Not at all clear on the concept

Ah, what a lovely example of theistic incomprehension. Did you know that the reason Christians go to church is out of a sense of civic duty, even when they think church is godawful tedium?


Why do atheists think that just because they are atheists that they don’t have to go to church? I don’t like standing in line at the DMV. I’m not a car, but I do it anyway. I don’t like standing in line at the grocery store either. I’m not produce, but I still do it anyway! I am a responsible citizen and I do the right thing, so should atheists!!!

Responsible citizens attend science classes and learn. Have you been keeping up with your obligation to understand the complex world we live in?

(via FAILblog)

(By the way, if you start babbling about poes, I will cut you. I really really hate all the telepathic scrying people do to discern poeishness.)


  1. Sastra says

    So it doesn’t matter so much whether you believe in God or not — as long as you help contribute a few bucks in the plate and bolster the idea that church = good? Ah, the true meaning of Christianity!

    Hell, we should do it. We atheists should go to churches, question the sermons, challenge the believers, undermine the Sunday School lessons — and then blink in surprise at the protests. But … but … but we thought everybody was supposed to go to church! It’s the right thing to do!

    We were only helping.

  2. Becca Stareyes says

    What if we don’t stand in line at the DMV? (I don’t drive, so I have no license, and my ID card can be renewed via mail.)

    Also, I’m confused — cars and produce don’t stand in line; people do. And non-drivers and non-grocery-buyers don’t stand in line at the DMV/grocery store. For that matter, I know plenty of theists who don’t go to church/synagogue/temple/etc. regularly… precisely because spending a Sunday morning in tedium benefits no one except the church’s offering plate and people who seem to think suffering is necessary for virtue.

  3. says

    Ghods that’s funny! Some xtian hates having to go to church, so he wants atheists to be as miserable as he is every Sunday. I love it!

  4. says

    I don’t like standing in line at the grocery store either. I’m not produce, but I still do it anyway!

    Let me guess… He’s not an angel but he stands in church anyway.

  5. says

    I do my civic duty by staying away from Church.

    Hmm, come to think of it, if I ever had reason to attend Church, I would make sure that it was not a civic duty. That’s a first amendment responsibility.

  6. opposablethumbs says

    Why do atheists think that just because they are atheists that they don’t have to go to church?

    That’s – that’s actually hilarious.

    Thank you, thank you so much PZ. I really needed a good laugh today! ::wipes tears of laughter from eyes::

  7. says

    I love the people who are dead sure that having the government codify religion will be a good thing. For some reason they always believe there’s no question at all that their religion is the one that will be preferred. It’s really their most prominent article of faith, the country would be better off if people who believe my delusion were making all the rules and forcing everyone else to rub blue mud in their navel exactly the way I do. It never occurs to them that the guys who rub red mud in their navels might be stronger in numbers. Or maybe the color of the mud doesn’t matter as long as everybody has to rub mud in their navel. They never even entertain the possibility that if they do get their way it might not stay that way forever. It’s only taken 200 odd years for us to get to the point where the Supreme Court could codify religious opinion into our law, what chance do the esoteric vagaries between delusions stand.

  8. says

    I don’t like standing in line at the grocery store either. I’m not produce, but I still do it anyway

    Now I’m picturing one of those people in the express lane who dither around deciding which lottery cards and cigarettes to buy.

  9. curcuminoid says

    Definitely a Poe…because it makes you depressed. (Edgar Allen Poe, not Nathan Poe)

    There, now all of these things are Poe’s in one way or another.

  10. zb24601 says

    I do go to church once or twice a year. It helps to reassure me that religion is just a big delusion.

    Last mother’s day, I went to two church services and a Sunday school class. A friend, who is a christian, told me that in his Sunday school class they were going to be talking about atheism and what can be done to get atheists back to god. I asked if I could go with him. I went to the service at his church and then to the Sunday school with him. After we got out of Sunday School, I realized I had time to get to my mother’s church for the service she attends. For some reason, it makes her feel good if I show up at her church, and since it was Mother’s day, I surprised her by attending.

    It amazes me that so many people can listen to those sermons and not see that it’s all a house of cards, and not even the cards are real.

  11. Anthony K says

    Now I’m picturing one of those people in the express lane who dither around deciding which lottery cards and cigarettes to buy.

    In many provinces in Soviet Canada this doesn’t happen unless you’re at a tiny grocery store. If the store sells pharmacy products, they cannot also sell tobacco products.

