Monday 3 June 2013

How I got blacklisted by the Jehovah's Witnesses

This all happened 20 or 30 years ago.

I was at home, programming up a flurry, and the doorbell went. I was a bit annoyed at the interruption - once your in the zone, with everything going well, an interruption like that is a bit like interrupting a juggler when he's got seven balls in the air.

So I went down to answer. It was a Jehovah's Witness, obviously oblivious to the problem he'd just caused. He wanted to have a chat with me; to his suprise, I invited him in and suggested that we study the bible together. Fortunately, he had his copy with him. And I went and fetched my copy.

"I'd like us to talk about the Flood," I suggested.

The thing about the flood, is that everyone remembers that the animals went in two by two, and it rained for 40 days and 40 nights.

But if you actually read the bible, they were cooped up in the ark for 375 days. And there were seven of each kind of clean animal, and two of the unclean. Although since the dietary laws came a long time after Noah, I don't know what "unclean" might mean.

OK, so now we work out how many large animals are on the ark - seven cows, for example, seven reindeer, seven red deer, seven moose, and seven buffalo ... you get the idea. And elephants (indian and African) and hippos, and rhinos, lions and tigers, oh my! And then we add in the fodder for all these for a bit over a year. Lions and tigers, of course, being carnivors, need meat, and freezing hasn't been invented yet, so we'll need more live animals to slaughter for them, and the fodder for those animals.

So we're talking about all this, and then we hit a bit of a problem. The ark wasn't big enough for all this stuff.

So my new friend explains that the Noah story is allegorical, it wouldn't have happened exactly like that. "Ah, I see," I say, relieved, "thanks for clearing that up."

And he left.

Now maybe you didn't know this, but some religions require their followers to believe that every word of their Holy Book is exactly and literally true. This gets them away from the messy situation where some of it isn't true, and then someone has to make guesses about which bits are true and which aren't, which rather negates the main value of a Holy Book. Plus you wind up with horrendous arguments about which bits are true and which are just a story. And when I say "horrendous arguments" we're talking religion here, so that means wars, and people being burned at the stake, and tortured by the Spanish Inquisition (which maybe you didn't expect), and fun things like that. Jehovah's Witnesses are one such religion that requires you to believe in the literal truth of the Bible.

So when my new friend got back to his church, he would have shared his new understanding with his pals.

Two days later, I got another visit. This time there were three of them, and my new friend wasn't one of them. I don't know what happened to him; the Witnesses don't have a Spanish Inquisition. So I invited them in for a bit of bible study - I'm always up for a nice bit of bible study. And we all hauled out our bibles, and started going over the Noah story.

The thing is, you just can't get a quart into a pint pot, and here were were trying to cram several gallons in. So we discussed and debated, calculated and estimated, and at the end of a long hard session of bible study, we divided 50-50; two saying that, well, it's Gods word, so it must be true, we just don't understand it because we're just feeble humans, and two of us saying "it must be metaphorical". I was one of the "feeble human" contenders, but that's a whole nastier problem than the bible being partly metaphorical, because if we can't understand the bible, then that severely limits its usefullness. And how can we know which parts we don't understand? It's a nightmare!

I don't actually know what happened next. I imagine the three of them went back to their church and started telling people one of those two uncomfotable theories. And I don't know what happened to my new friend. But I do know that since then I have never, ever been visited by Jehovah's Witnesses.

And that's how I got blacklisted by the Jehovah's Witnesses.


  1. An excelent logic based argument with an envied, if unexpected, conclusion of being left in peace. Just for my edification, which I have been reliably informed does not result in me being turned into an edifice, given the thought you have applied to the ark, can you enlighten us on where all the water came from to make all the rain that covered the surface of the earth? Even if the ice caps all melted, I can't imagine there would be enough to get more than a few 10's of meters up from the coast, and probably not very far at all.

  2. A good thought. But he's God, you know? Maybe he made more water?

  3. If Jesus turned water into wine then why isn't the see red wine? ;) ill remember this for next time they come round lol

  4. If Jesus turned water into wine then why isn't the see red wine? ;) ill remember this for next time they come round lol

  5. Hello,

    I had a similar problem, but solved it in a different way: They came to my door while I was asleep, and left some material for me to read, in particular, a copy of a magazine called The Watchtower.

    After I got up, I placed the magazine so it was partially sticking out (enough to be identifiable as being a copy of said periodical) from below my welcome mat.

    They didn't seem to come back again, or if they did, they never rang the bell.


    Aryeh Goretsky