Your hangover is a punishment from god

People promoting religion at my door make me want to drink. Of course, just the appearance of this couple could drive someone to guzzle mass quantities of grain alcohol. The woman had a black dress

People promoting religion at my door make me want to drink.

Of course, just the appearance of this couple could drive someone to guzzle mass quantities of grain alcohol. The woman had a black dress, green sweater despite the heat, black hair and a lot of angry rouge. The guy was a Phil Donahue copy in gray and kind of fury on top.

Apparently, I'm going to have the fate of being one of the appointed 144,000 of us to go to heaven, or live in a beautiful kingdom on earth, or ... I'm still not clear on what the third alternative is, but I sense it's not fun.

Perhaps I was foolish, but I tried to discuss spirit with these folks. When I made the statement that gay people are as accepted by God as anyone else, per spiritual axiom, I was told, "We don't debate," and the pair walked off. The witch-like one at least agreed that many religious people's treatment of gays is a bigger "sin" than actually being gay. But, she said, "homosexuals can still change, become heterosexual and stop sinning."

Supporting the spiritual rights of my gay friends at least made the couple go away. We'd discussed other issues as well, but it became clear that I, smooth-tongued intellectual that I tried to be, was being cursed — in the very least, as one of the misguided; at the most, as the devil incarnate.

Investigating, I found that most of the neighborhood was bothered by these pests. Apparently, raising ire is part of the witnessing process. In other words, we of many religions were being used as the mechanism for the personal development of two members of one religion.

Not wanting to deprive the door-to-door folks of this benefit, I met with the neighbors and we came up with future strategies for the Sunday walkers. The point of each strategy is to give the necessary spiritual exercise to those who demand it and, at the same time, make them go away as quickly as possible. Here's a list:

· Just say you're Catholic or Jewish or Buddhist. Having an entrenched dogma attached to your every word will tend to make religious promoters give up sooner.

· Be prepared. Keep a pile of spiritual literature by the door. When such salespeople show up, give them yours before they give you theirs. Preach the contents of your handouts until they leave, hopefully in a more enlightened state.

· Network with your neighbors. Have a circular phone call chain set up. Whoever first spots the witch and werewolf calls the next number in the chain. Suddenly, everyone answering a door is holding a cigarette in a limp-wristed fashion, wearing pink clothes and swiveling their hips. Everyone camps it up to the max and invites only the same-sex witness in for a gin and tonic.

· My own idea, requiring the most preparation, didn't get a lot of acceptance, but it's my favorite repellent: Everyone purchases or makes devil costumes for their children and pets, who will be waiting joyously in the family room, back yard or garage. Involve the in-God's-namers in rational discussion. After three minutes, state the following: "God loves gays, winos, atheists and even you. God is like a very fun baseball game formed spontaneously by children. Certain children are standing against the school building with their noses to the bricks, crying because the game won't work just the way they want it to. Everyone in the game knows that these wayward children are among the best players. Everyone in the game is simply waiting with open arms for all to return. Christ, Buddha and Mohammed, among others, are arrows pointing the way to a path to the game. People calling the left-out children sinners are negligent fools if not evil beings who are trying to ruin the game, and they actually feel this deep inside on a lake of fire and pain. Would you all like a kiss?"

At this point, the intruders will invariably walk off while sending a verbal curse of some sort in your devilish direction. Now the fun begins as devil children, dogs, cats and hamsters barrel after the frightened pair until they either faint or retreat to their car, driving, reckless and screaming, toward the horizon. Having your community install speed bumps on all neighborhood roads can only enhance the entire process.

An alternative to all this effort is to buy into any given religion showing up on your doorstep. Such buy-in is probably OK if you know that the motivation is to get something from you. Get selfish about it, by all means, and leave others alone. "Sure, I want to be one of the chosen few to enter paradise, and I'm going to work for that."

Come to think of it, if you're a man, you have all sorts of pleasurable options when it comes to choosing a religion. Yes, you too can have a harem, its size limited only by your resources and the acceptance or rejection of like-minded females. Gee, there's even more than one religion promoting this practice. Or, if you're a more young at heart male, there's at least one religion out there with proponents for the prodigious consumption of high-quality dope, good music, wholesome food and lots of sex, preferably without using birth control. Pregnancy is totally welcome, but marriage isn't required.

There are also plenty of ways for both men and women to have fun making moral pronouncements and political statements, all in the name of whatever religion.

These options are attractive unless you happen to be into tangible forms of spiritual advancement, which tend to be impersonal and open to all. But these practices — Christian mysticism, Zen meditation, Yoga and so on — are tough and take lots of work for most of us. If you're real lucky, you can surrender and lose your ego without such pain. I suspect that the individual who can instantly reach such a state is very rare. Most of us simply are covering our all-too-human butts, trying not to pay our dues and hiding behind the hope that we're among the blessed.

Applying any of the principles common to all religions is often easier thought than done. Can you imagine "Do to others as you would have them do to you" applied to every action every day? Wow, what a concept. Real practice is simpler in conception but often much harder in action than handing out leaflets door to door.

Now that I've said that, I guess I have to revise my plans. I heard of an option for door-to-door people that might be even better than the devil brigade, although even more difficult to implement for a big ego like me. Open the door and say, "Hi. Sure, folks, I'd like to hear about your religion. I'm very interested. Tell you what, I've got a half an hour and some snacks on the table. If you want, come in for refreshments. Tell me about your religion for 15 minutes, then I'll spend 15 minutes telling you about mine. Then, I have to go pick up my kids from soccer."

This might also be rejected, but it's really the best I can do. And if nothing else, I might not be so tempted to drown my Sunday sorrows in that devil gin.