What would you do if a young American in a black suit approached you on a street and offered you his spiritual advice? Would you take the gamble and return the act of kindness (his invitation for an interaction with you) by sacrificing a couple of minutes of your valuable time? Would you listen to what he has to say and offer? Now, imagine, that this young and ignorant punk were a Mormon, would this make any difference to you? I can answer only for myself. In the past two weeks I have had the pleasure and honor of meeting three youthful Mormon lads – Reeves, Fox and one other guy, whose name I don’t remember (all American – from Washington D.C., Texas, Utah respectively). This is a remarkable accomplishment in itself of which I am quite secretly proud, amazed and amused at the same time. Ever since my early 20s I have had a fervent desire to discuss matters spiritual with the convinced knee-benders, involved shareholders and serious gamers of any self-congratulatory sect or religious enterprise. From then on, I have had many stimulating and boring conversations with all sorts of people – self-proclaimed gurus, notorious avatars, serious meditatiors, legion of New Agers, Micky Mouse Zen-masters, country priests and pastors, monks and nuns, psycho-babblers and herbalists, even with a guy who managed to convince himself that he had a direct communication line with God himself and his heavenly hierarchy.
Now, back to my Mormon friends. These elegant missionaries of the Later day Saints church seemed to be taken aback by my improper inquisitiveness. Question after question and their missionary act soon became an act of my investigative journalism. Where are you coming from? What motivated you to undertake this service? Tell me about your future goals. What is your success ratio on these streets? How many people have you managed to convert already? Have you ever doubted your faith? What would it take for you to abandon your church? Is it hard to believe in the midst of so many unbelievers, who are indifferent or ignorant of the truth? And what about the global Siegeszug of secularism?
Sadly, but true, just 20 minutes of an intensive questioning from my side (regarding their beliefs and motivations) and these angels of heaven flew off to a loftier place without an attempted conversion. In this regard I felt slightly disappointed. My partners in dialogue had no zeal in their hearts. They were very polite and friendly, not pressuring me to accept the truth of their religion. “It is voluntary. You are free to decide for yourself. Nobody is going to force you to swallow the medicine I have taken and found useful.”, young men were paraphrasing the popular liberal mantra. And I thought these men were missionaries. Give me a break! Any convinced atheist would do a much better job at their missionary endeavor.
Overall, my willingness to debate with religious people increases in retrogressive proportion to my atheistic inclinations. What I like about religious folks is this: they allow one to return to the forever lost kingdom of one’s infancy and childhood, to the state of unknowing, princesses and dragons, demons and angels, fantasy and riddles. The everlasting wish is so sweet and cozy – God has a special plan for you, you are very dear to the Lord, the Holy Spirit rewards greatly those who follow the acts of righteousness ect.
Religions are unfulfilled dreams of our childhood, which promise to give the second chance to a wasted life. It promises to correct or eradicate the mistakes of our past. Fundamentally, each religion is nothing more nor less than a promise. A promise of a better life in the future or, if you like, from the second you start bending your knees in the name and for the sake of the almighty imaginary companion.
As I spoke with the Mormons today, I felt like a bonafide child again, who wished to live in a world full of ghosts, witches and spirits. I am flattered when the divine grace shines upon me and elevates my unworthy skin on a pedestal higher than mere mortals. In the presence of a superstructure, a larger story or the Great Agency behind the world, I feel special because I play a role in the grand narrative. I participate in the divine workings. Tempting, is it not? Want to feel important? Get religious. But being somebody in the eyes of the Lord does make you nobody in the eyes of the world. Perhaps Jesus was right after all.