““All religions are the same. Religion is basically guilt, with different holidays.”
"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.
One side reads HUMAN BEINGS WILL ALWAYS LET YOU DOWN. The other: JESUS WILL NEVER DISAPPOINT YOU. Of course.
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."
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.