For many, many years, I have always found an unending fount of devilish giggles whenever I read sappy church signs. You know, the ones that are thought up by the honorary witty member of the church congregation that plays on puns, abuses homophones, and loves to dabble in sappy poetry attempts. What better way to market a deity than with comedy?

I very rarely I come across one that doesn’t make me laugh. Dare I say, maybe these little billboards of religious recruitment are a little guilty pleasure of mine. There really aren’t any real conversations to be inspired. In fact, if my children are with me when I see one, I often repeat it out loud as we drive by, and then proceed into a fun literary exercise of mad libs where we substitute other puns or homophones to match the intent. It’s sickly educational.

I’ve always learned to never say never when it comes to proclaiming there isn’t a sign that hasn’t made me snicker a little bit as I read it, but tonight, due to whatever emotional circumstance my mind was in, I saw a sign on a local evangelical church display that actually bothered me. As the further down the road from it I went, I realized I was getting angrier and angrier. What horrible affront to my sense of humor could have possibly been on that sign? Something about being a sinner? A little rhyming ditty about not being a “whole” person until God fills you up?

No. Just a nine word little sentence. Do your best and God will do the rest.

My oldest son was with me, and as we initially approached, I read the little slogan aloud, giving an eye roll and chortle. After we got right by the sign, I said it again, and I could feel inside of me the churning waters of the past beginning to boil up from all directions. Now, for the Christians reading this, I realize you would diagnose this as the part of me possessed by Satan rebelling. I assure you, this is not the case as I have already been elevated to the status of Lucifer himself a few short months ago by a right wing Christian conspiracy theorist on a local chat board.

The onset of my sudden angst as I had passed the sign piled on more as I again said this seemingly harmless little sentence again. This sentence wasn’t harmless, it was straight out victim shaming. Shaming the twelve year old losing her battle with cancer. Shaming the widow who was losing everything she and her husband had built together, but now was buried in bills as he was buried in the ground. Shaming me for not doing my best enough to earn reprieve from the abuse I endured as a child. Shaming me for not doing my best enough to earn healing so I wouldn’t struggle for another 18 years after finally getting free of that home life and having no basis to make choices on.

Such an insidious, backhanded judgement, neatly wrapped up in a playfully toned rhyme. Naturally, or unfortunately, I was reasoning all of this verbally, and my thirteen year old really can’t fathom this level of pain. I seriously hope he never does, but it made the normally fun ritual of playing with dopey messages into a personal melodrama. Looking back, I realize I could have easily managed this sudden rush of scorn with a more accepting nature. Just looking at my current line of thought and dealings in life should reassure me tons.

I’m an atheist now, and with my lack of belief comes a lifting of divine testing. A lifting of desire for judgement, which eliminates the draining shadow of needful vengeance against those who have harmed me in such a way that I will never know what it is to be normal. My atheism allows me to step back from a situation, and decide for myself what is best for me. No mandatory forgiveness. No mandatory turning the other cheek. No mandatory anything. I’m free to do what I want and handle it all as such.

Compared to a decade ago, my life is much improved. Peer pressure is really only a problem on my job. Religious pressure? Zilch. While coworkers and family sit in a pew every Wednesday and Sunday, listening to sermons about how imperfect they are, singing songs about self martyrdom for God’s glory, and being programmed to believe that faith is rewarded and prayers are answered if your litmus test pees the right color, I get to find more meaningful things to do with my day. I get to enjoy myself for who I am. I get to enjoy the satisfaction in realizing that I’ve improved many aspects of myself once I got off my knees at Calvary and carried my own damn cross.

The day I realized that saying yes to God did not mean healing and wholeness were included, set me free to improve myself with reckless abandon. I could feed strangers on the street without giving thanks to God while I did so because I was there out of my own compassion. I could donate money to a few homeless vets in the area and not worry about making the tithe payment the next week because I realized God doesn’t truly care about something as material as money. I could now turn to those I had wounded over the course of my life so far, and tell them how wrong I was without being worried if God would accept my actions as genuine enough because the only true apology given is one from yourself, not a higher motivation. I could tell people to quit advising me with ridiculous biblical standardized relationship advice because the idea that God is the foundation of a marriage simply doesn’t work. I could parent my children with respect for my presence in their lives, not out of fear of an ancient guilt tripping commandment that was so vague, I don’t think anyone could agree on what “honor” really stood for.

And most of all? I could admit what a lie a church sign like “Do Your Best And God Will Do The Rest” really was, because a five year old’s best should not be required to save her from abusive family members.

Obviously, after all my introspection within the span of ten minutes of seeing that insidiously tainted message of encouragement, I am just fine, but I have taken away an important message out of it that I need to remind myself of on the daily:

The truth will set you free, but first it will piss you off. –Gloria Steinem

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Comment by Michael Penn on September 18, 2014 at 7:48pm

I agree with Gloria Steinem.

