Can I Get A Witness?

Alternate Title: Shark Lessons

“The funniest thing to a great white shark must be a wounded seal trying to swim to shore, because, where does he think he’s going?”     — Jack Handey

It’s fun to mess with Jehovah’s Witnesses who knock on your door, but most people find it difficult to throw them off their message. It’s like thinking you’re going to get the best of a used car salesman. You’re not. He sells cars every day, and gets frequent training. You buy one car every few years. He sees you trying to swim to shore and it’s the funniest thing.

Witnesses go to five meetings a week. Two of them consist of training on how to overcome the very objections you’re throwing at them. They’ve also got experience – they’ve been bothering people for years, sometimes decades.

A while back I did a podcast that detailed one technique for dealing with them. It’s fun, but the process takes a while. Here are a couple of other responses that can be almost as as devastating in far less time.

When doing this, always be polite and friendly. You are the shark, and you’re going to make them your chum. (Sorry.)

Early in these conversations I tell them I was raised as a fundamentalist and am now an atheist who remains fascinated with religion. I tell them that I’ve studied most religions, including theirs. All of that is true, and explains how I know so much about the bible in general and their religion in particular. I don’t tell them that I used to be one of them, because they’d have to stop talking to me immediately, depriving me of my fun. They are deathly afraid of “apostates” and run away from us, sometimes literally.*

The World is A Horrible Place

One of their standard openings is “how bad things are in the world.” They’ll mention wars and the economy and other ills of the day, then ask, “Things are getting worse and worse. Don’t you agree?” Everyone does, which lets them launch into their “solution.” (God’s going to take care of it, so get on his side.)

Instead, tell them that they’re wrong. “No, the world keeps getting better, faster. We’re all going to live twice as long as people did a mere century ago, and that’s because of science, not religion. Crime has been dropping for the past twenty years, and keeps going down. Teenage pregnancy is down. So is teenage drug use. A decade ago it cost an enormous amount to make a long distance phone call. Today I can talk to someone on the other side of the world, instantaneously, for as long as I want, for free. I have a disease that was used to be debilitating and a death sentence, now, because of science and medicine, it’s a minor pain in the ass. Things just keep getting better and better.”

Most of them have never heard this response and it really throws them. They may try to get specific, pointing out some particular incident or world issue. Twist the conversation back to generalities. “Yes, that was horrible, but on average those kinds of things are happening less and less.” Keep insisting that the world is getting better while they insist it’s getting worse. Observe their condition, which is known as getting flusterated.

The Movie Question

This is my favorite, one of my own recipes for filleting these fish

You: “So you believe that eventually most of us will live forever here on earth, is that correct?”

Shark Bait: “Yes.”

You: “And you believe there will be no death or disease or nations or crime or anything bad, correct?”

S.B. : “Yes.”

You: “Will you have novels and movies?”

S.B. : {long pause while that rarest of things, a new idea, clatters around inside his head before it settles down so he can take a look at it.} “Yeah, I guess. I don’t see why not.”

You: “Great, because I love novels and movies. Just one more question on this subject. What will they be about?”

S.B. : {sensing a trap is about to snap shut and it’s too late to escape}. “What…what do you mean?”

You: “The subject, the plot, the story. They’ll be no crime, no adultery, no lying, no cheating, no natural disasters, no monsters, no addictions, no death, no wars, so what will your movies and novels be about? What kind of plots will they have? How can you have any story if there’s no conflict?  Could you give me an example of a novel in your perfect world?”

Enjoy his next few moments of stunned terror. Savor the deep silence, a silence that’s far more intense than lesser, unterrified silences. Suppress a smile as he tries to recover and sputter a reply that makes little sense to either of you.

Continue the conversation along this line for as long as you can keep from laughing.

