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 Alan Perlman on October 26, 2015 at 11:29am

Cat...I was aware that different rabbis have different degrees of prestige, but I wasn't aware of "older is better."  

Comment by Grinning Cat on October 26, 2015 at 1:22am

btw - a major way in which traditional/Orthodox Judaism codifies backwardness is its explicit teaching that ancient precedent receives great deference; each generation's rabbis have less leeway to modify or overrule the decisions of previous generations, because they're more distant from the "divine revelation" at Mount Sinai.

Comment by Grinning Cat on October 26, 2015 at 1:13am

A quote that gives a moral nudge without being outright anti-theistic:

"You can safely assume that you’ve created God in your own image when it turns out that God hates all the same people you do." (Anne Lamott, who attributed that quote to "my priest friend Tom")

Comment by Alan Perlman on October 25, 2015 at 10:34pm

Thanks, Michael...Clearly atheists have more questions than believers have answers.  Man created God in his own image.

Loren, I said long ago that you're my kind of atheist -- no tolerance whatsoever for religious BS.  I get what you're saying..  Freud thought religion was madness...what more is there to say?..

Comment by Michael Penn on October 25, 2015 at 1:23pm

If there was a God, and said being was all powerful and all knowing and never changed, such a being would not care for you in any way even if it created you. This being would not care to be worshiped and would not and could not change anything that it had done. It is only in giving this being human qualities and concepts that we would think we had any contact with it at all. God could not be "a jealous god" and could not be "an angry god." The all powerful, all knowing, and never changing has no emotions. None.

This is yet another reason that gods cannot exist, and most likely why the biblical god does not exist. If such a god existed all things would be equal to said god.

Comment by Loren Miller on October 25, 2015 at 11:56am

Thanks for the shout-out quote, Alan.  Nice to know someone other than me thinks I know what I'm talking about!  [grin!]

Comment by Alan Perlman on October 25, 2015 at 11:53am

Thanks, Cat, for showing Jewish self-delusion at its best.  To keep the ancient barbarities in a modern world requires mental gymnastics (unless you want to take it literally, like ISIS).  It all comes back to people -- primitive people wrote the Torah, more enlightened people spun it.  "What God really meant" is both monumentally arrogant and stupid.  

As a linguist, I regard the distinction between "written" and "oral" law to be spurious.  I know Jews hang on to it for dear life, but really, the Torah was ALSO oral law that got written down.  The later "oral law" was written down, else how would we know what it says?

Comment by Grinning Cat on October 24, 2015 at 10:17pm

...I still don't know how Jews manage to ignore the Torah's death penalty (for various infractions)...

Traditional Judaism* rather conveniently teaches that there was an "oral law" handed down at the same time as the written law. I understand that was rather quickly used to reinterpret the death penalty virtually out of existence.

Justifying the elimination of old barbarities with "This is what God really meant all along" soothes the cognitive dissonance (see "Bending Truth"). It doesn't threaten beliefs about an all-knowing, moral, benevolent god the same way as "That's horrible, no matter what the scripture says! We know better than that! We are better than that!"

I'm sure quite a few religions have similar dodges.

* (Orthodox Judaism is several massive reforms removed from the animal-sacrifice-based cult described and prescribed in the Torah! Its practitioners today don't have any more claim to "The One True Judaism" than practitioners of other Judaisms, which often embrace Enlightenment and humanistic principles much more strongly. I like to think that the progression from polytheism to monotheism was a rejection of all but one of the false gods, and that practices such as Humanistic Judaism and Ethical Culture are some of the ways to complete that process.)

Comment by Alan Perlman on May 14, 2014 at 6:00pm

Ooooooh, he's always there!  And watching!  Creepy!

Comment by Michael Penn on May 14, 2014 at 4:30pm

Jesus said "if 2 or 3 are gathered together, there am I in the midst of them." This seems to be true coz none of those 3 theists want to be outdone by the other. Lots of lies and bullshit goes on with these 3 people.

If you add the whole church it gets worse!



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