There was a knock at the door a few moments ago. A rather loud and confident knock. I made my way to the door, wondering if it might be the little boy that lives across the way, hoping to play football with our children. I would have to tell him that they had gone out for the day. Opening the door revealed two women – one in her early twenties, and the other perhaps in her early fifties.
“Have you experienced the Kingdom of our Lord?”
“Would you be interested in…”
“Excuse me for interrupting, but I think it’s only fair before continuing that you know that I don’t believe in or follow any relgion at all.”
They paused for a few moments, before the older woman edged forwards.
“Is there a particular reason you lack faith ?”
Ok. Now they were pushing it. I leaned on the door frame, and wondered what I could say that would shut them down without being either disrespectful, or discourteous.
“I don’t lack faith. I have faith in lots of things – just not in any kind of intelligent creator figure or figures. I think people should be allowed to believe (or not) in what they want, as long as it doesn’t impact on others.”
“Has something happened in your life that has caused you to think this way?”
We smiled and said goodbye, and then I sat and thought about what I would like to have said. Although a tumult of thoughts were swimming randomly around my head, I found it difficult in the moment to organise them – I’ll never be an orator of any kind.
Perhaps the following might have been a better response…
“I think it’s wrong to push any sort of agenda door-to-door. I realise you’re only doing what you’ve been told, but there lies perhaps my main objection to all of this – by doing so you have reduced yourself to little more than a pyramid scheme sales person. If anything I would rather learn what *you* think about things – not what you read in a book and are trying to get others to agree with you about.”
It’s unfortunate that when I start railing against organised religion, it’s like opening a flood-gate in my head. I have to temper the contradictory arguments I might challenge others with, for fear of causing offence. Nothing seems to offend others like challenging their beliefs.
The French have a phrase for the things we wish we had said after the fact – “L’esprit de l’escalier” – “staircase wit”. It originates from an observation by Diderot in Paradoxe sur le comédien :
“A sensitive man, such as myself, overwhelmed by the argument levelled against him, becomes confused and can only think clearly again [when he finds himself] at the bottom of the stairs”