As I was strolling briskly from work one morning, I was subject to a very interesting close encounter. The phrase ‘close encounter’ has an inherent connotation of extraterrestrialism, but I assure you, what met me was far stranger. On this fair-weathered morning, I was suddenly accosted by Mormons (no, not ‘morons’ although the parallels are certainly present).
My ambushers had come in a pair, and out of the corner of my eye, I spied the first of them. He darted across the road in my direction, and, assuming he was about to ask me for directions or something, I foolishly took out my earphones, and braced myself for human contact. What follows is a transcript of the encounter, recounted to the best of my memory. As soon as I returned home, I hurriedly scrawled down all I could remember, before phoning a friend to rant in his ear for a good half hour.
Now, as a disclaimer, I want to point out that f I seem to come off as harsh or rude, I assure you, it is only because first of all, I was very tired, and wanted to get home; and second of all, the fact is that I did not stop walking. I made my case, politely telling them that I wasn’t interested in their forthcoming sales pitch, and yet they followed me all the way home for twenty five minutes, walking either side of me, in a threatening manner (did I point out that they were both about 7ft tall?
Anyway, please read on, and perhaps tell me if you’ve ever encountered something similar. I’d love to hear about it.
Oh, and yes, these are their real names.
Eloi: Hi there. I’m Brother Eloi. Can I talk to you for a moment about your lord god?
Me: Oh, thanks, but, I’m sorry, that’s… not really my cup of tea.
Eloi: Not your cup of tea? What do you mean by that.
Me: Well, I’m an atheist.
Eloi: An atheist, eh?
Me: Very much so.
Eloi: Right, okay. So, what makes you happy in life?
Me: I don’t know. Friends and family, I suppose. Simple joys.
Eloi: Right, friends and family, simple joys, me too, me too. Now, what if I said you could be with your friends and family… forever. What would you say to that?
Me: Uhh, nothing really. It isn’t what I believe, so…
Mardok: Hi there. I’m Brother Mardok. What’s your name?
Mardok: Nice to meet you, Felix. It sounds like you aren’t too open to what we’re telling you.
Me: Well, it’s not that, like I said, it just isn’t what I believe. It’s fine for whomever else, but I have different views.
Mardok: What, so you don’t want to live forever with your loved ones?
Me: it’s not about what I want; I know that I won’t. However, thanks to medical science, I could spend as much as a hundred years with them, and that’s fine for me.
Mardok: A hundred years is nothing compared to forever.
Me: I think I can probably get a lot done in a hundred years.
Mardok: But if you don’t have faith in a higher power, what’s the point of life? Where are you going with it?
Me: I don’t, uh, well, to find as much happiness and love as I can, for the short time that I’m here. There doesn’t need to be any forward marching purpose to any of it.
Mardok: Well, do you believe that what’s written in the scriptures can bring people happiness?
Me: Some of it, sure; but those are thoughts and ideas that existed long before they were written down and applied to any specific religion. Besides, why would I believe any of the scriptures, knowing how much of it has been proved to have been false; the explanations of people who hadn’t discovered certain truths available to us now.
Eloi: Such as?
Me: Well… the age of the Earth, which your Bible claims is six thousand years old, which we now know to actually be around four and a half billion years old.
Eloi: And how do you know that exactly?
Me: Carbon dating. Radiation studies. Geological experimentation.
Mardok: Well, maybe they meant that humans came six thousand years ago.
Me: Well, that’s not what it says. Besides, modern humans evolved about two hundred thousand years ago.
Mardok: How do you know that?
Me: There are scores of dated remains, artifacts, tangible evidence. We have signs and relics and artwork showing the onset of our emerging civilisations from fifty thousand years ago.
Eloi: Well, I don’t believe that; but why do you have so much faith in what scientists tell you?
Me: Well, firstly because these are the greatest geniuses of our age, working their entire lives to allow us all to better understand the incredible world in which we live; but more importantly, I don’t necessarily believe what they tell me, I believe in my own opinion, what I see and what I hear, and that’s more than enough for me, without needing anyone telling me that there is something else behind it. What I see and what I know is more than enough for me to appreciate my life.
Mardok: So why don’t you believe in god?
Me: Well, because I find that it’s illogical to do so. As I said, I believe that the beauty of the world is enough. I understand why things are the way they are, and why we’re here, and I accept what I don’t know to simply be an undiscovered fact.
Mardok: You know why we’re here? Then please, tell us.
Me: Well, evolution (pause while Eloi laughs), natural selection, human potential. These are what brought us to where we are. All the things that science has discovered since the dawn of rational, critical thinking only corroborates the opposite of what is expressed by the scriptures.
Eloi: And what about if a witness told you that he’d spoken to god, a scientific witness.
Me: Well, I’m sure he could be of the same intellectual caliber as anyone else, but given that I don’t believe in god, it’s no different from being a witness to the tooth fairy or the boogeyman.
Mardok: It’s a different kind of witness: someone who has spoken to god. You can speak to god, through prayer. How is it any different to picking up your phone and pressing the call button?
Me: Well, it’s very different. I can physically do that, and make a phone ring and hear the voice of a specific person at the other end. If I started talking to the skies, I’d only hear an answer if I forced myself to find one in the sound of the wind.
Eloi: The sound of the wind. Yup, okay. So if I told you that I’d spoken to god, you’d call me a liar?
Me: I don’t mean to be rude, but surely you understand that that is no different to me than if a Hindu told you that he or she had spoken to Vishnu.
Eloi: That’s… not the same at all.
Mardok: Look, we have a website (hands me a tacky card with a picture of Jesus on it), and I think maybe you ought to have a look at it, you know, to find some actual, real answers.
Me: Again, I don’t mean to be rude, but the answers that I have already are good enough for me.
Eloi: Well, just take a look and it might change your mind.
Me: I really wouldn’t bet on it, but okay, thanks. Bye.