No point in being blunt

There’s a saying I like: “You have a right to be offended, but you have no right not to be offended.”

So, when I drive past those church signs with perky little sayings that take not-so-subtle pot-shots at we non-believers, I tend to just clutch the steering wheel a little tighter, clench my teeth and mutter, “Fuckwits” under my breath.

Generally, the moment passes and the next day I’d be hard-pressed to remember what the sign actually said. Life goes on and church signs are the least of my worries.

But, recently, I drove past a sign that riled me more than usual. I’ve tried to ignore it, but it’s been bubbling around in my brain for a few weeks now and I think it’s time to let rip.

The sign was on the Glass House Country Uniting Church and visible from the Steve Irwin Way in SE Queensland. It read:

churchsign

 

As I continued down the highway, I could feel my blood boiling and spitting like a billy, left too long on the fire.

No point? No fucking point?

My grandfather was an atheist. When he married my grandmother, he didn’t just take on his new bride – he also housed her widowed mother, her sister and her daughter and the baby left motherless when another sister died in childbirth. And did he moan and bitch about having all these family strays in his home? No! He accepted it with astounding generosity and an abundance of good humour.

He was not a well man. He fought and was gassed in the First World War and ultimately died prematurely from the damage caused to his lungs.

He was the first young man in his district to sign up. In recognition of his courage, the locals banded together and bought him a pocket watch – which my cousin, Doug, carries in his pocket with pride, to this day.

Jack kept his family afloat during the depression. He was a good husband and father. He was a hard worker – helping to establish the iconic Barnes Auto in Brisbane during the 1920s.

He had a wicked sense of humour which has been passed on, genetically, to my cousin and me.

And, having come from a ‘good family’ he instilled in his son and daughter (my mother) the manners and values of a more genteel age; a commitment to living with integrity and finesse which has been passed down through succeeding generations.

But, according to the supercilious sign on the highway, Jack Webster’s life had ‘no point’ because while his family trotted off to church on a Sunday, he stayed at home to mow the lawn. The legacy he left – the children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren and great-great-grandchildren – all law-abiding, contributing members of society whose happy lives, happy marriages and ingrained values are inevitably influenced by his – count for nothing to the smarmy shallow-thinking churchman or woman who thought displaying this sign was a good idea.

And I’d like to say, it was not a good idea. It was rude. It was insensitive. It was offensive. It was inaccurate. It was pompous. It was hurtful. It was, in the very worst sense, uncharitable and un-Christian.

How dare this nameless minister boast publicly that my grandfather’s life – lived with courage, generosity, integrity and humour – had no point.

How dare they suggest that my father’s life – also an atheist as well as a veteran, a selfless giver, and a formidable family man – had no point?

How dare they suggest that my life and my mother’s life have no point?

I would defend to the death their right to display that mindless, offensive piece of religious pap. But, I will call it out for what it is – religious imperialism, cultural vandalism and blatant disrespect for the lives and beliefs of other Australians and their families.

 

Chrys Stevenson

 

 

56 thoughts on “No point in being blunt

  1. Jayel

    I kind of feel sorry for the person who thought up this sign, because it seems to me that what they are saying is “I am unable to find any purpose in my life unless someone else makes it up and tells me what it is!”

    Reply
  2. Malcolm Brown

    I tend to agree with you.
    Some Christians do tend to live in their own little bubble. Like many groups, they forget there are people who don’t see things the way they do. They are also under more pressure these days than was the case and this can initiate signs like this.
    Forgive them. They are blinded by their faith.

    Reply
    1. Di Pearton

      Haha! I think forgiveness is over-rated and lets the offender off too lightly, at least until they understand their offense, and show remorse. Christians in my experience, never understand that their claim as ‘chosen’ people implies that others are unchosen. This is offensive, rude and incompatible with Jesus Christ’s teachings, whose motherhood statements are really universal concepts acknowledged by most as a template for a civilised society.

      Reply
      1. pat pendrey

        While understand and share your sentiment, forgiveness in my experience imparts more benefit upon the giver than the receiver. We can all be angered and offended by others but to stay that way takes away from our life experience. It’s bl**dy hard work to stay mad. Much easier to accept there are f^ckwits in the world and move on (ie: forgive them).

        As for the rest of your comment, what’s an atheist’s expression for “Amen, sister!”?

  3. Gregory Storer

    I rather think that life with religion has no point as apparently their god knows all, therefore they should each jump to the end as the outcome is already pre-determined and known by their god.

    I must say I think my life has a lot of point, it’s hardly ever dull or repetitive.

