Recently, on a journey back from Bournemouth—where I shall soon be living as a Geography teacher—I missed a connecting train journey and as a result met a small group of people who managed to convince me that religion will die. And it will die very soon.
I caught a train from Bournemouth to Dorchester, to change for a train to Castle Cary and from there I could catch a train to Taunton. The change at the Dorchester station is the material most train-based worries are based on: if I miss that connection I will have to wait around to two hours. And, indeed, this is what happened to me. The timings are close: I had to get off at Dorchester South 10 minutes before my next train left, and make a non-signposted walk to Dorchester West; if my train is so much as 5 minutes late I get stuck in Dorchester for two hours, and there’s nothing to do there. So, that happened.
To pass the time I set myself an eating challenge: an entire large Dominoes pizza and a tandoori wrap, which I ate while three wasps bullied me. I sat on a train station bench with my large camping rucksack taking up the rest of the bench. That killed about 20 minutes. There was another hour and forty minutes to go. While I waited patiently two girls approached me and asked about my day and I about theirs. We chatted for a while. And for 30 minutes no one mentioned the elephant in the station: they are wearing badges that say “Church of the Latter Day saints” and “Jesus Christ”. Jesus Christ! I did, of course, move my bag and offer them a seat. They introduced themselves, after some time, as Sister Yappi and Sister Brown. They were nice girls.
But those 30 minutes passed and soon they said they were missionaries. They told me about Joseph Smith and the newest covenant with God. They told me how the original records of the Bible died with the apostles (they obviously need to do some research; the named authors of the New Testament were illiterate and the first written copies existed well after the death of all the named Gospel authors, and probably their children too!). They told me how this loss meant the Bible was the corrupt work of men (to which I agree), and how Jesus told Joseph Smith in 1820 how things are meant to be (in a language that is dead, because even when Jesus reveals himself to an English-speaking American Jesus is too cool for English).
They then proceeded to ask me my religious affiliation, to which I answered “None”. “Have you not thought about whether there is a God?” asked Sister Yappi. “Of course I have, and I haven’t found it at all convincing”. With a frown on her face, and in her admirable English, Sister Yappi asked “So you don’t believe in any type of God?” “What do you mean by God?” Both of the Sisters took this as an opportunity to question dodge, and the conversation went on as let me tell you what my religion means to me. You’ll notice I didn’t say I was an atheist. Well, I did actually say it in all but name. But I never said “atheist”.
Their religion means, to them, family (but I love my family very much without any call on a God and they never even explained why they needed God to love their family); purpose (but I consider it weak to need to be given your purpose); security… and the list goes on. Eventually the train arrived and it was no surprise they were getting on the same train; it’s the only train in the last two hours. They sat near me and the conversation continued.
I listened to them explain how I can ask God if He is real, and how the truth of the pilgrimage of Joseph Smith demonstrates the truth of his claims. I listened them explain the love they felt in reading the Book of Mormon. I listened to them explain how it was translated from other languages because… why would God give an English speaker His word in English? If we know anything about God from His earlier work—The Old Testament, the New Testament, The Koran—we know He loves to obscure meaning obfuscate.
The ticket inspector passed and overheard our conversation, and I politely pondered to myself what the rules were on promiscuity in the Church of Latter Day Saints, and they gave me a copy of their book with a hand written note in it. And to be honest I blanked the rest of the conversation with niceties and politeness, but I can’t remember it. I tried telling them my reasons for doubting, but these girls were well-trained in talking over questions.
They got off in Yeovil, one stop before I got off in Castle Cary, and after they left the ticket inspector came back to me and asked what my interest was in the Latter Day Saints. I explained that I had no interest and I have never been religious and that I’m certainly not in the market for a religion and we just happened to meet at the station. “Accosted”, he corrected. I smiled and let that pass.
The ticket inspector didn’t notice that I said I wasn’t in the market for a religion. He said he didn’t want to have this conversation with me while the Mormons were there, but he wanted to promote Messianic Judaism. This was not a day of your standard religions: I didn’t think Mormonism was a thing in the UK (I suppose that’s why they sent missionaries) and I thought Messianic Judaism was a joke (but it makes sense if you are a Jew by birth—because that makes any sense—and you don’t want to lose members to the peer pressure of Christian countries). He promotes Messianic Judaism through a website called Moriel Ministries (www.Moriel.org). You may visit that and point out its lunacy any time you please.
But this is why I think religion will die out; look at the divisive social etiquette that surrounds it: I would not use the word atheist in front of the Mormons; the Messianic Jew wouldn’t discuss his religion in front of the Mormons even though he feels passionately enough about it to come back and tell me about it; no one accepted the idea that I don’t believe and I’m not shopping; Mormons think Christians are following a corrupt word of man; Messianic Jews think everyone else is deluded; I think they’re all wrong. There are simply too many etiquette land mines for it to be socially sustainable. There was a time when the Catholics and Protestants went to war against each other and the greatest peace seems to be maintained by dogma-free environments and minimalist religion.
Multiculturalism won’t let religion stand: it exposes us to the fact that a Muslim has as good a reason not to be a Christian as a Christian has not be a Muslim; we should soon realise the entire institution can be thrown out. Multiculturalism will kill religion because people will not forever tolerate having to put up with being silent, and when they talk another religion can tell them why they are wrong.