Just this morning there was a knock at the door. On my doorstep sporting giant grins stood a lovely young couple – man and wife – and I instantly knew I was being visited by Jehovah’s Witnesses. Sporting a newsletter-style booklet, they were very pleasant and after a short and to-the-point speech about minimising poverty through God, they handed me the booklet and asked for my name. In return for their politeness, I took the booklet and provided my name, though as I closed the door I knew that by taking the booklet it meant that it would not be the last time I get a visit from them.
I have no qualms with religious acquaintances. If devotion to one of the many faith’s is how someone chooses to spend their life then good for them, that is their human right, their personal choice, their free-will. What irks me, and many other fence-sitters like me, is when people of faith attempt to force their faith upon others, especially on to complete strangers and those in vulnerable situations. Now, as mentioned, to give this morning’s couple their due, they did not try and shove it down my throat, as has been the case in visits by Jehovah’s in the past.
However, what I don’t understand is why go door-to-door at all?
Whether or not I, who have never met this couple before in my life and will likely never meet them again, convert to their faith or not, it has no affect or impact on their life, their faith, and doesn’t benefit them as individuals in any way shape or form. The only comprehensible reason for their door-to-door visits is the very same tactics that a door-to-door salesman would use; they are trying to “sell” me their religion. To expand, the benefit of converting a complete stranger such as myself to their cause, in my opinion, is the donation money that I could provide to the men (or women) who sit atop the food chain in these organisations. They’ve got the pay the rent on those magnificent buildings somehow, right?! I cannot think of one selfless reason as to why someone would feel that they need the conversion of others to their faith. If they believe that by worshipping God they will be given a seat in heaven, how would my willingness to convert or not ever affect that?
I call myself a fence-sitter as I too have pondered the meaning of life, wondered if my tiny blip of existence in the grand scheme of things will be of any meaning, and whether there is something more to this life that I will find after my death. I do not, however, have a religion – and even if I did, I would struggle to conceive that my short existence on this Earth should be spent devoting my life to the worship of my Creator. Sure, the bible offers up good (although a little dated) guidelines on how one should live their life, with great stories that teach good morals about how to live in harmony with our fellow human beings, but why isn’t following it’s values and the etiquette of basic human rights enough to allow me to live my own life the way I want to?
Designed or through evolution, we as human beings have been given great minds that can achieve great things. The exceptional talent of an individual to devise a way of prolonging one’s life through the process of a blood transfusion is mind-blowing. The technological advances we are making in leaps and bounds around the world are testament to how intelligent we have become as human beings. Whether you believe that this talent is God-given, or a result of many thousands of years of evolution, or even both, how can our abilities to create such amazing things be seen as “against God’s will”? Yes, I am referring to the heavily debated “rule” that prevents Jehovah’s Witnesses’ from agreeing to life-saving blood transfusions.
In this particular booklet given to me this morning, there is a Q&A segment that ponders the meaning of life by answering the question, “Why do humans live for only 80 or 90 years and then die? What is the purpose of such a brief existence?”. Leaving aside my views on the first babbled paragraph in answer which, without any given examples, uses the reason that the natural world is plenty proof of God’s existence, it also goes on to state “God created humans to live forever on this earth, and he has not abandoned his purpose”.
If God’s intention is for humans to live forever on this earth, then why not give your child a blood transfusion? We are products of evolution. As with the plants and animals that co-habit this Earth with us, we have evolved through millennia with the never-ending purpose to survive and flourish. Evolution allows every living being on this planet (human or other) to perform optimally and continue to improve, grow, flourish with every generation. Our evolution is the only reason that we stand a chance to continue to live forever on this Earth, as “God intended”.
Our brain is the most fascinating part of our bodies, and through our evolution, the ‘geniuses’ of our population continue to rise in numbers. With our ever-evolving minds, we are creating ways to prolong life, be healthier, evade disease, save children from early graves, and now we’re even finally turning our attention back to reducing our carbon footprint. All with the aim of prolonging the human race. We are not perfect beings, and there are many things man-made wrong with this world, but if you believe that a disease is natural and it is therefore God’s will to kill those infected, then surely you would have to believe that the brain is also natural and as such that it is also God’s will to invent technology that can rid the world of disease?
Many years ago now I was working in Malawi, central Africa as a volunteer. I came to make many friends with the local Malawians, and it ignited a passion in me to see the end of extreme poverty on this planet. When I returned the following year to revisit the friends I’d made, one particular man had sadly just had his young boy taken into hospital, in need of a blood transfusion. He refused the treatment. When I asked him why he told me that merely a few months previous, Jehovah’s Witnesses had visited his village. A village set apart from the Western world, with no access to news, education or internet, the mere sight of a white, westernised person telling you that the answers to all your problems lies in the conversion to their religion, is of course going to ensure you convert. This is praying on vulnerable people on an epic scale. These people need eduction, access to resources that the Western world have, to allow them to make their own decisions, to have the free-will that the rest of us have in this day and age. How does it benefit the faith of an individual Jehovah’s Witness to fly to Africa and convert complete strangers, who are easy targets due to their lack of knowledge to debate or question them?
My prevailing point is that we continue to evolve, and our ability to live longer and defy death as individuals is only testament to that evolution of our minds. It is not un-natural to advance our species to ensure our future.
And whether you’re a religious extremist, devout believer or science buff, why do we care who’s is the ‘true faith’ anyway? We won’t know who got it right till we’re dead and gone.
Why do we care if others believe in the Gods that we believe in? Why do we start wars to shove our faith down other people’s throats? Why does the faith of someone else matter to you as individual? How will it affect your righteous path if I, a complete stranger, do not share your beliefs but still respect yours?
If you want to be a Buddhist, a Christian, a Catholic, a Muslim, then good for you – that is your human right – and I will respect it. But what right do you have to care about what I believe in? Where is the respect of my choice?
What right do you have to kill me, ridicule me, outcast me, hate me, preach at me, or even just knock on my door this very morning, just because I don’t share the same faith as you?
I believe in the basic etiquette of human rights. That, is my faith.
Written by Victoria Garside