    Reply
    1. dandare2050

      Yeah, I read it out loud to my wife and daughter. I can sort of do Chrys’ voice and think I got just the right level of snarl at the right moments. Good on you Chrys, I agree wholeheartedly.

      Reply
  4. Stuart MacLeod

    Hello Chrys. Well I certainly picked up on your anger liberally sprinkled between the lines, the billy I think was well and truly boiling over.
    I thought those pesky Church signs were left up to a group of youngsters in the Church to determine the wording as the results usually seem to be at that sort of communication level. Sometimes they are funny but mostly they are well off the mark factually speaking. Now if the minister actually comes up with the wording that would be, on the one hand quite disappointing but also on the other hand (sadly) quite predictable.
    There is a large billboard on the Warrego Highway on the way out to Gatton, which emplores motorists to read their bible, with a nice soft-and-squishy quote beneath that. Everytime I past that sign I am sorely tempted to add in big letters … “Yes, please read your bible” and then add a few bible quotes of my own. You know the ones where incest, eating your child and having multiple wifes and slaves is okay.

    Reply
  5. Rev Boris Kleiner

    I keep telling the folks that come here ( yeah I know a Heretic priest), “don’t blame a concept” you screwed up deal with it. Life without an abstract concept is easy when you shoulder the guilt and the glory you caused. Look in the mirror and tell your God what for! I accept belief, tolerate faith and shit bricks with religion.

    Reply
  6. Glen Mcbride

    You should join the agnostics – they couldn’t care – they neither know like the atheists nor believe like the religious Since it is all unknown and unknowable it is completely irrelevant and a waste of human endeavour. If you don’t know, how can you care? If it is all irrelevant, how could it occupy a moments thought or interest? No! i gave up Christianity 69 years ago and those 69 years were free of interest in anything either side had to say. But I don’t like religions in schools – I’m a HUMANIST – they don’t care butare concerned with bringing a real human approach to their world – but they sometimes get sidetracked on relations Not knowing is not caring Warmly and very cheerily Glen ________________________________________

    Reply
    1. TheBabelFish

      Unknown? Maybe. Unknowable? On what evidence do you reach that conclusion? As Richard Dawkins pointed out, the proposition that we live in a universe ‘created’ by an intelligent designer, or ‘god,’ is absolutely a scientific hypothesis, and there is absolutely no in principle reason it cannot one day be resolved conclusively.

      Reply
  7. jdrmot

    Well… the point of the sign was to underline that in the big picture of things.. there IS…”no point”.. much as your sentimental rebellious instincts want it to be otherwise.. you either believe in God.. and meaning, purpose and point.. or..you believe in evolution, natural selection and all that goes with it. You might like to drop into Yale Psychology dept and speak with Dr Bloom, or.. MIT psych or.. Berkely.. they all say the same thing. “We are organisms” and they freely admit.. there is…NO POINT… we just ‘are’… evolutionary biology dictates that our being is just atoms and cells.. and that our primary purpose (if there is one) is to pass on our genes.. I guess that makes a mockery of the homosexuals who claim to be ‘normal’…. it doesn’t take a faith position to turf that silly idea out, it just take science.

    Get down off your high humanist horse Chris and do some serious reflection for a change.

    John

    Reply
    1. g2-5bba245eb6db01d36e28de6648a6336a

      John Are you saying homosexuality has no evolutionary benefits ?
      if you are you are obviously quite ignorant of science.

      I may not be the sharpest pencil in the pack but at least I have the knowledge to shut up rather than display my ignorance for others to see.

      Sadly as blunt pencils go you would seem to be missing your point entirely

      Reply
      1. jdrmot

        Cicero once said: Wise men are instructed by reason; men of less understanding, by experience; the most ignorant, by necessity; the beasts, by nature.
        You can work out where you fit there, but I assure you it’s not the first category. Homosexuality is a condition, and it is an abnormal one. (any statistician will tell you that).. this is not a reason to hate or despise them, because there are many ‘abnormal’ conditions in life. But I’ll tell you one thing.. those who indulge in the glorification of deviant sex in ‘celebrations’ giving the middle finger to every one else such as at Brown University where an ‘event’ called “Sex Power God” was bad enough already but it degenerated into utter debauchery and a frenzy of sexual assault.
        So, you think there is an ‘evolutionary benefit’ for homosexuality? and then you say “I” am ignorant of science? You have to be kidding! and if you aren’t you better supply some decent sources for that hysterical claim from cloud twighlight zone.

      2. mcquestion5000

        Nothing makes your argument less inane than when you start off with insults. Why does homosexuality occur in nature. Why do some animals take part in long term homosexual relationships?

