough to succumb to their delusional bullshit. Additionally, there exists the admittedly small chance that they will be persuaded by my arguments, or that at the least they may question the reason(s) for their beliefs.

    Of course, if they're actually insane, I'm walking on, but if they're the composed and generally cordial proselytizers who push their religions on people, I'll give them what time I have. In fact, there's this Baptist guy I see on an approximately weekly basis, with whom I will sit down as he peddles his religion, and while he is quite tolerable of me and he may even enjoy our conversations as much as I do, he becomes visibly uncomfortable when another passerby approaches with genuine questions. He gets uncomfortable because I don't merely sit silently; I also interject where appropriate with the skeptical and/or scientific perspective, and I even point out discrepancies and/or inconsistencies in the bible.

    Anyway, that's me. I enjoy the debate.


  7. WEM,

    Just as a side note, I just read your post on your site about the movie 'Elephant'. I absolutely love independent film, but that was the worst piece of crap movie I've ever seen.

    I took issue not just with the violence, which I have a low tolerance for, but with the shower scene. In my opinion, the shower scene might be considered child porn, and added nothing to an already nothing movie.

    Sorry I didn't leave this comment on your blog, but I don't have the ID that I needed to sign in there.

  8. Stan,

    I think it's very cool that you interject your skeptical/scientific perspective in the situation you described!

  9. The last time I was given religious material on the street was when a bunch of guys were giving out pamphlets on Islam.

    I took one and read it while having a coffee. I then returned and said that, while the description of Islam and it's code of ethics etc was all good and well, at no point in the pamphlet did it give any good reason why I should think there is a god in the first place.

    The guy looked at me like I had two heads. I don't think he realized that not believing there was a god was an option. Poor guy.

  10. I actually enjoy talking with these kind of people. I guess I have a morbid curiousity about people who think very differently than I do.

    Also, like BeamStalk, I tend to collect the tracts... because I'm weird like that.

    If anything, I'm just trying to show them that I don't match the concept of "atheist" that they've been taught. I think that will do far more to change their mind than any argument I could present.

    Regarding muslims, I've found that they've been taught how to talk to theists, but never really taught how to talk with atheists; all they have are their stories about "muslim scholar debates with atheist and wins him over to Islam in about 5 minutes". As you can imagine, these stories don't exactly reflect reality. So, they don't really know how to talk with atheists. I, personally, find it fascinating.

  11. Early in our marriage my wife was invited by a co-worker to a marriage seminar. Turned out to be the Ephesians version of a marriage seminar. Funny but wifey wasn't buying into the submissive role. Go figure.

    Afterward, the other couple tried witnessing and it was actually quite amusing. I skipped ahead to the next chapter in Ephesians about slaves being submissive. The upshot was we weren't invited to any more functions.

    Now that I think I'm better equipped to deal with one of these encounters, I've been praying to be approached. My prayers have gone unanswered. Or, maybe.......?

  12. Geoff,

    A little Jack is always in order!

  13. Nonmagic,

    I'll get back to you soon about my Hitchens story. And, btw, I might be having beers with PZ Myers tonight. Nah, nah, nah, nah, nah, nah!

  14. Nonmagic wrote that was the worst piece of crap movie I've ever seen.

    First, thanks for stopping by. I've been pretty inactve on that blog lately, in part due to the amount I post here (but also due to the 12 hour work days).

    Second, I don't get emotional easily, but that movie pissed me off to an extent I still don't understand. The entire thing: pure pornography - no socially redeeming value.

    Pisses me off just thinking about it :)

    Yeah, independent film rocks otherwise...

  15. BTW,

    It was in part over Trish that Terry Burton was banned from the WOTM blogs. See the second post...

    Fundie vs. Fundie

  16. I always take the religious tracts and ask for as many more as I can get. The way I see it, that's one more piece of propaganda not going to a fence sitter.

  17. "It was in part over Trish that Terry Burton was banned from the WOTM blogs. See the second post."

    The demise of Terry Burton. Gone but not forgotten.
    Here he was with his nose up Scumforts ass so far it would have taken a back hoe to dig it out.

