Movie Review: The Man Who Knew Infinity

by Brad Nelson6/3/18
I can hear you thinking, “Brad, why are you reviewing another movie that you can’t heartily recommend?” The answer is that you might be fascinated by the subject (mathematics) and/or are a fan of Jeremy Irons who finally (in my humble opinion) has done his first solid work in some time. (He’s okay in The Borgias but I got quickly bored with the series.)

Doe-eyed Dev Patel (God help me…I had almost successfully cleansed my mind of Chappie and The Last Airbender) plays the noted genius mathematician, Srinivasa Ramanujan. (It’s a lovely last name when you hear it pronounced.) Wiki gives a pretty good summary of the facts:

. . . an Indian mathematician who lived during the British Rule in India. Though he had almost no formal training in pure mathematics, he made substantial contributions to mathematical analysis, number theory, infinite series, and continued fractions, including solutions to mathematical problems considered to be unsolvable. Ramanujan initially developed his own mathematical research in isolation; it was quickly recognized by Indian mathematicians. Seeking mathematicians who could better understand his work, in 1913 he began a postal partnership with the English mathematician G. H. Hardy at the University of Cambridge, England. Recognizing the extraordinary work sent to him as samples, Hardy arranged travel for Ramanujan to Cambridge. In his notes, Ramanujan had produced groundbreaking new theorems, including some that Hardy stated had “defeated [him and his colleagues] completely”, in addition to rediscovering recently proven but highly advanced results.

Unfortunately, the movie leaves Ramanujan’s early life a blank slate. How did his gift first manifest itself? How could he do advanced mathematics with scant formal training? That must have been an interesting story. But remember: This is a film in which to enjoy Jeremy Irons (and Toby Jones as Littlewood), not to learn about Ramanujan (other than how to pronounce his beautiful name) or to learn much about mathematics. The paragraph above will save you a lot of time if you’re not an Irons fan as I am and just want the basic facts.

Worst still is that the Ramanujan we do get as an adult is played by Dev Patel whose palette consists of looking doe-eyed while acting as if he’s always congenitally late and/or had too much coffee. This is a horrible choice for this story.

Stephen Fry has a small, but fine, role as Sir Francis Spring who is G.H. Hardy’s (Irons’) boss. He has to give the green light for Ramanujan to start has presence at Cambridge. Jeremy Northam (he’s splendid as Sir Thomas More in The Tudors and as Anthony Eden in The Crown) plays first-class *#$@!-hole Bertrand Russell. He’s fairly tame in this.

Ramanujan is of the Brahmin caste. (Top Raman?) It’s a major break with tradition for him to go to England because his caste is not suppose to travel over the sea. But he does and the decidedly non-touchy-feely G.H. Hardy takes him under his wing as best he can. But there’s a problem. He (and others) recognize that Ramanujan’s theorems are brilliant (and uniquely creative) but what Hardy needs from him before he can publish his work are formal proofs. Yes, the math looks good, but is the theorem true?

Ramanujan is a remarkably highly intuitive mathematician, even by the standards of the greatest of the great. (For shame we do not see how he first came to this and how it developed.) Hardy tries to tell him that intuition isn’t enough. You must have formal proofs of your work as well. Ramanujan is offended. He says that the math is revealed to him by god. And given the extraordinary nature of how he comes up with these theorems (there is some good, if short, philosophical discussion of the subject) and the highly creative (so say the experts) way his math is structured, his claim is credible.

Unfortunately, Patel plays the character with such lack of depth it’s hard to be sympathetic for him, even in those moments when the film makers do their best to virtue-signal how ugly and racist the British are. (Hardy has a good discussion with Ramanujan about this, telling him that — oh, yes, there are elements of that — but what he is facing as much as anything are institutional jealousies.)

Irons is fabulous throughout this. It’s such a shame he couldn’t act opposite someone of greater talent and/or had a better script. This is a made-for-TV quality script with an A-list actor.

