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Church Signs

Fun with church signs.

What follows is a good example of why my daughter rocks.

She and I drove by a church today that frequently has "witty" sayings on their sign. This week, the sign said, "Did you make God smile today?" I pointed it out to my daughter, but she missed it.

"What did it say?" she asked.

"It said, ‘Did you make God smile today?’"

She paused and asked, "How would you know?"


Fun with church signs

The sign at a local church has been updated to read…

Prayer should be our first resource… not our last resort.

I’ve written about prayer before (as have plenty of others), so this may seem like an easy target. However, I think the usual arguments of "prayer does nothing" or "prayer is the way to feel good about doing something while actually doing nothing at all" don’t quite cover this one.

In saying that prayer should be our first resource, not our last resort, this church is indicating that the first thing you should do is pray. Not act. Not evaluate. Not consider.

What’s wrong with that? In my opinion, it advocates laziness. It advocates an abdication of responsibility. Rather than deal with something directly in a real way, the church says, you should first pray for the intervention (or assistance) of a divine being. The implication is that, if I pray and my prayer is "answered," I can get away with not actually doing anything.

There’s a distinction that needs to be made, I think, between this type of taking the "easy way out" and the type of ingenuity that inspires the invention of time-saving techniques or appliances. Techniques and gadgets are the result of real effort. They’re measurable, tangible, useful, and provide a real, repeatable, consistent benefit to those who use them.

Prayer is simply wishing. Prayer is saying, "I hope I don’t have to do anything." Prayer is using ancient mythology and superstition for the express purpose of removing personal responsibility. That calm feeling that people report having when they pray would seem to come from the belief that they no longer have any responsibility… that everything will be fine… and that they didn’t have to lift a finger.

Actions get things done. Prayer is a hindrance.

Fun with church signs

A local church recently changed its sign to read:

Begin to weave and God will provide you with the thread.

I’ve heard a similar statement made by Christians trying to "convert" those of different religious persuasions, but it goes something like, "Just have faith in Jesus and He will show Himself to you." This isn’t something that is used only by fundamentalists or TV evangelists. I’ve heard it from far more moderate sects.

The problem, of course, is that it’s a "cart before the horse" sort of thing. The request is for someone to reach a conclusion before seeing any evidence… just have faith in Jesus (the conclusion) and He will show Himself to you (the evidence).

Faith, of course, in a religious context, is belief that is not based on evidence, so the evidence is something that is somewhat irrelevant here, not just because you’re supposed to get to the conclusion without it, but also because, in this case, it’s non-existent (before or after your application of faith). Jesus doesn’t appear and play a game of Frisbee with people and visions, hearing voices, and Jesus pareidolia don’t really qualify as "appearing."

Requesting evidence for religious claims is something that, for some reason, tends to offend a lot of fundamentalists. Not all of them, of course, but enough that it makes them seem a bit disingenuous. If someone makes a claim (Jesus was born of a virgin… Jesus performed miracles… Jesus rose from the dead… Jesus is God… God is real) without providing supporting evidence, he has no justification for being upset that his claims are dismissed. This, in general, is a huge failure of theists (of any denomination) and is, perhaps, the reason that "faith" is placed in a position of such high regard.

With no evidence to back them up, all they have is faith.

Fun with church signs

The church sign I saw today at a local church currently ranks as the worst one I’ve ever personally seen. When I read it on the way to work this morning, I almost pulled over right away to write it down (I waited for a stop sign instead). Here’s what it said.

Honk if you love Jesus.
Text while driving if you don’t.

My initial impression was that I was just misinterpreting it… because all I could get out of it was “Honk if you love Jesus, otherwise crash and die.” I showed it to a religious friend at work and his jaw fell. He couldn’t think of any “good” interpretation of that message, either.

Another friend told me that he’d seen a sign that said, “Honk if you love Jesus. Text if you want to meet him.” That’s still kind of morbid, but it’s more of a traffic safety message than a good Christian message. Perhaps the sign I saw was a gross misrepresentation of that one?

I’m still not going to text while driving.


I snapped a picture of the sign this morning using my cell phone. The image is a bit grainy and I managed to get my car’s antenna right in the middle of the sign, but the words are legible. Click for a bigger version. Enjoy!

Church Sign

I’m going to assume that someone put it up there without understanding what the words imply. I doubt there’s someone at that church who is vindictive and spiteful enough to wish death on the non-Jesus-lovers. I could be wrong, but I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt.

Fun with church signs

Occasionally, I see a church sign that just begs to be addressed. A local church recently changed their sign to read:

Time well spent is time spent in prayer.

I know that the idea that a god listens to (and answers) prayers is something that is foundational to many peoples’ religious beliefs. Hearing the phrases “I’ll pray for you” or “You’ll be in my prayers” is an all-too-common occurrence. To an atheist, it sounds even worse when someone asks “Please pray for my friend” or “Your prayers would be appreciated.”

Prayer - How to do nothing and still think you're helping Not only do I feel that the person asking me to pray is engaging in nothing more than wishful thinking, but he’s asking me to participate in his do-nothing fantasy world as well… in the belief that clasping my hands together and wishing really, really hard is going to make any difference to his situation.

Prayer is contradictory to some pretty basic Christian beliefs, too. Another common phrase that is heard from religious folks is “God has a plan” or “God will show me the way.” Their god is supposedly all-powerful, as well… omnipotent, omniscient, and omnipresent. So… wouldn’t he already know what they want? If that god has a plan, won’t his plan play out as he designed it… with our without their prayers?