        Biblical biases about what’s “abnormal” don’t stand up to facts and science, but then again, they never do.

    2. TheBabelFish

      John, with you on the general principle, have to take issue with your specific point on homosexuality. You clearly haven’t really understood evolution, and I highly recommend ‘The Selfish Gene’ and ‘The Blind Watchmaker.’ As you’ll understand once you’ve read them, there is no ‘chance’ involved in evolution, and therefore no mistakes. If homosexuality exists in humans, as indeed it does in many other species, then there WILL be an evolutionary reason for that. We don’t always know what these evolutionary reasons are. What we do know is that there must be one, otherwise the trait would simply not have survived. That is what natural selection means.

      Reply
      1. jdrmot

        FYI.. thank you for your polite response Babel, I did some quick reading and came up with this:

        “This is a paradox from an evolutionary perspective,” says Paul Vasey from the University of Lethbridge in Canada. “How can a trait like male homosexuality, which has a genetic component, persist over evolutionary time if the individuals that carry the genes associated with that trait are not reproducing?”

        Scientists don’t know the answer to this Darwinian puzzle, but there are several theories.

        Conclusion:.. “see last line”🙂

    3. dandare2050

      John,
      “no point” is an alternate for “no meaning”. Atheists are not interested in the idea of external “meaning” but they have many “meanings” for their own lives.

      The sign is just disrespectful, you know it. Get of your high horse and stop being insincere.

      Reply
      1. jdrmot

        Dandare, in the reality stakes you come a distant last at the moment I feel. You probably need to do some reading from say.. Rousseau through Kant, Neitzche especially, with a liberal dose of Sartre. The only think you are left with is empty sentimentality, or thorough going existentialism, in a world where morality does not exist, but our natural inclinations and conduct is held back only be fear of social consequences or by law. You see, the problem with a meaningless universe philosophically is that when Adrian Bayley raped and murdered Jill Meagher, it was not a moral issue, it was a legal issue. You cannot despise a man for simply ‘following the call of his genes’……you cannot condemn him, you can only at best say “He was fed the wrong information”…thus it’s not his fault. Now there is a heck of a lot of education behind all that I’ve said above, and I’d appreciate it if you would kindly get some before hurling around assertions which have no basis in fact.
        Your ‘many meanings’ thingy is another word for nihilistic narcissism and strenuous denial will have no impact on that bit of truth. If you wish to engage in combative polemic, be prepared to do so from some reasonable foundations.
        I don’t have the time or inclination to supply chapter and verse on all that, you can do your own homework.

      1. jdrmot

        as am I palmboy, but perhaps one day you will have an inkling of this reality that is beyond the comprehension of the secular mind.

  8. emwoohoos@yahoo.com

    Ha ha, I got into a heated conversation with my religious aunt because she accidentally added me to an email chain letter whose repugnant punch line was this humdinger. The problem is these people spout off these stupid homilies without thinking. Vile. Nice post. Maybe I ought send it to my aunt😀

    0407 924 825 Sent from my brain, to my fingers, to an amazing capacitance screen, computed by an incredible micro-computer, and transmitted across the ether, to you.

    Reply
  9. g2-5bba245eb6db01d36e28de6648a6336a

    My life like a blunt pencil may have no point
    luckily I have the intelligence to be able to sharpen a pencil and use it again and again untill all that is left at the end is a well worn stub.

    My pencil may be blunt but it still hurts when I stick it into the eye of a bigoted religious fuckwit.

    Reply
  10. TheBabelFish

    You know what would be truly pointless? Living your life sacrificing freedom and fun and a whole host of other things, on the basis that there is a god and an afterlife, only to find there isn’t.

    I think there is a fundamental misunderstanding at the heart of this, because there are different types of pointlessness at issue. First there is cosmic pointlessness. The idea, which some people find incredibly hard to give up, that there should be some kind of grand purpose to the universe, and to the totality of our existence. There is not a scrap of evidence to suggest such a cosmic purpose. The second, actually meaningful kind of purpose is that which we choose to ascribe to our own lives. Those who can’t handle the sheer scale of the universe we inhabit often choose an abstract kind of purpose of their own devising, putting we humans at the centre of things. They call it ‘God.’ Those who can handle the truth tend to choose a more practical kind of purpose, such as happiness and being a good person (where that notion of ‘good’ is not an abstract, as with the religious, but is about our impact on our fellow beings).

