12.10.2006

salesmen

Last night I was walking Cody through our neighbourhood. It was dusk and the holiday lights were blinking on the houses. It was cold and crisp - not so cold as to be bone-chilling, but just enough to say it's winter.

We passed a few other folks walking their dogs, a runner or two, some people packing a car. But mostly the sidewalks were quiet and empty.

I noticed a man across the street who looked out of place. He was wearing a dark suit without a winter jacket, and carrying a book. A moment later, I saw another man on my side of the street dressed the same way, also carrying a book. I knew he was going to approach me and I knew what he wanted.

As he stepped towards me, I caught a glimpse of a name tag, which included the words "Jesus Christ".

"Excuse me, have you ever had the opportunity to speak with a missionary?"

I never broke stride. "No thank you, I have no interest in that, thank you very much."

He tried again. I knew he would. They always do. "Do you know anyone else who does?" he called, now speaking to my back.

"No I don't, have a nice day," I said to the air in front of me.

"Have a nice day, god bless you," he called.

Grrrr.

I hate proselytizing of any type. I just hate it.

In New York, when I was younger and Jehovah's Witnesses would approach me, it infuriated me. Now that I've mellowed generally, it doesn't get under my skin so intensely, but it still really bothers me.

If that man had been selling magazine subscriptions, I would have also said "no thank you" and kept walking, but it wouldn't have bothered me at all. If he had been collecting for a charity, I would have listened and probably donated. And if he had been canvassing for a political group, I would have stopped and listened, and maybe chatted. But he was selling religion, so I had to mentally bite my lip to refrain from snarling at him.

The whole idea of trying to change someone's religion, or of trying to introduce a religion to someone who wasn't seeking it on her own, irritates me no end. The notion of selling religion door-to-door is, shall we say, extremely distasteful to me. Spirituality seems very personal to me, and proselytizing feels like an invasion of my privacy.

I used to think all nonreligious people felt this way, but I've realized that they don't necessarily. Why do these people bug me so much? I don't even know.

47 comments:

Anonymous said...

Here's my thought on the "why they bug..." When someone wants to sell you a magazine or ask for your vote there isn't, IMHO, an implication that the magazines you *are* reading are wrong or even that the way you are voting is wrong. Except for the weirdo Republicans who dare approach my door when there's plenty of left paraphenelia... but that's another story.

Anyway, to the former, one can always get an additional magazine and, to the latter, we are - generally - open to the notion of not voting a party ticket, hearing the arguments, etc.

But, most who *do* have a religious affiliation/practice, affilliate or practice one religion. Thus, my take is that to suggest that you open yourself (not you, personally, but the general you) to another religion implies (again, IMHO) that the one you currently practice is wrong and that's offensive. Just my .02. Hope it made sense - have to dash. And, I agree with you completely!

L-girl said...

Thanks for your thoughts, MSEH. I think you are onto something there!

M@ said...

I actually relish being approached by the missionary types. The argument is amusing to me, and I figure, if they want to talk to me about their beliefs, it's only fair that they should be forced to listen to tirades from me. Unfortunately, they approach me less and less these days.

Recently, someone came to the door while my wife was home and tried to get her into a religious discussion. She doesn't have the desire to get stuck in with them, but she hung the evolve fish on our door so maybe it's her own fault. Anyhow, she told the guy to come back when I was home -- and I was very disappointed that she didn't arrange a time.

I realise that a lot of it has to do with my having complete contempt for those guys. I'm at peace with that, though.

L-girl said...

I don't understand arguing about religion. No one can prove any of it. There are no facts, only beliefs. So what is there to argue about?

redsock said...

............SALESMEN!!! (/geddylee)

...

you knew it was coming, didn't you?

...

(canadian.)

L-girl said...

you knew it was coming, didn't you?

Open goal. She shoots, she scores.

Knew it, expected it, got it.

HOWever... I thought you might have something to say on this subject, since you have some experience on the other side of the religious cash register.

M@ said...

Hey, I pick the fights, but I leave the terms of battle to me. I remember clearly one argument where I tried to help them understand the concept of circular logic when they tried to use the bible as proof for god's existence. Unsuccessful.