As with any other sport you’ll get better with practice. It’s unlikely you’ll get the same J-Dubs the next time, so you can use the same routines over and over. Just keep practicing and honing and improving them every time they bother you. Give yourself points based on how rattled they get. One point for a stutter, two for a sputter, another two each time they touch their head. If you’re really good you may witness a demonstration of flop sweat, which gets you twenty points.

You win all the points if they physically back up so slowly they’re not even aware they’re doing it. When you see that, smile a toothy smile, because, where do they think they’re going?

* If you’d rather just get rid of them you can use their fear of apostates to scare them away permanently. Use the magic word and they will mark you on their territory cards (little cards with maps on them) so no one will visit you again. The magic word is “disfellowshipped.” (Don’t use “excommunicated” or any other term, or they’ll know you’re faking it.) Just say “I’m sorry, I’m disfellowshipped.” They will race away like cartoon animals, making the little cartoon clouds of dust and that pacheewww sound.


13 Comment(s)

  1. Loving this.

    Of course, I am a believer (and in Seminary).

    The theology I have been developing is based on reality as improvised story, so I found this post particularly interesting. Of course, I won’t be knocking on your door.

    But I will let you read my constructive theology paper if you like.

    Cindi Knox | Sep 8, 2011 | Reply

  2. These posts always say more about the individuals behind the journalling than they say about Witnesses or other subjects (I won’t call the blogs “writing”; that would be inaccurate and too kind. Deception is a usual feature (“I don’t tell them I used to be one of them . . .”). And they lack imagination and scope. They are usually the work of people who crave attention and the internet has finally given them a forum for engorging themselves in the hope of attracting audiences.

    And, on the subject of Witnesses, I have found a very effective way of stopping them from knocking at the door: I simply ask them to remove my address from their territorial list(much like the Catholics have parishes, Witnesses have territories). Simple. Respectful. Effective.

    Carolyn Neal | Sep 8, 2011 | Reply

  3. In college, when I had oodles of time, I used to do exactly this. My main defense was that the bible was the Pure Word of God. So any interpretation was Bad, including their Watchtower magazines.

    Even listening to them was wrong, since they weren’t God, and by reading the bible was talking to God directly.

    This Socratic reasoning would only work with men, though. Women would start talking about their retarded son and how happy he drooled when they read him the bible.

    Eur van Andel | Sep 8, 2011 | Reply

  4. You sound pretty desperate to put someone else down, Carolyn.

    Witness terrories are not at all like parishes. Each congregation takes a map of the entire area they’re supposed to cover with their door-knocking (which they call “service” and “going out in service). The map is chopped into smaller maps that are then pasted on to territory cards. Each territory is about the right size for a car-full of JayDubs to cover in 3-4 3hour sessions. (Some of this may have changed since I escaped several decades ago.) A polite request may get you skpped over the next few times they “work the territory,” but results are, at best, spotty. Telling them you’re disfellowshiped will make skipping you a priority, and you’ll be prominently marked on their cards as a house to avoid.

    As for deceit, everything I tell them is true. I just omit one thing – so perhaps that is a bit deceptive – but it’s nothing compared to the deceit the organization pulls on their members routinely. If my small bit of deceit helps them to start asking questions and perhaps escaping the deceit that is, well, their entire life, I can live with that.

    Eur, when I first posted this, before there were any comments, google generated a large ad which said something like “Wouldn’t you like to work wit h special ed kids?” It associated JWs with retarded kids. Now, with your comment, that may get locked in. (Which is fine, because I found it pretty amusing.)

    Hittman | Sep 8, 2011 | Reply

  5. The truth of the matter is, death is one of the things that gives meaning to life. I remember listening to the brothers speculating endlessly about life in the new “Order” and thinking “Boy that sounds boring!”.

    mike | Sep 8, 2011 | Reply

  6. I have a somewhat amusing story of “thwarting” Witnesses. When I was 17, still living with my mother, and hanging around at home after school one afternoon before she came home, I answered the door to some people who were talking with me about religion, who left me some reading material and asked to return, and I accepted. (I was still not sure of my own beliefs back then and was more inclined to be interested.)

