We just had a visit from a much-loved cousin. Since we last saw her 2 or 3 years ago, as well as getting divorced, she has become a Jehovah’s Witness. The timing of her visit had a lot to do with the school holidays, but I suspect she chose to accept our long-standing invitation at this particular time precisely because she knew our home would be a mainly Christmas-free zone.
Having known a handful of JWs in the past we braced ourselves for being preached at, but as it happens we had some interesting conversations. She admitted to being enlightened about some of the stuff we tried to point out - especially that you can live a fulfilling and ethical life without belief in a supreme being or at least without belonging to a religious institution.
Of course, this could have been tactical - she made a good show of listening and hearing what we were saying, but always responding with “but it says in the bible…”.
She and her fellow JWs are more used to arguing with other Christians than with atheists or agnostics and they are coached or trained to deal with the former. Like her own mother who tells her that the JWs are a man-made religion, as opposed to her (mother’s) religion -evangelical Christianity- which was made by God. My stance was that all religions were made by humans as a way of explaining the inexplicable, blah blah blah, but she said that all the explanations she needed were in the Bible. It always came back to that, which doesn’t work when you are trying to persuade someone who doesn’t consider the bible the word of God, or who doesn’t believe in any god in the first place.
Some of my ignorance and prejudice about JWs was also fought. I learned that they believe that death is the end of life and therefore JWs strive to be good mainly for the sake of being good, as opposed to fear of eternal damnation or the hope of a reward in the afterlife. They do believe in end times, a second coming (of sorts) and mass resurrection of the dead. She denied knowledge of the 161,000 anointed going to heaven though. I think she may have been bluffing in order to avoid going down that road. She also gave the impression that they didn’t believe in everyday divine intervention in the same way as other believers do.
Interesting also to learn why they don’t celebrate birthdays - because according to them the blowing out of candles is an ancient pagan custom symbolising the extinguishing of the evil spirits of the last year. Christmas too is considered pagan in origin and as I understand it they place less emphasis on Jesus Christ compared to other Christian sects.
All in all, and bearing in mind that she is intelligent enough to spin things in such a way that did not repel us, most of their beliefs as such do not sound as whacky as those of some more mainstream religions.
Then, inevitably, we discussed blood transfusions and she went into robot mode giving what must have been stock answers. My husband said that at one point she did look upset when we asked how a parent could let their child die when there was a way of saving their life - she has a daughter the same age as our son.
She also seemed almost entirely her old self - clothing a little more modest, but then again she had put on some weight - but again, I wondered if she was consciously choosing not to be all pious and righteous so as to give us a positive image. She laughed at the same silly jokes and didn’t appear embarrassed by risqué comments, but did make a couple of robotic out-of-character statements on moral issues when they came up in conversation. e.g. prostitution - “how can they sleep with all those men without being in love with them”. Well - duh. Or a similar comment about a woman having sex on the first date in a movie we were watching.
She left us a pile of pamphlets and books and Watchtowers. I’m glad to be of service in that it is one less potential convert on the receiving end, if that makes any sense, but I feel bad about throwing them away. I don’t know how I’ll deal with any follow-up questions from her on her next visit or when we next speak on the phone.
This is mainly MPSIMS because I just wanted to share my mundane observations about what was for me an unusual experience, but I’m going to stray into IMHO territory on the last point - the literature: I have no intention of giving it more than a cursory look - what would Dopers do?