When Mormons Knock on a Christian’s Door, Hilarity Ensues

We’ve all experienced (or heard stories of) Jehovah’s Witnesses or Mormons coming to our door to proselytize. If you’re an atheist, your options might be to either (politely) say you’re not interested or invite them in because you want to have some fun and win a debate.

But what happens when Mormon missionaries knock on the door of a hard-core Christian?

That happened to (Christian) Jonathan McLatchie and his response made me do one of these.

Listen to how he responds to the Mormons and their silly, silly faith:

… Unable to defend the Book of Mormon’s veracity on multiple fronts (historical or theological), they fell back on the typical Mormon rejoinder to serious intellectual challenge. If you pray and inquire of God about the truth of the Book of Mormon, you receive a burning in your bosom — and that’s how you know it’s true. Presumably, the implication is that if you don’t receive the promised burning-in-the-bosom experience, your faith simply wasn’t strong enough. On the other hand, a positive result in this experiment is probably a consequence of a well-documented natural phenomenon known as the placebo effect. With these problems, the “test” offered by my Mormon partners in discourse was hardly a compelling gauge for truth.

Nonetheless, this sequence of events has occurred routinely in all of my relatively few interactions with Mormons — every single one of them. When faced with mounting evidence against the truth of Mormonism, their fall-back is consistently their existential experience — an “evidence” that is not only subjective, but which conveniently cannot be objectively verified by independent investigators. By framing their worldview in this untestable — non-falsifiable — manner, they essentially remove it from the intellectual chopping block. What cannot be, even in principle, dis-confirmed by evidence, however, can hardly be confirmed by evidence.

Umm… pot, meet kettle.

McLatchie explains that Christianity, of course, has all sorts of evidence to back it up (i.e. the Bible), unlike the Mormons who just rely on faith.

Mormons: How do they deal with all that intellectual dishonesty…?

(image via Shutterstock)

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the editor of Friendly Atheist, appears on the Atheist Voice channel on YouTube, and co-hosts the uniquely-named Friendly Atheist Podcast. You can read much more about him here.

  • Whio

    hilarious – v. true abt pot & kettle. Hopefully he rereads his own words & has a bit of a realisation!

  • coyotenose

    Sigh. Every time Mormons have shown up at my door, I’ve been busy on an important phone call. Every Damn Time. So disappointing.

  • http://chaoskeptic.blogspot.com Rev. Ouabache

    On the other hand, a positive result in this experiment is
    probably a consequence of a well-documented natural phenomenon known as
    the placebo effect.

    No, that’s not what the placebo effect is. This would either be confirmation bias or maybe self-induced religious ecstasy. It’s not the placebo effect though.

  • David Starner

    In fairness, Mormonism is a step beyond Christianity in this respect. The Book of Mormon is a recent creation that has absolutely no connection to history. The Book of Abraham is a clear free association based on standard Egyptian funerary texts (the original papyrus has been found).

    On the other hand, the Bible is tightly entwined with history. It may not be a work of history, but large parts of it are local attempts at recording their history, and there’s no reason to think that the works attributed to Paul aren’t, for the most part, written by him.

  • Brian Hogg

    Reading the entire blog article, he calls out blind faith in Christianity as well, making the above a bit of quote-mining and a misrepresentation of the article. In the next paragraph after what’s quoted, the author asks if Christians play the same kind of mind tricks that the Mormons do, and says that most Christians do.

    To be clear, I think he’s wrong even if he believes in Christianity for objective reasons, but lets not misrepresent the man’s words in the service of a cheap laugh.

  • Ida Know

    “If you pray and inquire of God about the truth of the Book of Mormon,
    you receive a burning in your bosom — and that’s how you know it’s true.”

    Or maybe you had some bad chili earlier.

  • Bill Haines

    Mormons *are* Christians. Duh.

  • Cecelia Baines

    Sing this to the tune of “That’s Amore”….

    That’s A Mormon

    When you see them bike by

    In a short-sleeved shirt and a tie

    That’s…a Mormon…..

