Apr 13 2013

This is a real thing?

I have no idea where this is. I especially have no idea what the people who wasted money on it were thinking. It’s a prayer booth.


I am speechless at the absurdity of it all. This isn’t about ‘communing with god’ or any such nonsense: it’s about having a prominent public prop with a big sign so that everyone around you knows that you are praying — it’s public piety.

It also has instructions. Apparently the people who might use this are so stupid that they wouldn’t be able to figure out the appropriate posture to take while babbling to Jesus.


Those instructions are a bit Orwellian.

This device exists to facilitate and control prayer in public space. Improper use may result in a penalty or fine.

It’s there to control prayer? What? How? And they’re going to impose some kind of legal penalty if you don’t use it exactly as they want? How do you improperly use prayer? I’m picturing the prayer police thumping you with a nightstick if you prayed to the Episcopalian god rather than the Catholic god, or possibly battering you into unconsciousness if you dared to use the prayer booth to talk to Allah.

And then there’s the preemptive assumption that they’re going to get criticized for this silliness:

Please avoid the booth if you are sensitive to or feel threatened by actions that are religious in nature.

Nobody is going to feel “threatened” by this ditzy exhibition, guy. A better warning would be to the users: “Please avoid the booth if you are sensitive to passers-by pointing and laughing at you.”


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  1. 1
    Peter Barker

    So if I sacrifice a small animal on that little platform is that proper use? After all, it would certainly facilitate prayer. I suppose if anyone objects to me wringing the neck of a chicken in their booth, I can smugly proclaim that they simply feel “threatened” by me exercising my rights.

  2. 2

    It’s amazing how many christians don’t even read their bible, someone should show them Matthew 6:1-7.

  3. 3
    PZ Myers

    Maybe they read Matthew: this is their “little closet”. It’s just a little closet with bright colors and arrows and the equivalent of flashing lights. Jesus didn’t say anything against that!

  4. 4

    It is absolutely ridiculous, but it does appear to at least be right outside of a church and not sitting on a random street corner.

  5. 5

    I’m guessing it’s supposed to be satire of “the Atheist Agenda”. It kind of fails at knowing what satire is though.

  6. 6
    Paul Claessen

    Apparently it’s becoming more and more popular:

  7. 7

    That open-air thing? This is another case of a degeneration of the original concept. How the heck is Jesus supposed to change into the God-man costume in THAT?

  8. 8

    The bottom part looks like it was kicked in. At least someone was using this properly.

  9. 9
    Paul Claessen

    It’s ART!!!
    And yours for $3000.

    “The piece fuses humor, sarcasm and sincerity, and aims to highlight and spark further discussion about the contemporary expression of religion within the public community.”

    See: http://www.cityofdubuque.org/index.aspx?NID=1358

  10. 10
    Paul Claessen

    Oddly, it lacks a coin slot!

  11. 11

    According to the visual instructions, this can only be used by men.

  12. 12
    Xanthë, Amy of my threads

    Wow, such ostentatious show-boating and imposture. I know that bit of Matthew well, but this really is an illustration of chapter 6 verse 5 rather than the following verse about going into a secret room or closet to pray. Or, the first verse or the two of the same chapter also makes the point – don’t make a public spectacle of your piety.

  13. 13

    @#10 – These days the CHURCH doesn’t want to know people who don’t pay by credit card.

  14. 14

    I’m not ready to rail against this in po-faced solemnity, but not ready to call Poe on it either. Apparently it is part of a sculpture installation in Suwanee, Georgia. This piece is from the oeuvre of one Dylan Mortimer. We don’t know exactly what hue the twinkle in his eye might be… purple or magenta, like a statue during Lent? or some more thought-provoking shade?

    Oh, and the “Suwanee SculpTour exhibit is organized by the Public Arts Commission and funded through corporate and private donations.”

  15. 15

    Yep, it’s an art installation: http://www.csmonitor.com/The-Culture/2008/1125/the-prayer-booth-an-artist-s-exhibit-of-faith
    Kind of funny, too.

