Yesterday afternoon I was walking around Chester, enjoying what can only be described as a warm summer’s day. The cause of the heat was a huge bright ball of burning plasma appearing in earth’s sky. I was shocked and surprised, yet this big yellow disc in the blue seemed strangely familiar – do people in other countries see it too from time to time??
Spotted: unidentified phenomenon. British government says: “We don’t know what it is but it isn’t like to return!”
I also saw a couple of street preachers. It’s not the first time I have of course. One was holding a placard with some biblical rhetoric on it like “TURN TO JESUS” or something like that. The other individual held a bible in one hand and was shouting loudly in all directions about his faith, yet to no one in particular.
Now, if I had to invent a sure-fire way to put people off taking me seriously and make them think that fundamentalists are deranged crackpots, it would be: standing in a street with a bible and a placard shouting repudiations and promises from a character in a book written 2000 years ago.
I know what it’s like to believe. I know what it’s like to have that sense of righteousness that you are speaking for god! I have preached to people as a child and teenager, and been the outsider as I bravely defend my god and his word from the ignorant attacks and jibes of evil sinners. There is a sense of pride that comes from this “suffering”. I could almost feel god smiling down on me despite this.
That’s not how outsiders see it. That’s not how I see it now. I’d like to quote Derren Brown:
“But for every one person who is interested there’ll be six or seven who have just written you off as a lunatic. If you think there’s a kind of eccentric dignity in that, you’re wrong. Heresy doesn’t make you right either. The fact that they ‘laughed at Galileo’ isn’t what made him a genius.”
I imagine people saw me back then with a glazed over look in my eye. Being such a devout believer, having this swelling of righteousness and justice in your head, is like being drunk. And like a drunkard, you might end up doing all sorts of silly things. You aren’t in touch with the real world, and you don’t see things the way other people do. Of course you might sober up, but every time you reach for that holy book, pray, or preach to people, it’s like having another tipple.
Freedom of speech is one of the most important rights every human should have. I would not stop street preachers (unless their diatribe became hateful). But I would like to make them aware that they’re achieving nothing. People do not look at you and think “wow, I wonder what he has to say. Am I really going to be damned?? But I want to be saved! Let me go over and achieve salvation!” They are far more likely to think “what a loony.”
On the other hand, all street preachers are doing is reading their holy book out loud, which is an excellent way to get lots of people to hear it all at once, and if there is one sure way to put non-believers off the bible, it’s by……getting them to read the bible! So perhaps we should encourage street preaching? Maybe we should arrange for several competing faiths to preach on the same street?! What better way to make people see religion for what it is than by having preachers “fight it out” and produce their most damning invectives on the opposing side! This must be the equivalent of handing religion a gun and painting a huge red target on its foot and saying “fire away!” So, for this reason, I encourage street preaching!