When a Jehovah's Witness Grows Up to Be an Atheist
After all this time, all these years, all these degrees of separation —a mere knock guides me to shedded enemies. It was midmorning when a pair of shadows alerted me to some unexpected presences. I think I knew before I knew, my gut clenching beyond the usual spasm of social anxiety.
The blockers of the light lingered and adjusted themselves and finally put knuckle to wood. I rearranged loose hairs and wished I had showered for the day and briefly considered not answering, but I was already at the door and well … why not? I opened the front door and wedged myself between it and the wall to keep the cats in and the nonsense out.
I had eaten recently but all feeling of fullness fled when my suspicions were confirmed, leaving behind only a tingly vacancy. Jehovah’s Witnesses were standing before me. A childhood’s worth of memories knocking on strangers’ doors and spilling out formulated speeches came back. I did it into my teenage years, but I never got old enough to get the door slammed in my face. I resisted the urge to do so to the man and woman who were beaming at the sight of an open door, an opportunity.
I know you weren’t expecting us this morning.
Little did she know I hold my breath every time there’s a knock I don’t anticipate.
Living in apartments, Witness sightings are usually limited to random literature in laundry rooms. (Which I always take the time to deposit into recycling bins in hope that the deceased trees will go to better use.)
But here they were, offering a pamphlet and asking a question.
Who do you think controls the world?
I blanked. What kind of bollocks question is that? Are we talking weather patterns and gravity? Politics and no-fly lists? Who controls the world? What on earth does that mean?
The woman repeated the question as the man thumbed through his Bible. I gaped, trying to find a way out of the carefully set trap. The man asked again as he found the scripture he wanted. I said it would depend on what we’re talking about, I needed specifics.
They held up another pamphlet, identical to the one I held in my hand. It had three options. Of course it did. No open-ended questions, lead all the way. My preapproved answers were: God, humankind, or someone else.
Without actually reading the scripture, the man said that the Bible tells us that the Devil is in control. He asked if I agreed, clearly thinking I would.
Instead I told him that I have relatives that are Witnesses, that I grew up in it. (Oh, they are my Sisters! And you will be again too, eh?) I told them that I was an atheist. Back in my door knocking days I think this would have raised an eyebrow, but they took it in stride. Maybe it’s a more common response now? I can hope.
He chose the complimentary route and said that most people that identify that way are big thinkers – whatever that means. He asked how I had come to the conclusion. I told them I didn’t think much about religion from when I stopped going to meetings as a teenager up until I had kids. (Oh, you have kids! I think he sensed bait.) I said I went looking and didn’t find any answers or evidence – not a single reason to believe in a God.
Evidence has always been one of those buzzwords and he latched on to it. Oh, but the evidence of Creation is all around us. I think he meant to gesture to the sky, but it landed on the adjacent building which is highlighted with bird poop-like primer in anticipation of an upcoming paint job.
I think he could tell that wasn’t a winning strategy, so he went back to the scent he had picked up earlier. Didn’t you think having your babies (he held out his hands to mimic a swollen pregnant belly – his manner was really quite endearing), don’t you think your children are a miracle?
I smiled. I love Boots and Bubba. In my life, in my everyday, they are extraordinary. But inexplicable by natural or scientific laws they are not. I shook my head and simply answered no. This brought the woman back into the conversation, but not with words. She gasped abhorrently. A mother unwilling to call her children miracles was simply too much. She was only in the corner of my eye, but I saw the shocked expression she wore. It had settled by the time my head turned.