This Saturday on the streets of Cambridge, I was adjusting my camera to take a picture of a classic shark-finned Chevrolet when I heard someone said, "So you like American cars, huh?" I turned around to see two young fellows probably 18-19 years of age dressed in white half shirts and perfectly ironed trousers. With a church right across the portion of Mass Ave where I was then, there was only one conclusion. "Choir boys!" I thought. Confirming my suspicion I saw lapel pins on their shirt which said 'The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints'.
Interesting! The long name 'The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints' can be shortened to one controversial word i.e Mormon as members of this particular church are famous/infamous as. In the million odd sects within Christianity, these guys had established their presence on the Christian map by being prominent proponents of polygamy. Their founder Joseph Smith believed himself to be the next prophet after Jesus after finding a "Golden Tablet" of some sort sometime in the mid 19th century. No wonder that his more devout Christian critics weren't the happiest lot. I found it really amusing that these guys from the decidedly offbeat edition of Christianity were looking upon me, a bordering-on-agnostic individual as a possible convert. I waited and watched for what this conversation would lead to and how would the talk switch from American classic cars to Jesus Christ & Joseph Smith.
As it turned out, it took them exactly a couple of sentences. One of the guys fished out his digi-cam and showed a picture of his Chevrolet pick-up back in Arizona (from where he claimed to be). Trying to be polite, I muttered something to the effect of "Wow! The true-blue American pick-up truck." He went on to explain that this was what he sold to make enough money to come to Massachusetts and spread THE WORD (which in this case was the word of Joseph Smith, but in reality freely substitutable with any other religious doctrine in the world). Something on my face just then must have told them that I wasn't going to be their dream draft and they let me go with a tiny pamphlet advertising the website 'mormon.org'.
Whenever I come across such people, I try to part amicably with them no matter how unorthodox their fervent beliefs might be. In part it is because they scare me. Though I am not always successful at my attempts, it really amazes me every time that someone may have such unwavering belief in what seems to me to be essentially a second-hand grandma's tale. Being religious is one thing, but is it really possible for anyone to accept that the stories of every legend and every miracle that is passed down through word-of-mouth or personal interpretations are cent percent true? Do the words scientific enquiry and healthy curiosity mean anything to them at all? Indeed, is there any need at all for such things in their borrowed universe.