    Here’s a little thought experiment for those who can’t see the difference: What is the point of, say, a cat. We all know what a cat looks like, we all know what it does. But what is it actually FOR? You Chrys, and your more perceptive readers, will have discerned that it’s a meaningless question. It’s not FOR anything, it just is. The result of millions of years of evolution, it is very good at survival, but so what? That which survives, survives. That’s all. That has never prevented any of my cats from living happy and fulfilled lives, without ever once wondering (so far as I’m aware) what was, cosmically speaking, the point of it all. They found enough joy in eating, sleeping, playing and occupying a territory, which they would attempt to defend from other cats (or, in the case of my first cat, two years older than me, some very surprised dogs).

    Douglas Adams pointed out that the whole ‘what’s it for’ question is a treacherous one, that can only be the result of our evolution as a big-brained, problem-solving, tool-using species. Anthropomorphism on a grand scale. Because WE do all the things we do with, usually, a very specific purpose in mind, we have a tendency to impute purpose everywhere, whether it exists or not. We extend our ‘theory of mind’ not only to other species, but to the world in general. There is a little part of my irrational brain which is convinced that the tram network knows somehow whenever I want to catch a tram, and arranges for one to be leaving just as I arrive at the stop. I know, of course, that this cannot possibly be true (unless it’s god, trying to send me an extremely cryptic message😉 ). That, my gullible believer friends, is the same part of the brain that’s telling you there must be a god, there must be some grand design, some cosmic purpose. There isn’t. Get over it, live your life, have fun, be good to each other, and marvel at the scale and complexity of the universe we DO live in, because that’s all there is. And despite what you choose to believe, that’s all there ever was.

    Reply
    1. abbienoiraude

      Beautifully explained.
      Reminds me of Tim Minchin’s 9 points to live your life.
      The worst part of religion is their lack of true all out joy! They are a joyless lot..so scared of an imaginary friend and so worried about sexual appetite that they condemn, not just themselves, but all others to a bland view of life.

      Reply
  11. g2-5bba245eb6db01d36e28de6648a6336a

    peter4@bigpond.com

    Email sent :

    I believe this was a sign outside your church recently ?

    If it is then is there any special reason you choose to insult those of us who do not believe in any Gods ?

    Does a life believing in Zeus or Buddha somehow give more “point” to existence than just striving to be a good kind honest caring atheist who does good for it’s own reward rather than being told to be good for fear of eternal torture ?

    Perhaps it would show compassion and understanding to accept people as they are and to invite them politely to join you rather than having a smug and insulting sign that tells them their lives are pointless unless they do what you tell them to do.

    Perhaps next week you could preach a sermon on humility and acceptance and but up a sign that encourages people to join you not makes them dislike you.

    I have been an atheist for over 30 years now, one of the reasons I lost my faith was I just could not stand so many Christians and I found Atheists on the whole much nicer kinder and more generous in spirit and life.

    I have Christian friends and I actively support a few Christian churches that accept me for who I am and for what I am,

    Perhaps you should take an example from these Christians, they seem to actually care for everyone.

    http://anggos.com.au

    Reply
  12. g2-5bba245eb6db01d36e28de6648a6336a

    Dam shit fuck and blast !

    I should have titled me email

    “Sorry to be so blunt”

    Reply
  13. Meg

    My grandparents on my mother’s side were both atheists and were two of the best people I have ever known. My Grandfather was a WW2 veteran and the very definition of a gentleman, and my grandmother was a wickedly funny, intelligent, eternal big-kid! I never knew their religious views until I was a teenager, as they did not believe in influencing children towards either rejecting or accepting religion. When I first discussed my atheism with them, they let me in on a glorious tradition – whenever they passed a smarmy church, they would flip it the bird. To this day, my fondest memory of them is sitting in the backseat of their car, giggling like crazy at the sight of my two otherwise very well behaved grandparents giving church signs the finger, then cackling away with each other as we made our escape down the road! Tiny and ridiculous acts of rebellion like this help me laugh at the stupidity of the signs and enjoy them as a chance to remember my grandparents and make obscene gestures in their honour ;P

    Reply
  14. JW

    For a supposedly humble group, they don’t mind telling you how you wasted your life if you aren’t like them, even if they don’t know you at all.

    Reply
  15. Meg Wallace

    Well said Chrys! That’s what makes my blood boil, too: religiosos telling me that life is meaningless – pointless- because I, and no -one else, make meaning in my life, just as other atheists do. We use our brains and figure out how we can live a worthwhile existence in cooperation with others. Including the ‘point’ of working towards the welfare of the planet and its population. Let the religious believe in what they will, but I cannot reject the pure arrogance of their presuming to tell me that the joy and love and direction I get from my atheist existence is ‘pointless’.

