"Is prayer your steering wheel or your spare tire?"

“The Bible.  That is what fools have written, what imbeciles command, what rogues teach, and young children are made to learn by heart.”


“CHRISTIAN:  One who believes that the New Testament is a divinely inspired book admirably suited to the spiritual needs of his neighbor.”

Ambrose Bierce

“The total absence of humor from the Bible is one of the most singular things in all literature.”

Alfred North Whitehead

The mottoes on marquees outside churches are a unique communications form deserving careful consideration.  They provide revelations into the believer’s mind.  The pithy slogans, meant to be read on the fly, like the old Burma Shave signs, are intended to penetrate immediately and cause thought (and church attendance).

Unfortunately, they don’t always cause clear thought.  A huge paper poster covers the interior of the window of a storefront church (actually, “Christian  Fellowship Center”).  It says Jesus paid the price so you could live the life.

Livin’ the life

I find this a little jarring, and more than a little ambiguous.  Yes, I know we have to take the church fathers’ word for it that Jesus cut this deal with Himself to sacrifice His human form so that sinners would be forgiven AS LONG AS they went to church.  Jesus paid the price.

But “living the life”?  Life with a definite article (the) suggests an easy, carefree existence (“Now, THIS is the life!”), such as must be lived in sunny Boca or Palm Beach.  That’s not the life that most people live, although the rhythm and almost-rhyme between “the price” and “the life” seem to mean something.  Jesus didn’t pay the price so that we could all retire to Scottsdale and live the life.

Somewhere on the Internet are collections of stupid or at least childishly simplistic semi-thoughts from church marquees.  The Simpsons has parodied them, always letting religion’s heavy hand show through the attempts to disguise it. My favorite: “Putting the fun back into fundamentalism.”

(Politically Incorrect Aside #1: Why does all the laughter go one way?   Why are we unbelievers always snickering at them, while they hate and fear us?   Can anybody find me anything written by a believer that genuinely finds atheists laughable?)

So I just drive around and catch the examples I can, on the fly, just as they are meant to be beheld.  Some are around for just a short while, as was the case with Jesus came for you, whose ambiguity (and I refer to the other meaning, besides ‘he came to save you’) was suddenly apprehended by the pastor or somebody…and the barely-concealed, embarrassing double entendre removed.  God came for you would have had more meaning, in the sense that he impregnated Mary.

Another, sighted in Ashby, MA, says Behold, I am coming quickly — Jesus Christ.  The churchies seem not to see the double meaning (how could they not?), or maybe they’re implying that if YOU see it, you are sinful.  Unfortunately, the list of verbs that officially describes what Jesus did is pathetically short.  Mostly, he came.  He performed miracles, did a little sermonizing, and he came.  For you.  And he is SO hot for you that he is coming quickly.  Apparently he’s AC/DC and comes for both men and women.  And lest you think some sleazy perv put that message up, the Christ-meister signed it himself.

Another: I read the Bible - and Jesus wins.  Well, yes, if you think the Bible is just another NFL season, but with more violence.  But really, show me where it says the whole world accepted Jesus as its savior.  Yeah, there are a lot of vague promises as to what awaits those who accept him…but no record of Jesus winning, because, of course, he didn’t.  There are MANY other religions, all of whom lay sole claim to the truth. 

Here’s another: You’re not too bad to come in; you’re not too good to stay out.

Now that’s worth of a bit of cogitation.  The first half says that whatever your sin, you can be forgiven within.  Come on in. What a scam.  I hate that clerics arrogate unto themselves the power to forgive.  Only the injured party can forgive, if it’s even possible.

The second half is even more insulting: you cannot be a morally upright person without the church’s fairy tales and rituals; you cannot know good unless from the mouth of the deity or his middlemen.  Another insulting proposition.  (“Step into that small confessional/There the guy who’s got religion’ll/Tell you if your sin’s original…” [Tom Lehrer, “Vatican Rag”]).

Finally, we come to my so-far New England favorite: Is prayer your steering wheel or your spare tire?

This one lays out your moral bargain with the deity quite clearly: you must ALWAYS be praying (steering wheel) and not expect God to bail you out (spare tire) if you have not been praying constantly.  It is in the religious institution’s interest to keep you busy and keep doubt at bay. 

Keeping you busy

The Abrahamic religions do a great job.  EVERY DAY, an Orthodox Jewish man gets up, thanks God he wasn’t born a woman, wraps leather straps around his arm, and prays.  And that’s only the first of several prayer sessions during the day.  Adhering to all 600-odd commandments is literally a full-time job.  Ramadan sounds like a real pain in the ass, and not terribly healthy, either.

I encourage readers to regard the church marquee as an investigable communications form, affording insights into the minds of believers.  I welcome your input.

(P.I. Aside #2: Why, in both the book and the movie Contact, did the selection committee insist on questioning Ellie about whether she believed in God, because 90% of the people on Earth believe in God, and we should send the highly advanced aliens a “representative”?   Fuck that.  Send someone who doesn’t believe, someone who represents the next evolutionary step in human consciousness, not the religious retards.) . 

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