    Then Ray fucks him over royally.
    Leaves him broken and in despair.
    It was pitiful man, pitiful I say.

  18. Froggie D., it was quite a spectacle the way Ray just chewed up Terry and spit him out.

    Funny how he didn't offer to refund any of that money Terry spent on all that WOTM junk, though!

  19. Punch them. Punch them in the belly hard enough to make them barf. Then steal their tracts and dump them in a recycling bin.

  20. Like Bean & others I collect their propaganda.
    I enlarge parts and stick them on my walls.
    I talk as long as I can.

  21. I would talk with them if they weren't so darn nice.

    The religous people who hand me this stuff are always nice and happy little old ladies, and I simply can't start a discussion with them, no matter how hateful the pamphlet is they just gave me.

    I think if I was approached by someone a bit more vocal, who I thought could make a good showing of themselves, I would have a go... but having a go at the ones I always seem too meet would be too much like bullying. =(

  22. (shrug) Hey, it's Toronto. Nobody proselytizes outdoors after mid-October or before mid-May, and for some reason they rarely try it indoors. I don't recall ever being approached in coffee shops or malls.

    A couple of summers ago some dishevelled dude stood where he could get in everybody's way at the corner of Yonge/Dundas and screamed chapter-and-worses in heavily accented English. (Hey, it's Toronto -- every other person is from somewhere else.) I happened to pass by just as he bellowed "...and ye'll go tuh HELL!"

    Without missing a beat or a step, I bellowed back:

    "YOU FIRST!"

    It got a laugh from the crowd around me.

  23. How I treat evangilicals depends on my mood.

    Usually, I just tell them that I am not at all interested in what they have to say and move on.

    When feeling playful, or have time on my hands, I listen a while and then start a reverse prothelysation, see if I can get them to renounce thier religion. (unsuccessful as of yet, but maybe tomorrow).

    When in a foul mood, (not very often) I have been known to take their handout, tear it up, and toss the pieces at them. That shuts them up long enough for me to take my leave of them.

    I particularly dislike "ambush evangelism", and my responses are seldom what they are praying for.

  24. Thats evangelicals, of course!

    When am I ever going to learn that preview is my friend?

  25. So, I'm looking over the responses so far, and I'm noticing a trend. Overwhelmingly the responses that atheists give to religious proselytizers ranges from downright warm and cozy to indifference. One vote from Charles to punch them, but uh...well, I do not condone violence towards others.

    So we have many who are friendly, and only want to wants to act violently. But the consistent response I see from most fundies is that we deserve to be literally burned forever for not believing as they do.

    Of course, this is no scientific poll or anything, but just note that difference. Even Charles doesn't want them to literally burn throughout all eternity...umm....right, Charles? Like I said, I do not condone violence, but a punch or two is not an everlasting punishment for not sharing the same belief system.


    And we're the hateful ones? I don't think so.

  26. This reminds me of the Bill O'Reily's "War on Chritmas" Shtick.

    Until the fundies started this crap I always remained very respectful and accepting of their greetings around the holidays (I know that is hard to believe.)

    But the gloveas are off now.

    Mrs. Frog and the polywog don't even like to go to Wal-mart with me this time of year because they know I am gunning for Christian warriors.

    Last year Mrs. Frog and I were standing in line and I noticed the check-out girl was wearing a Pentagram necklace. I told Beth that if she said Merry Christmas I was going to make a scene.......

    She did.

    I know this is anti-climatic but so as not to embarass Beth I merely said to her, I wish you a merry Holiday too, but I am a Warlock. The look on her face was beyond priceless. I was laughing all the way to the car with Beth griping about my bad manners, etc.

    I guess you'll have that sometimes.......

  27. I don't really punch them, or advocate that anyone else do so.

    I usually pretend that street prosteletizers are invisible no matter how obstreperous they get. (I used to live in NYC, and looking right through people is a necessary skill. Even subway station preachers using a Mr Microphone.) Other times, I say a gracious thank you, take the tract -- I have an almost complete collection of Chick tracts -- and keep on walking.

    Everyone deserves gracious behavior.

