Some time ago I stumbled upon a picture on the internet of a sign in front of a church somewhere. Below is the picture of the sign:
I posted a copy of this sign to a folder dedicated to such things on my Facebook profile to show an example of the absurdity sometimes exhibited by religious logic. I saw it as an example of such absurdity due to the inherent flaws in this kind of a statement.
Well, this morning as I was on my way to the grocery store I saw that one of the local Churches along the way has apparently found it admirable to emulate this sign and now bears a similar message. (I will try to get a photo of it tomorrow to replace this one in my facebook as well as possibly to add to this blog post – first hand evidence is always superior to the anecdotal kind)
I figured as long as I am going to be going by that way to take the photo anyway, it might be worthwhile to drop a quick note to the pastor to let him know that his posting of the message may not have the desired effect(s) he intended. The following is the text I am considering sending in such a letter if I do decide to leave one behind:
To whom it may concern,I couldn't help but notice that the marquis sign in front of your Church is emulating a message that has been making the rounds of the internet by way of a similar sign seen in front of a small Presbyterian church in eastern Ontario. I think it may be of value to inform you that this message may not have the intended result you desire for a couple of reasons, not the least of which are two inherent flaws in the statement itself. Flaws that any reasonable person should quickly realize. To address the flaws first, let me begin with the obvious one of the two. Google is not an 'answer' engine, Google a search engine. Although I understand the intent of the message, the way it is worded immediately jumps out to me as inaccurate. I realize the intention is to say that there are some things that can't be answered by 'using' google, but then why not instead have the sign read: "SOME QUESTIONS EVEN USING Google CAN'T ANSWER" ? The second flaw in the statement is a fallacy that is implied when putting such a message out in front of a Church like yours. The implication being that the Bible and the Church 'can' answer such questions. I will not speak to my own opinion as to whether or how well notions of faith and belief in God may or may not answer such questions, but I shall address the fallacy of this implication. This is a typical "Because Not A, therefore B" type argument and is a fallacy. Using such reasoning, one could just as easily imply: "because you cannot find all the answers on Google, therefore you 'can' by way of Astrology" or "...asking a stranger on the street" or "...flipping to a random page in the nearest book" Because you cannot find all the answers using Google does not automatically equate that you can through any suggested alternative. Any such alternative still needs to establish that it is not only a consistent and valid source of such answers, but by way of that wording, that it is an all inclusive source of such answers as well. Again, it is not my desire to hash out whether or not the Bible or a Church does this. But with both of these flaws addressed, I would like to point out one other possible 'effect' that you might not have considered. As I stated, any reasonable person can quickly see one if not both of these flaws. Any reasonably connected person (on the internet) may well have seen this sign's message and thus realize your's is not original, but flattery through imitation. But have you also considered that it might be seen as 'self-righteousness' on the part of the religious or your particular parish? (if I am not correct, self-righteousness is discouraged in Christian doctrine as a form of vanity, is it not?) What do I mean by this? If you examine the two flaws, and if you consider it plausible for people to discern them, then it is not a leap to consider that only people who already believe 'God and the Bible 'do' have all the answers' will be the most likely people to agree with such a statement on face value. In other words, the wording will likely not 'convince' anyone that is not already convinced. If it's not there to convince anyone (or, if convincing them was an intention but is one that will not be likely to achieve such a desired purpose) then what other purpose can the message serve other than to 'brag' or 'boast' about the about religion/church's self-perceived ability to be the sole source of answers to such questions? In other words, for a reasonable person capable of critical thinking, your sign might actually turn people away from the idea of turning to the church for answers. Just some thoughts for you to consider. Sincerely, one of your friendly neighborhood atheists... P.S. I thought it might also be of interest to you to know that I have a copy of this sign that I post as an example of the flaws of religious logic - due to very the two things I mentioned.
And I don’t think it’s a leap to consider that the two reasons I mentioned are also part of the reason the original version from Ontario has gotten such circulation on the internet.