Awkward Encounters of the Proselytizing Kind

You may or may not know there's a hurricane headed towards New England as we speak, or that it's what experts are calling a "perfect storm" (converging with a cold front, and during a full moon). I really don't know why it's called a "perfect storm" because, my opinion is that, a "perfect storm" would be one that left zero damage and wasn't frightening in the least. Well, I'm not frightened yet, just trying to make some preparations.

The boyfriend and I decided to head to Wal-Mart (I know, I know... but we needed some cheap supplies) to see what things we could find that would make the hurricane bearable or amusing. I wandered off on my own to see if they carried oil-burning lamps and, as I was walking down the aisle, felt as though I were being followed. When I looked behind me, there were just a couple of benign-looking college-age girls a couple hundred feet back. Phew!! Of course THEY'RE not following me! And I continued scouring the shelves.

When I reached the end of the aisle, they were right behind me and then stopped me. "Can we show you this video to get your reaction?" Uh, sure? I thought it was something like "a teen responds to this video" (I look young for my age, especially with no make-up on and wearing a pony tail), but they assured me it was for school. When one of the girl was trying to pull up the video on her device, I saw the word "Heavenly..." and asked if it was religious. Yes, for religious studies. I told them I wasn't interested, but they thought it would make some difference that what they were peddling was a "Heavenly MOTHER". Nope, still not interested in either mothers or father. "Oh, are you atheist?" "I'm not religious, no."

I felt so uncomfortable. My face probably turned red. I always imagine having someone approach me and having all these clever quips, but I really just wanted them to go away instead. It's really quite invasive. I mean, to just be put on the spot like that, out of nowhere, is disconcerting. I said I wasn't religious and avoided calling myself "atheist" because I didn't want them to push further and start trying to convince me there's a god. Frankly, it's none of their business. I shouldn't have to defend or explain, or even give the gist of, my beliefs (or lack thereof) while grocery shopping.

I have no idea if they really were college students doing some kind of research, but I doubt it. I'm sure that's just a ruse to get people to talk to them. And I bet even Christians would find this annoying since I'm sure they don't feel like being convinced their god is a SHE rather than a HE. Not to mention the fact that the intro was super cheesy!

Oh yeah, and I got to overhear some kid at my college approaching random people in the cafe area and asking if they knew where they were going when they died. It looked like he was only interested in talking to dudes; probably was told not to talk to girls because it's inappropriate or something. I would've been prepared that time. Oh well.

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Comment by onyango makagutu on October 26, 2012 at 11:19am

Am not sure yet how I would react to such intrusion. I may just have used some choice words that they would remember for quite sometime before they continued on their work!

Comment by Reg The Fronkey Farmer on October 26, 2012 at 12:05pm

Theists of the “door knocker” variety have no qualms using ruses as a springboard to proselytize.  You are correct – it is none of their business what you do or do not believe. However they don’t see it as an invasion of your personal space or even unwarranted in a shopping centre.  (Zombie movie scene enters my mind).They are on a mission from their god. Some are even on a reward system for saving souls. Apparently if they collect enough points for Jesus they get more rewards when they become immortal. Sometimes they can make it seem that you are the one with the bad manners for not engaging in these unwanted conversations.

 I always enjoy such encounters as it does not bother me. I even invite JW’s or Pentecostal callers in for coffee.  They usually glance at each other on the way in thinking that they are unto a winner here. Two hours later they are making their excuses and asking if I mind that they leave. I never get tired of it and I have helped quite a few to become non-believers.  Anyway that’s a bit off the point.

I suppose your encounter is different in that you are forced to react to them in a public arena. It is confrontational from the outset. It can be good idea not to use the “A” word at times as they are prepared for that. What I would say is “I don’t believe in YOUR god” and give them a knowing nod and smile as you turn and walk away. You also need to bear in mind that they are suffering from the god delusion.

Comment by Strega on October 26, 2012 at 6:12pm

Walmart - don't get me started. 

