An Answer for Jehovah's Witnesses
There are a lot of discussions about how to respond to Jehovah's Witnesses at the door, and many of the suggestions I've read are far from productive (even if they are amusing). As a recent escapee of the organization, I feel obligated to tell my story to you folks, because it was actually the elegant response I received from a gentleman at a door I knocked on that caused me to question my hypocritical lifestyle and walk away from the Witnesses. I wish I remembered the address of the man who changed the direction of my life so that I could thank him and apologize, but that's all lost now in the blur of the past. Here's my tale in a very brief nutshell.
I was about seventeen, magazine clutched in my hands, and going to do my weekly business of knocking on doors and regurgitating the scriptural message of the week. I went to one door, accompanied by my girlfriend (we are still together nearly five years later, she's fighting her own battles to get away from her overbearing religious family members who view me as a poisonous influence and the primary source of strife in their lives). The door was opened by a man, probably in his fifties, with graying hair and a calm demeanor. I suspect he knew who we were right off the bat both by our appearance and his nonchalant attitude throughout the encounter. He didn't send me off right away, but allowed me to introduce myself, and listened as I delivered my piece, probably poorly. I've always been a shy guy, which made life as a Witness absolute hell for a lot of different reasons.
Anyways, I got through my presentation about something or other ("The world is falling apart and only GOD can save you, through US!" is usually a good summary of most Watchtower cover topics, so I'll make that my example. I don't remember the precise message that week.) He patiently agreed to accept my magazine and read it, to see if it would change his thinking. However, he added a caveat: he would only take my literature if I'd accept a piece of literature from him. Fair trade, right? Apparently not, because the Witnesses have strict rules against accepting literature from OTHER people, for fear of being influenced by poisonous apostasy. He knew this, I'm 90% certain. I responded "I'm sorry, I can't do that." I had been well trained in the rules, but could provide no justification for my refusal. I tried holding out the magazine, but he wouldn't lay a finger on it. "Why not?" He responded. I couldn't answer. He said nothing more, just shook his head and slowly closed the door.
This ate at me for weeks. I turned to the Elders in the congregation and was given no acceptable answers as to why we were banned from reading potential criticisms of our faith. Eventually the stance of the organization on apostasy led me to adopt a much-needed skeptical attitude toward the whole subject, and good Mr. Dawkins was one of many stepping stones to my eventually realizing what a messed up and manipulative organization I'd been raised in. At any rate, if you have questions about the Witnesses or my hellish journey to remove myself from them, ask away. The main message I wanted to share was that sometimes, you just need to show a hypocrite his face in the mirror to make him rethink his stance. Consider this next time a Witness comes a-knocking, as an alternative to blasting rock & roll out of your stereo system. Even if that's the fun answer.