But you didn’t think you were going to learn anything about math anyway, did you? I’m not sure how a movie can relate the importance and relevancy of this subject in a way that people (including myself) can understand. But they do give a brief explanation of the Partition number theory. You can partition 4 in five ways:

4
3 + 1
2 + 2
2 + 1 + 1
1 + 1 + 1 + 1

And even relatively small numbers (like 100) have 190,569,292 partitions. I have no idea how it is useful knowing that the p of 1000 is 24,061,467,864,032,622,473,692,149,727,991. Perhaps it’s just a mathematical oddity. But finding theorems for such problems is the Holy Grail and makes you a rock star in the world of mathematics.

I’ll make you a deal. You can skip this movie if you run out and see A Beautiful Mind, another movie about a famous mathematician — in this case, John Nash as played extraordinarily by Russell “never should have came within a country mile of Les Miserables” Crowe. I’m not sure you’ll learn much about mathematics either, but in the case of Nash, you do see (if not understand) how his theories were enormously important for economics. The cast is terrific and the story of Nash’s life is compelling.

Not so much with Ramanujan as played by Patel, although some reviewers familiar with his life (he’s like the Einstein of India) say it is an extraordinary story — with much of it left out or changed in this movie. (Yes…this movie does have the feel of taking liberties with the facts.) If you do watch The Man Who Knew Infinity, let me know how you liked it and/or what you thought of Irons’ performance. I’m sure you’ll admire the latter at the very least.


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I like books, nature, politics, old movies, Ronald Reagan (you get sort of a three-fer with that one), and the founding ideals of this country. We are the Shining City on the Hill — or ought to be. However, our land has been poisoned by Utopian aspirations and feel-good bromides. Both have replaced wisdom and facts.
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43 Responses to Movie Review: The Man Who Knew Infinity

  1. Timothy Lane says:

    The Indian mathematician I’d like to know more about is the unknown genius who invented the modern numerical system, especially the useful concept of zero. (A film on creativity that I saw at Purdue included a short segment on this. One guy calls out, “Aha! I’ve done it! I’ve invented the zero.” The guy next wonders what he’s talking about, to which the first responds, “Oh . . . nothing.”) They were exported to the Arabs (from whom we got them, hence “Arabic” numerals) and others. My high school geometry text had a design that another Indian mathematician came up with to demonstrate a proof of the Pythagorean Theory. (They included the proof he showed.)

    • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

      “Oh . . . nothing.”

      Hahah! Good one. That “zero” certainly beats the heck out of of the cumbersome system of Roman numerals.

      If math only reveals what is already there (one of the concepts in this movie), how do we then think about the concept of a zero? Perhaps that’s one reason the use of it alluded mankind for so long.

      I’m of the opinion that these advanced mathematics aren’t invented as much as they are simply revealing what is already there. In this film it is mentioned (in an ironic way, I believe, by Hardy) that Newton “invented” gravity. Of course, he didn’t. He revealed some mathematical relationships and gave us a way to think about it and predict it. This is no small thing. But he certainly didn’t invent gravity, at least not in the way that Bill Gates invented (and/or purchased) DOS.

      That nature’s behavior corresponds with mathematics is remarkable (at least from our limited point of view). A Darwinian view of the human mind will give no reason for why a man should have the capabilities that Ramanujan did. There is no survival advantage in deep math. Why should we even imagine such things? For him, it seem to come as if in a vision. (That is certainly much how he described it.) And unless these advanced theorems were implanted in him, the idea that he was channeling them from some other source is not so far-fetched.

      • Timothy Lane says:

        The book I have on numbers and their evolution actually shows how to compute using Roman numerals, at least in their earlier forms (when 4 was IIII, not IV, and 9 was VIIII, not IX). It was indeed very cumbersome. Thank God for the abacus. With Indian numerals, it isn’t necessary.

        The ability to think abstractly may be a consequence of other aspects of intelligence. This, at least, is how an evolutionist would no doubt explain it, and it certainly isn’t inherently unreasonable.

        • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

          The ability to think abstractly may be a consequence of other aspects of intelligence. This, at least, is how an evolutionist would no doubt explain it, and it certainly isn’t inherently unreasonable.

          Where does mind or “abstract thinking” exist in the first place for it to be selected upon and thus improved?

          I don’t know what the explanation is for Ramanujan (or anyone else) having advanced (or even simple) abstraction skills. But what we can say about Darwinian explanations is that they can never be right because they can never be wrong. They have a story to fit any scenario. And if something conflicts with that story, they just change the story but not the basic assumptions. Darwinian explanations are exactly like the unscientific moniker of “climate change” which can never be wrong and is always based upon the basic assumption of man-caused influences.

          Proposing the divine is also a story to some extent. The one major difference is that logically a prime cause (from which can be derived abstract thinking in the first place) makes more sense than the myriad of just-so stories concocted by Darwinists. One is honest and forthright and makes at least logical sense. The other is dishonest and a muddle of just-so stories..

          • Timothy Lane says:

            Abstract thought could be a consequence of a large forebrain. Even the smartest apes lack that. Perhaps dolphins do, but then, for all we know they might have a capacity for the abstract, and even the transcendent. So far as I know, we still can’t communicate with them, so who knows?

            • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

              Abstract thought could be a consequence of a large forebrain.

              There’s no disputing that there is a relationship between mind and body. But it’s like saying that a cactus that can grow particularly large thorns is able to calculate the value of pi to the 20th digit. Size is only an after-the-fact question.

              The basic components not accounted for by any material explanation are rationality itself, including mind. Big forebrain. Small forebrain. But how could any forebrain made out of nothing but atoms ever intuit the mathematic theorem of Partitions as if by magic? Where in the atom or any arrangement of atoms is that?

              All materialist views of reality take for granted the mind….without which there would be no view of anything in the first place. That’s why all materialist views are dishonest excepting those who have never been exposed to a proper rebuttal of the narrow-minded materialist view.

              • Timothy Lane says:

                So I take it that you think the mind comes from the soul, which is presumably a literal gift of God not only generally but individually. Well, that works, but I’m not thrilled at relying on the supernatural so much.

              • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

                All materialist views of reality take for granted the mind….without which there would be no view of anything in the first place.

                Ding, ding ding. Give the man a kewpie doll!!!

                Just like the mind coming from the soul is no more supernatural than creation spontaneously coming into being from nothing and no one for no reason, i.e. the materialist view. As a matter of fact, I consider those who believe the second example to be much more superstitious than those who believe in a prime mover.

  2. Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

    Why only
    4
    3 + 1
    2 + 2
    2 + 1 + 1
    1 + 1 + 1 + 1

    How about

    4
    3+1
    2+2
    2+1+1
    1+1+1+1
    1+1+2
    1+2+1
    1+3

    or does it make no difference where the digit is?

    • Timothy Lane says:

      In some situations it does. In probability theory, combinations and permutations are different and relevant. I have no idea what the situation here is, but the example would seem to indicate that permutations don’t matter.

      • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

        Did you or Timothy follow that link about Partitions? In the first paragraph is the answer and in the second it says:

        The order-dependent composition 1 + 3 is the same partition as 3 + 1, while the two distinct compositions 1 + 2 + 1 and 1 + 1 + 2 represent the same partition 2 + 1 + 1.

        4 + 1 and 1+ 4 are the same partition but different compositions. Why anyone would keep track of such a thing and why it matters would be very interesting to learn. Or is just a grownup version of crosswords and other puzzle games? Maybe knowing this allows us to build stronger bridges from fewer materials.

        Of course, there is an answer to that:

        Among other things, the partition function p(n) of number theory is useful in Combinatorics, as it gives the number of distributions of n non-distinct objects (NDO) into n non-distinct boxes(NDB) under no exclusion principle(NEP).

        Now, will anyone throw tomatoes at me when I ask, “What use are combinatorics?”