  16. 16
    The Mellow Monkey

    I saw what I believe to be the original when it was first on display, which Paul Claessen linked to above. They’re all over the place now, so I assume the artist must have discovered a weird, profitable niche.

  17. 17

    I have to think that this was some sort of guerrilla art installation…

  18. 18

    Update to life goals:

    Get caught fucking in this prayer booth. If possible make sure the fucking leads to dancing, for extra points.


  19. 19

    Ah, apologies for my feeble websearch-fu. The one PZ showed is not the one in the Suwanee town center (#14). I will pray that Ahura Mazda does not toast my piggies for my most grievous error.

  20. 20

    This 2007 mention says it’s by a student at the Maryland Institute College of Art:


  21. 21

    Does it dispense a cracker when you’re done?

  22. 22

    @ Louis 18 – I love this idea.

  23. 23

    Irisvanderpluym, #22,

    I am available a week from Thursday.

    But seriously, it could be very legitimately claimed that sex is a religious act. After all, when I ask my wife for sex she says “oh god”….

    ….here all week, tip your veal, try your waitress etc


    P.S. this knee trembler in a prayer booth does need doing though. Local pharynguloids, stand up for your principles!

  24. 24

    If this is supposed to be either joke or art, I do not get the point. Whatever the intention of the author is, to me it seems just plain dumb.

  25. 25
    Marcus Ranum

    Looks like someone had fun with an out of use telephone booth. Was this in Banksy country?

  26. 26

    Interesting statement about modern evangelical Christianity. Given the phone booth’s obsolescence, does the piece suggest recent pushes to make prayer public may be a sign of religion in decline, or is it saying that in our world of advanced technology, Christianity’s “old-school” ways of communication remain important?


    Here’s how the artist describes his work:

    My work explores how ideas are sold. I navigate concepts of marketing, soliciting and evangelism… ideas about selling an idea. The views we hold closest to our hearts- politically, socially, spiritually- the things we feel are too valuable to be kept to ourselves, motivate us to go about the work of convincing others of our view/perspective/belief. Visually, my work employs methods of communication through signage, advertising, slogans, etc. My struggle deals with my upbringing in evangelical Christianity, and the navigation of my own beliefs in the context of growing up with a respiratory disease. My faith was helpful in my struggle in many ways. The rest of my life has been navigating how that relates to anyone outside of me.We all have convictions that have helped us privately. My interest is in how those private convictions function outside the self. I’m interested in the messy, yet necessary process of how personal beliefs/opinions/convictions collide in the public.

  27. 27

    @ Louis:

    But seriously, it could be very legitimately claimed that sex is a religious act.

    Especially if you’re a Hindu.

    See you a week from Thursday. ;)

  28. 28

    Telephone to glory oh what joy divine
    I can feel the current moving down the line
    Made by God the Father for his very own
    You can talk to Jesus on this Royal Telephone

    Didn’t Tennessee Ernie Ford sing that about 5 decades back?

  29. 29
    hotshoe, now with more boltcutters

    I think the artist needs to reinstall an actual phone in each of these booths. Not connected to the phone system – but it should be a working phone that would transmit your call IF it were connected.

    What if God was one of us
    Just a slob like one of us
    Just a stranger on the bus
    Trying to make his way home
    He’s trying to make his way home
    Back up to heaven all alone
    Nobody calling on the phone …

    - Joan Osbourne

  30. 30

    That REALLY needs a Bible in one of those armored phone book hanger things they have in phone booths!

  31. 31

    If this is supposed to be either joke or art, I do not get the point.

    thanks for sharing.
    IMO, here’s actually a lot in that piece to unpack and think about. If you don’t “get it” instantly and just knee-jerk dismiss it as “dumb” then it’s absolutely true: you don’t get the point.

    I’m actually very surprised that PZ and others were even inclined to take it seriously. It seemed like obvious irony-art right away, to me.

    Fortunately neither I nor Charly is the measure of all things.

  32. 32

    I wouldn’t be surprised if a member of the faithful purposely vandalized the bottom of the instruction panel where a website is offered to provide what seems to be “[special re]quests, info, questions” about the booth.

