Our neighborhood has, for some reason, recently become the target of a group from a Baptist church in Hammond, Indiana who seem to be looking to drum up some new church members. I’m considering printing up some copies of the following to keep near the door and share with anyone looking to proselytize at our doorstep.
Hello, and thank you for your interest in converting me to (insert your religion here). I appreciate the effort you are making on behalf of my eternal soul, and — having spent four years as an undergraduate Comparative Mythology major and five years at one of the nation’s most respected divinity schools — I do enjoy a good conversation about the ultimate concerns of humanity. However, to avoid wasting your time, I have compiled this handy list of the tasks you will need to complete in order to convince me to attend your church/temple/drum circle/what-have-you.
1) Convince me of the existence of a transcendent being beyond the sphere of the human and natural realms. (I’ll give you this one for free, since a truly transcendent being would be by definition beyond the grasp of our limited human cognitive faculties; as a result, we would be neither able to prove nor disprove the existence of such a being.)
2) Convince me that not only is said being capable of comprehension by limited human faculties, but that it is a “person”-al being with the attendant desires, goals, and aims.
3) Convince me that the desires of such a transcendent being would somehow be concerned with what I as an individual believe, whom I decide to marry, what I do with my personal wealth, what I eat, etc.
4) Convince me that of the thousands of religious traditions that have claimed exclusive access to knowledge about this being’s wants and desires, yours is in fact the one that actually does have that access.
5) If, for some reason, you are not fluent in the language(s) in which your religious tradition was originally transmitted, convince me that each of the translators who passed that tradition down to you was in fact guided by that transcendant being.
6) Finally, you must complete each of these tasks without reference to your individual tradition’s scriptures or other religious documents, since accepting the authority of such scripture can obviously only occur after all of the previous conditions have been met.
If, having read this list, you feel that you can complete these tasks, please begin. If not, thank you for your time, and please get off my stoop.