You know that religious tenets are unprovable. I know that religious tenets are unprovable. Rational, thinking people the world over know it, too. And then... then there are the door-to-door evangelists.

And the real issue is when they try to actually get into the realm of provable facts. Creationism rears its putrid, ugly head now and again, even in Canada.

Anyhow, off to church! Or rather, not to church.

L-girl said...

To me that seems as attractive as banging my head against a brick wall. But hey, each to his own. Enjoy!

doug said...

to me the part that irritates me the most about it...is the inference that I have a adult have not thoroughly thought out my religous beliefs by now, through life experiences as well as my own belief system, so if you want to discuss religion fine...but don't be condescending in your approach(these missionaries), it's insulting...

and secondly is one of a historical nature, and I think back to the missionaries in Africa, South America, and here in the new world ...that found it to be their calling to seek out the natives and "recruit" them into Christianity....do you not think they were highly religious and had their own belief systems, their own gods, their religious dogma..just because it wasn't Christian really aggravates me..too many lives were lost needlessly in the name of "Christianity"...so the whole idea of Jehovah Witnesses, other missionaries...look I respect you, allow you to live as you choose..well allow me to do the same.......that's my problem with it all

L-girl said...

Doug, yes! You've done it, you've articulated what my problem is.

Exactly as you said.

Plus I'll add one more thing. I'm Jewish, and I feel anti-Semitism is implicit in every attempted conversion to Christianity.

impudent strumpet said...

It's rather insulting to imply that you (general you, not you personally) are so fickle and incapable of thinking for yourself that you'd change your religious beliefs just because someone tells you to.

And yet so many evangalists seem to think you'd do just that. "Jesus died for your sins." "OMG, really? Everything I've done and believed in my life is wrong! I must start living in accordance with the tenants of your belief!"

I've run into people online who seriously expect it to work that way.

impudent strumpet said...

Oops, sorry, Doug said the same thing I did, I didn't see it before I posted.

Jenjenjigglepants said...

I was once trapped by two "elders" (both my age) in a park one winter. I had my nephew on my back and the ground was slippery and these yahoos just followed me even though I was repeatedly saying "No thanks" and "not interested". I couldn't believe that they thought they could wear me down?! Who gets pestered into finding god?

Worse, one summer I told one of my co-workers that I was studying archaeology and had recently taken a great "Intro to Evolution" course. Holy harassment case batman, I faced a barrage of creationist malarky for about six weeks. I played into it for about a week and then I stuck to the "You believe what you want and respect my acceptance of science". But this guy was a dog with a bone: Eventually degenerated to some line about "Catholics [me] are bad Christians because they worship false idols [saints]" which was overheard by both my dad (who also worked there) and the head golf pro (in charge of all of us). Mr. Holier than thou got a serious dressing down from all sides, it was great. Lil seventeen-year-old me formed some pretty concrete arguments and ideas about religion and science that have serve well in the intervening years.

Brow-beating and pestering that's why their approach bugs me.

L-girl said...

Imp Strump, no problem, reinforcement is good! :)

L-girl said...

I couldn't believe that they thought they could wear me down?! Who gets pestered into finding god?

I know!!! When I was in my 20s, I almost did violence to someone who was doing that to me.

Anonymous said...

Religion: "The Root of all Wars"

As an atheist, I don't have a "god" in this fight . . .

L-girl said...

As an atheist, I don't have a "god" in this fight . . .

I'm an atheist, too. What fight? I don't understand what you mean.

Religion: "The Root of all Wars"

Marxism teaches that the root of all wars is profit. If profit is thought of to include non-monetary profit - power - that seems closer to it, in my opinion.

mkk said...

I completely agree. I detest religious proselytizing.

No surprise that the following shenanigans go on these days under the Bush Administration:

http://www.nytimes.com/2006/12/10/business/10faith.html?hp&ex=1165813200&en=9d0e1451cc709fc2&ei=5094&partner=homepage

Woti-woti said...

