Jesus will never disappoint you” – Church sign boldly states religion’s Big Lie

“All religions are the same.  Religion is basically guilt, with different holidays.”

Cathy Ladman

"Praying is like a rocking chair.  It’ll give you something to do, but it won’t get you anywhere.”

Gypsy Rose Lee


Church signs are a never-ending source of wonder and speculation for us humanists: assuming that there is nowadays an endless source of them (the Internet assures an endless supply of everything), how does the individual pastor decide what, if anything, to broadcast?

Most churches around here simply list their worship and Sunday school times, but the Hope Chapel in Keene NH displays a fascinating variety of messages.  That pastor takes his signage seriously. 

Sometimes he’s on-point with the season (START THE YEAR WITH JESUS; HAPPY RESURRECTION DAY).   Occasionally he wanders off into marital advice: one side of sign reads DON’T NAG. SAY IT ONCE AND LET IT GO; other side says GENTLEMEN, TREAT HER BETTER.

The two-sided marquee, set at right angles to the road, doesn’t always work well with his message structure.  You usually have to read both sides to get the whole thing, but you can see only one side when you’re driving by.

The Big Lie

The latest broadcast was just such a two-parter.  And its message – either side -- was so in-your-face that I pulled into the parking lot to read both halves.


What a profoundly bold statement of religion’s bogus bargain. 

Let’s first dispense with “always” and “never.”  Religion loves to deal in such absolutes; they make serious thought unnecessary.

The real world

In the real world, people do sometimes disappoint you.  Bosses, spouses, kids, parents, everybody. 

And yet, if you look at the real world, you’ll see that all of religion’s goodies – compassion, nonviolence (rarely practiced), tolerance (ditto), charity, forgiveness, guidance, even the big one, world peace – all come from human beings, or they don’t happen at all. 

It’s simple.  There will be world peace not when some imagined Messiah comes, but when people decide it isn’t worth it to follow the directives of insane leaders and go off to murder innocent strangers. There will be peace when people stop killing each over, mostly over religion.  

A humanist tagline: "People -- We're all we've got."

Unnecessary middleman

But religion inserts an unnecessary middleman between humans and morality, a spiritual wholesaler: the priest, the rabbi, the imam.  The clerics will teach you how to be good people (presumably), as they teach you ritual, obedience, and intolerance.

As fellow heretic Loren Miller put it,

"The sad thing is that the church sign has it exactly right.  Something that doesn't exist can't disappoint you, especially if you believe or are indoctrinated into such a stance, while people that DO exist may or may not perform to your expectations."

Now that the clerics have got your salvation and eternal life tied to their version of the truth, it’s easy to believe in an Imaginary Friend who never lets you down.  Like an inflatable doll, Jesus can be anything you want.  You can actually buy porcelain figurines of Jesus helping you with your golf swing. 

He will never disappoint.  If things don’t turn out the way you asked Jesus to make then turn out…well, maybe you just don’t understand God’s mysterious workings. 

Reality may disappoint, but it is REALITY.  Fantasy may comfort, but it is FANTASY.  This is the conscious choice made by every secular humanist --  but ignored by every religious believer. 

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Comment by Michael Penn on May 14, 2014 at 2:01pm

I liked Jesus better when he was Casper the Friendly Ghost.

Comment by Alan Perlman on May 12, 2014 at 9:00pm

This is the two-facedness of religion:  sweet baby Jesus and the Easter Bunny, but if you read too closely you see that Jesus, and religion in general, can be quite harsh.  I still don't know how Jews manage to ignore the Torah's death penalty for violating the Sabbath, practicing other religions, or disrespecting your parents. : 

Rich,, Did you ask such questions in Sunday school?

Comment by Rich Goss on May 12, 2014 at 9:56am

"Jesus will never disappoint."  What about when he sentences people to eternal damnation on Judgement Day?  I'd be cursing my head off, "Jebus, you screwed up the whole world and all I did was lust after my neighbor's wife.  I didn't even do or say anything; I just thought about it. And you're the one who gave me such a kinky libido." 


Comment by Alan Perlman on May 11, 2014 at 5:46pm

When I see a televangelist mesmerizing an audience, I despair for the future of humanity.

Comment by Michael Penn on May 11, 2014 at 1:23pm

It says in the Bibble that "Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever." This scripture is true, and the faithful eat it up. SO, you've been praying and nothing ever happened. Use logic and reason here and read that scripture again. He does nothing yesterday, today, and forever!

But you can send for my free book today that tells you how to have answered prayers. Put your tongue in one cheek and stand on one leg. Remember to support my ministry.

Comment by Michael Penn on May 10, 2014 at 5:31pm

Alan, just right click the graphics and save them to your computer. That's how I do it.

Matthew Shultz has a good quote there, GC, and I like it. Over the years what many christians haven't realized is that their doctrines and "heaven" have many problems. They want us to think this life is a "test" prepareing us heaven and hell. You die, you're there, and it's done. That's it. How could this be? Knowledge stops when you die. People from the middle ages will be quite dumb in heaven. Nobody gets "instant knowledge." But Jesus is teaching them in heaven, you say. OK, where is this in the Buybull? The dead know not anything. That bastard Paul, banned from many churches of his time, taught that " to be absent from the body is to be present with the lord." That's right, many say today. Your body is not going. Just your soul. (You are the "soul.") That's why today the dead man is lowered into his grave and the faithful claim "he's in heaven now with the lord." Why do we need geography lessons? Back to Paul again, he also taught the resurrection of the body at the second coming of christ. Does anyone not see the contradictions here?

A person who died 2000 years ago will need a lot of schooling to not be dumb. How about people who died way before that? Then the Buybull talks about the "great white throne judgement" as well. Even one of these events might take as long in real time as mankind has been around. Double that timeframe if they are also educating the dead saints.

The christian just shrugs and says "we have all the time of eternity" to do these things. Doesn't anybody see the problems with these things? What the hell are they all thinking?

Comment by Alan Perlman on May 10, 2014 at 12:52pm

Thanks to all commentators.  Michael and Joan, could you send those graphics to me at  I'd like to share them.  Thanks, Alan

Comment by Grinning Cat on May 10, 2014 at 8:50am

The haunting fear that somewhere, someone might be happy.

Those religions that view this one, real life as merely a finite "preparation" or "test" before an eternal afterlife of reward or punishment -- where the stakes couldn't be higher -- are understandably suspicious of happiness and pleasure, that could distract from the "ultimate" goal.

I don't think Wiccans ("all acts of love and pleasure are Her rituals") share that view. Or Jews (whose religion emphasizes living well and obeying God just because it's the right thing to do), or Unitarians... I'm sure there are many other theists who believe in invisible unico gods yet don't devalue life that same way.

(I've shared this before: Jim Huber's "Pascal's Sucker Bet", a refutation of the "strategy" of believing in God just in case God and heaven and hell actually exist.)

(And Matthew Shultz: “You’re allowed to believe in a god. You’re allowed to believe unicorns live in your shoes for all I care. But the day you start telling me how to wear my shoes so I don’t upset the unicorns, I have a problem with you. The day you start involving the unicorns in making decisions for this country, I have a BIG problem with you.”)

Comment by Pat on May 10, 2014 at 7:51am

While he was writing about Puritanism, allow me to paraphrase the great author H.L. Mencken.

re·li·gion [ri-lij-uhn] - noun - The haunting fear that somewhere, someone might be happy.

Comment by Michael Penn on May 10, 2014 at 7:43am



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