Prayer is an attempt to change the will of a god. Doesn’t that seem a bit egotistical on the part of the person praying? On one hand, believers will say their god is mighty, loving, benevolent, and all-knowing… but they’ll turn around and try to tell him something, anyway… as if he doesn’t already know… as if they can change his mind.

I suppose some might simply pray their adoration for their god instead of asking for his assistance. That doesn’t seem to be quite as ego-centric, but it does seem to be just as irrelevant. And really, if some almighty god really gets off on his subjects repeatedly telling him how awesome he is, isn’t that just petty and vain?

I think prayer is one of the religious concepts that believers don’t think about very much. They just do it. Thinking about it would “break the spell,” as Daniel Dennett would say. If the practice is examined too closely, it falls apart into a chaotic pile of contradictions, pettiness, and wasted time.

I propose fixing the church sign by replacing “well spent” with “wasted.” It would be far more accurate and might actually encourage congregation members to raise their heads, get off their knees, unclasp their hands, and instead of simply wishing for a situation to improve (thereby doing nothing), take action to improve the situation.

Now that would be time well spent.

More fun with church signs

A recent change to the sign of a local church provides this:

Love, not time, heals all wounds.
God needs your love, too.

I like the sentiment of the first part, though I think time plays a part, too. However, the second part gave me pause and actually got me thinking about something that’s puzzled me about theistic religions.

If their God is perfect, why would he need your love? Actually, why would he need to have created mankind at all? Taking it further, why would he even have bothered to create the universe? No matter what reasons are given, they all attribute human needs and characteristics to God. Needy? Bored? Curious? Jealous?

I would think a perfect god would never have needs… or wants. If he’s perfect, then that’s that.

Has anyone heard any really rational reasons for God’s demands of obedience? …or for his creating everything in the first place? I’ve yet to hear one, even from my religious friends.

Fun With Church Signs

PrayerTonight I passed a church that frequently updates their sign with (sometimes) clever sayings. Today, they have the old saying, “After all is said and done, usually a lot more is said than done.”

There’s nothing innately religiousy about that phrase… except that it immediately struck me as a perfect analogy for prayer.

If you’re relying on prayer, then all that ever happens is the saying… and none of the doing… since prayer is basically mental masturbation under the guise of religious piety. As a popular bumper sticker says (Hooray for bumper sticker psychology!), “The hard work of one does more than the prayers of millions.”

If prayer truly worked and religious-minded people actually believed that it worked, it would seem that prayer would solve every problem. It doesn’t, of course, and therein lies the basis for explanatory shenanigans… as follows.

If a prayer is made and the wish comes true, it was God answering the prayer and is a delightful, miraculous experience, be it large or small. If a prayer is made and the wish doesn’t come true, then it wasn’t God’s plan for it to happen or the non-answer is a test of some sort. It never means that God wasn’t listening.

If I pray for a flipped coin to land heads up, what will happen is that my prayer is answered roughly fifty percent of the time. It’s a miracle! The other fifty percent of the time, God chose not to make the coin land that way.

A funny thing, though… if I don’t say any prayers (because perhaps… I don’t know… there’s nobody listening?), then the coin will land heads up (are you ready for this?) roughly fifty percent of the time!

Amazingly enough, anyone that believes in prayer will dismiss that little example by calling it trivial or nonsensical. Of course God isn’t going to intervene in something so silly. That’s a useless request. However, those same people will, no doubt, claim divine intervention for small things like a cool breeze or for help with the tricky loading of a lawnmower onto a truck or for the serendipitous discovery of a ten dollar bill blowing down the sidewalk. It seems there’s a double standard in operation there.

I will concede one possible benefit of prayer. For some people, it no doubt makes them feel calmer and more at peace. However, the same can be said for meditation or a quick nap or deep breathing or even spending time with friends, all things that can be used to accomplish the same effect without the superstitious notion of a all-powerful voyeur.

It’s not that God isn’t listening. It’s that he doesn’t exist.

Scary Church Signs

FireI try to take note of the church signs I see in my area and usually see the generic notifications of sermon times or guest speakers. A few churches, however, always try to have clever sayings out front, which is much more entertaining for me. One in particular seems to have some very clever ones and sometimes even makes me smile or chuckle.

Most of the more clever church signs are harmless puns, but every now and then, one makes me narrow my eyes and raise an eyebrow.

I saw this one yesterday:

Remember the banana. When he left the bunch, he got skinned.

It’s a clever play on words, indeed, but its whimsy hides one of the more sinister sides of religious belief… using fear as a tool to coerce obedience. Stay with the church or you’ll be doomed.

Another church sign read:

Try Jesus. If you don’t like him, Satan will take you back.

Clever. It’s also somewhat cute if you block out the image of burning in a pit of Satan-created fire for not liking Jesus.

Christianity tends to preach all about a just, merciful God and loving, forgiving Jesus. God’s love is immeasurable and glorious. Jesus is your loving and understanding savior. You’ll be swept up into glorious Heaven where paradise awaits you and you’ll be able to walk hand-in-hand with Jesus in eternal bliss.

All you have to do is believe what they tell you to believe.

Of course, if you refuse to accept Jesus as your savior and refuse to worship God in the way that is demanded, you’re going to be punished for all eternity in unspeakably torturous ways with much wailing and gnashing of teeth, doomed to spend an infinite amount of time surrounded by hellfire and brimstone and subjected to incomprehensible pain and agony.

But to avoid that horror, all you have to do is believe what they tell you to believe…

…regardless of whether it’s true or not.

There are FOUR lights! *

(* geeky Star Trek:TNG reference)