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Tuesday, January 19, 2021

FOND MEMORIES PROMPTED BY QANON

I read an interesting discussion yesterday of the likely future of QAnon, whose central organizing prediction is about to be refuted tomorrow with the inauguration of Joe Biden. The author of the piece (the link to which I have lost, alas) compared the prediction to the end times prophecies of Charles Russell which eventually morphed into the substantial religious organization known as Jehovah’s Witnesses. It all put me in mind of an experience I had 55 years ago or so while I was teaching at Columbia. I lived then in a Columbia owned apartment on the fifth floor of a building on 115th St. between Amsterdam and Morningside. One Sunday morning there was a knock on the door and when I answered it I found myself confronting two well-dressed, polite, but very insistent Jehovah’s Witnesses who had left their headquarters in Brooklyn to seek converts in the unlikely territory of Morningside Heights.

 

I really was in no mood for a fruitless theological debate but not wanting to be impolite I hit upon what turned out to be a foolproof response to their opening pitch. “I am terribly sorry,” I said earnestly, “but I cannot talk to about these matters.” “Why not?” the more forward of the two demanded. “Because,” I explained, “I belong to a religious sect that does not permit me to talk about any matter relating to religion with someone not in the sect.” “What sect is that?” he demanded to know. “Alas,” I replied, “I am not permitted to say.”

 

It brought the interaction to an immediate dead stop and they left. I felt a little badly since is a philosophy professor I thought I had a professional obligation to engage with them, rather like an off-duty doctor who comes upon someone having a heart attack. But I had not yet been to Zabar’s to get my weekly portion of bagels and smoked salmon and I was just not up to the challenge.

10 comments:

marcel proust said...

My father used to describe a similar encounter in a midwestern college town about a decade earlier. When they told him why they were at his door that morning, he responded that discussions (and questions) about religion were pretty personal and if they were going to ask him questions of that sort, he would like to ask them some as well. Was that acceptable to them? When they agreed, my father turned to one and asked if he was married. On hearing that the respondent was, my father asked how often he and his wife engaged in sexual relations. They left (him alone) almost immediately.

John Rapko said...

My only successful such encounter was philosophical, in the broad sense of involving reflection upon value and the well-lived life. In the 1980's I picked up the phone and a telemarketer began telling me about a superb camera that could be mine for a song. I said I didn't have and didn't want a camera. He said: "But you really should get a camera!" I replied: "I think I should get a job first." The end.

LFC said...

Jehova's Witnesses are still knocking on doors, etc. (Mormon missionaries -- although the label seems oddly archaic in some ways, I think that's what they call themselves -- also do so.) Btw, don't engage, but if you do, never refer to the theory of evolution as a theory (that the known facts support). Of course, it is a scientific theory, but the word "theory" in this context will mean to your interlocutors "I don't think it's true, or it's not proven, or etc. etc." and will encourage them. (This applies to the Jehovah's Witnesses at least, in my experience.)

PhilosophicalWaiter said...

Huh. I was unaware that those who take communion at Zabars were forbidden from discussing their convictions with the uninitiated. Learn something new every day.

RobertD said...

A question: if falsification of a central prediction leads QAnon to morph into a religion, will that not alienate evangelical protestants who are now one of its main components?

jeffrey g kessen said...

When Jehovah's Witnesses or Mormons come a'knocking at my door I always affect an English accent. "Oh, do come in, my cat and I are just having tea." Nothing, for some reason, scares off the two like an English accent and English eccentricity.

Warren Goldfarb said...

About fifty years ago I told some Jehovah's Witnesses at my door that I was Jewish, and they wound up apologizing for saying the name "Jehovah".

Anonymous said...

I wonder if Q of QAnon is the character from Star Trek Next Generation.

DDA said...

I used to use Warren's method, making sure to shield the horns on my head. Now we have a dog.

Fergus said...

Ha!

I sat on an academic panel with a Hindu scholar and adherent of the Madhva tradition. He informed the audience that his tradition restricted outsiders from accessing many of their sacred texts. Moreover, his tradition allowed its followers to safeguard its secrets through misinformation and lying to outsiders.

In the Q/A I posed the question, "How do we know you are telling us the truth about your tradition and texts?" He said, "Of course I wouldn't lie to this audience."

:)

Fergus