I also remember an old LIttle Lulu cartoon where her mother told her "god helps those who help themselves." She immediately went into the kitchen and got herself a cookie out of the cookie jar.

Comment by Loren Miller on September 18, 2014 at 7:23am

Sounds about right, Idaho.  That way, something actually gets accomplished, yet the credit can still go to the intangible deity!  What a racket!

Comment by Idaho Spud on September 18, 2014 at 6:57am

Bring'em Young said "Pray as though everything depended on the Lord and work as though everything depended on you.”

Comment by Matt--Lukin on September 18, 2014 at 4:10am

David Bohm, Albert Einstein, et al. would often use the word "God," but of course their conception of God probably wouldn't tally with the average Christian's conception of God. In the Tao of Physics, the "Brahman" of Hinduism has been compared to the "11-dimensional hyperspace" of M-Theory. Rob Bryanton once used the metaphor to describe this hyperspace as a "place where all possibilities are contained," and it's often said of Brahman that it's the "ground of all being," the source of all possibilities from which the manifested universe springs forth. This is how the divine is thought about in eastern philosophy.

So, when I see something like, "Do your best, and God will do the rest," if you take some of these concepts borrowed from physicists or even eastern philosophy, it can provoke some interesting thought. There is a line in bible that reads "Thy will be done." Who's will? God's will, of course. And there are such religious notions that can be interpreted in such a way to say that nothing can happen unless it is the will of God, a kind of predestination, if you will.

So, if you do your best, God will do the rest... Terence McKenna once said, "Nature loves courage," meaning that if you make the commitment, nature will respond to that commitment by removing impossible obstacles, hurling yourself into the abyss and discovering that there's a feather bed. Of course, if it is the case that nothing can happen unless it is God's will, then your commitment, too, is part of God's will. "The movie is already in the can," as Ramesh Balsekar puts it.

There's other ones like that, too. I've seen those religious glass trinkets of the praying hands with quotes that often read things like, "All things are possible through God" or "God is with you wherever you may go." Okay, sure, God is the source of all possibilities, right? So, duh, right? How can it not be that all things are possible through God, right? If you take into account these other conceptions of God, that the underling infinite source creates the slice, the finite world like a conic section through "God" or "hyperspace." Then, no shit, there is nothing that is not God, so of course "God is with you wherever you may go." 

I know "free will" and "no free will" is a common topic here on these forums, but I think it's interesting that if you entertain the idea that there is no such thing as free will, that perhaps everything that does happen is according to God's will or, if you prefer, a "cosmic law," then couldn't that be equated to a "higher power"? I mean, all the words we type, thoughts we have, etc. aren't truly "our" doing, but the doing, in some sense, of the universe itself.

Please do not take these interpretations too seriously. I like to play with these interpretations when I see these quotes on billboards or religious trinkets because it can be fun, an exercise in imagination and perhaps education as you mentioned, and so that none of them will offend me or faze me in any way.

I mean, what does it mean to become agitated by something like that?

Comment by tom sarbeck on September 17, 2014 at 9:56pm

Do Your Best And God Will Do The Rest.

That's an improvement on a line I heard decades ago.

Work as if everything depends on you; pray as if everything depends on God.

I replied "If I pray that hard, why work?"

Comment by Ted Foureagles on September 16, 2014 at 10:40am


If a Christian says that they'll pray for me I just say "Thanks".  I know that praying is a cop-out in lieu of actually doing anything, but I think of it as them wishing me well, even when what they wish is not at all what I'd want.  Their prayers are really for them, not for me.  If it makes them feel better, then good -- doesn't hurt me one whit.


Comment by Luara on September 16, 2014 at 10:29am

If a Christian asks me if it's OK to pray for me, I think I would say, "if you want to do something for me, please refrain from praying at all, for a day". 

Theists are constantly reinforcing their belief with various religious practices, that's why.  So I would say "just for a day, don't reinforce it by praying". 

Comment by Bluegrass Skeptic on September 16, 2014 at 9:52am
Truth be told, she has done a lot of backstabbing in my office and I do not play that way. She has a purposefully naive nature that I see right through and she knows it.
Comment by Loren Miller on September 16, 2014 at 9:37am

Maybe ... or it may be that she is beginning to question her own faith.  Sometimes it doesn't take "hellish magnetics" to muck with someone's connection to a non-existent being, just a swift dose of the truth.

Comment by Bluegrass Skeptic on September 16, 2014 at 9:32am

Yeah, it is always the same tap dance, isn't it? I have a coworker that won't look me in the eye after she learned I was atheist. I think she feels my very presence in the work place is tainting her connection to God. Maybe her signal gets fuzzy from my hellish magnetics when I walk by?



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