    I swear though, I can't answer for myself if was cornered by someone who wanted to give my the Good Person Test.

  28. I like to out-nice them.

    I'll usually go along the lines of you shouldn't waste your time on silly rituals, for humanities sake.

    I appeal to what a great contribution to society they could make if they weren't tied up in Bible study or church.

    I say things like how its shocking that religion devalues the tragedy of death by sugar-coating it. That we need scientific progress to avoid the horrors of cancer, etc.

    My reason for this is that I know if they are converts to God they most likely dont think in a rational, logical way, so all my statements appeal to emotions.

  29. I agree with Vagon that it's best to go for the emotions, because that's how these people tend to communicate.

    I guess my perspective is that the main thing I want to accomplish is to show that atheists aren't what they've been told we are. That I can accomplish without arguing or debating or anything like that. Simply being nice, listening, but still disagreeing... a "agree to disagree" kind of mindset.

    Here's my thinking: when I was a fundamentalist, the fact that atheists didn't match the "imaginary atheist" I was taught started to really bother me. It made me think, "hey, if they're wrong about that, maybe my teachers might be wrong about other things..." As I've said before, I don't think that there's a single argument that I could give a fundamentalist that would change their mind; it's only through their own experiences that they will change their minds. So, if I can give them an experience that goes against what they've been taught, that's a small advance into the "maybe my teachers are incorrect" line of thinking.

    Plus, I guess the other reason is that I live in an area where fundamentalists aren't in any kind of significant numbers, so I never get annoyed by them. Combine that with my enjoyment of talking with people who don't think like I do, and you get someone who tries to seek out fundamentalists. :-)

    ...which is why I hang out with muslims in online chatrooms, talking about haram haircuts.

    (Yes, seriously)

  30. Charles,

    Obstreperous is my new word of the day!

  31. I want to say thinks to everyone who answered in this thread and to those that might answer after it drops down the page a ways. It really is interesting to hear how different people respond to these situations.

  32. Nonmagic,

    In your opinion, why do you think you are bothered (pick a different word if you'd like) by the street preachers or tract-pushers, like Trish?

    I'm just curious; I don't have an angle or a point.

  33. nohm - on my first reading I thought that you said you talked about harem haircuts! That piqued my interest. :-)

    Hey, these word verification letters are looking more and more like real words. Perhaps we should start defining them.

    Mine is whieful, which is old Scottish for a dram too many.

  34. Back on topic (sorry Non Magic) - I have the full range of responses listed here depending on my mood. I told the last JDubs that came to the door that I was an atheist and was quite happy to talk with them but they may wish to spend their time in more fertile fields.

    I did take some brochures off some cute 7th dayers, but my wife made me chase after them and give them back.

    sceans, as in sceans b'levin.

  35. Ah, the trifecta!

    First, "slay the celestial beast", then "sex up the goddess", and finish it off with "gunning for Christian warriors"

    Wow, and its not even Saturday night.

  36. Nohm,

    Good question. Bothered is a good word, too. It does bother me that she is pushing religion, but she could be selling vacuum cleaners for all I care and I'd still be aggravated by it. I don't like people coming up to me and trying to push anything on me. Not a time share in the Bahamas, not the latest pyramid scheme, not a religion.

    If I want a church, I can look around me and find one post haste. Same for a place to buy a vacuum, or a time share. I understand advertising your product, and religion really is just another product, but going out and shoving it in people's faces in person is quite a bit different. As an atheist, I wouldn't go out and bother someone at a gas pump or a drive through window with my personal yada yada, and I don't appreciate it when the religious folk do it.

    Now, here is the icing on the cake. I've never had a vacuum salesman or a time share pusher tell me that if I didn't buy their product or at least try it that I was going to literally burn for all eternity. I've never seen a vacuum cleaner salesman or a pyramid marketer show up at a gay parade and tell them that if they didn't buy a vacuum or a time share that they were going going to burn and they they were filthy human beings. The judgmental attitude of the street preachers and proselytizers is stomach churning and in quite a few cases they are doing some of the so called 'vile' things that they are out yelling about.

