Sam is not a Deist. I was wrong. He is about as vehemently Muslim a man as you could find. He is just not practicing.
I spoke with Sam again today, this time both before and after the service/meal. He was dressed exactly the same, his beard was exactly the same length, the difference this time was that someone had pulled out all of his stops.
There is no doubt in my mind that he sought me out today because he felt like he could carry on a decent semi-intellectual conversation with me. He started right away, pulling me aside as soon as he walked in the door. I reiterate, once again, that he is a very intelligent man, this time we moved away from politics into religion plain and simple. It was fine in the beginning. The man is capable of hanging onto vast libraries of knowledge, and displayed it readily. He recounted to me word for word conversations he had had with preachers down through the years. Then, seemingly without warning, he went from amiable to polemical.
He started off by attacking Hindus for being illogical. "How can you worship monkey gods or elephant head gods, like that? It is the stupidest thing on earth." He grew up in India, where Muslim/Hindu relations still leave much to be desired. Not surprising.
It was the next move that caught me off-guard. "You know, I was talking with a pastor once who said to me, 'You become the kind of thing that you worship.' I said, 'That must be true. Look at how the Hindus worship these animals, and they act just like them.' Once I was speaking with a Jew who looked up from his lunch and told me: 'You know Jesus was a bastard right?' completely unprovoked. So I said to this preacher, 'If you become what you worship is that why so many Christians have babies out of wedlock?" Sam went on. "You know Josh. More than 85% of births in the US are babies born out of wedlock."
I challenged him on this point. "I don't think those numbers are quite right. I know the number is high, but I don't think it's that high."
He became incensed. "I do not lie to you! I read it in an Encyclopedia Britannica." Here he proceeded to list off the percentages he had read for other "Christian" countries. "I go to AA meetings all the time just to hear their stories because I think they are interesting. Alcoholics ruin their lives and get pregnant and do terrible things because of alcohol. In Muslim countries we do not have any problems like this." In America you cannot even pass a constitutional amendment to keep people away from alcohol. Muslim countries are far superior.
"Look at all the evil that Christian countries have done… crusades, genocide, etc." I tried to interject at this point that Muslim countries have done similarly bad things too, that it is best to compare the ideal of each religion to the ideal of others or the reality of one to the reality of others. Bad idea. "Lies, those are all lies! He was getting quite heated at this point so I tried to cool things off, but the train was already moving. Back and forth he went from a bastard Jesus to Alcoholism for minutes on end. Finally I made up a reason to go to a different part of the room.
We were able to part company on a cordial note. I gave him a copy of the book of John, which I am sure he will not read, but I did confirm one thing with him in the end, "You know Sam, for someone so proud of Muslim accomplishments, all your talk about Jesus doesn't square too well with the Koran. Are you really a Deist after all?"
"Yeah, Thomas Jefferson is my hero. I want to be like him. He read the book of Revelation and said it was written by a crazy person. I believe there is a God somewhere, at least I am not an agnostic or atheist right?" He chuckled. "I am just too much of a free spirit to go to the mosque." That's as close as I've gotten to finding out why he is on the streets in the first place.
After reflecting on our conversation, I find that I am not as much offended by what he said, as I am frustrated by my inability to reason with him. I am not sure if I want to talk to Sam again. I just hope that I do a better job becoming like Jesus, than he has done becoming like Thomas Jefferson.