    I’ll bet they got an awful lot of traffic out of this.

  33. 33
    Bronze Dog

    I also thought it might be an art installation when I first saw it. The Orwellian statement about the fine for improper use seems particularly fitting and I’d probably try to come up with something similar if I was making a prayer booth. The second line doesn’t work for me, though. Thinking some more, I’d probably stick in a reference to praying in a closet, identifying as a public “closet,” entirely and ironically missing the point.

    Sadly, I’d probably wind up going against the ironic/satirical approach because the targets wouldn’t get it.

  34. 34

    Reminded me of this,

  35. 35

    The bit about avoiding the Prayer Booth if you’re sensitive to religious hokum made me snicker. They may as well have said “flame away”.

  36. 36
    Gregory in Seattle

    Am I the only one oddly reminded of the prayer booths from THX 1183?

  37. 37
    Gregory in Seattle

    Dyslexics of the world, untie! I meant THX 1138.

  38. 38

    All it is missing is a For External Use Only warning.

  39. 39

    Reasons we’re already living in Bioshock Infinite #52

  40. 40

    I guess this means are that’s critical of religion can actually backfire, having its satire become indistinguishable from the real trolls.

    Honestly, in a world where a forced birther gun nut politician can use arming fetuses as a real slogan…

    …Art is dying.

  41. 41

    s/means are that’s/means art that’s/


  42. 42

    Shouldn’t it have a warning: Do not use in case of an actual emergency?

  43. 43

    I like how Sebastien links the obsolescence of the phone booth to the idea of prayer. Also…the idea that any communication with your supposed creator requires an intermediary (who takes your money before letting you “talk” with them) is writ ludicrously large with this phone booth.

  44. 44

    This device exists to facilitate and control prayer in public space

    Best case scenario it’s got a Tillinghast resonator to aid in detecting the presence of nearby elder gods. Really though, I doubt that thing’s even grounded properly. Cultists, man,no sense of craftsmanship.

    Worst case scenario, that kneepad is located at the sacrificial node of a concealed summoning grid. Well, at least it’s helping someone contact their gods…

  45. 45

    Just imagine for a moment (however gruesome it might be) to talk into that empty rectangular box.

    Then LISTEN.

    That’s precisely what a conversation with god sounds like.

  46. 46

    …nothing but the short-range reverberations of your own voice,

  47. 47

    …god: its an empty box that people keep trying to communicate with.

  48. 48

    I like it, because of the ways it knocked me back and forth.

    Prayer booth like a phone booth, ha-ha how droll, some Sunday School teacher probably came up with this and everyone else thought it was cute.

    After reading line about control and improper use: Oh, clever, it’s about state controlling people via religion, and how public displays of piety become currency and signals of being a “good” citizen.

    After reading the next line, trying to extrapolate where it’s been vandalized: Wait, it’s making fun of secularism too, saying “if you’re offended by this then don’t look”. But also maybe commenting on the futility of saying “if you’re offended by this don’t look” when it’s so obviously in your face, so there’s that.

    And so on and so forth.

  49. 49

    As art, I find it witty and thought-provoking. It brings to mind the lyrics of one of my favorite earworms.

    Your own, personal, Jesus.
    Someone to hear your prayers, someone to care.
    Your own, personal, Jesus
    Someone to hear your prayers, someone who’s there.

    Feeling unknown
    and your all alone?
    Flesh and bone by the telephone,
    Lift up the receiver, I’ll make you a believer.
    ~Depeche Mode

  50. 50
    Acolyte of Sagan

    Are we sure it isn’t Jesus’ Tardis?
    Or am I mixing my sci-fi?

  51. 51
    Acolyte of Sagan

    And why does the logo on the TARDISbooth remind me of a ‘No Shoplifting’ sign I once saw in Saudi?

  52. 52
    Acolyte of Sagan

    Hotshoe @ #29, my favourite line from that song was “If God had a name, what would it be?” A rhetorical question, I hope, or an early form of one of those premium-rate phone-in questions that seem to be obligatory on every fucking TV programme nowadays. You know the ones:
    For your chance to win some shit you never needed and will never use even if you do win, simply answer the following question.
    If God had a name, would it be
    a) God
    b) A Table
    c) Continental Drift.
    Calls cost a king’s ransom per minute, yadda yadda yadda.

