Captivating creationists

James Gurney (yes, that James Gurney) has an interesting approach to visiting proselytizers: he sits them down and draws them. It’s useful in that it disarms them and opens them up to discussion, but of course, it doesn’t get around to actually challenging their beliefs, and it also requires a degree of talent that 99% of the rest of us lack. Still, it’s a wonderful tactic. Except, maybe, it will draw in more Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses hoping for a portrait.

Gurney has more to his blog, too, and it’s a rewarding browse. The man is seriously obsessed with his art, and you’ve got to respect a person with talent and hard-earned expertise.


  1. says

    Well, it’s nice and friendly.

    Funny thing about that, though, I’m not really interested in being nice and friendly to proselytizers. Polite, yes, but polite in getting them to move along.

    And no, there’s little point in “challenging their beliefs,” because if they’re coming around to tell you “the truth,” they’re not open to any challenge.

    The upshot is, I wouldn’t do anything to keep them around any longer than it takes to finesse their movement away from the premises.

    Glen D

  2. Patricia C. says

    I think the guy has lost his mind. Being nice to the jerks only encourages them. ‘Get off my property’ is as kind as I can be.

  3. Karen says

    I recently opened the door to a couple of Baptists on my front stoop. For some reason I am still unsure of, I allowed them to peddle their wares. They were polite (as was I) until one of them told me that my recently deceased grandfather was probably in Hell for not being born again. They seemed to think they’d hit on something, telling me, “He wouldn’t want that for you – will you take Jesus into your heart right here on the front stoop?”

    I guess it was my lack of belief that kept me from going to pieces right there – offended though I was, I thanked them for their time, took the free copy of the Bible they offered, and wished them a pleasant afternoon as I closed the door.

    My family, on hearing this story, was appalled – they were surprised to hear that I hadn’t torn the man to shreds. They suggested I contact his church and inform them of his awful statements. They said I should have told him that he’d be the one burning for judgments like that.

    I found it very strange that they would be so horrified at his comments – to me, it was just another bit of fire and brimstone intended to frighten someone into a little bit of lunacy. Thoughtless, sure, and probably not very effective regardless – but no worse than any of the other nonsense peddled at front doors.

  4. dave says

    Nonono. The way to deal with door-to-door proselytizers is to pick a random (different) religion and counter-proselytize.
    I am reliably informed that the ones who you might be able to reach will pick up on what you’re doing and play along, and the ones who are just wasting your time will leave in a huff pretty quickly.

  5. Dean says

    As I worked in the lawn a few months ago, two young LDS men came around, wanting to talk. I told them I’d love to: invited them in for a bourbon or just a coke, and told them I wanted to know which wife to take to bed at night. When they told me they didn’t drink or use caffeine, and that polygamy was not a staple of the church, my response was “if you can’t drink or have more than one wife, why would anyone join your cult?”
    they left.

  6. Dunc says

    Funny story here… One of my friends used to be a hard-core injecting amphetamine addict. One day, home alone after being ragingly high for about a week, some Jehovah’s Witnesses show up at the door. My friend is only too happy to invite them in, sit them down, offer them tea, and rant insanely about anything that came to mind…

    They finally escaped when his girlfriend came home, several hours later. They never even got a word in. :)

  7. says

    I misread the title as “Capturing Creationists”. It would have been better.

    Me too! Now I’ve got six of ’em in this mayo jar. I punched some holes in the lid so they can breathe, but I’m wondering what to do next. Do they light up? Will they fight? Should I put some leaves in for them to eat?

    Hey, look! I found my old magnifying glass. Sure is a sunny day….

  8. says

    you’ve got to respect a person with talent and hard-earned expertise.

    No no no! That’s elitism! Don’t you know that any 4-year-old’s scribblings are every bit as valid as (if not more so than) this elitist “artist”.


  9. qbsmd says

    I never understood how Mormons or other Christian sects forbid alcohol given Jesus turned water into wine and specifically told his disciples to drink wine at the last supper. I could understand calls for moderation, or bans on drunkenness, but not a ban on something the Bible seems to support.

