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In The Company Of Mormons 
2nd-Dec-2008 11:15 am
I was paid a visit by two young Mormon missionaries this past Friday evening. They asked me if I would be willing to discuss the lord with them, and I told them that I was an atheist but would love to have a discussion with them - just not at that time as I had family in for the holiday and it would be inappropriate. I asked them if they could come back on Thursday of this week and they agreed to come then.

I have every intention of being gracious and hospitable to them when they come on Thursday to talk with me. I have every intention of being an out of the closet gay man who believes that religion is destructive, dangerous, and divisive. I will bring up Prop 8 in California as well as the community I am working on (engayge_america) and give my reasons why I'm working on this issue.

I know I'm not going to change their minds. I know I'm not going to make them like me. I have no interest in either. I'm doing this because I believe it is important to sit down with people who are your opposites and discuss what is important to you because it matters. I could learn something from these two polite young men, even if what I stand to learn is just more of what I already know to be true. They could learn something from me as well.

I'd like to know from you guys what you think I should discuss with them, but please be serious and only post serious responses in comments.
2nd-Dec-2008 04:24 pm (UTC)
Well since we have to be serious...I think you'll find they'll stick to the "company line" and not answer every inquiry you have.

Good luck though...
5th-Dec-2008 07:10 pm (UTC)
I posted about the conversation, you can read it here: http://jesus-h-biscuit.livejournal.com/1173615.html
2nd-Dec-2008 04:32 pm (UTC)
I think that is great. To engage those who think differently is both the most important and the most challenging task we can perform. it is why I welcome religious persons to antitheism as long as they are there for sincere inquiry and not to proselytize with prejudice.

I would start with basics not even specific to their religion: why do they think there is a supreme being? How do they respond to the problem of evil? Why do they need a supreme being in their lives? I would point out that you manage to be a good person and content with your life without religion. I might even bring up this quotation:

"With or without religion, you would have good people doing good things and evil people doing evil things."--Steven Weinberg

Because that is just a matter of our natures (that is not to say there aren't a bunch of wishy-washies in the middle).

I think my emphasis would be, "What has religion done for you?" When they respond with confidence in eternal life or other reward, I would simply say that sounds nice for them, but that I don't mind not living forever or getting other rewards, and ask what else they've got. "Are the women at your church hot?" I might ask, for example (in my case). :)

Ultimately, it's hard to "argue" with irrationality. Presenting a good example is really all you can probably do.
2nd-Dec-2008 04:44 pm (UTC)
I think this is a great idea. I think it's entirely possible you will challenge these young men to think in ways they haven't been led to think before, or to consider possibilities outside of what they've been exposed to. I look forward to hearing how it goes.
2nd-Dec-2008 04:49 pm (UTC)
any time a fundie quotes scripture to me, I ask them to read aloud the verse before and after the line they are quoting. It usualy destroys the credibility of their argument by drastically altering the context of their quote.

James Randi has written a few books on how to debate creationists, well worth the read.

though be gentle, doing battle with a under armed enemy often leads to poor reactions on their part...

be sure to post video ;)
2nd-Dec-2008 04:58 pm (UTC)
I'd ask them if they had any knowledge or thoughts about Prop 8. That would potentially open the door for a discussion about why the LDS so strongly endorsed the Yes camp.

I would question them on separation of church and state. Do they believe civil rights should be denied due to their religious beliefs?

5th-Dec-2008 07:11 pm (UTC)
I considered it, but would rather have that conversation after a greater rapport is established. I posted about the conversation, you can read it here: http://jesus-h-biscuit.livejournal.com/1173615.html
2nd-Dec-2008 06:42 pm (UTC)
I think thats the problem, looking at the tenets of Mormonism, it is very difficult to come up with a serious question.

Maybe, and I am serious here, what is it precisely that would lead me to be believe they are in fact a religion and not a cult?

Best I can do today.
2nd-Dec-2008 07:41 pm (UTC)
I would ask them why they think their religion should block rights for others, since we're supposed to have separation of church and state. Another thing to bring up is asking them why they think other people's religious rights should be taken away, since there are plenty of denominations of many religions, and people of all faiths, that are for gay marriage. Why do they think theirs is privileged over other religions and faiths? I've noticed a lot of religious folk are misled into thinking that if gay marriage is legalized their church would HAVE to marry gays, which is obviously false (I mean, Catholic churches don't even have to marry divorced people, they're still tax exempt and all that fun stuff.)

And not deterring you, but I always find the discussion of faith a bit... pointless when coming at it from a logic vs. faith position. Probably just because it's futile, since faith at it's very core isn't a logical thing, it's about believing in the non-logical. But, I guess it's always good to be challenged. I hear the arguments all the time and still have my hippy UU faith, and I know people asking about it just makes me more sure when I think it through. Mind expanding is hardly a bad thing, in any case. (:

I'm glad to see someone who's willing to engage with the other side instead of just hating them or screaming at them. I'm too used to seeing that, and it makes me sad. Good luck with them, I hope both parties benefit greatly.
5th-Dec-2008 07:13 pm (UTC)
I think I'd rather have that conversation after a greater rapport is established, though I also think it is important and should be addressed. I posted about the conversation, you can read it here: http://jesus-h-biscuit.livejournal.com/1173615.html
2nd-Dec-2008 08:29 pm (UTC)
You might get some insight here.

