My Opinion on Street Preaching – Sun 8th Jul 07

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??

180px-the_sun1.jpg

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!

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3 Responses to “My Opinion on Street Preaching – Sun 8th Jul 07”

  1. nullifidian Says:

    This reminds me of time when I saw an anti-nuclear power street preacher/demonstrator shouting about how nuclear power was ‘teh evul’, to which I had to shout over my shoulder in passing “yes, get rid of the sun, that huge, evil, god-made nuclear furnace in the sky!” My companion was embarrased at my outburst, but turned around to see the preacher look up at the sun before giving me the evil I. I just carried on walking.

  2. Spanish Inquisitor Says:

    I never had the experience of believing so much I would feel the necessity of preaching out loud to other people. In fact, I was embarrassed by any discussion of religion. Talking about it made me uneasy, which is why I think I was an atheist at an early age, even though I didn’t know it.

    So from my POV, seeing someone talking about religion on the street corner, to people who are for the most part ignoring him, reeks of lunacy. He could be talking about toe jam for all it mattered, because he had no credibility. And I actually feel sorry for him, like I feel sorry for the people who stand on the side of the road outside our local women’s reproductive center (read “abortion clinic”) with huge blow-ups depicting aborted fetuses. I want to say “get a life! And do something with it! You’re wasting the one you have now, and time’s a-ticking!”

    But, you’re probably right. Allowing them to speak their nonsense probably does more harm to religion that help, so let it be.

    When I was in London many years ago, they had a spot at the edge of Hyde park, called, IIRC, “Speaker’s Corner”, where people literally did get up on a soapbox and talk about whatever they wanted to. Is that still there?

  3. evanescent Says:

    I’ve been to London twice in the last month actually but nowhere near there I’m afraid so I couldn’t tell you…

    Cheers for the comment again though; agree with everything you said!


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