        Here’s a video title The Importance of Combinatorics. It has something to do with playing with Tinker Toys.

        I was just making a quip about the bridges. But I found some info about combinatorics that deals with The Seven Bridges of Königsberg. I bet most of you never even knew those bridges were a problem. Probably your forebrains had atrophied from too much thinking about Roseanne.

        • Timothy Lane says:

          I started out as a math major,and that’s all gobbledygook to me. I know what combinations are, but have never heard of combinatorics. Presumably they’re related in some way. I probably didn’t read far enough to see the part of the order being irrelevant, but that followed from their examples.

          • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

            One really does have to admire the Ramanujanian brains (and minds) that can comprehend such stuff.

        • Timothy Lane says:

          The bridges of Königsberg I had heard of. I believe it has something to do with parity. There were a couple of islands in a river (presumably the Pregel) with 7 bridges, and people would try to cross each exactly once. Eventually some mathematician proved it couldn’t be done. Randall Garrett used this as a key plot point (there, it can be useful) in one of his Lord Darcy stories, “The Sixteen Keys”.

          • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

            That is useful. And I’ve got to get back to my collection of Randall Garrett short stories. But they aren’t going anywhere. I’m in the midst of “The Moonstone” at present. I intuit the only solid theorem from this is that the butler didn’t do it. But don’t tell me. Still have a ways to go.

            • Timothy Lane says:

              Right off hand, I’m not sure if I can ever recall the butler doing it in any of the vast horde of mysteries I’ve read, though the murder that got Rogers put on Indian Island could qualify. The Baskerville butler was at least briefly suspected, but Holmes may in fact have eliminated him almost as soon as he came up. Bunter was certainly helpful to Lord Peter Wimsey in solving crimes, but that’s a very different matter. In turns of true crimes, I can think of a few cases involving (in the Borden murder, it’s a maybe) maids, but no butlers that I recall.

              • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

                Butlers are at the top of the service hierarchy. They might hold a grudge against the upper classes in some theoretical sense but they are themselves very closely woven into the prestige of that class. Perhaps that’s why butlers don’t typically “do it.” Why kill the goose that lays their golden eggs?

              • Timothy Lane says:

                That may explain why maids are more likely to erupt. Perhaps it really was Bridget Sullivan after all?

              • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

                Maids are your basic victim-class Obama voter. They always do it. Don’t trust the man just under the butler either. And if anyone could be said to have done it, it’s often the younger brother (usually an unknown bastard child) who doesn’t immediately stand to inherent the estate. He is often working as part of the household staff or is otherwise attached. Usually the gamekeeper, footman, or chauffeur, in my experience. Almost never the butler.

              • Timothy Lane says:

                I read a book arguing that the Borden murders were committed by a bastard son of Andrew Jackson Borden. He wasn’t on the staff, of course; Borden was a miser and had just the maid. Abby Borden was working in a bedroom when she was murdered. She fell behind a bed, so no one noticed until after her husband was murdered.

        • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

          I didn’t follow the link about partitions so can’t comment.

          As to Koenigsburg, all I know about it is that Kant lived there, it was part of eastern Prussia and the people spoke with a funny (harsh-sounding) accent, it is today called Kaliningrad and after the fall of the Soviet Union, the Russians wouldn’t give it back to Poland or Germany for strategic reasons, and because it holds a submarine base

          I am glad Euler proved the problem of the Seven Bridges of Koenigsberg could not be solved or done as proposed, as I tried and couldn’t do it.

      • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

        In one of the answers at this link about the importance of combinatorics, I love the “He doth protest too much” aspect of this post:

        We might wonder: How important is “importance”? 🙂

        But for a more serious general response to the concerns that perhaps underlie your question, it is well worth reading this wonderful piece by Sir Timothy Gowers in which he talks about two cultures or styles of mathematics, problem-solving vs theory-building, exemplified it might seem at first sight by e.g. combinatorialists vs topos theorists (the latter is my example). Gowers goes on to defend the mathematical interest and importance of combinatorics, and seeks explicitly to “counter the suggestion that the subject of combinatorics has very little structure and consists of nothing but a large number of problems”.

