“Would You Like to Know the Truth?”

I had an interesting experience this morning when a duo of Jehovah’s Witnesses showed up at our door to talk about God.

They handed me a flyer, titled “Would You Like to Know the Truth,” and proceeded to discuss with me all of the chaos in the world and their view on how one can do away with it. They inquired as to my own spirituality and I of course answered honestly, to which they seemed surprised and perhaps a little confused.

When they asked me about how Buddhism responds to the problems of the world, I had to stop for a moment and really think about it for a moment. I came up with two major teachings that I could quickly reply with, the first being the basic idea of karma and the rebirth of beings based on their volitional actions, and the second being how we can only really save ourselves (which ties in pretty well I suppose with what I said about karma). Saving the entire world relies on others to do their part too, but we can lead by example.

I’m always really bad about responding on-the-spot to questions, especially when I know that the person I’m speaking with is going to try to pick what I say apart and find fault with it. It isn’t so bad if the person seems honestly interested in my side of the conversation, but I just don’t get the vibe that door to door salesmen of religion are particularly interested in anyone’s sales pitch but their own.

In any event, I was cordial and actually enjoyed the conversation. It was of particular interest to me how they would respond to me when I answered their questions — for instance, they asked whether I believe human suffering would ever end, to which I replied that the Buddha was fairly clear (at least by my understanding) that suffering exists in all of the sensual realms of existence, and this resonates more with me than the idea of an everlasting place where you experience nothing but pleasant feeling. So, in effect, no, human suffering will never end. Even though I can’t independently verify it, it seems more accurate to me because I see how even the most pleasant feeling goes away eventually, and ultimately, if it comes down to he-said-she-said, I’ll go with what lines up most closely with my own experience in daily life.

This is where faith comes in — until insight, wisdom, and direct knowledge of the truth can be attained, teachings on which I try to practice daily so that I may not always have to take things on faith.

I did take their flyer and I think I’ll browse through it just because I can, and because I do happen to have a Bible handy (my wife’s) which I can use to cross-check their references in context. I don’t really know a lot about Jehovah’s Witnesses (Watchtower Society), but I remember lots of little things that I’ve been told or read online over the years. How much of those things were accurate, I really cannot say. I am fairly sure, however, that the people going door to door like this are, as odd as it sounds, trying to help people… whether they really know how or not…

How do you respond when people come to your door with your religious conversion on their agenda?

Ultimately, if they come back, I may have to point out that the intent to convert others has on many occasions been the cause of immense suffering in the world, and in spite of their best intentions, it does not speak of “tolerance” when one has the intent to change others’ views.

Practice compassion always. Examine your motives and practice true tolerance because others and self are nothing but unsubstantial distinctions made in our worldly minds. Be well, my friends.

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4 comments

  1. ramblingschmoe · · Reply

    You asked ,”How do you respond when people come to your door with your religious conversion on their agenda?” I haven’t had it happen in a very long time. I do think my response would be the same as it is in regards to one on one conversation about religion. I simply avoid it most of the time. One, respecting ideas vs. respecting human beings are two completely different things. If one cannot separate the views in their mind from their identity as a human being, I find no fault of my own with that but the fault on them.

    Two, when someone promotes intolerant attitudes by tolerating one in the hopes of conversion, the best they can do is be tolerant with hopeful conversion till someone’s dying day and since that is the best they can offer, I simply do not want to be a part of it. I do not enjoy that type of discourse. Best of intentions has a very empty meaning to me at times anymore because it is with best intentions that we can create the most harm and suffering. Sure I had many a discourse about conflicting worldviews and I have always and still consider those discourses to be gems. However, it is based on either an illusion I create because I felt no harm from the discourse, or ignorance of the other side’s intentions because when do we really admit our intentions with this type of discourse? Unless we show up at a stranger’s door to talk to them about our convictions.

    So these days I must say, I can only predict that I would respond with kindness and simply pass on any type of discourse. I find myself not interested in learning more reasons why I disagree with what I already disagree with and I know at times my honesty gets the best of me and I prefer to let people comfortable exist.

    Hopefully I stayed on topic…

  2. hedgedruidgwen · · Reply

    I think you handled them beautifully. I’m honestly not sure how I would handle a door knocking evangelist right at this moment, it would largely depend on the person(s) at my door and their disposition; I believe. Either way, I hope I would handle things as compassionately and kindly as you did!
    Namaste.

  3. For the door to door evangelist, I like to follow the advice of John Stuart Mill, who thought (I’m paraphrasing here) that discourse between people with differing philosophies is a good thing. If you approach it with an open mind, discourse either leads to you having a better grasp of your own ideas (feeling that you “won” having defended your ideas) or gaining a new idea you never thought of.

    With the Jehovah’s Witnesses, I’d just try to have a fun conversation with them. A Buddhist myself, it always throws people for a bit of a loop when I tell them I’m Buddhist. I imagine this could be a bit of fun interplay, a sort of west-vs-east thing. You’ve got nothing to lose but time, but maybe a chance to articulate your ideas about life, the universe and everything is worth it.

    1. I like the way you think, friend. Thank you for posting! 🙂

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