    When you offer them Gin

    And they say it’s a sin

    That’s a Mormon….

    And don’t you dare catch their eye

    Or they will proselytize

    Oh those Mormons….

    And if converted should you find

    Ten-percent will go to their tithe

    Of, those Mormons…..

  • Cecelia Baines

    Or are into hot wax and some funky-ass sex-shit…..

  • starskeptic

    Christians with secret sauce…

  • Phil

    So exhibiting symptoms of acid reflux disease is indicative of a supernatural experience? Who’dve thunk……. I usually just take a Tums and it goes away.

  • http://www.facebook.com/don.gwinn Don Gwinn

    All the Christians have their little quirks. They’re all special in their own ways. I’ve got relatives who are periodically devout Seventh Day Adventists and others who’ve gone from Presbyterian to Jehovah’s Witness to Catholicism. None of them are really much less odd than the Mormons if you spend enough time with them.

  • ReadsInTrees

    Alas, I keep living in places too rural or off the map for Mormons to find me. The closest is when I walk around downtown during work; they find me then, and I get to watch their faces pale when I smile benignly and say, “Thank you for your well wishes, but I’m an atheist.”

  • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

    I find insisting politely but very firmly that they not return reduces the callback visits significantly, and I have to answer the door less.

  • Stev84

    Yeah, right….

  • Stev84

    Several of Paul’s letters are forgeries written later.

    The Bible may be called historical fiction. It’s based on real history, but significant amount of it of it are made up. Aside from the obvious nonsense like Noah’s Ark, there was no Exodus from Egypt for example, let alone thousands of people wandering around the Sinai for decades.

  • A3Kr0n

    From what I understand, Jonathan McLatchie disproved Mormonism using the same arguments he used to prove Christianity? But his religion is the right one, so that’s OK. I’ve seen a lot of weird stuff religious people write, but this one is #1 on my list right now.

  • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

    Another one I’ve heard a few times is that Joseph Smith and a few others were willing to die rather than renounce their story, so they must have been true believers.

  • Robin

    Time should not add legitimacy. If Mormonism survives another 1,000 years then people will say the same kind of thing. Stuff from the Bible sounds less weird simply because we’re all used to hearing it.

    It’s always amusing to hear Christians laughing at Mormonism or Scientology when their own stuff is just as weird. A talking snake? A man who lived in a whale for 3 days? A dragon with 7 heads and 10 horns or whatever it is that will appear during the apocalypse?

  • Bill Haines

    I think it’s funny when people do this sort of thing, and hilarious when the target is Catholics, who outnumber all other Christians combined.

  • http://www.facebook.com/gregm766 Gregory Marshall

    Hopefully he can step back from this experience like Julia Sweeney did. She speaks of a similar incident in her life dealing with Mormons in her “Letting go of God”.

  • bernardaB

    The best way I have found to get rid of religious visitors is to keep the conversation focused on each of them personally. I ask them about their sexual practices and if they have slept with each other or would like to, whether they want to have sex with me. I ask how often they masturbate, what their sexual fantasies are, and so on. If they try to change the subject, I ignore it and continue asking very personal questions. They leave quite quickly.

    Once I used a different tactic when a grown man arrived with a boy of 12 or so. I told that man that he could fuck up his own life if he wanted to, but that he didn’t have any right to fuck up(such words are useful)that boy’s life with his insane superstition. Then I started telling the boy that he didn’t have to believe a word the man said and that he could think for himself. By this time the guy was pulling the boy away. The rule still applies: always keep it personal.

  • starskeptic

    Not all quirks are created equal – Mormons have a gold-plated-fruit-of-the-loom craziness that is unique…

  • Robin

    I agree. It’s a little disappointing, Hemant, to see this article somewhat egregiously represent the original article as blatantly hypocritical when the author was clearly struggling with it.

    You could have added something like, “To be fair, the author recognized the hypocrisy and sought to rationalize it.”

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/friendlyatheist/ Hemant Mehta

    I thought I had done that when I said he reconciled the discrepancy by referring to the Bible. My apologies for not making that more clear. I know he *tried* to solve the hypocrisy; I just didn’t find it much of a resolution.