        In essence (as I suspected), these can be little more than puzzles for adults. (I do believe there is a good use for combinatorics as one fellow pointed out regarding programming.)

        But it would seem there is an element that: Combinatorics are important because it can illuminate some other arcane theorem, B. And that arcane theorem, B, is important because it can illuminate arcane theorem, C. And arcane theorem, C, is important because it can illuminate arcane theorem, A. See? Now stop asking such stupid questions. Those intent on “problem-solving” are just party-poopers. Arcane mathematical navel-gazing just for the sake of doing so is but a legitimate “style.”

        • Timothy Lane says:

          Arthur C. Clarke once wrote a story dealing with this question of abstract math vs. practical math, “The Pacifist” in Tales from the White Hart. A supercomputer is being built by the military to analyze battles, but the commander is an idiot with connections that made it impossible to put him in a safe post, such as the coast defense of Wyoming (the actual example in the story).

          He insulted the programmer, who responded by designing the software so that the computer would only answer abstract math questions, not practical ones. Anyone who asked about military problems (and the computer could always tell) would get an obscene insult aimed at the general.

  3. Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

    So you take it that you think the mind comes from the soul, which is presumably a literal gift of God not only generally but individually. Well, that works, but I’m not thrilled at relying on the supernatural so much.

    The nice thing, Timothy, is that I don’t know what I’m saying. What we can say with some confidence is that the mind and brain are two different (and connected) things. I would posit that both come from God. He made them. How it all works as it does still remains a complete mystery.

    The other alternative is to use magic (while cleverly disguising this fact by using hifalutin words such as “emergence”). Mind can be said to just somehow “emerge” from matter. Done. Problem solved. Now go away while I try to get a million dollars to “emerge” out of my piggy bank.

  4. Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

    There would seem to be a correspondence or similarity between the mind/body problem and the physicality/mathematics problem. Does our physical world arise from mathematics or do the mathematics arise from the physical world? Or are the both subservient to some higher organizing cause (most likely).

    One is certainly physical, like the brain, and one is certainly immaterial, like the mind. Is the soul an additional element co-equal with brain and mind or is it further up in the hierarchy?

    In “The Man Who Knew Infinity,” you do get a glimpse of what it was like for Ramanujin to know what he knew. Assuming the movie is accurate (always a dangerous assumption), these mathematic theorems came to him like from above. That is his experience of them. And although I’m not Ramanujin (to say the least), have none of you had a profound creative moment when you thought “That couldn’t have possible come from me. It was channeled through me”?

    I certainly have. And, of course, “inspiration,” proper, is a completely orthodox concept. It’s just that you get into a little bit of a problem when you say, “God told me to tell you that you must divorce your hot blond wife so that she can live with me.” Discerning the ego (or just plain dishonest motives) from inspiration is probably always going to be fuzzy. But it we assume that inspiration is a creative process informed by and fueled by The Good, we might have a better time weeding out the charlatans and egoists.

    But if experience of mind is not enough to hint that there is more to this world than dreamed of by materialists/atheists such as Richard Dawkins, then experience of inspiration should be the convincing element.

  5. Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

    Ding, ding ding. Give the man a kewpie doll!!!

    I never had a Kewpie doll as a kid, Mr. Kung. That probably is a good thing. I never had G.I. Joe either. I never had action figures. Mine was a deprived childhood. All I had were real toys such as Legos, TinkerToys, and Lincoln Logs.

    Just like the mind coming from the soul is no more supernatural than creation spontaneously coming into being from nothing and no one for no reason, i.e. the materialist view. As a matter of fact, I consider those who believe the second example to be much more superstitious than those who believe in a prime mover.

    Well, I thoroughly agree. My Magic Eight Ball agrees as well.