I think we instinctivley realize that on an irrational level, the proselytizers are simply threatening us. If we don't do what they suggest, we're going to end up in a bad place. They're not doing this for a few bucks worth of commission, they do it because their elders have told them that there are souls out there in serious trouble, and as adults, we know their motive(if they approached kids, they'd really be in doodoo). No matter how you cut it that's what they're selling, and noboby wants to hear that from a stranger--no matter how squeaky clean they may appear. Best to just tell them to move on; it's pointless to try to rationalize with somebody who's been programmed to peddle the irrational.

L-girl said...

Here's the link mkk posted. (Just FYI, on the Times' links, you don't need anything after the .html.)

L-girl said...

If we don't do what they suggest, we're going to end up in a bad place.

Woti, that's a very good point.

I agree that there's no arguing with those types. But hey, what M@ does for recreation is his business. "Not that there's anything wrong with it." :-)

L-girl said...

No surprise that the following shenanigans go on these days under the Bush Administration:

Oh yes! I remember this lawsuit. There have also been lawsuits by people in the Air Force. (I blogged about this a really long time ago.) Same kind of idea: captive audience proselytizing.

Anonymous said...

Trying to be humorous - a play on the Southern expression:

"I don't have a dog in that fight."

In other words, as a non-believer, the arguments about the advantages of one religion over another do not affect me in the least since all religions to me are totally without merit. Basically, religion is a crutch for weak-minded people to lean on when they can't - or won't - face problems head on and attempt to place blame elsewhere.

(Sorry 'bout the double comments - appears to be a Blogger/Blogger Beta issue going on . . .)

mkk said...

It's completely outrageous. How sad that I was not at all surprised. It's what we've come to expect these days.

L-girl said...

Trying to be humorous - a play on the Southern expression:

"I don't have a dog in that fight."


Oops, sorry. I don't know that one.

In other words, as a non-believer, the arguments about the advantages of one religion over another do not affect me in the least

I am the same way. I could no more believe in Christianity than I could in Zeus or Gaia. But that's just me. But I still don't like approached by followers of any of them!

Basically, religion is a crutch for weak-minded people to lean on when they can't - or won't - face problems head on and attempt to place blame elsewhere.

I would prefer we didn't say things like on this blog.

Many people who believe in higher powers are not weak-minded. If people feel faith, then they feel it.

I think it's better if we just believe what we believe without characterizing each other's beliefs as one thing or the other. So at least on this blog, let's please take that approach. Thanks in advance.

Anonymous said...

Not a problem - Guess that was a bit strong on my part - Sorry!

L-girl said...

No problem, and thank you for not being offended.

M@ said...

But hey, what M@ does for recreation is his business. "Not that there's anything wrong with
it." :-)


This -- this -- is what I get!? From a baseball fan?!!??!

Oh, wait, wrong thread. :) Seriously, it's small and petty of me, but I can't help myself. Fundamentalism just disagrees with my temperament. Though I haven't ever been followed around like others have described here -- I don't know how I'd deal with that.

L-girl said...

Ha ha.

I think it's safe to say fundamentalism disagrees with the temperament of every regular reader of this blog - including a few who used to be fundamentalists!

But for me, it doesn't matter what religion is being peddled. I've been approached by Buddhists, I didn't appreciate that any better.

This guy in Port Credit has no idea how lucky he was, running into me now, not 20 years earlier.

Of course, he was probably 7 years old then, but you get my point. :)

M@ said...

Oh, I meant fundamentalism in any sense, not just Christian fundamentalism. In fact, if I were to try to identify what I disagree with with any religion -- or indeed any way of thinking -- it's the idea that there's only one way to look at things that I really disagree with.

As for the guy who was bugging you, geez, yeah. I really wonder why more people don't just completely lose it on guys like that.

Jere said...

My friend Chan had a great line for some bible-pusher kids that approached us when we were visiting Chicago:

"If you handed in a paper in school, and you'd only used one source, what kind of grade would you get?"

Personally, growing up, my family spent Sunday mornings watching Saturday Night Live taped from the night before.

Masnick96 said...

Usually when I tell them I'm a big gay witch they end up screaming and running away :-)

I agree with you L-Girl, sigh.