  53. 53
    Samantha Vimes

    Really, I think the improper use means “Don’t piss on this.”

  54. 54

    As “art”: Yep, sundry noisy reactions ranging from WTF to outright guffaw from any external spectators while the prayerful within the sanctum of the box experience something closer to Cage’s “Four minutes, thirty-three seconds” – at horribly low fidelity unless they’re out there on that thing at 2 am.

    Who knows though? It could replace churches, in which case a proliferation of these would be a posiitive habit about the land.

  55. 55

    If they do proliferate, (who can possibly predict the whim of irrationality behind an effort that would emplace the ONE) we might commonly refer to these things as “god boxes”.

    To pray is to speak into an enpty box.

    Let the process begin.

  56. 56

    @Acolyte of Sagan: “If God had a name, would it be…”

    hah hah…

    There is this one that you missed:

    d) “Empty Box”

    Hollow be thy name, and so on…

  57. 57

    It looks like a multi-use installation. You can piss while on your knees, especially if you are drunk, and not spray it it all over. Then there could be a plastic penis that comes out so you can try out oral sex and test if you are gay or not. To make it nicer, a mouthwash is sprayed out. Now we need one for which Muslims can stick in their asses when they bend over for prayer. Allah and the Prophet seem to love seeing men’s asses in the air.

  58. 58

    I think we need a bunch of these for public officials. It would make it clear which ones where dead weight. Well, clearer, since some of them sort of “stealth” there way through things. I really don’t comprehend why, “You are here to work, not pray.”, or even, for students, “You are here to learn, not worship gods.”, are such difficult concepts for people to grasp. Because, really, that is all even we want, more or less. For them to just got off their damn knees long enough to do their damn jobs, instead of getting down on them, every fraking time they need to start a legislative session, make a decision, or bloody order a pizza (or, at least before eating the damn thing). None of which would be a problem, if it didn’t a) interfere with their ability to think, b) derail any real attempt to do anything useful, or c) waste the time of all the people waiting for them to bloody finish, before moving on to something vaguely useful.

  59. 59
    chigau (違う)

    fuck off

  60. 60

    I gather it doesn’t face Mecca…?

  61. 61

    They just put that there to make sure everyone knows you’re praying and not just asking for a handout like some homeless person. The money for nothing department is inside the building.

  62. 62
    Thumper: Who Presents Boxes Which Are Not Opened

    ‘CSWELLA #2

    It’s amazing how many christians don’t even read their bible, someone should show them Matthew 6:1-7.

    Someone who lives in the area should make it their business to stick a poster displaying Mark 6:1-7 in a prominent position on every booth.

  63. 63


    Someone who lives in the area should make it their business to stick a poster displaying Mark 6:1-7 in a prominent position on every booth.

    Are you advocating vandalizing art?
    To be a bit more serious thou, I thing some variation of this may be considered a helpful accommodation to Muslims. Since apparently they need to pray toward the direction of Mecca, something that point them that way would be helpful for their practice.

  64. 64
    Markita Lynda—threadrupt

    I think this is a great idea for cash-strapped Southern towns. Sprinkle prayer booths around with coin and bill slots for donations. People should definitely pay for the opportunity to pray ostentatiously in public. It could replace radar-trapping tourists’ cars.

  65. 65
    Markita Lynda—threadrupt

    Bingo! All the booths should be oriented towards Mecca (East is where the risen Christ is going to come from, too) and have a pull-out mat and water spigot for ritual cleansing, to become operative only after money is deposited.

  66. 66
    Markita Lynda—threadrupt

    The book in the armored case should be a Koran.

    For booths near legislatures: it injects truth serum into your leg when you kneel.

    I would be hilarious to add “Mecca that way” and see the reactions or to have a phone receiver with a recording that asks, “Why are you talking into an empty box?”

  67. 67

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