    One of the fascinating aspects of this subject is that it is very hard to express a clear and concise opinion about the subject matter without relying on, or delving into, Arcania, which is not just a game for the PlayStation 4. One must exercise near-Ramanujanesque brain power to say something meaningful and relatable. It’s thus an interesting puzzle in regards to communication/language/logic.

    What we can say for sure is that any purely materialist view of the universe is satisfying only to those who have an emotional investment in anti-religion and/or have an investment in the identity of themselves as the truth-seekers who are so brave they are even willing to unearth and accept the pointlessness of their own existence. The mind itself as we experience it is such a clear refutation of materialism that only various disguised forms of intransigence can maintain a belief in materialism.

    But this fact doesn’t necessarily mean anyone’s religion is automatically true. I watched an episode of Planet Earth II the other night and it showed a pride of lions laying ambush to a fully-grown giraffe. Four or five lions began chasing it and guiding it toward where the head female was lying in wait for the final kill. The drive is successful insofar as the herding lions were able to lead their pray to a confrontation with the alpha female. The Xena-like alpha female takes a gigantic leap onto the giraffe’s neck and shoulder, as if trying to make an NFL tackle. The giraffe shrugged it off, gave the tumbling lioness a slight kick or two, and ambled off unharmed.

    Tell me now that this world isn’t harsh and full of monsters. For the giraffe it certainly is, and for us, too, it certainly is. Nature describes no lovey-dovey paradise for humans or anyone else. As Ramanujan said to the atheist, Hardy (Jeremy Irons), “It’s not that you don’t believe in God. It’s that you’re mad at him.”

    None of this gets played out to the extent it should in this movie as we repeatedly waste time in the stupid (and apparently phony) subplot of the wife at home in India and the scheming mother. But at least this interesting subject is touched upon. Irons certainly does not come across as the angry atheist. (Hardy may or may not have been in real life. Who knows?) Irons plays the most reasonable atheist. He declares “I simply cannot believe what I cannot prove.” That’s a fairly reasonable assertion in the context of how he put it.

    To believe in a Creator (a Supreme and intelligent cause of the universe) is not to automatically posit angels, benevolence, and puppy dog tails. There are too many monsters about to make that view of the universe so obvious as to forbid other interpretations. But the world is full of such complexity and intelligence that “self-assembly” makes absolutely no sense. “Some assembly required” is the only logical alternative. And that requires an Assembler.

    As to the nature of that Assembler, we can certainly wonder and most likely disagree. But he is.

  6. pst4usa says:

    “It’s not that you don’t believe in God. It’s that you’re mad at him.”
    That line right there may make this worth watching.

    • Timothy Lane says:

      What makes that so interesting is that for many, maybe even most, militant atheists, both theoretically are true. Something has caused them to be very mad at God, so they’ve decided not to believe in him.

    • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

      This something one sees every now and then when atheists, agnostics and especially ex-believers get upset when a Christian tries to bring them to Jesus. They get very upset.

      I am surprised and somehow grateful to think that others would care enough about me to try and save my soul. Why would anyone be mad?

      • Timothy Lane says:

        My grandmother hoped to bring me to Jesus, and Elizabeth shares the same hope. I’m to get mad at them?

      • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

        Well, speaking for myself, people trying to bring you to Jesus can be very annoying. Even if one isn’t mad at god or in love with Sam Harris, there can be a prickly “better than thou” arrogance in these attempts to “save” you. Oh, goodness, there can be nothing more annoying than those type of people.

        • Timothy Lane says:

          A lot depends on how and under what circumstances they do it. While I was living in an apartment, some Mormons came to the door to proselytize. This didn’t last long, partly because a wasp came whizzing in and I had to deal with it in a hurry. But I can say that I never faced any unpleasant encounters like that when visiting Elizabeth’s church (St. Matthews Baptist) for various social encounters (including lectures about C. S. Lewis by a student of his works).

          • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

            A couple of young Mormon men on bicycles stopped to speak to me once when I was doing something in the front yard. They were polite and friendly. I thanked them for their concern and we parted in a friendly manner.