  10. says

    No no no! That’s elitism! Don’t you know that any 4-year-old’s scribblings are every bit as valid as (if not more so than) this elitist “artist”.


    I could understand calls for moderation, or bans on drunkenness, but not a ban on something the Bible seems to support.

    Why not? We banned slavery (thought I understand human trafficking is still a big problem.)

  11. woodsong says

    I’ve heard a couple of good stories about dealing with Jehovah’s Witnesses (or “Jehosaphat Witlesses”, as my huband likes to call them).

    A Buddhist friend of ours told the pair who appeared on his doorstep that he was Buddhist, and they started asking him questions about that instead of spouting their own beliefs. He thinks he might have “converted” them! Or at least made them think.

    My husband’s favorite tale is from his college days, when he was sharing an apartment with a few other guys. One of them was gay, another on the OSU wrestling team. They spotted the JWs coming, and had a few moments to prepare. The result? When the JWs knocked, they were greeted by a HUGE wrestler wearing a “Stonewall Union Gay Pride Weekend” T-shirt, giving them a big grin and saying “Come on in, boys!” while reaching out to put his arms aroung them and pull them in. Behind him were the rest of the residents (and possible a few friends), sitting close and making comments like “Oooh! I’ll take the one on the left! He’s CUTE!” The JWs panicked, stammered something about blasphemy, and fled!

  12. says

    I’m not overly proud of this, but it was funny. One Saturday morning, when I was about eight, two JWs came knocking. I opened the door and they asked if my parents were home. My parents were planting shrubs in the back yard and I, wanting to get back to my cartoons, told the JWs to head on around back.

    About five minutes later, I heard the most unholy noise coming from the side of the house. I looked out the front door to see the two JWs running like the very devil was running after them. He wasn’t; but my mom was, swinging a gardening spade over her head like a Mongol swordsman and screaming all kinds of blasphemy.

    I believe that was the only time in my entire life that I ever saw my Mom become even remotely violent. That’s religion for you.

  13. tsg says

    I think the guy has lost his mind. Being nice to the jerks only encourages them. ‘Get off my property’ is as kind as I can be.

    I have a friend who takes every call from telemarketers just to see how long he can keep them on the phone without actually buying anything. When I asked him why, he said, “I have nothing better to do, and the more time they spend with me the less time they have to bother someone else.”

    I think he should draw as many of them as he can.

    Suddenly, “Capturing Creationists” isn’t too far off…

  14. says

    I haven’t had a visit by the JWs or Mormons in a long time. I see them near my neighborhood but they never make it to my door.

    While overall it’s good, I do like a bit of confrontation.

    I feel left out.

  15. Benjamin Franklin says

    Not only Christians prostlytise.

    These posts remind of a time when I was going to college in New York. Being late for a class already, having to search forever for a parking spot, then having to walk over a mile to the campus, I was accosted by a Hassidic individual, who asked me “Are you Jewish?”

    I told him, gruffly – “No, I’m Quaker.”

    He replied – “Kvaker? Say something in Kvaker.”

    So I looked at him and said “Fuck Thee”.

  16. Nathaniel says

    I have a friend who takes every call from telemarketers just to see how long he can keep them on the phone

    Yes, this is fun, and actually easy.
    “Is this Nathaniel Xxxx?”
    “No, hang on, I’ll get him.”
    Put the phone down. Pick it up every five minutes or so and tell them to hang on.

    As for the real-life ones, my dear mother happened upon the best method for dealing with mormons and jws.
    “You’ve done this house.”
    “Oh, yes, a well dressed young couple came by just yesterday and spoke with us at length. I think they canvassed the entire block.”

    This not only saves you, but your neighbors as well, and probably provokes consternation on the part of their organizsers.

    That said, my favorite thing to do is simply to stand in the doorway and be athiest at them.