    When my mother returned, I showed her the “Watchtower” that they gave me, and she immediately recognized it as from Jehovah’s Witnesses. She said something to the effect of them being difficult to get rid of, and suggested “tell them you’re a baptized Catholic” (which was true, as my mother was raised Catholic and had moved from from her parents after marrying my father only a month before I was born, but she never practiced Catholicism during my life, nor have I ever practiced it.) But I did remember the advice.

    At that age I didn’t shave regularly yet, but I either had a job interview or I was starting a job later that week, so I decided to have some fun with it and shaved out a toothbrush (read: Hitler) mustache just to see what it looked like on me, and planned to shave it off an hour or so later. But before I did that, I forgot about it, and the Jehovah’s Witnesses returned. I did in fact use the “baptized Catholic” line my mother suggested, and it seemed to work, as they politely excused themselves quickly and left. Soon I was in the bathroom again and saw myself in the mirror, and realized that I had unwittingly greeted the Witnesses sporting a Hitler mustache. I had already shaved it by the time my mother got home, but we had a good laugh at my “better” way of getting rid of Jehovah’s Witnesses.

    (No, I had no interest in anyone seeing the mustache but me, and have never had any admiration for Hitler. It was just as much a Charlie Chaplin mustache, but making it out to be a Hitler mustache makes it a better story.)

    mal7798 | Sep 9, 2011 | Reply

  7. An old friend of mine enjoys their (increasingly occasional) visits.

    He invites them in, and being British makes them a nice hot cup of tea, sits them down and begins to have the conversation with them.

    At a point at which it would be rude for them not to stay and drink the tea, but before the tea has cooled to the point where it can be drunk without severely burning their mouths he works into the conversation that his husband will be home soon…

    Then he watches them try to not appear uncomfortable as they do one of the following:

    a) be rude, not drink the tea and get out,
    b) burn their mouths drinking the tea, or
    c) wait uncomfortably for the tea to cool.

    Apparently the usual result is lots of c) followed by b)…

    Rufus | Oct 3, 2011 | Reply

  8. Bloody brilliant!

    Hittman | Oct 3, 2011 | Reply

  9. Damn…wish i had read this before today’s JW visit!! Nicely said..and congrats on your escape from delusion, my friend.

    dromedary Hump | Dec 7, 2013 | Reply

  10. Damn. My husband is usually around so I can’t claim that I am waiting for my “wife” to get home.

    Natalie Kehr | Dec 7, 2013 | Reply

  11. My husband is usually around so I can’t claim that I am waiting for my “wife” to get home.

    Tell them, “My husband is here, but I’m waiting for our other wife to get home…”

    Dave Hitt | Dec 7, 2013 | Reply

  12. Thank you Sir. You made my day.

    I’ve been visited twice this last month (last Sunday and Sunday prior to that) … and they’ve left a WHICH TOPIC INTEREST YOU THE MOST pamphlet of which I have read. They will be by tomorrow (Sunday) to talk I am certain. After realizing they JW, I really do not want them to come back.

    This morning I was rummaging through my closet for some workout gear and found a Horse Head full-head mask I was thinking about wearing for my next visit …. and refuse to take it off or acknowledge that I am wearing.


    Put em’ in the Crawl Space

    Don | Sep 27, 2014 | Reply

  13. I Love to talk to Jehovah’s Witness’ about evolution and science – I’m a biochemist you see… The abject terror i see before me as i explain about genetic proof about the origins of humans… Worse still talk about Bishop Origen and the Nicea debacle… Then stare at their boobs and say you are a pagan and would like to dance around a bonfire while holding hands with them. Oh and don’t forget that Lucifer is the old Roman name for the planet Venus! Nothing to do with the devil who was invented in the middle ages… LOL!!!!

    Chester Hackenbush | Jul 13, 2015 | Reply

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