Roadside proselytizing rarely works

There’s a church I walk by on the way to my closest library that tends to have pithy and clever write-ups on their lawn sign. I had no camera on hand yesterday but thanks to a pen, paper and the Church Sign Maker, I can reproduce them for you.

Do people suddenly feel compelled to park in the lot and take in a service because the sign was amusing? Has anyone ever experienced being converted thanks to a lawn sign, or would it actually take some work on the part of a pastor and congregation to make it stick?

During my walk on Saturday, I was deep into my music when a random woman came up to me, asked me a question I can’t remember because I didn’t really hear it and then pressed a small piece of paper of paper into my hand. I looked down and discovered this:

All I recall thinking was, “This is the stupidest way to witness to an atheist,” and then tucked the paper into my purse. I had half a mind to turn around, track her down and point out the pointlessness and sheer laziness of her method but in the end I kept walking. How will handing out something that’s been photocopied a thousand times change hearts and minds?

The Saskatoon Freethinkers had a member and former Mormon talk to us about his life growing up in that religion and how he discovered the way out of it. Dustin’s story was very fascinating and the more he talked about the weirdness that is Mormonism to an outsider, the more I was grateful I grew up without much indoctrination. Certainly nothing that stuck, anyway. Back on topic now, someone asked him about his missionary days in Arkansas and Tennessee and how many converts he created. In the two years he wandered around doing that, he figures six or so took him seriously enough to join up at the time but of that number only one lasted a year. Nobody asked how he discovered that, but he said the Church of Latter Day Saints is very concerned about the low conversion success rate and it’s been a problem for a long time so they must have some method of tracking that information. All they can do is encourage their missionaries to do their best and pray for the best.

Look back the image of the handout I was given. It asks, “Do you need freedom from…” and then lists 12 issues around it that affect most everyone at some point in their lives. Who doesn’t worry or feel fear once in a while? Who doesn’t get depressed or confused? Who hasn’t experienced lust or rejection lately? What gets me about that whole list is how it appears to treat all those things as problems, a set of feelings and behaviours that all require curing by the injection of Jesus into one’s heart.

Someone else asked Dustin about targeting and if Mormons pick on certain groups they know will be more receiving of Joseph Smith’s message. IE, are they poor, or uneducated or immigrants? He said it’s never anything that obvious in terms of a group goal or ambition but if they can be said to have one, it’s families. They want to convert Mom, Dad, and all the little kiddies thus eliminating the risk of a close loved one being able to pull the new convert out easily. If the whole family has invested its time and money into the new faith, one might find more reasons to stay in. (Dustin’s own family back in Lethbridge AB still remain with LDS but have been very supportive of his decision to leave and he’s grateful for it. Other ex-Mormons he knows can’t claim the same.)

Dustin’s advice to everyone was a suggestion to improve critical thinking. Hear what’s said but be able to ask good questions that will force the Mormon (or generic Christian, for that matter) to reexamine his or her own spiel and see it in a different way. Attack the circular reasoning, the belief that a “feeling I’m right” is proof of actual rightness. Challenge the beliefs and present solid arguments for why beliefs are flawed. And hopefully that person will turn out to be someone open minded enough and capable of learning from the experience.

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About 1minionsopinion

Canadian Atheist Basically ordinary Library employee Avid book lover Ditto for movies Wanna-be writer Procrastinator
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