I got visited yesterday morning by two Jehovas Witnesses (JW). Admittedly it WAS a Saturday morning I DID have a hangover and it was pretty much the ONLY day of the week that I am allowed to sleep in, so this post might be a little biased. However, I try to afford everyone the maximum respect that is due to anyone, regardless of what they are trying to say or the actions they have taken.
I knew they were JW as soon as I opened the door and admittedly a slight sinking feeling settled in as I really wasn’t in the mood. But I have an open mind about this sort of stuff, so I let them talk to me. Had Si (my housemate) opened the door, then I’m fairly certain a couple of expletives would have been uttered whilst the door slammed rapidly back.
On the face of it, the guys were very pleasant. The main man doing the talking (John) was a very gentle, well spoken man, who outwardly did not immediately put me off. Probably a good thing.
He started by asking me a question, which sadly, given my hungoveredness, I didn’t actually catch. However, the gist, I think, was “Do you think fair and moral politicians exist?”. He was referring specifically to recent events overseas (Afghanistan War, Iraqi War etc) and was trying to question whether or not these actions were justified.
He spoke for about 15 minutes before he told me he was a JW (not that he had to do that). He quoted a few sections from the bible, which to me seemed like the most obscure and out of context passages possible, I forget where from, but nevertheless. He spoke of how the Bible said man should never use our tools as weapons against others.
Had I been a bit more compus mentus I might have asked him what he thought about those who used their weapons against us. But I didn’t, in fact, I really just let him talk. Which is probably a good thing seeing as I hold quite a sceptical perception of this sort of thing. And the fact that I have been reading a lot of Philosophy recently (in particular, “Does God Exist?”) [see previous blogs] so I probably could have had quite a decent argument with him about it.
I wasn’t in the mood though, but after they had left, I did get to thinking.
I read the leaflet they left me (which incidentally seems to be the exact same thing they have been leaving for what must be at least 15 years). I have a few problems:
1) The quotations
As an academic, I know how to write proper papers. This might not come across in my writing in this journal, but then this is not a submission to a journal, this is a cheap and easy way for me to transcribe my thoughts as they come to me.
Reading their pamphlet I was instantly struck with a feeling that they were quoting for the sake of quoting. They would make a statement and back it up with a reference to the Bible. This is not a bad principle, however it is the statements they make and the amount of references they use. Mostly irrelevant and instead of providing clarity on an issue, it felt more like a PR exercise (*YES!* THE BIBLE REALLY SAYS THIS! Buy Now! Just $19.95!).
More importantly though yet linked to this:
2) They are quoting passages from a book written 2000 years ago.
This is quite a common argument, I think. They rely on Gods word which was written at a time completely different to the way in which we live now. I find this quite fallacious. OK, maybe not fallacious, but perhaps, misguided. Example: there is huge uproar and discontent in world Christianity at the moment at the possibility of the appointment of an openly homosexual Bishop in the UK. Many of the leaders of Christianity are wholly opposed to it and quote scriptures from the Bible that say that homosexuality is wrong and the appointment of a gay Bishop would set the wrong example.
This is the biggest amount of closed-minded nonsense, nay, bullshit, I think I have ever heard. The world we live in today, is all about adaptivity, innovation and application. Things progress, they change. I’m not going to use the word evolve, for obvious reasons (I hope!), but in essence this is what is happening. Things change.
The message that God gave has not changed; it is the same theory, but I feel it is wrong, stupid, naive, even, of the followers to live an existence based on the Bible. The Bible can be read for guidance, for instruction on a a way to live, to gain the right principles but it is stupid to apply the words of it literally. If that were true, then no Christian would eat meat or wear woollen items and a myriad of other bizarre “teachings” from the Bible.
The reason I feel this is point 3, below.
3) A Relationship with a Supernatural being
I suppose God can be described as being supernatural. The JW asked me if I believed there was a God. Bizarrely, though I have gone over it a hundred times in my head, I was unable to give an answer. I think I said “yes”, in the end. They asked did I want to talk more about it; how I felt about things, and so on. I definitely said “no”. The reason being, to me, is perfectly clear. A relationship with God is a personal thing. A 1-to-1 thing. I am sure that is in the Bible somewhere. That God deals with everyone as individuals. Now of course, it is helpful to meet with other people and enjoy your faith, heck, the Bible says that others should go out and actively spread the word of God to bring more people into his love, or whatever, but that, I feel, is a separate issue to the relationship you have with him. And I don’t feel the need to discuss this with other people; simply because it would be futile.
An active philosophical debate is does every person have their own mind, or are we all just mindless zombies. I’ve often wondered. The argument is, that whilst you can make suppositions and assumptions about how different people feel, they can describe what they are thinking about, there is no way whatsoever to “get in their head” and actually experience it.
Likewise with religion. People can describe their relationship with God. But no-one can never truly experience it because it is simply impossible. This is not a bad thing, no, quite the opposite, in fact.
My dad once said to me. “Matt, I’m pleased you’re happy at Uni, but I don’t think anyone can ever be truly happy until they are able to find spirtuality”. Or words, to that effect. And I couldn’t agree more. It’s funny how spiritual you feel when you’re surfing; out in the sea, all alone and at the mercy of the most powerful force known to man (is it!? That’s another question all together.. :p) where you are reminded just how small you are.
I’m not a theist. I’m not an atheist. I suppose I am without faith. However, Ockham’s razor says that, in the event of having two hpotheses each equally substantiated by supported evidence such that you cannot reach a conclusion, rather than postponing judgement, the simpler hypothesis should be used. In this case, so far, I have had no clear proof that God exists (there is plenty to suggest he does but likewise plenty to suggest he doesn’t) and for this reason, I get on with my daily life.
I don’t think it’s as simple as that, I mean you’re always wondering… but still.