Bow, Yield, Kneel — Everywhere A Sign

Came across this church reader board yesterday while I was driving. It’s in front of the Calvary Assembly of God castle in Amsterdam, New York.

I know you can’t read it. The pic was taken with my cellphone camera, through a dirty windshield, and while I was stopped at a red light.


The message was instantly repulsive. Surrender your will?

I mean … surrender your will? Who teaches that??

(Heh. Gives extra darkness to the “Noah’s Ark Preschool” banner on the fence nearby, which you also wouldn’t have been able to read and which I decided to crop out.)

Let’s say you want to create a permanent underclass of witless thralls. You know, to give you their money. To go to wars and die so you can profit.  To argue and vote against their own interests. To willingly submit to whatever you want to do to them. To eat unhealthy garbage to ruin their health and then buy your drugs. To fall for every new fad that comes along — fads you create — and to buy the stuff from you so they can take part. To not notice their own needs or desires or innate values, but to instead take up whatever needs and desires and values you want them to have. To not notice you consuming the world out from under them. Whatever.

How do you do that? Indoctrination. Brainwashing. For generations. You teach them to NOT think, to NOT evaluate, to NOT compare the facts they know with what you teach, to NOT believe that you could ever be mistaken, to NOT believe that “Little Me” could ever be righter than “Big Important You.”

You teach them to surrender their will. To give up all desire to investigate, examine, judge and criticize.

I got one of my metaphor-epiphanies as I looked at the thing: Picture someone standing in the middle of a ring of signs. And not just one ring, but layers and layers of rings of signs, an encircling field of them. Two-sided signs.

From the inside, they all say stuff like Believe in God, Religion is Good, You Can’t Have Morality Without God, Obey the Church Fathers, Put God First in Your Life, The Pope is Always Right.

From there, you think and believe as the signs say. Every question is answered, your life is filled with certainty, and anytime you have doubt and discomfort, you just read the signs and they override the doubt, if not the discomfort. So you stay where you are.

But from the outside, the signs say stuff like The Church Cared More About Priests Than About Molested Children, The Bible is Full of Contradictions, Adam and Eve Never Existed, Pat Robertson is Obviously a Manipulative, Lying Sack of Shit.

If you’re stuck in the middle, all you see is this pious happy face stuff that continues to convince you you’re in the right place.

It’s only if you look from the outside — look back to where you once stood, or to where your friends and loved ones still stand — that you can see it for what it really is, what it obviously is, in all its horrifying fullness.

The metaphor illustrates for me the difficulty of convincing goddy people to look at their religion with your eyes, to see all the stuff you see.

But it also gives me hope. Because there IS an outside, and because the backside of the very signs that hold people in are the best evidence that it’s all a manipulative lie. Once you get out and look back, it becomes obvious how silly it all is.

For many of us formerly-religious atheists, it was using our own minds to take a peek at the back of one of those signs, and then another, that led us to move outward, gradually and more and more, and finally look back and see where we’d been standing. To see all the lies and falsehoods. All the manipulation. All the meanness. All the wrongness.

We did it all on our own.

But today we’ve got this entire movement pointing out the backsides of those signs, to anybody and everybody who will listen. The people on the inside no longer have the one choice of standing enthralled and comfortable in the middle of that field of signs.

We’re allowing this other choice to show through the rows of signs. If they hear us at all, it forces them to think. If nothing else, they have to actively fight their own minds (which requires mental effort — thinking! — it seems to me) to not evaluate what we say.

Good job, people. Keep up the good work.

“Surrender Your Will” has had all of human history in which to work its magic.

Let’s give “Never Surrender Your Own Will” a few thousand years, shall we?

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  • jonnyscaramanga

    I like this metaphor a lot, and as another ex-religious atheist, I agree that it shows the situation perfectly.

    For me, it’s almost more frustrating to be in this position, because I understand how the religious think, but I can’t get them to see it. Still, I think that the constant drip of questions does make a different. Eventually, the doublethink got too much for me and I had to be honest with myself. I think it’s the same for a lot of people.

  • Kevin

    I think there’s an entire blog in nothing but inane church reader board sayings.

  • Eric

    That sign needs a sign beside it that says, “Surrender is the definition of Islam”.

    • sc_5b5039dd39eec895ccc71934d4e6783f


      That sign needs a sign beside it that says, “Surrender is the definition of Islam”.

      Must you use this as a springboard into a rather irrelevant bout of Islam-bashing?

      Yes, it sucks. Yes, it‘s probably worse than all the other religions.

      So? This post is about religion in general, with the only reference to a specific religion being a context-dependent incidental.

      Therefore, there’s really no need to somehow make it about Islam and thus lead everyone over the same tired ground once again.

      • Blizno


        The poster is pointing out that the word Islam literally means “submission”.

        That observation is appropriate in this thread.

  • wholething

    Last week, there was a church sign along the road between home and work that said, “Your desires should be God’s desires.” I agree. I desire the world to be a perfect place to live but my power to make that happen is limited. Too bad there is no omnipotence that shares that desire.

  • Dunc

    And of course, the obvious question: surrender your will to whom? To God? Well, he never shows up in person, so I guess your supposed to surrender your will to one of his self-appointed Earthly representatives… Open your wallets and say after me – “Help yourself”.

  • WMDKitty

    Yup, “Freedom is Slavery, War is Peace, Ignorance is Strength”…

  • Steinar

    “TO YIELD TO GOD’S WILL MEANS TO SURRENDER YOUR OWN WILL.” Funny, to me that sounds like an atheist slogan. Not surrendering your will, that’s a good thing, isn’t it?

  • Robert B.

    Way to make your god sound like an evil overlord, there, Calvary Assembly of God. That’s some good advertising.

  • Ex Patriot

    First of all I have been an Atheist for more years than I care to remember. I was brought up in a family that had not to much to do with religion. I had the misfortune to live in OK for 18 years before I retired and I remember the signs along the roads saying”where will you spend eternity”, I used to laugh at these signs as I figured my ashes will be drifting some where. I retired to a small country in Europe, which is by tradition rcc, but the people I know and love wouldn’t piss on the pope if he were on fire.

  • San Ban

    Ugh! Another repulsive message from religion. It’s right up there with “human sacrifice is the only way to appease a vengeful and unseen power.”

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