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Opinion

Religion salesmen push boundaries with aggressive advertising style

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May 1, 2014

Last week a few of my friends and I were walking back to our dorms when we were stopped by three adults and asked if we could answer a few questions with the promise that this encounter would only take a few minutes out of our day.

Being bright-eyed, innocent college freshman, we agreed to hear them out. The questions were what you could have expected; they asked us if we were religious and if so, what religion we practiced. Getting more uncomfortable by the minute, we answered their questions, wondering to ourselves what their end game was. Was this just a survey like they made us think it was, or was this a ploy to get us to take a magazine, buy something, or get converted to whatever religion they were about to sell to us?

It is important to this story that I let you all know that I am a Christian, and I had no problem telling that to the people who stopped me and my friends on the sidewalk. I was kind of hoping that it was a Christian group, and that my telling them that I already believed basically what they believed, they would skip the whole trying to convert me thing.

The next thing my friends and I knew, the “a few questions that will only take a couple minutes” turned into about a 20-minute lecture about how wrong our beliefs were about heaven and that we were sinners, but that God would forgive us anyway. When the parade of shame was over, we parted from the people with a foul taste in our mouths and free “literature” about what they just talked about, not really knowing how to feel about the whole experience.

Not only had they lied to us about the talk being only a few minutes, but it seemed as though their job was to actively seek out a group of individuals with the sole intention of telling them that they were wrong. We ended up just being extremely confused, not really being able to pinpoint exactly what their end game was.

Now, this has not been my first encounter with these kinds of religious salesmen, and I am sure that it will not be the last. There is no doubt in my mind that I will be offered some kind of religious magazine while walking to class again.

The thing I have always wondered is whether the people who take time out of their lives to do this actually convert people, or if anyone ever stops and actually fully hears them out. I cannot imagine that many people do. Nobody likes to be preached to, and as college students, we are at the point of our lives where we kind have already figured that stuff out.

We may still be looking for ourselves, but we pretty much have the basics such as religious beliefs and morals figured out. We know what we believe, whether it is in a god or not, and the chances of us changing our whole belief system at this point are slim to none.

There is a big difference between being open minded to other ideas and beliefs and changing what you believe completely.

I guess what I am trying to say with this rant is this: do not let people shake your belief system or try to shame you based on what you believe or do not believe. As they are entitled to their own opinions, so are we.

So maybe next time you are stopped by a religious salesman with the promise of “just a few minutes,” give them a sales pitch of your own. Let them know that no one can shake your beliefs, and if they are as holy as they act, they will have to respect that.

Natalie Howell is an alumna of UW-River Falls. She was editor of the <em>Student Voice</em> during the 2016-2017 academic year.