Me: I believe we are all soulless machines and that when we die, our consciousness ends forever, and there is no afterlife. Good is not rewarded, and evil is not punished.
Jehovah’s Witness looks genuinely stricken and profoundly uncomfortable, as though I have just revealed I have a loathsome and fatal disease, say, end-stage syphilis.
Me: No, it’s okay! I am at peace with this! Really!
Jehovah’s Witness: If you would just take a moment to look at this. ...
Jehovah’s Witness hands me a pamphlet titled “Do You Know This Man?” with a cartoon of Jesus that appears to have been drawn by a 1950s-era comic book artist. Jesus looks 1950s comic book “suave,” as though he should be in a smoking jacket, with a pipe.
Me: I do know this man!
Jehovah’s Witness: Good!
Me: This is Rex Morgan, M.D.!
Me: Kidding! Kidding! I know he is a representation of your deity, and I respect and honor your faith.
Jehovah’s Witness: He brings joyous news! There is no reason to fear death.
Me: I do not fear death, because I have figured out what it will be like for me. It will be exactly like 1918 was for me. Young men were dying in trenches, as were babies, from the Spanish flu. The Yankees season was in the toilet — their best player was someone named “Ping Bodie” — and I was blissfully unaware of it all because I did not exist, just as I will not exist after I die. I have no fear of that.
Me: You are a polite and sincere person, and I will under no circumstances be rude to you, so if you want to keep talking to me, I’m happy to oblige. But you have limited time to evangelize, and you are wasting it on me. I am a lost cause. You have a greater chance of converting my mottled hound dog.
Jehovah’s Witness: Have you ever read Scripture? There is comfort in ...
Summoned, Murphy arrives. Jehovah’s witness cringes a little and backs away. I realize with sadness and shame that people probably have sicced dogs on this earnest, pleasant person. Fortunately, Murphy instantly establishes that she is as savage and threatening as a corsage. She does this by wagging her tail so hard that her entire tuchus lurches side to side.
Me: Murphy, this gentleman would like a few words with you. You should listen because he is better dressed than I will be for my own funeral.
Jehovah’s Witness: Ha-ha!
Me: Seriously. Nice duds.
Jehovah’s Witness: Thank you! I like your, uh ...
Jehovah’s Witness is scanning my weekend-at-home outfit, trying to be polite. My T-shirt says “In Dog Years, I’m Dead.”
Jehovah’s Witness: ... house.
Me: It bothers me when religious people think that because someone has no faith, he must have no morals. Or be a hater.
Jehovah’s Witness: I don’t think that.
(leaning in, conspiratorially) I hate the Red Sox.
(unburdening self) With me, it’s the Cowboys.
Me: We’re going to hell!
Me: Okay, I’m going to hell.
Jehovah’s Witness: Amen, brother.
High-five. Laughs. Curtain.
E-mail Gene at firstname.lastname@example.org. Find chats and updates at washingtonpost.com/magazine.
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