Conversations in the Park
May 29th, 2005
Hoboken appears to be overrun with evangelicals. Last week on my way to the train there was a gentleman standing quietly with a sign that read:
CATHOLICISM IS THE ONLY TRUE RELIGION
ALL NONBELIEVERS WILL SUFFER HELLFIRE
It certainly made me glad that his god only exists in his head.
So I went down to the park today to get some reading done, but it wasn’t in the cards. I ended up spending most of the time speaking to two groups of people who were very interested in “saving” me.
Part I — The Young Brazilian Girls
This one was very confusing. It mostly went like this.
“Don’t you believe in the Bible?”
“I believe that it exists. What do you mean, exactly?”
“Why do think there’s all this evil in the world?”
“Don’t you believe in the devil?”
“Why did god create him, again?”
Except I feel like we covered that material three or four times. These girls were pretty attractive, but not prepared to debate. That’s a shame, from their point of view. I have no doubts that they would be a real “double-threat” if they could draw from even a few Aristotelian ideas, or throw out some quotes from Thomas Aquinas.
They also kept asking me if I remembered this scene or that scene from The Passion of the Christ. I’ve never seen the Passion of the Christ. Is it a good sign or a bad sign that serious Christian thought has devolved to the point of being dictated by Mel Gibson?
That went on for about a half an hour, until one of them made the “talk to the hand” motion at me and walked away (I am not making this up). I thought I was conversing in a reasonably calm way, by my standards.
After that, I tried moving to a quieter park. The one right on the waterfront is thunderdome, anyway.
Part II — The Jersey Guy
This encounter was much more interesting. This was with a very soft spoken gentleman wearing a tie. “I’m not a Mormon or a Jehovah’s witness,” was the first thing he said. He appeared to be trying to start his own religion. Bravo, good for him.
He spent some of his allotted timeslot complaining about “preachers and priests that drive around in Mercedes,” as he put it. He also stated that “the Bible proves evolution,” which put a pretty interesting spin on the conversation.
Perhaps it was his intention, but I was actually arguing against the absolute provability of a thing like evolution.
“It’s so incredibly likely to be true that you could say that it is proven, but I don’t think any real scientist would say such a thing,” I said. “When you say that the Bible proves it, you’re giving away a very different idea of ‘proof’ than I have.”
He was, (not surprisingly, I guess), impressed with the Bible’s powers of prophecy. He shied away from it, I think detecting that it wouldn’t win me over. We talked about the vague wording, lack of falsifiability, and rationalizing after the fact that is involved in prophecy, and he conceded that I was probably right about that.
In the end, we agreed that I had no answers for him, and he none for me. And we decided that recruiting people to follow you is not a good idea in general, because people should think for themselves. All in all, a very pleasant conversation. It could have been one of the scenes in Waking Life.
Part III — Winding Down
I came back and my roommate was drinking wine and eating cheese. “You need to take the wax off of that cheese before you eat it,” he said. Oh, do I? I bit down. Yes, it turns out that I do. But being a contrarian is fun nonetheless.