    Next, we have the fact that as a child I was made to go out into trailer parks to the beer-for-breakfast crowd and tell them that god hated them and was going to burn them for all eternity. I didn't believe it then, and swore I'd never spread that hate as an adult. Promise kept.

    Thanks for asking, btw.

  37. KiwiInOz,

    Heh, that would cause a bit of "huh??" :-)

    For those who don't know, within Islam, the word "haram" means "not allowed" and the word "halal" means "permitted" (well, basically).

    My verification word is "egene".

    egene: An electronic sequence of nucleotides along a segment of electronic DNA.

  38. Kiwi,

    Just out of curiosity, did the JW's stay and talk to you anyway? What was their reaction to you revealing your atheism?

  39. Nonmagic,

    Thank you for your reply. I can certainly see where you're coming from. I have certainly held that same point of view regarding salespeople.

    I guess that now, since I don't find myself being approached by salespeople, that I kinda miss it, if only because the conversations were always so weird. This probably goes back to my enjoyment of talking with people who think completely differently than I do.

    If I had to deal with them daily, when I was trying to get stuff done in a rush, I would probably be far more bothered by them than I am.

    But I gotta admit... I really wish that someone would try to evangelize to me on the street, or get me to go through Friel's little game.

    Yeah, I know, I'm the asshole.


  40. Nohm,

    Look no further! Your dream of being yelled at by crazy people living their lives by the words of a long since demised sheep herding culture can now come true!

    All you have to do is hop a plane, come to Vegas and when you leave the airport take a cab to Fremont Street. You'll have all the crazy you can handle, and some you wouldn't want to handle! ;)

    For a sample of the fun that awaits you try some of the YouTube videos filmed there. It will warm your...well, it'll have some sort of effect.

  41. Hi Non Magic,

    They did stay for a bit. There were two guys, one middle aged and one in his late 20s.

    The younger one stepped back a bit when I mentioned that I was an atheist, and the older one hesitated for all of a second, appeared to not compute, and then launched back into his spiel about the signs that the end times were a'comin. That was when I said that I was happy to debate and discuss with them, but that they probably had a quota of doors to knock on and I wouldn't keep them.

    I was feeling in a happy place that morning. :-)

  42. Nonmagic,

    Thanks for the info about the youtube vids; I'll definitely check those out.

    As for travelling to Vegas, no thank you. :-)

    I know, it's weird; I might be the only male in my age range who not only doesn't love going to Vegas, but actually can't stand it. Unfortunately, I live close enough to there that I have to go about once a year for a bachelor party.

    Nothing against the people who live or work there, though.

  43. Nohm,

    Oh, I hate it here!! I had no desire to ever visit here before we moved here and I've only grown to hate it more since we've lived here. It's really a horrid, hot, ugly place to live.

    I totally understand people not wanting to come here and people wanting to get out!!

  44. Nonmagic,

    I'm glad you agree, but only because that post of mine was pretty assy and snooty. Kinda "I'm too cool for that".


    I'm just not into gambling, nightclubs, or strip clubs[1]. Not saying that that's all that Vegas is, but when all of your experiences are during bachelor parties, that's pretty much what ya do.

    [1] Hey now, don't get me wrong... I like nekkid womyn. I just feel that it's more fun to not have to pay to see one. ;-)

  45. I just ignore them when they address me in the streets and when they come to my door I make my most stupid face and say something like: "Unnskyld, men jeg forstår dessverre hverken tysk eller engelsk."
    And I can do that with a quite convincing Norwegian accent.It's a little bit cowardly but the best way to make them go away without hurting their feelings.
    I tried that in French before but there are actually JW's here that understand French...

  46. Update on the Jean story:

    see last post.

  47. Nohm,

    Oh I'm wayyy too cool for this place, too, so no problems there. This place has no culture, very little arts (and what they do try to pass off as arts is laughable) and really unless you never got past the whole 'Oh LOOK, it's a HOOKER!' stage in life, I don't see how anyone could enjoy it here.

    I think we see eye to eye!

  48. Felix,

    Thanks for this. I'm going to post about it.


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