9/6/10 Leo, early 20's
A young man, dressed "Goth" style, earbuds in, was walking down the sidewalk toward me. I got his attention and asked for permission to run a few questions by him about his beliefs. "For example, do you believe in a higher power?" I've found that starting in these general terms assures people that I am willing to hear about whatever beliefs they might have, and Leo gave me an earful. He grew up with Jehovah's Witness parents and has been exploring and experimenting with other religions and beliefs for years, from Satanism and Mormonism to Buddhism and beliefs about Greek gods. He said "I just want to de-convert my family from the Jehovah's Witnesses" but I could tell he hasn't found anything worth converting them to. His view of God, however, is a major stumbling block: "I basically think God is like an overgrown child who was experimenting with people and doesn't really know what he was doing, and is now just sitting back to see how it will all turn out." Leo's sense of morality seemed to swing between extremes, from going to people he had offended and apologizing for wrongs against them, to stating that he sees nothing wrong with abortion or genocide "because the world is just too overpopulated as it is." I wanted to help personalize his sin and accountability to God without going down the rabbit trails of controversial issues or hypothetical situations, so I asked him specific questions about how well he has kept the Ten Commandments. Though he could clearly see his guilt, he said "I welcome death. It's the next great adventure wherever I end up, whether it's heaven or hell or someplace else!" "You sound like someone who has no fear of hell" I said. He agreed, and went on to talk about other alternative beliefs, like he has a choice in the matter.