  • bernardaB

    I forgot to add that you should definitely see the humorous video on Youtube, “Kissing Hank’s Ass”.

  • Stev84

    Mormons are used to being questioned about their sexual fantasies and habits. Their so-called “bishops” routinely ask young boys if, how and when they masturbate.

  • coyotenose

    Oh no, I mean I WANT to debate with them, and chance keeps robbing me of the opportunity. And it would be rude to invite them back just for that.

  • http://friendlyatheist.com Richard Wade

    …an “evidence” that is not only subjective, but which conveniently cannot be objectively verified by independent investigators.

    Mr. McLatchie, if you’re saying that blind faith and warm fuzzy feelings are not an acceptable foundation for supporting religious claims, I fully agree with you. Can you please present evidence that can be objectively verified by independent investigators for the following claims:

    The claim that the god that is described in the Bible actually exists.
    The claim that Jesus was the son of/incarnation of that god.
    The claim that Jesus actually died and came back to life three days later.

    etc. etc.

    To save time, please don’t bother using the Bible as its own self-referencing “evidence.” A book that makes a prediction in an early chapter and then in a later chapter claims that the prediction has been fulfilled is not evidence of the book’s veracity about that particular claim, nor is it evidence that any other claim in the book has any veracity.

    I’ll demonstrate:

    Chapter 1 Everything in this book is true. This book says so, and this is true that it says so, so it’s all true.
    Chapter 2 Some time in the future you will be called a codfish.
    Chapter 3 Blah blah blah about a lot of weird stuff.
    Chapter 4 More weird stuff and boring stuff.
    Chapter 5 You are a codfish. THE PROPHESY IS FULFILLED!
    Chaptere 6 Everything in this book is true. Give the man who’s holding this book your money.

  • JordanL

    I’m 27 and recently left Mormonism…and religion
    along with it. Did the whole missionary thing too. What is said here is quite
    true. Like people in many contexts I was raised, indoctrinated, enculturated
    into a worldview in which God communicates through feelings and/or putting
    thoughts in your head, and sure enough after 20 years there was enough examples
    of good feelings at the right rimes to make me a believer that they weren’t
    coincidental. I kept praying to know the Book of Mormon is true until I did get
    a warm feeling. Add the complication that the church teaches only a very
    white-washed/faith promoting version of its history and considers any other
    sources untrustworthy, so most mormons actually think the doctrine and history
    have been consistent over time, make perfect sense, and don’t conflict with
    science or reason (or the Bible) in any significant way. Well, unfortunately
    that didn’t hold up to eventual careful examination of church history and
    origins of the Book of Mormon and Book of Abraham, and studying
    anthropology/archaeology in college. So I am surrounded by an extended family
    who “testifies” to me they know it’s true, who are convinced that
    anything that goes against that “witness” they had from god on so
    many occasions must be already flawed, and who thus are not open to considering
    scientific or historical truth that could in any way go against it. And they
    get get offended and think I’m the deceived one. Alas.

  • Bad_homonym

    It is confirmation bias as a result of suggestion, in my book that is placebo effect since the bias didn’t exist until the suggestion!

  • smrnda

    I’m very happy he uses the words Untestable and Unfalsifiable. I mean, that’s basically the religious experience – if you pray and it happens, it’s proof that some particular god answers prayer. If it doesn’t, either your faith was weak or god has a better plan.

  • http://www.flickr.com/photos/chidy/ chicago dyke

    i’ve burned a lot of wood in my time, and never yet met one that didn’t turn to ash after a few hours.

    that whole “rose after three days” thing is a little more believable… if they will admit that krist was in a coma or similar medical emergency. mostly though, i’m still waiting for the explanation about walking on water, sans clear plastic footing just below the surface. it’s odd how gawd let jeebus free-foot surf, but no one else. what a prick.

  • http://www.flickr.com/photos/chidy/ chicago dyke

    don’t you badmouth hot wax and sexxytime funky stuff!