When they come to my door, I rarely get beyond trying to find how Joseph Smith could be trusted when he suddenly had a revelation from god that polygamy was a bad thing. It only occurred after a lot of political types of the time denounced the Mormons for that belief.

It IS interesting talking to them but I find it easier just to toy with them/annoy them.
2nd-Dec-2008 08:34 pm (UTC)
Assuming they're supportive of banning gay marriage, I'd be probing their insights about banning Mormon marriage, or banning divorce, or stripping the rights away from any other recognizable groups (such as a Constitutional Amendment disallowing Hispanic people from buying homes in urban areas). And asking why their special book is the one that should matter but other faiths' should not. And if you *really* want to blow their minds (which I'm guessing you don't), have them reconcile the major contradictions in their holy book (conflicting genesis stories, and for extra credit, put together a non-contradictory timeline of the events of the resurrection).
5th-Dec-2008 07:14 pm (UTC)
I will raise those points after a greater rapport is established. I posted about the conversation, you can read it here: http://jesus-h-biscuit.livejournal.com/1173615.html
2nd-Dec-2008 08:45 pm (UTC)


Good luck. Just remember, honey, missionaries are mostly young kids (the boys are ages 19-21, generally) who are heavily sheltered. They might not have much more to offer other than the "party line" but those sites might give you some ideas. :)
2nd-Dec-2008 08:47 pm (UTC)
Oh, and I forgot: Missionaries are not allowed to watch the news or read newspapers, look at the internet, etc. They might not know anything about the recent election or Prop 8 other than what they have learned from their ward (a "ward" is a church), so go easy!
2nd-Dec-2008 09:02 pm (UTC)
I don't know if you've ever met with them before, but being an ex-mormon myself, you should be prepared for them to ask and try to push to go through their "discussion". This isn't an actual discussion, it's more a prepared way they have of presenting the church in 8 lessons, with the goal leading to baptism. Of course there is discussion in this, asking how it makes you feel, your thoughts on the matter and reading from the scripture and praying. This may have changed since I left the church and you may be able to engage them in general discussion about religion/god/etc., especially if they have been on their mission for awhile and they are comfortable talking with people, but if they are greenies, be prepared for the lesson format. I can give you more information if you would like (I volunteered at the Missionary Training Center in Provo, UT for 5 months in 97/98), just let me know.
5th-Dec-2008 07:15 pm (UTC)
Excellent, thanks for the offer of insight! I posted about the conversation, you can read it here: http://jesus-h-biscuit.livejournal.com/1173615.html
2nd-Dec-2008 10:04 pm (UTC)
I would like to remind them that Jesus' greatest Commandment was to love one another. I would ask them if they thought Jesus would approve or disapprove of two people in love sharing their lives together. I would like to inform them that there are a lot of believers out there that have been driven away from the church and God that they love because they found hate in those holy places instead. Finally I would end with something along the lines of "I'm happy and content with my relationship with God, and hope that they, too, can say the same."
5th-Dec-2008 07:16 pm (UTC)
I did my best to keep it as light as possible, to establish a rapport and not scare them off too quickly. I posted about the conversation, you can read it here: http://jesus-h-biscuit.livejournal.com/1173615.html
(Deleted comment)
2nd-Dec-2008 10:38 pm (UTC)
i don't have any suggestions other than what's already been mentioned, but i'm anxious to read your report after their next visit. having been raised mormon (although i've not been active in the church in over 18 years), i take a keen interest in this sort of thing. i left the church precisely because of their hypocrisy and their skewed stances on various issues. i feel bad for those missionaries, honestly, being as sheltered and practically brainwashed as they are. i have no problems with anyone from any religion as long as they're respectful to me, and i'm glad to see that you're at least giving them an opportunity to be heard -- for i believe that is the only way in which we can guarantee that we will always have that opportunity ourselves.
2nd-Dec-2008 11:21 pm (UTC)
2 tenants that may allow you room to play with:

9. We believe all that God has revealed, all that He does now reveal, and we believe that He will yet reveal many great and important things pertaining to the Kingdom of God.

13. We believe in being honest, true, chaste, benevolent, virtuous, and in doing good to all men; indeed, we may say that we follow the admonition of Paul — We believe all things, we hope all things, we have endured many things, and hope to be able to endure all things. If there is anything virtuous, lovely, or of good report or praiseworthy, we seek after these things.

Perhaps all this violence is revealing something. Perhaps gay marriage is something virtuous/lovely that they had not considered in that way.

My strongest reaction, though, is to prepare yourself for frustration (which I'm sure you are). They may not have answers to your questions. They may not be able to justify things. They may not have fully-though-out ideas or may be so singly in their mission -- since it is being a missionary to you -- and may be so scripted that they have no argument but continue to try to get through the lessons. I hope, however, that these 2 showed up at your door because they need to learn from you and will leave changed by meeting you. And of course, I look forward to reading about the encounter.

4th-Dec-2008 12:52 am (UTC)
er... don't you mean tenets?
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