My wife K was there, and a guy walked up to her and said, "I'm surprised your husband lets you out without him", in a very suggestive way.  She replied, "Husband?  I have a wife actually".  Unfazed, he said, "Don't you miss it?".  "Miss what?" she asked.  "IT... you know..." he replied.  She said, "Do you mean a penis?  No".  His jaw dropped and he gaped at her, mumbling, "well I didn't think you'd say it".  She said, "you've never heard of a penis before?" and walked off, leaving him standing.

This kind of thing doesn't happen in the UK.  People shopping usually studiously avoid even eye contact (unless they are a dirty mac flasher - we have a few of those).

As far as the girls who approached you are concerned, if you don't want to communicate any further, what about asking them if they have a permit to operate in Walmart, as I do believe Walmart has a "No Soliciting" policy. 

And of course, if you are feeling full of bravado, it might be fun to yell, "Porn?  NO I do NOT want to see your porn video!  You're sick!" and walk briskly away.  Wonder whose faces would turn red then...

Comment by Brian Dodson on October 26, 2012 at 8:16pm

Ha! The porn line would be instant classic.

Comment by Ed on October 26, 2012 at 10:07pm

Asking them to follow you to the bottled water section where you could remove your shoes and have them wash your feet would be very appropriate. 

Comment by SteveInCO on October 26, 2012 at 10:43pm

And of course, if you are feeling full of bravado, it might be fun to yell, "Porn?  NO I do NOT want to see your porn video!  You're sick!" and walk briskly away.  Wonder whose faces would turn red then...

Or another variant:  "you want HOW much?!?!"  (Works better for a male approached by a female though.)

Comment by Wesley on October 26, 2012 at 11:39pm


 Its always uncomfortable to be accosted with those kind of questions...  It would be like me walking up to someone and asking.. May I examine your vagina?... its for school.

I had a similar thing happen to me at work when the subject of evolution came up..and when I mentioned that I supported it this person asked me how long had I been an atheist?..   I was floored by their assumption that you had to be an atheist to support evolution and my knee-jerk reaction was to tell them that you could believe in god and still support evolution.  I didn't want to let their remark go unchallenged just because I WAS an atheist..   I had thought evolution true long before I gave up on all the God proposals...   

What's funny to me is that I still had the loyalty to many religious people who's views are open enough to allow for the discoveries of science.  Anyway it was an awkward moment and put me off guard... later we had a few discussions about evolution.   He was an absolute brain-stuck fundy literalist with no hope of challenge or change.


Comment by James Cox on October 27, 2012 at 9:22am

Several years ago, a local church group was going door to door, giving out a single rose to folks on our block. They gave me one, and said 'God loves you!'. I thanked them and suggested that they were being very sweet!

On another occasion, a friend of mine, that I had mentored about ten years before, called me by phone and told me strait up that I was 'Going to hell!' I told him that the next time he ever calls me just to tell me this would be meet with legal action! But if he wanted to talk about anything else I would be game over coffee! I called his mother a few minutes latter and suggested to her that her son really needs to evaluate his life, and not insult people, especially friends. If he wants to insult me because he has nothing else better to do, he needs not to call! 

Comment by CJoe on October 27, 2012 at 9:54pm
Ugh, I wish I was able to think of something funny! The porn thing would've been great. Next time, right?

Yeah... and... as far as Sandy goes? We're right in her path of doom and destruction. Hopefully it'll all be hype. In the meantime, we've got plenty of water, canned food, snacks... and hopefully my little propane can will heat our soup until the electricity goes back on (possibly a 10-day outage). I guess Morgan Matthew and I could go dark for a few days; I apologize in advance if their are bugs on the site, or long-pending blog posts!
Comment by James Cox on October 28, 2012 at 3:59am

I longest I have been without power was 3 weeks, about winter 2002. It was a little tough, but we did not lose any pipes, lived in our livingroom next to the wood stove, had firewood, lots of food, melted snow for water, and learned to cook on the wood stove with satisfactory success. We could not leave the house for the full 3 weeks, too many trees down on our road back to town! We had more than 18 inches of snow with temperatures down to approx 12F.


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