            The types who Brad is talking about would seem to be more concerned about their own self-image than saving souls. I can do without those people.

            I think I already mentioned an encounter I had with some Children of God nuts many years back. They were not so friendly.

            • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

              Mormons have a very practiced, crafted, and organized approach. It’s hardly ad lib. Plus, frankly, I’m not sure they really care whether or not they convert you. They know they likely won’t. But it’s one of the steps young people must do and most do so cheerfully and are not too obnoxious about it. It’s a bit of a fun adventure for them. Our part in the drama is to refuse politely.

              One of my younger brother’s good friends (and I know him well too) became a Christian at one point and I don’t know if I’d met anyone more obnoxious. In fact, close to home, discretion forbids me from noting a couple other cases.

              I do a lot of work with Jehovah’s Witnesses and my best friend growing up was one. They tend not to be shy about their beliefs and are always looking for converts. But if a comet was destined for Earth, I’d put the JW’s first in line on the space ark. These are the kinds of descent people a society cannot function well without.

              But, good god, when I think back to all of the sanctimonious, obnoxious, put-downy religious people I’ve met in my life, I’d have a quarter of a novel already written. Yes, I understand the enthusiasm of new converts and make allowances for that. That doesn’t bother me. It’s the obnoxious assholes who are passive-aggressive about it as they are going to “save” you but the real message is that they are better than you. I make allowances for them as well. I ignore them. Or try to.

              • Timothy Lane says:

                The 2 Mormons who visited were nice and smiling, though I can’t say how things would have gone on if the encounter had gone on long enough (particularly since I had no intention of joining).

        • pst4usa says:

          You don’t really mean, “there can be nothing more annoying than those type of people.”, Brad. You might just find being forced to be spending time with Nancy Pelousy a bit more annoying, being forced to watch Say yes to the Dress, jus a little bit harder to take, or other forms of touture. LOL
          We humans come in all sizes, shapes and abilities, sharing the Gospel is something that is hard to do and really hard to do well. And since we can almost never see through the eyes of those we are talking to, we stub our toes almost every time. I’ll try to remember not to get too preachy next time we talk.

          • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

            We humans come in all sizes, shapes and abilities, sharing the Gospel is something that is hard to do and really hard to do well.

            I’m just being honest, Pat. I can easily remember a dozen or more incidents of too strident or just plain obnoxious Christians spreading the Gospel in an inherently down-putting way. That’s extremely common. It may be hard to do it right, as you say, but likely it’s not. It just depends if you’re trying to spread the Gospel or your own self-inflated sense of self.

            I like the way you spread the Gospel. You do it by example. Your kindness is always there. Your patience and good humor light the way. You don’t shy from stating your beliefs but you don’t push them on anyone. I could say the same for Deana, Glenn, or any number of people here. I can’t think of even one time you were preachy, although maybe there were times you should have been.

    • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

      Pat, you might like it. It’s certainly not a dog of a movie, although the subject matter admittedly has limited interest, despite the injection of artificial estrogen with the wife and mother subplot (which, from what I’ve read, are not true to life — the mother-in-law was not battling with his wife, hiding his letters home, etc.). And if only all atheists were as reasonable and of good humor as the one Jeremy Irons portrays.

  7. Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

    The 2 Mormons who visited were nice and smiling, though I can’t say how things would have gone on if the encounter had gone on long enough (particularly since I had no intention of joining).

    I admit that one time I didn’t shut the door in their face and sort of “played with my food.” These door-to-door types are obviously primed to get inside your house any way they legally can. Once they do, you’ll have a tough time getting rid of them.

    I spoke to a pair of Mormon yutes for a few minutes and then said, “No thanks.” Not being completely naive in terms of marketing and manipulation, it was funny to see their last-ditch effort to come inside, sit on my couch, and spread out all their printed materials. One of the fellows asked me if he could take the trash out for me. Nope. You’re not even getting a remote chance to step in.