  17. says

    Slightly off-topic but nonetheless related, the Hays Book Festival is now running in Wales. One of the (many) guests is Hitchens. Today’s Grauniad had an article (in the second section) Just one question:

    Hay is full of the cleverest and sharpest minds, but if they could ask one person just a single question, who would they choose – and what would they ask? We brought them together to find out

    Julia Neuberger, rabbi and Lib Dem peer asks Christopher Hitchens, journalist, critic and author
    Q Why are you so angry about religion? Don’t you think your very fervour – and certainty – make you just like the religious extremists you profess to despise. And where’s the room for doubt in your analysis?
    A Oh Christ, not this one again. Anthony Grayling puts it definitively out of its misery in Against All Gods, reprinted as his contribution to The Portable Atheist (ed. C Hitchens) entitled Can an Atheist be a Fundamentalist?
    If I may, I will borrow his conclusion: “Any view of the world which does not premise the existence of something supernatural is a philosophy, or a theory or, at worst, an ideology. If it is either of the first two, at its best it proportions what it accepts to the evidence for accepting it, knows what would refute it, and stands ready to revise itself in the light of new evidence. This is the essence of science. It comes as no surprise that no wars have been fought, pogroms carried out or burnings conducted at the stake over rival theories in biology or astrophysics.”
    Clear? It’s not a matter of “room” for doubt. The whole analytical method of humanist materialism is based on scepticism. We take nothing on faith. Imagine what a fortune could be made by a palaeontologist who unearthed human bones and dinosaur bones in the same layer of sediment. I will bet my house that this discovery will not be made, but my bet is not entirely, or at all, an article of belief. It is, rather, a conviction based on the study of evidence.
    As to the manner in which I express myself, it rather depends on the antagonist. I’m normally renowned for my patience and good humour, but I admit to being easily bored and, when I come up against, say, a self-righteous rabbi, can be tempted to succumb to sarcasm. I think that may be where your confusion arises. Oh, and I do not “profess” to despise religious extremists. I really do despise them.

  18. themadlolscientist says

    My dad the Rev used to get a tremendous kick out of getting them to talk themselves in circles. Nothing like knowing the Bible better than they do and nailing them on their own turf! They run with their tails between their legs. You can see the vertigo.

    I’ve done it a few times too. Once a couple of guys – one maybe 40 (with the requisite enormous hair) and the other a skinny kid who couldn’t have been more than 18 and was probably out on the “watch and learn, grasshopper” thing – came to my door and started yammering on about fornication. I was about 7 months pregnant at the time and very married, and I let the older guy yaddayaddayakyak for a couple of minutes and flip back and forth in his Bible until I thought the pages were going to catch fire from the atmospheric friction, then I calmly looked at him and asked:

    “Why are you so obsessed with sex?”

    The guy literally couldn’t get a word out of his mouth for about half a minute. Finally he practically grabbed his equally freaked-out protegé and dragged him away.

    But I think the greatest thing I ever did with those door-to-door salvation salesmen was when a pair of Mormon missionaries came to the door when my ex and I were living together. We saw them coming in time to pop a couple of beers, mess up our hair, button my shirt up crooked, undo his belt and unzip his zipper, and answer the door, beer cans in hand, acting blitzed out of our minds.

    I’m sure we scared the hell out of ’em. I know they were embarrassed out of their minds. We never saw another Mormon missionary again.

  19. Sage says

    I like Penn Jillette’s method of dealing with proselytizers: he strips completely naked, then swings the door wide open and yells “Come on in, let’s talk religion!”

  20. Paul Meade, M.D. says

    One of my classmates in medical school told a story about what he and a friend once did to a couple of JW’s that were knocking on doors in their neighborhood in college. They told the hapless duo at the door that they would listen to them talk about their religion if they could tell them about theirs. After the proselytizers had finished, my friend began, “Well, we’re Druids and we believe in celebrating the solstice with a human sacrifice”.

    The visitors beat a hasty retreat, so I was told.

  21. tsg says

    My grandmother used to open the door and, in that tone of voice grandmothers throughout time have perfected and used exclusively to humor grandchildren that insist on telling them something they have no interest in, ask them “and what’s your god’s name?”

