Saturday, July 21, 2007

Even in Texas I get "La Atalaya"

Let me start by saying that I absolutely do not want to offend anybody. I am fully aware that religion plays an important part in many people's lives. But I just don't like to be "saved". Or asked to believe in downright illogical stuff. I am neither lost nor doomed. I have a functional moral compass, thank you. And I have seen many hypocritical and dishonest religious people in my lifetime to know that belonging to a religion is by no means a guarantee of being in touch with one's spirituality.

When I was growing up in Puerto Rico we were constantly visited by the "Testigos de Jehová" (Jehova's Witnesses). It did not matter that my mom was downright hostile to them every time they showed their faces. Throughout the years she welcomed them with phrases such as these:

THEM: (cheerful) ¡Buenos días! (Good morning!)

THEM: (cheerful) Buenos días. ¡Que Dios la bendiga! (Good morning. God bless you!)
MOM: (annoyed) Váyase. No me interesa. Dios no existe. (Go away. I'm not interested. God doesn't exist.)

THEM: ¡Hola! ¿Podemos hablar con usted? (Hi! May we speak with you?)
MOM: (impatient) No. ¿No ve que estoy ocupada? (No. Can't you see I'm busy?)

Rather than scare them away, her comebacks made them more determined to come back another day to try and save us heathens from the fiery pits of hell. It must have been incredibly alluring, the challenge of making these non-believers see the light, bigger than if we practiced another religion. You have to understand that at the time I was growing up, there were not that many people openly displaying their atheism on the island. And I may be totally wrong, but I believe that even nowadays there aren't that many avowed atheists back home. So to "bag the atheists" must have been the equivalent of being drafted to play in the big leagues of religious proselytism. They always kept on trying. Over the years they left their magazine "La Atalaya" (the English version is "The Watchtower") every time they came. Sometimes they left little comic books, obviously targeted at us little kids, full of stories of the horrible fate in store for the people who did not heed the word of the Lord. Some of these were drawn in what can only be described as sadistic glee, and scared the crap out of me.

As a grown up, when they started courting me back on the island (I was living next door to the house I grew up in), I usually resorted to the standard "No thank you, we're Catholic", even though my ex definitely wasn't and the only thing Catholic about me was the fact that I had been baptized. Usually that line got them to lay off me, although for some of them saying you're Catholic is like saying I'm ripe for the taking. Or maybe they still remembered me as one of the Heathen Bunch.

Nowadays I live 4,000 miles away from where I grew up. But they found me. Lately they have been sending the Hispanic contingent to pay me visits in the hopes of breaking down my resistance, and of course leave "La Atalaya" behind when I complain about now not being a good time. Arg! How did they find me? How the hell did they know I spoke Spanish? I guess it's not that hard to figure out. We're in Texas after all, throw a rock and hit a Spanish speaker. Plus, the phone is listed in my name, so all they need is a phone book and a dream.

So as I write this, every now and then I glance at the "Atalaya" sitting on my desk, a memento from this morning's failed attempt at saving me. It's opened to a page where they answer questions submitted by readers. I can't help but chuckle. The question submitted is:

¿Tenía patas la serpiente que habló a Eva? (Did the snake who talked to Eve have legs?)

Unbelievable. Who the f$#@&^ cares! And why is that important?


  1. I actually had them try to barge past me into the house once many years ago. I don't care what you're selling me: steaks, magazines, salvation, whatever... you don't try to come into the house. This kind of "evangelism" is one of the things that gives organized religions (or religion in general) a bad reputation.

    Your title caught my eye because there is an old castle on the beach near my house called La Atalaya. It's a beautiful structure and hosts a huge arts and crafts fair every year.

  2. Yeah, I gotta say...I'm a Christian, no question, but this type of approach to evangelism (or any type that involves approaching strangers with this kind of attitude) grates on my every nerve. Honestly, I believe that those who use that approach are doing so not out of a desire to "help" others, but out of a self-serving motivation.

    I could go on a major soapbox on this subject, but I'll refrain! :)

  3. Half of Kyle's extended family is JW and I know they can be relentless. Don't even get me started on how they treat "non-member" family members. Ay!

    Anyway, I totally agree with Laura that this is no way to spread a message about anything.

    Sorry you are being pestered.

  4. I think you know where I come from, and my faith is very important to me... that being said, I am with Laura on this one... I don't think I've forced a Bible on you at lunch recently LOL... won't happen.
    As a Christian, my best witness is my life - not forcing my beliefs on others...
    and yeah, they annoy the fool out of me, too!

  5. At least twice the Jehovah Witnesses knocked on my door on Christmas morning. They like to show off they don't celebrate the day in any pagan way but are off doing missionary work.

    They were chased off by a woman with a rather vicious potty mouth!


  6. Hey there Ingrid! Ah yes, La Atalaya, no tienen remedio los pobres!! My mother would LOVE to get into verbal matches with them...oh it was great! I loved your post because I'm sitting here trying to piece together a response to a comment left in my latest post, in which I got served a heaping dose of moral/religious something-or-other....small world!!

    PS: I appreciate all the kind support and words of encouragement...I really do :)

  7. They found me on my mountain and now bring us Watchtower in English and German (I don´t know why we get the German one too) - although they haven´t been for a while.

    The first time when they asked if they could leave it I told them to do what they wanted but it was just going to be used to light our fire. However, we did have a quick look at the question pages and they gave us a good giggle: ´Can fat people get into heaven?´ The answer was no. Lots of bishops and priests are going to have to start slimming then, tee hee.

  8. Wow. I see things is such a different light. I am NOT JW, but I understand how they've been indoctrinated, right or wrong, and as much as I dislike their so-called evangelism, I believe they think they are doing what God wants them to do. Nothing wrong with that, really, unless it interrupts dinner. Just kidding. But I see where they're coming from. I can tolerate them. They are actually very nice people when you get to know them the way you would get to know someone else, and I do think they care very much about people, no matter how I disagree with their methods.

    I think the question about the snake having legs was a metaphor for evil in our lives and the many forms it takes. I have read "The Watchtower," and while I do not agree with much of what it says, at least they are trying to live good lives and spread the news about God.

    No, you don't have to be "saved" to be spiritual. I guess it just boils down to what a person's beliefs are, and I don't think a verbal showdown is going to change anyone. The fact that they aren't deterred by negative responses speaks of their character because my instinct would be to argue back. I couldn't stand the rejection they face, either.

  9. Thanks, forgetful one. It is always interesting to read someone else's perpective.

    My experience with JW, and many other christians is that they are nice as long as you share their beliefs or demonstrate a willingness to accept their "wisdom." There is not a respect for different opinions. People who are not believers are wrong and need to be put in the right path. That is what infuriates me.

  10. I was one of those "Atalayas" for many years. I was even an "Anciano". I believed everything. We would ne the ones to inherit a paradise earth and you "mundano" will die. I maybe was one of those who bothered you in the morning. Then one day I found I was brainwashed. This is a cult.

  11. Veo que te estas portando muy mal. Por eso quieren salvarte. Cuando vuelvan suéltales el perro, o dile que eres musulmana o preséntate como una nazi con cruz esvástica tatuada en el cachete. Puede ser que funcione. Suerte.