    Here’s a 2013 article about the Mormon Church considering ending the door-to-door evangelizing and relying instead on social media. I’m not sure if they ever implemented that, but this account from a door-to-door evangelizer is interesting:

    Limb, 20, was not as lucky before he came to Beaumont. In Cleveland, he stumbled across a man who fired an AK-47 assault rifle to scare him off. He was not harmed.

    Those two occurrences did not deter the young men from continuing their missions. Ho Ching said the only option in a situation like that was to turn the other cheek. Limb said there was a reason for what happened – other than having a good story to tell later.

    “It comes down to your belief in God,” he said.

    Limb and Ho Ching still go door-to-door, but they recognize it is the least effective tool in their mission toolboxes.

    “The world in general is not the same,” Ho Ching said. “People aren’t as trusting as they used to be. They’re not as willing to let two strangers into their homes.”

    Here’s: Why Do Mormons Knock on Doors? This door-to-door work is said to prepare them to become entrepreneurs. Of less use in this article are suggestions on “How to React When a Mormon Knocks on Your Door.” Suggestion #2 is:

    Listen to their story. Ask them why they believe what they believe. Their personal stories will help you understand how others make these important decisions.

    Holy, Baby Jesus. This could only have been written by a Mormon. Once you get them talking, good luck ever getting them to shut up or out of your house.

    And as far as #1, “Be Gracious,” I think that overstates the case. One need not pull out an AK-47 and start shooting, but these are people trying to sell you something. And although being polite is fine, the need for people to be polite is exactly how they get you. Whether over the phone or at your front door, many people have a very hard time saying, “No thank you….click.” If you can’t do that, and if you think you owe them as much as “listening to their story,” you are sunk.

    Another aspect of this that is undeniable is the pod-people element to this. Many of those door-to-door types look like they came right out of “Invasion of the Body Snatchers” and their quest is to snatch your body as well, collect another chit for their soul-saving machinery that never stops, never rests, never surrenders. Basically they are Borg-like.

    When I criticize atheists for their own militancy, believe me, it is not because I don’t understand some of their issues.

  8. Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

    While many may find it irritating to be approached by Christians hoping to bring others to Jesus, I think serious Christians have no choice in this matter.

    Some fifty years or more back, I was sitting in church on a Sunday morning. During his sermon our preacher told a short anecdote about some famous late-nineteenth/early twentieth century progressive/atheist who apparently remarked that he was surprised at the lack of fervor amongst Christians in their efforts to bring people to Christ, and that if he were a Christian he would be out every day trying to convert people, because “if one truly believes the Gospel, there is nothing else so important as helping others to salvation.”

    This made an impression on me. I think it is quite logical and leaves little room for doubt. Christians are obligated to try and spread the Good News not only for their personal salvation, but more importantly, for the salvation of others.

    Perhaps they should try to figure out how best to spread the Word, but it is impossible to please everyone so they will piss-off some people no matter what. It matters not if others disapprove, the only thing that matters is to spread the Word.

    • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

      This made an impression on me. I think it is quite logical and leaves little room for doubt. Christians are obligated to try and spread the Good News not only for their personal salvation, but more importantly, for the salvation of others.

      I believe it was St. Sinatra who was already way ahead on this subject.

      I’m not at all opposed to the logic that if Jesus is true it then becomes an absolute requirement (and certainly a public service) to blow the horn of Christianity. In reality, however, people come to religion for all kinds of reasons. And it’s not the only horn being blown. And there are usually several horns blowing within any one religion.

      And even if one believes, not everyone likes wearing their faith on their sleeves and/or is zealous and exuberant about it (full of the Spirit like a soda pop bottle having been shaken).

      Jesus said “Blessed are the poor in spirit.” Perhaps that dude understood a much larger spectrum than most.

    • Timothy Lane says:

      Something similar came from Fredric Brown. He was an atheist who admired those who really meant it about their religion, such as whirling dervishes. This, he figured, was how believers should behave.

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