  • http://www.flickr.com/photos/chidy/ chicago dyke

    i’ll have to try that one next time,

    what i usually do is whip out my copy of the bible. in classical Hebrew. which i can read. i say, “so, why don’t you read the passage you’d like to discuss today. you do speak the language of gawd, don’t you?”

    they get back on their bikes every time. i suppose that won’t work with mormons, but i’m a negro and they aren’t so anxious to convert me, for some reason.

  • aztech2020

    What a total waste of time!

  • Robin

    Fair enough. Perhaps that was a tad too subtle for my rapid fire reading. :-)

  • David Starner

    This is not merely time adding legitimacy. This is the difference between the movie Armageddon and a movie based on a true story, say Catch Me if You Can. The latter is not necessarily true, but it has some connection to reality. The first one doesn’t.

    The Book of Mormon doesn’t deserve the name historical fiction, any more then the Lord of the Rings does. Most of the historical part of the Bible does.

  • Poose

    I had my best Mormon moment ever a few years back. It was one of those moments where everything conspired and you actually felt compelled to act.

    It was summer and very hot. I had just gotten my second tattoo, an image known as Coop’s Devil (www.coopstuf.com, the guy in the upper LH corner) and as is usual with a new tattoo it was bleeding ink (mostly red), blood and lymph. It was also itching like mad-so you slap it. I had my shirt off (Coop’s on my LH shoulder) the aforementioned ingredients on my hands-and saw them enter my driveway…white shirts, little name badges and black ties (in 100F heat no less…) and smeared the mess on my face like I was eating something bloody…

    I had my wife deliver a bloodcurdling scream as they knocked-

    Opened the door and politely said “yes?” and smiled deviously.

    Up to that point, I’d never actually seen blood drain from someone’s face. One of them muttered something, then they excused themselves and left in a big hurry-and never came back.

    We laughed about it for days.

  • Poose
  • roberthughmclean

    Young mormon men must go through their lives feeling like victims of a punishing fraud. It must be a bit like getting the wooden spoon or lead chalice or something. Being forced to go on “missionary” duties in some country somewhere, knowing that you’re about as welcome as JW’s must be an…errr…cross to bear. Plus, you gotta giv ‘em ten percent of your gross wage. Ten bloody percent! And then watch them spending it building churches that look like wedding cakes. Why would anyone with two (or more) functioning brain cells, sign up for such silliness. Then on top of all that, you’ve gotta believe the rest of their absurd nonsense, knowing that the fellow who made it all up was a convicted con man, fraudster. They must have men in white coats secreted somewhere making more absurd stuff up. They really believe their “elders” talk to go! Put ‘em all in a santiarium I say. If you let them out, they’ll just go door knocking again and no one wants that.

  • Robin

    The points in dispute are when the Book of Mormon deviates from known history.

    The same thing holds for the Bible. Noone disputes those parts of the Bible that are historically accurate. But it’s when the Bible is not aligned with the historical record—or contradicts physics itself—that its claims are called into question, or rightly ridiculed.

    - The earth was not created 6,000-10,000 ago.
    - Genetics proves that there was no Adam and Eve because it’s been calculated that the smallest population of humans feasible is about 1,000-2,000 people.
    - Moses’s migration from Egypt has been shown to be untrue.
    - The biblical flood could not have occurred as described as it would have left some evidence.

    None of those “truths” of the Bible are accurate.

    Then there are the aspects of the Bible to are absolutely laughable which I mentioned in my previous post: a talking snake; Jonah living in the whale, etc. What about Noah packing every animal on earth into his ark? There are so many ways to show that’s not viable, but it’s ridiculous prima facie.

    There are people that believe all that. There are people who believe none of it. But then there are the people in between: they have different levels of belief, but they don’t laugh at those stories. Yet they will point the finger at Mormons and laugh at their absurdities.

    The only reason those same people don’t laugh at the absurdities of Christianity is because the stories have become inculcated into our culture.

    As a thought experiment, imagine it were possible for someone to grow up educated, but somehow be totally ignorant of all of the world’s religions. Now imagine they hear about Christianity and Mormonism at the same time. Do you honestly believe they will laugh at the crazier aspects of Mormonism but not those of Christianity?

