The Gideons are on campus again

I have mixed feelings about it.

On the one hand, it’s heartwarming to see all the students spurning the offer of a testament. They’re very polite about it — this is Minnesota, after all — but watching the students wave them away or say “No, thank you” is pleasant.

On the other hand, I walked past three small groups of Gideons this morning, and they glance at me and look away, and never offer. How can they tell? Is it the lines of debauchery and degeneracy on my face that scream “Godless!” when they look at me? Do they really have a hot-line to God, who whispers to them “Never mind” when I walk by? Do I have Resting Atheist Face?

I hear that can be corrected with surgery now. I just need a blissed-out, dull-witted look stitched onto my face, I guess.


  1. Sean Boyd says

    Maybe it’s that you’re humming “Rocky Raccoon” as you walk by them?
    I, on the other hand, seem to be a magnet for the Jehovah’s Witnesses, Hare Krishnas, Mormons…had a JW say she “respected” my being a “Darwinist” (her term, not mine.) Because, you know, the term Darwinist is used with such respect by fundamentalists. I’ve also twice been told that I look like a yogi. I was so surprised both times that I failed to ask if they meant the cartoon bear.

  2. Becca Stareyes says

    Maybe they assume all professors are godless atheists (and don’t realize that non-traditional students exist, so assume everyone older than their 20s is a professor).

  3. whheydt says

    Back in the late 1960s, the “First Annual Crusade for Christ” was held at UC Berkeley. At one point, a bunch of them went room to room in one of the dorms until the students threw them out and the university admin told them to stay out.

    I never encountered any of them, though I collected answers to their common questions to be ready. This was probably because they tended to hang out around Sproul Plaza, and my classes were on the opposite side of campus where various College of Engineering building were located.

  4. Reginald Selkirk says

    I find it offensive that what they are handing out is not a complete Bible, nor even a complete New Testament. It is a cherry-picked subset.

  5. PaulBC says

    I remember, and this was over 20 years back, staying at Hotel Nikko in San Francisco. They did not have a Gideon Bible, but a book that was placed by a Buddhist society. I forget what. I thought it was cool to have some variety.

    Have any atheist societies tried to place books in hotels? It wouldn’t have to be confrontational, just some thoughts on leading a good life under the assumption that what you see is what you get. It is unclear why humans should be so disturbed at having a finite existence. The little mermaid may have been appalled at the thought of returning to sea foam, but it seems totally reasonable to me and actually far less frightening than the contemplation of an infinite existence.

  6. nomadiq says

    You’re too old to brain wash. Their heads are full of shit, but not so much that they know to only spend time on impressionable youth.

  7. blf says

    Cats lick themselves to remove any bits and smells of their prey, so as not to alert their next snack / toy. Perhaps poopyhead hasn’t cleaned off all the bits and smells of spiders, kraken, zebrafishies, roasted baby snacks, chewy cretinists — not to mention the famous formaldehyde smell — and other athiestism debris?

  8. says


    Jesus sacrificed himself so we don’t have to sacrifice so many trees.

    Why do people always talk about the sacrifice of Jesus in getting nails pounded through his flesh to pin him to the wood made from intertwined cedar and cypress trees, but no one ever seems to talk about the sacrifice of the cedar and cypress tress in getting nails pounded through their wood to pin them to the fleshy body of Jesus?

    I mean, shouldn’t that have been pretty unpleasant for the trees? But who appreciates their sacrifice?

  9. says


    I think it’s possible that the Gideons prepped each other by studying a picture of your face, in case they encountered you in the midst of chewing up a cracker. I mean, if I were going to do atheist or secular activism on a campus, I’d sure google who on the campus might be famous for advocating theism and/or theocracy.