Mike said...

This is part of my problem with organized religion in general. Expand membership, expand membership, and expand membership. More $, more $, and more $.

I have attended religious ceremonies at the location of my friends and/or family's preferred worship place, but my mind always wonders. Usually, I am looking at a bunch of cute little children (since it's probably my niece or nephew's choir singing debut, which is the reason I am there). The fact is that these kids are being included and taught, not because the church hierarchy has concern for their soul, but they have concern for the future of this church and it's financial stability when these kids grow up.

Get them young; keep the money flowing.

I end up shaking my head in disgust.

L-girl said...

The fact is that these kids are being included and taught, not because the church hierarchy has concern for their soul, but they have concern for the future of this church and it's financial stability when these kids grow up.

Wow, good point. I never think of that.

They're also keeping the kids in the flock. It's a very powerful form of social control. That's what I always think of: indoctrination.

If I did believe in a diety or higher power, I could never connect that feeling to an organized religion, with a hierarchy of authority and rules about how to live. That seems so completely irrelevant to me - and so stifling.

L-girl said...

Personally, growing up, my family spent Sunday mornings watching Saturday Night Live taped from the night before.

Church of the SNL. I was once an adherent. :)

Usually when I tell them I'm a big gay witch they end up screaming and running away :-)

Hey, I want to try that! Thanks for the tip!

Anonymous said...

Wish I would have caught the 60 minutes piece. I've posted on my blog about (I'm not kidding) driving to Fort Benning for Officer Candidate School listening to the great marches of Souza. I was so thrilled to be going. Seriously. There was a time when, no kidding, I LOVED the Army - the camaraderie, the physical challenge, the pomp and circumstance... Now it just disgusts me. I still try to be "pro-soldier" because so many people join for so many reasons having nothing whatsoever to do with the military, per se. But, damn, it's getting difficult. The whole damn institution is just so f****d up!

L-girl said...

In response to a reader's email, I want to clarify something.

I'm not suggesting that religious proselytizing be illegal, or even restricted. Just because I don't like - well, detest - something, doesn't mean I'm calling for stripping people of their rights to free speech and expression!

Geez, do you read me much? Does that sound like something I would want? Aren't I smart enough to know a law like that could (and would) be used against people like me???

If free speech becomes harassment - like yelling at women entering family-planning clinics - then yes, I think there has to be some limits. But the guy who approached me in my neighbourhood the other day wasn't infringing on my rights, and I'm not trying to infringe on him.

I JUST HATE IT.

* * * *

Why do people email comments? Why can't they just comment like the rest of us. sigh

Anonymous said...

Trying to ram one's beliefs down people's throats is not only insulting to them, but to the religion itself. Stop with the hard sell, fundies. If your product is so great, it will sell itself, no?

Anonymous said...

I could no more believe in Christianity than I could in Zeus or Gaia.

Long-time reader, long-time occasional poster here... ;)

So, I have this friend, and his father had an attack that was latter diagnosed as a gall bladder attack, but at the time they thought it was a heart attack. He's in the hospital in North Van, and he is approached by the nurse, asking essentially "Which religion are you? We'll get you a minister." Obviously the folks thought things were quite serious. However, he's an atheist, so he responds essentially, "No thanks". After repeating this several times, and becoming exasperated by the insistence of this caring nurse, he eventually bellows out "Zeus! Bring me the priestesses of Zeus!" *That* made the nurse finally leave him alone.

(Years later, I come to learn that apparently there are still worshippers of the Olympian Gods, present in Afganistan I believe, left-overs from Alexander the Great's time in the sun. I wonder what my friend's father would have done if they'd shown up?)

L-girl said...

Teflonjedi, what a great story! Both hilarious and maddening. Can you imagine being pestered while you're in an ambulance suffering from (what you believe is) a heart attack? I love the image of him yelling "Bring me the priestess of Zeus!"

I wonder what my friend's father would have done if they'd shown up?

Now that would be some nifty multiculturalism, even for Vancouver. :)

L-girl said...