    It’s quite amusing seeing a 40-something year-old man suddenly turned into a five-year-old talking about his invisible friend.

  22. themadlolscientist says

    Penn Jillette, all 6’5″ of him, bare-ass naked? That would be enough to scare a blind man!=8-O

  23. Buzz Buzz says


    They’ll often claim it was non-alcoholic wine. There’s actually a bible verse that can be interpreted to mean such.

  24. Science Goddess says

    You can’t see my house from the street, my 150+ lb Great Pyrenees dogs bite. “Beware of Dog” signs everywhere.

    No proselytizers!


  25. Kagehi says

    In the vein of “And what is your god’s name?”, you could always ask them why in the world you should worship some upstart son (Yahweh), who *claims* to be the real, one true god, instead of the real one (El):

    Though, you would probably have to have the right un-edited version of the Bible handy and the correct passages to show them. lol

    I mean really, I am no where good enough at this stuff to manage it, but it would be damn funny seeing them scramble for an explanation of why they figure its OK to follow one uppity brat, out of several, who are the “sons” of the true god, while denying their father. ;)

  26. Lyle G says

    Once entertained a couple of Mormons by chatting about ‘Mormonism in Science Fiction,’ (This was before Orson Card was known)Kept them completely off the topic of conversion.

  27. JeffreyD says

    Years ago, living in a small, hot apartment in summer with no a/c and only one small window that faced an alley, oh, and in the deep, deep south. Worked nights and used to come home, strip and live in the tub ala Marat. Heard knocking followed by slams and/or curses up and down each floor and knew either Mormons or JW’s were about. Since I was babysitting a boa for a friend, I waited for the knock, rose naked and dripping from the bath, draped snake around neck and opened door. To the two bug eyed and earnest people there, I passed the information that I was in the middle of an aqua-satanic ritual and could they come back later. They left the building and the neighborhood at a pretty high rate of speed. I think I am as proud of that as of anything I have ever done. I know I enjoyed it more than most other pranks.

    Ciao y’all

  28. Isaac says

    @17, Benjamin Franklin

    “I was accosted by a Hassidic individual, who asked me “Are you Jewish?”


    He wasn’t trying to convert you.

    This might be useful information for the rest of you as well. If a bearded, hatted person (or their black-clothed child) comes up to you and asks “Are you Jewish”, just respond “no”.

    I’m serious. They don’t proselytize to non-Jews. They will immediately ignore you or turn away if you say no. If you say “yes”, they will probably ask you to say a prayer with them or participate in a Jewish ritual depending on the time of year.

  29. Benjamin Franklin says


    I had heard their pitch before. What they were actually soliciting was funding for, and participation in the JDL. This was back in the ’70s.

    Shit! it doesn’t seem like it was that long ago – Well, better dust off the Doobie Brothers albums.

  30. hexag1 says

    I totally emailed this link to PZ, and he totally blogged it!
    I bask in the reflected glory.

  31. Onkel Bob says

    While dissecting a chicken for the the night’s dinner, 3 missionaries came to the door. Opening the door I saw it was a man, woman, and child. Without missing a beat I waved the 12″ cleaver still in my hand and exclaimed in a mock mad scientist voice, “Children! You brought children for the sacrifice!”

  32. DLC says

    Once upon a time I worked the night shift.
    I was home, asleep in mid-day, when I was awoken by several rings at the doorbell. I got out of bed, threw some shorts on, and walked to the other end of the house, thoroughly annoyed at having been woken up. I yanked the door open and said “What!” at the two MiB-dressed proselytizers at the door.
    Imagine a man topping out at about 195cm, and tipping the scales with about 119kg worth of mass, unshaven, sweaty and with red-rimmed eyes staring down at a pair of religious zealots. They apologized and left.

