Agree to Disagree

April 26th, 2006

This past weekend I had a most interesting airplane conversation. After hours already on planes and in airport bars I at last landed in my seat on the final leg of my journey to Miami. Mind you I had plenty of liquor in me at this point to be feeling quite conversational. So, that probably has much to do with the conversation that followed. I finished reading an article relating a debate between people of three differing viewpoints on the future of humanity and hopes for biotechnology to help us reach that future. The article got me thinking all sorts of things, and I really wanted someone else to read it so that I could have a discussion.

The man sitting next to me on the plane was reading an article about aging and the ability of humans to live longer lives. Perfect, I thought. He’s right in line with what I’m thinking right now. Maybe he’ll want to read this interesting article. Only too late did I notice that the magazine he was holding looked suspiciously like the literature that Jehova’s Witnesses bring with them when they come knocking at your door. Oh, the floodgates had been opened. Dumb, dumb, dumb, were the words reverberating through my head as the conversation took an ominous turn into belief in God.

Well, as it turned out, the conversation went surprisingly well. In the end, after debating our differing beliefs in science, evolution, and alll things in between, we came to the conclusion that we could agree to disagree. It didn’t mean that he would stop pursuing the goal of Witnesses to convert everyone to the “one true faith”. But, rather that he realized that I was a lost cause. I in turn realized that he would never stop believing the words written in the literature he was holding in his hands.

The Jehova’s Witness publications do a fascinating job of twisting science to agree with the beliefs of their chuch. Everything that the man I was talking to had learned about science was from those little magazines, which by the way are written some governing body, a Jehova’s Witness information council of sorts, who decides what their flock should learn and what should be ommitted. He didn’t question a single statement in his little pamphlet. Quite the contrary, he used it to back up his points during our conversation.

I have a feeling that many Witnesses like this man I met on the plane have never questioned the things that they read. Never questioned that everything they learn comes from their church, or even some group of people who decide what they need to know for them. This man I met runs a study group in which he uses the Jehova Witness literature to teach others about the workings of God in this world, and how the flock can live amidst the constant advancement of technology, incorporating science into their daily lives. Did you know that Witnesses aren’t allowed to have blood transfusions? If in an accident, they can recieve saline and drugs to make up for the lost volume, but no blood. I told the man about a new blood substitute that is being tested in some cities. He said that he didn’t know if it would be allowed, but that his church leaders would give them guidance in good time.

Nice not to have to make your own decidions…

He was a nice man. We had a pleasant conversation. I think he felt sorry for me and my lack of belief. I felt sorry for him and his lack of a need to question. So, we came to an impasse where there could be no further discussion. I went back to my wine and biotechnology, and he to his literature. There was nothing more to say, just an unspoken agreement to disagree.

I wish a lot of disagreements in life could end as my conversation did. Nicely.

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