    Reply
    1. TheBabelFish

      Religious people make their own meaning too, they just lack the imagination to make their own, so they buy it off the shelf. The obvious disadvantage is it’s not very flexible, but it has the advantage of being shared with lots of other people, with whom they can get together and wish really, really hard. When they’ve done that they declare that what they want to be true and what is actually true are in fact the same thing, so everybody else must be wrong. It’s only a short step from there to ‘everybody else is going to hell,’ and then they feel like they have a duty to save us from ourselves. That’s why they do it.

      I have had a great deal of experience of this, ever since childhood, so these days if somebody wants to save me, I give them fair warning – there is very little chance that I will change my mind (because that would require evidence, and you don’t have any), but there is at least a 50/50 chance you will change yours and lose your own faith. Still want to have a go? Most don’t.

      Reply
      1. TheBabelFish

        Because they prefer their own artificially constructed meaning to the truth. Many, when confronted by truth, effectively put their fingers in their ears and go, “la,la,la,la,la,la,la,la.”

  16. A

    I want to say “logic, passion and ambition form my pencil sharpener”. At first, when I walked away from the church, I was like a blunt pencil, pointless and useless. Over time, I found my way out of the woods by applying logic. Like when I felt overwhelmed and wanted to pray (even though at that stage I knew nobody was listening), I used logic to draw my attention to the fact that just because I feared something, that was no reason to talk to thin air and run away from using logic and hard work to get myself out of my predicament. And when I wanted direction, I could think about what I was passionate about, and what I wanted out of life, and use those as a rough compass. Yes, at times, I am like a blunt pencil without god, but that’s no reason to invent an imaginary friend just to avoid the hard work of sharpening myself again.

    Reply
  17. Whorederve

    It’s all relative.. For someone thinking on a small scale, a blunt pencil might seem to have no point, but compare it to a log, and it suddenly seems all sorts of sharp and pointy.
    Can you help it if you think bigger than their petty little pencil?

    Reply
  18. Andy Fitzharry

    I complained to the ACCC about a church sign near my house that promised me eternal life if I accepted Jesus into my life.

    They did write back but seeed to think everyone would know it was not possible, so no ‘trading breach’ had occured.

    Frankly, that is total rubbish. Claims made should be able to be backed up.

    Clearly, this Anglican Rev’ has got too little going on in his life and transfers that to everyone else.

    Reply
    1. Di Pearton

      Maybe we should all write to this church, explaining our problem with his/her insensitivity??

      Reply
  19. Chrissie Ray

    Dearest Bear, thank you for your outspoken views on this ratbag sign which offended me when i drove past it too. The self importance and righteousness of christians is nauseating and we are so often having to deal with it. Oh for a religious free society where people can think and experience their lives with honesty!

    Reply
  20. g2-5bba245eb6db01d36e28de6648a6336a

    NEWS FLASH

    Church Apologizes !!!

    Apology in response to my email

    +++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
    Dear Doug,

    May I offer an apology on behalf of the congregation for a sign that has caused offence. While not responsible for the message that went up on the sign I guess I should have given more thought to what was there when I drove past. Sometimes we let the pressure of life obscure what we should be aware of. Certainly I have friends and relatives who have very different views to myself and we accept each other as we are. Again, Sorry.

    Kind regards,
    Peter Hall

    Reply
    1. Jayel

      Well done – you’ve made at least one person think again. And good on Peter Hall, too, for apologising.

      Reply
  21. Maureen Walton (@maureen_walton)

    In life it is the one’s who quietly go along helping others and appreciating nature who get more out of life as they have the freedom, peace and the joy of not needing to follow others. Not having to to sit in a church and listen to someone else telling you what to do and how to live and that God will send you to hell and fire all rather sad.

    Reply
  22. palmboy

    Most people are offended by these self-righteous, pompous signs.
    It reeks of anti-social behaviour similar to that seen in the primary school playground, where one girls thinks she is better than everybody else.

    People see these signs and feel no connection to a church that puts down and distances people from itself.

    Some months back I saw a similarly offensive sign on a church in Lutwyche (Brisbane). Can’t tell you even what the sign said now, but I can tell everyone the location of a church to avoid if they want to practice true Cristianity.

    Reply
  23. Pingback: Welcome to the 65th Down Under Feminist Carnival!

  24. Helen

    As the daughter of another awesome atheist called Jack (whose life most certainly had a point, I think) I raise a glass (or rather coffee cup) to your Jack!

    Reply

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