  33. Serena says

    Well, I feel a bit of an athority on this topic as I have stood on both sides of the door. I was raised a JW (I’m still recovering) and so went “door to door” many a time growing up.
    You people do the strangest things! :) I have seen people answer the door naked, or armed, or naked and armed. One of my most memorible experiences was when I was only about 5 or 6 and was put up in the front so my cuteness could be cashed in on. I said my little scripted and rehearsed line and the woman at the door promtly flew into a full blown rage attack yelling and screaming I can’t remember what. I was terrified. I ran back to the car crying and shaking. The woman later came over an apoligized for yelling in my presence and said that it was not me that mad her angry.

    Looking back, I am now the one who feels angry. Not at the woman who answered the door but at my parents and the other adults who make children do “their dirty work”. I had no idea what I was saying, I was just trying to please my parents. The JW’s I have been around seem to continually put their kids in these types of situations.
    My only request (and I am sure that I probably really don’t even have to make it) is to restrain yourselfs when there are kids around. Seeing people answer the door naked (while very funny) is a bit scary when your only 12. It did seem to reinforce what my parents told me about people in “the world”. They like to paint everybody who is not a JW in a very nagative and evil light. It didn’t take me long to realize that they were completely wrong and that it is really the other church members that were fake and only conditionaly good.

    My experiences as an adult have been extremely liberating. I no longer fear the supposed athority of the “Elders” or other big wigs from the religion. I was just recently able to very calmly (and eloquently, I might add :)) handle a discusion with an Elder which ended in me feeling vindicated and even more sure of my own viewpoint. But there just so full of BS that it’s easy.

    I now look forward to giving them a hard time and chalenging everything that they say.

  34. zilch says

    I loved Dinotopia, and my kids did too. Too bad the film was such trash. Gurney, like Tolkien, is one of those artists whose smallest details suggest a whole world behind them.

  35. Mike says

    Re: #15

    I didn’t know any of my friends posted here, tsg. I have said the exact same thing to a number of people. The one thing telemarketers can’t afford to lose is time. The longer I can keep them on the phone, the worse their numbers look. If they don’t make their quota, they get fired. The way I see it, it’s a win-win-win. I make the telemarketing industry a less-attractive place to work, I localize a few telemarketing cooties to my phone for a while, and I get to amuse myself in the process. One of my favorite exchanges when something like this:

    Indian Telemarketer: Hello, my name is Chuck, and I’m calling with a special offer for some random credit card.

    Me: Sounds great, how did I get selected?

    IT: This offer is only for well-qualified people.

    Me: I must be special. I have a neighbor who is a pretty good guy. He’s Jewish, if that matters. Can he qualify for this card?

    IT: No sir. This is only for you.

    Me: But not my neighbor? It’s because he’s a Jew, isn’t it?

    IT (panicking): No, sir. I don’t select the customers. Your name came up on my computer.

    Me: Do you mean to tell me that your *computer* is anti-Semitic?

    IT: No sir! It’s… um…

    Me: Tell me, CHUCK, if that *is* your real name, why would I want to use a credit card from a company that uses Jew-hating computers?

    IT: ARRGGHHHH!!!!!

    Me: I’d like to speak to your supervisor.


    I also demand that any telemarketer who calls with a credit card offer must be able to define “APR.” It’s great fun.

  36. Kagehi says

    Had one year when I was a kid when some nitwit played the, “my kid is cute, so can get me in the door card”, by trying to shove the kid *through* the door and into the house. The dog we had, which was an ex-police dog, took that as an attack on the family and nearly ate the kid. But oh no, it was the **dogs** fault, not the stupid half wit that nearly got her kid killed shoving them into someone’s house.

  37. JohnB says

    To get rid of proselytizers one could always draw a chalk outline of a Jehovah’s Witness in the driveway and scatter a few tracts around. Oh, and some yellow “crime scene” tape strung up would be a nice touch.
    Actually, I liked Gurney’s approach. He gets a free model and JW’s have a nice encounter with a great artist.

  38. JohnB says

    To get rid of proselytizers one could always draw a chalk outline of a Jehovah’s Witness in the driveway and scatter a few tracts around. Perhaps some “crime scene” tape for an added touch of authenticity.

    Actually, I liked Gurney’s approach. He gets a free model and the JW’s have a nice encounter with a great artist.