One of the perks of living in a western democratic society is that (mostly) all ideas are allowed airtime and are open for debate.
This Saturday just passed I was hitting the pavement in search of a SIM card for my mobile broadband modem.
I rarely use it except for when needed, so it had since expired.
I didn't find the SIM; Vodafone just keep finding new ways to frustrate their customers.
What I did find though was a street preacher.
Living in a NSW regional town, they aren't so difficult to come by, and most of us try to avoid them; just like we try to avoid pay TV salesmen, or guilt-tripping charity workers looking for donations.
I had already sized up the situation and planned my route to pass this fellow with minimal fuss.
Somehow though, he ended up shoving a pamphlet in my face.
I begrudgingly had a look at what it was - it was a pamphlet decrying evolution science as a scam to brainwash the minds of our impresionable youth and dooming us all to eternal hellfire and such.
This stopped me in my tracks, and I began to challenge the young man in debate.
I'm 28; he would have been no older than myself, and new to the 'job' of preaching the word of the local Baptist church.
The novelty of having a wannabe-preacher state that he believes the earth is 6,000 years old was too much for me to resist, especially given that I'm bit of a geek when it comes to science-y stuff.
Not only could I resist debating his standpoint, I was flabbergasted that a seemingly clean-cut person could possibly believe something in the face of overwhelming evidence for evolution and the true age of earth, which is the order of 4.5 billion years old.
Of course, we all know this type of debate has been done to death, especially in the United States, where radical literal interpretation of the Bible is at times a persuading debate against logic and reason.
I should probably state at this point that I'm not a hardcore Atheist. I have had periods of adhering to Atheism, but it instead morphed into being an agnostic.
After taking up macro and nature photography last year to help with depression, I did gain a new appreciation for what we are all surrounded by; even the night sky presents an overwhelming venue to contemplate one's own mortality and place in this little backwater patch of humanity.
And for me at least, appreciation for life comes from simply observing it, and finding 'salvation' could never arise for myself from the pages of a holy book, but instead from the sheer immensity and mystery of life.
Whether that involves a 'creator' is somewhat irrelevant - there may or may not be a 'God', and there may or may not be 'life after death' - but it is none of our concern, and it is definitely nothing to threaten people with hell over.
Back to our street preacher.
After we had discussed evolution, even so far as to try and explain something as complex as the Big Bang and the formation of the moon (since apparently gravity wasn't 'real'), Barack Obama somehow came up.
At this point, I knew that this conversation was a loss-loss situation, because apparently under 'Obamacare', everyone needs to have a microchip implanted in their hand to have access to it.
Obviously, this 'chip' would be the 'Mark of The Beast' - this would have made a very compelling argument for our preacher friend, despite the fact that the 'Obamacare chip' is a hoax.
I didn't even make a rebuttal, as it would have been pointless to tell someone who believes the planet is 6,000 years old that he believes yet another hoax and lie, and is perhaps being misled by his religious father.
He even went on to say how pious it was for Obama to call it 'Obamacare' - I had to explain to him that in fact no, it was the conservative political apparatus in the United States that uses the term to deride universal health care.
I also informed him that 'Obamacare' is only to bring America up to a healthcare standard on par with the rest of the world, including Australia where we already enjoy universal healthcare - and healthcare that he has probably received himself.
I ended that part of the conversation by saying that if Jesus came down from heaven tomorrow, he'd order that we heal the sick and the poor, and with 40 million Americans on foodstamps, that it was desperately needed.
He had no response, instead saying that I was "chasing a rabbit down a hole," - well, it was a very shallow hole and a very fat rabbit - easy pickins.
I'm not even sure as to why I tried to 'reverse-preach' logic and reason into this guy.
I don't think he was expecting an hour-long debate of his heavily misguided views, and I definitely wasn't expecting to come across such a public display of sheer ignorance on a sunny Saturday.
So, if you yourself comes across one of these so-called 'preachers', arm yourself with the facts and engage them in debate - challenge them, but be polite and always hold up a level of decorum.
As Yevgeny Yevtushenko said:
“When truth is replaced by silence, the silence is a lie.”