    Of course, I wouldn’t respond to the appearance of such a person by shrinking away. Instead I’d invite her over to have a conversation and/or publicly condemn her public advocacy (depending on whether or not she was respectful and was not dehumanizing in the course of that advocacy). Shrinking away seems like, well, exactly the wrong response if you’re actually attempting to change minds. Think about how many people have read Pharyngula and followed along with a conversation between two people, neither of whom were going to change the other’s opinions, but who together explored territory allowing the lurkers to educate themselves and come to a deeper understanding of themselves and the topic. Obviously they won’t change your mind, but if you were willing to engage them in conversation (I know you’re unlikely to do so, but they don’t necessarily know that) then that conversation might give them a chance to display to others what they believe, what you believe, and how each of you treats the other. If they were actually firm in their conviction, it seems like that would be an opportunity that they would welcome.

  10. says

    They probably show photos of the agents of Satan with warning not to approach. I had a similar experience with Jehovah’s Witlesses. They would bother me at my door and I would usually be very abrupt with them and they would leave. One sunday I was doing some car repairs in my garage when one walked up and tried her spiel. I thought “what the hell’ time to have some fun so while i continued working on the carwe had the usual conversation about how the world was heading for hell in a handbasket and it didn’t bother me a bit. She kept coming back to chat and over a few weeks I livened up my Sundays by short conversations challenging her beliefs. She typically became uncomfortable after about 10 mins and left. She eventually stopped coming but more than that other groups of them would go door to door doing their thing. Except they would bypass my house. On a couple of occasions they would stop,check a sheet of paper,look up at my house and check the number and walk on. It was clear they had a do not call list. After about a year of no calls the visits resumed. It turned out they were from a newly opened church and they hadn’t been forewarned. Just out of curiosity I asked if they knew my previous caller and if something had happened that she no longer called. Indeed they knew her. they told me she had problems with the door to door work so they had removed her from that to retrain her. Clearly I had some effect. Just a pity it didn’t last.

  11. PaulBC says

    I think nomadiq@8 is correct that they’re just not bothering with people beyond a certain age (or given it’s a university, anyone they think might be a professor).

    Here I had been thinking I had developed the most pleasant and effective way of brushing off Jehovah’s Witnesses, but now I just wonder if they take a look at me and figure I’m a lost cause from their perspective.

  12. whheydt says

    Re: PaulBC @ #6…
    Marriott hotels always have a Book of Mormon in the room. Usually a Bible as well. Not at all surprising, given the chains background.

    In spite (or, possibly, because) of that, the committee for a gaming con that I’m part of has found Marriott to have a very congenial corporate culture. At the meeting with the hotel management early this year–held on the Monday before the con started on Friday–when one of them asked if there was anything they could do for us, I mentioned that a hole in the wall between two rooms to run a CAT-5 cable through would be awfully convenient. The hotel engineer looked at me and said, “Let’s go take a look.” So I showed him what I meant. When I arrived Thursday afternoon to begin setting up, lo and behold, there was a neat little square aperture on either side of the wall, and I ran the cable though from one side to the other. Now that’s service!

    A number of other cons in the Bay Area seem to have settled in to one Marriott or another, so it’s possible that at least the regional admins appear to have discovered that there is money to be made off gamers and SF fans without a lot of hassle.

  13. whheydt says

    Re: Crip Dyke @ #13…

    There’s always the classic… Your god got nailed to a tree. Mine carries a hammer. Any questions?

  14. unclefrogy says

    well they might be only there targeting studnets makes sense
    I would also suggest that professor, you probably did not have a very warm and welcoming expression when you looked their way I certainly do not have one when I see such “missionaries” about to approach me. nor when they knock on my door.
    uncle frogy

  15. wzrd1 says

    @15, eventually, I ended up on the do not visit list.
    I’d happily discuss theology with them, compare other faiths, discuss history and frankly, their attrition rate was phenomenal! They even made the mistake of sending elders to my door, losing those as well.
    Alas, it couldn’t last, so after their losing around 8 members and an elder, they stopped knocking on my door.