The two young Mormon missionaries that came to talk to me last Friday came back last night after I'd offered the time for them to come and talk with me. They brought reinforcements as well since they knew they would be dealing with an out & proud homosexual antitheist atheist. I kind of half expected that, but no matter. They were all very kind, charming, and soft spoken.
I'd made a big pot of red gravy (meat sauce for pasta for you of non-Italian lineage) as Damien wanted spaghetti for dinner. I always make more than we will eat in one sitting either for company or for leftovers. I reasoned that the guys coming might now have had a real, home cooked, family style meal and wanted them to have an opportunity for one while we talked. I knew they would probably turn me down, but I made the offer all the same and they did actually turn down the offer. No matter, I offered them use of the bathroom and gave them something to drink as we were getting settled around the table for our talk.
In all, I think they spent probably an hour and change talking with me. I could tell they didn't know quite how to take me as I was polite, gracious, humble, and could quote scripture. I spoke of philosophy and scholars when they brought up Socrates and Plato (also reminding them that both were gay) as well as other world religions whose self made prophets I'd spoken with in the past. They told me of their prophet, I told them of imams and rabbis and Quakers I'd had conversations with previously. They made the attempt to talk about the Book of Mormon, citing Enos in Chapter 1 - and I told them how it plagiarized Ephesians. They asked me if I knew anything about the unbelievers as depicted in Nephi, and I responded with the context of non-Mormons as written in 3 Nephi 1 wherein it is stated that 'we' had a day set aside just to kill the faithful as if it were a national holiday (or something equally ridiculous), and how the mere notion of this was offensive as it was written specifically to vilify and paled in comparison to the vengeful depictions of God and Jesus Christ in that same chapter alone. The entirety of the Book of Mormon is rendered lame anyway in 3 Nephi 23:6 wherein is stated "And now it came to pass that when Jesus had said these words he said unto them again, after he had expounded all the scriptures unto them which they had received, he said unto them: Behold, other scriptures I would that ye should write, that ye have not." Lastly, there is the fact that Joseph Smith was a criminal and a con man, and the book of Mormon is a 19th century book written in 16th century English, which no one even spoke at the time, further proving it a giant fraud.
I asked them to validate a suspicion I have about them in assuming that I simply 'don't get it', that I'm misguided and that I couldn't be more wrong. They smiled and I asked them if they wished to discuss it, but would only allow the discussion if they would seriously consider the possibility that I was right and they were in fact wrong. I asked if they knew of Blaise Pascal and explained Pascal's Wager, asking them if they felt it was a reasonable thing to ascribe to. Once they agreed that it was better to default to a position of belief in God rather than an atheistic view as insurance for a passage to heaven after physical death, I asked if they could not understand how insulting that must be to a truly all knowing, omnipotent God who knows he/she is being scammed and literally mocked. They kind of in turn stared blankly at me and one another, became wide eyed and nervously grinned at me. Then the younger of the three agreed with me that there was no way to literally prove the existence of God, and the older (eldest?) Elder gave him the stink eye for it in my periphery. I told them in the beginning that I had no interest in converting them to my way of thinking, and that I didn't need anyone to agree with me in order for me to be right. I explained that if nothing else, I wanted them to come away from the experience of talking with me and being able to say to others that no matter how misguided they may believe I am that I was hospitable and fair, and treated them with kindness and respect. Which I'm sure not many people they talk with actually do, least of all nonbelievers. When asked if I knew of God's plan, I explained that I had read and discussed the subject at length for years with other people including academics and that in its most distilled form, God's plan included a lot of atrocious suffering of innocents that I will never be okay with or find a way to even label as acceptable collateral damage. I won't accept a plan that legitimizes genocide.
They asked me initially if I ever believed in God, and I explained that I did not - but not because I didn't try and not because I hadn't read everything I could on the subjects of religion, philosophy, and scripture - but because in the most simple ways, none of it made real sense to me and I felt no sense of innate goodness or divination in my heart when making the effort to believe as a young man. It has always seemed irrational, unlikely, and highly suspect to me that supernatural, omnipotent, all-knowing and divine beings roamed freely about us without offering a single shred of incontrovertible proof of their existences. When asked if I knew that we were all sinners, I responded that I had never sinned a day in my life, that sin was a concept reserved for people who believe in such things and I myself had no need of it. That with or without religion, or an acceptance of Godlike benevolence, good people will do good things and bad people will do bad things (to indirectly quote Steven Weinberg) and on occasion those two elements will intersect - but you don't need religion or benevolence for any of that, all you need is the will and commitment to be a good person or not. I explained that I'm sure this is a radical concept to them and I could understand how much of what I said might seem both reasonable and horrifyingly blasphemous to them, but it was my honest opinion. I added that one does not need religion in order to be moral, kind, or even charitable as I certainly don't, and yet I'm all of those things and never brag about it or use those traits to curry favor for entry into some cosmic, after-life theme park in the clouds.
I asked them if they had seen the film "Latter Days" and gave them a synopsis of it, explaining that there comes a time when you have to decide who you know you are in this life versus who you are expected to be, who you are told you have to be, for reasons of fear demanding the preservation of one's own salvation - unless you were able to make the hardest decisions for yourself - it is the will and desire of others that prevents many people who follow a path from ever realizing their potential as fully functioning beings.
The question of an afterlife and how/why we are here was asked of me. I explained that the 'how' reasoning of my coming into existence happened in the spring of 1970 when my father's sperm met my mother's ovum on my parents' dining room table and the science of conception - independent of any prophetical magic - occurred. The 'why' reasoning of my coming into existence was of no interest to me whatsoever. I don't care why I'm here, I give no thought to such things - it is enough for me THAT I am here. I value my life as I believe that it is the only form of one I will ever have, and that when I die and my cells cease to work I will become part of the earth and fertilize a new living thing - and having this one opportunity is what gives me the drive to get the most out of it that I can. This is also what encourages me to be the most kind, loving, generous, and thoughtful person I can be. The two younger guys told me that this was a mind-blowing concept to them and that they have never heard of such a thing, let alone considered it, and appreciated me sharing it with them. I reassured them that I understand this isn't for everyone and that my life choices were my own and that I didn't mind having a minority opinion.
Near the end of the conversation I was asked if I ever prayed. I said no, that prayer was reserved for those who both needed it and believed in the power of making wishes and seeing them come true by chance and considering that a prayer answered. When asked if I'd try it, I asked if they would go to a pool hall with me to smoke, curse like sailors, and do shots of Jagermeister until we're so drunk that we cannot lay face down on the floor without trying to hold on to it. I explained that I knew they could no more participate in such a thing than I could pray to a God I don't believe exists.
It was time for them to go, so I offered them the use of the bathroom and made a last ditch effort to feed them but they politely declined again and we all shook hands and thanked one another for the time. We parted company smiling at one another having sincerely found each other likeable and gracious. I thanked them again for taking the time, they thanked me for allowing so much of it, and we said goodnight. All in all, it was a pleasant evening and time I feel was well spent.