    So yes, it is the case that Christianity’s absurdities are let off the hook because time has granted them legitimacy.

  • scott

    JordanL, that’s my experience exactly. I lost my faith while serving my mission and talking with people of other faiths. I soon realized that there was little difference between my ‘testimony’ and their own convictions. Just different names for the same delusion. Once I realized that, Mormonism fell apart for me fairly quickly.

  • scott

    David Koresh and Jim Jones died without renouncing their beliefs. They must have been telling the truth as well, right? Joseph Smith was gunned down by an angry mob in a scene where I doubt they gave him the chance to renounce his beliefs and live. Had they done so…

  • skinnercitycyclist

    please notice that “tum” read backwards spells “mut,” or dog. And what is “dog”spelled backwards, hmmmm?

    alternatively, “tums” backwards is “smut,” so there is room for all forms of belief.

  • skinnercitycyclist

    this a common christian proffer of “evidence,” i have heard David Barton cite it as proof. he mentions the deaths of the apostles and assumes that it is self-evident that no one would die for a lie. abysmal awareness of human nature

  • Eldoon Feeb

    Back when I was a Mormon missionary (hey, I was young and indoctrinated) and found myself in situations like that, I would say something like, “Okay, I see you’re happy with your religion. Have a nice day.” My various companions would either be glad we weren’t going to fight that fight, or upset that I’d shirked my sacred duty. (I hated that type of gung-ho companion.)

    The good-feelings argument is really the only one Mormon missionaries have, because its why they themselves believe (assuming they aren’t out annoying people just to make their parents happy). They didn’t study their way into belief, so they don’t have the answers. Oh, they’re supplied with a few bullshit answers that quickly fall apart under further questioning. But mostly they’re taught to reroute the conversation, to “answer the questions the other person SHOULD have asked.”

  • MariaO

    Walking on water is the easiest one of all. Just wait until it has been well below zero (Celsius) for a week or two and then NO problem. (Actually, I always thought this one was a travellers tale that got misunderstood along the way from the north.)

  • Sue Blue

    Not too self-aware, this Christian. No sense of irony at all. Thinks he’s got the critical thinking and logic arena all to himself…what’s that verse in the bible that talks about worrying about the mote in another’s eye whilst having a beam in one’s own? Yeah.

    That said, I have to laugh at the “burning in the bosom” thing. I’d be tempted to tell the Mormons I experience a burning in my bosom every time I eat pizza….it’s called GERD. Come to think of it, I get that every time I hear religious crap, too. I don’t even have to swallow it.

  • baal

    I’ve only had Jehovah’s Witnesses. The most recent really annoyed me since they knew (noted my baby related trash?) that I have a child and opened with a question on how he was being raised. My reply was polite, “We’re planning on raising him atheist.” They got horrified looks on their faces, turned and walked off. I was surprised at that lack of fortitude but just as happy to not need to do more.

    On a related note, I did report one Church to the State AGs office for repeated unwanted mail directed at my son promising him cake and candy if he could convince his parents to bring him to their ‘celebration’. They finally stopped mailing us after that (even though the AG declined to prosecute).

  • SeekerLancer

    Delicious hypocrisy.

  • Bdole

    Udon or Ramen?

  • David Starner

    No, the points in dispute are not when the Book of Mormon deviates from known history. You can’t deviate from something you don’t approach; it’s like complaining about the Game of Thrones for the places it deviates from known history.

    Just because you laugh at something doesn’t make it wrong. Wave-particle duality, for one. Talking snakes is of course absurd; no sauropsidas talk, do they?

  • The Other Weirdo

    I had a burning in my bosom a few years back. When I complained to my doctor about it, she prescribed some truly spectacular meds and the burning went away in about a month and hasn’t been back since.

    So, umm, does that mean that God’s answer to questions about the truth of Mormonism is a massive case of acid reflux? We have pills for that sort of thing today.


    So…….the Book of Mormon is true because it causes heartburn?