Stop with the hard sell, fundies. If your product is so great, it will sell itself, no?

Crabbi, so true!

I have a story about that.

I was on the subway in NYC. A man got on and started preaching - loudly. Yelling, shouting, walking up and down the car, real top-of-his-lungs testifying: accept your saviour this, you will burn in hell that. VERY obnoxious. Also a well-known occurence to anyone who rides daily.

Sitting next to me was an older African American woman reading a bible. (The preacher was also African American.) All of a sudden the woman next to me looks up and shouts, WILL YOU SHUT UP? YOU ARE TURNING PEOPLE AWAY FROM THE LORD!

The preacher ignored her - but she kept shouting. Everytime he paused for breath - or for effect - she would yell, YOU ARE TURNING PEOPLE AWAY FROM THE LORD! SHUT UP AND GO AWAY!

Everyone on the car was quite amused.

James said...

I had my nephew on my back and the ground was slippery and these yahoos just followed me even though I was repeatedly saying "No thanks" and "not interested".

I suspect my reaction would be, "Did Jesus teach you to be this rude, or did that come naturally?"

I'm not suggesting that religious proselytizing be illegal, or even restricted. Just because I don't like - well, detest - something, doesn't mean I'm calling for stripping people of their rights to free speech and expression!

Asking someone not to be rude is hardly suppressing their rights. Unless maybe they're congenitally incapable of not being rude... :)

"I don't have a dog in that fight."

Oops, sorry. I don't know that one.


I learned that one by watching US politics. I think I first came across it during the Gingrich Congress.

zed said...

I used to assume that "atheist" and "religious" were obviously opposing ideas. I am not so sure anymore.

L-girl, above you said that religion is only "beliefs" and no "facts" and you can't argue with beliefs. Why not? People can change their beliefs, and many do. And that something is a "fact" is not the same as saying that it is either "true" or that we know all there is to know about it (or ever could know all there is to know about it). That's where beliefs come in--"religious" or otherwise.

I am not defending door-to-door religious proselytizing. I find it repugnant. But I also object to the idea that people--"religious," "atheist," or whatever--should not be open to challenges to what they believe and what they think are "facts." Assuming that religious beliefs are unalterable is just giving in to the rigidly minded sort of person who rings your doorbell and tries to sell you his or her particular set of beliefs and facts.

Anonymous said...

Good for the subway woman! That sort of behavior must be so embarrassing for truly religious people.

L-girl said...

Zed, those are interesting points you make!

Religious and spiritual beliefs are definitely alterable. My own have certainly changed during my lifetime. That's probably true for many or most people.

But for me, that can only happen from within. Not from anyone else talking to me about what they believe. If I am looking for religion, I will explore it and find it on my own.

What I meant about facts vs beliefs is when people try to tell me this is what happened. This is The Truth. God Exists. Or God Doesn't Exist. No one can prove any of those things. One either feels them or doesn't.

Honestly, although I am an atheist myself, I'm as bothered by atheists who try to "prove" god doesn't exist as by the guy ringing my doorbell with a bible.

Assuming that religious beliefs are unalterable is just giving in to the rigidly minded sort of person who rings your doorbell and tries to sell you his or her particular set of beliefs and facts.

I can't think of it as "giving in". It's just what I believe.

My beliefs are not rigid - but they are unalterable by anyone but me.

I'm not assuming anything about anyone else's beliefs. I'm making a statement about my own. My own religious beliefs are absolutely and completely unalterable by anyone but me.

I am so disgusted by religious salespeople, that nothing any of them could say could possibly affect what I believe. Only my own seeking and exploring, and my own heart, could do that.

I don't know if I'm explaining it well.

Thanks for your thoughts! Good stuff.

L-girl said...

Professor Zed, may I ask you how you found my blog? Just curious.

impudent strumpet said...

I wonder if evangalist types are as easily suggestible as they think the general public is?

As an aside: I just remembered that a couple years back there was this evangalist lady in the neighbourhood. She was remarkable not so much for her evangalism, but for the fact that she was a white-haired little old lady with big, thick, black, eyebrows drawn on Groucho Marx-style.