  12. Rodney Nelson says

    This guy is like the people who complain that atheists aren’t feeling angst about not having god in their lives.

  13. says

    Somewhat OT:
    Hmm, I think the last time I was in a DMV was actually getting my license, when I was 16. No need to go back in there, AAA DMV services FTW. I just registered my car there, a whole 5 minutes in the building

  14. says

    Aaaand…here we go, with people certain on both sides of the issue of whether it is a joke or not. I really don’t give a damn. That note has a comparable degree of cluelessness to the arguments of known religious zealots, so there’s no reason to be skeptical.

  15. atheist says

    My theory about why atheists perceive “poes” everywhere is that we are using irony to protect ourselves from understanding how utterly dumb many people are. We use the delusion of “poes” as a form of mental self-protection.

  16. rogerfirth says

    My wife and kids are very non-religious, and I’m openly atheist, but we figured we’d make my elderly father happy and take him to church on Christmas day. (His neighbors would have if we hadn’t — they take him to church every week like good catholics.)

    The demographics of the audience were interesting. Out of maybe 300 people total, I counted four families with little kids, and no young adults. The vast majority of the audience was well over sixty, with many much much much older.

    When they brought out the bread and wine, my youngest daughter asked me why there wasn’t any cheese.

    My kids thought it was the silliest thing watching this guy in the robe chanting dumb stuff about father in heaven eternal light salvation jesus blah blah blah. And people reading stupid stories about being good so you can live with god in heaven when you die. They asked why anybody would want to go to church to listen to such weird fantasies. The concept of a god is completely foreign to them. They understand that religion is very important to a lot of people, but they simply can’t understand why.

    I can think of nothing more effective at turning your children off to religion than taking them to church.

  17. jthompson says

    @cervantes: I have no trouble thinking it might be real because I’ve got family and acquaintances that trot out stuff this silly on a pretty regular basis. The saddest part is they always think they’re being clever.

    It might be a Poe and it might not. It’s impossible to tell either way, which is exactly what Poe’s law states.

  18. hackerguitar says

    I’m trying to wrap my head around the kind of worldview that can produce this – let alone accept the underlying tenets – and it’s painful. I can’t imagine how someone who thinks like this can function – this much stupidity has to get in the way *all* the time.

  19. Rey Fox says

    Ironically, the writer of this screed does not stand in line at the gardening store, even though ze is quite clearly a potted plant.

  20. says

    Er, no PZ, I did not “babble about poes,” I merely pointed out that you are mocking what is very obviously and transparently intended as sarcasm. It doesn’t take telepathy to discern that, just common sense. The argument that “I stand in line in the DMV even though I am not a car” is self-consciously ridiculous. Get it?

  21. says


    I’m trying to wrap my head around the kind of worldview that can produce this – let alone accept the underlying tenets – and it’s painful.

    Someone who thinks the mere appearance at a church would invest icky atheists with proper morals, remind them of their place in society, etc. IOW, someone who can’t imagine thinking for themself, ’cause that shit is painful.

  22. Nakkustoppeli says

    I’m not sure if the writer is a true believer with a medieval world view or one of those conservatives who thinks ordinary/poor people are just cattle.

    I’ve seen the latter kind (even if they’re actually atheists) demand that everybody should play along with religion in order to keep the hoi polloi in check.

  23. uppity cracka says

    I’m gonna give this a solid 70% chance of being poe…based on exhaustive research, of course.

  24. tim rowledge, Ersatz Haderach says

    Did you know that the reason Christians go to church is out of a sense of civic duty, even when they think church is godawful tedium?

    Sounds pretty much like organised religion in the UK, as of when I last lived there, anyway. CofE always appeared to be a mumbling social club for Conservatives (as in the political party, not the outrageously evil sort you get in the US, or at least not back then, current incumbents excepted, your mileage may vary etc).
    Happily, always managed to avoid it for myself except for the occasional school-enforced event.

  25. unclefrogy says

    and by implication and extension this “guy” does not believe in church either but goes anyway?
    it is what you are supposed, to do to go along with all of the social conventions that eventually lead me to abandon belief entirely. Having for as long as I could remember liking to understand nature and the way things are and how they work I could not help asking why.
    first with things like do I have to wear shoes then to the racism I saw every where even in church to asking why with everything when it is just a convention that is condoned by authority but was mostly totally irrational and arbitrary.
    all I can say is keep it up buddy you are just high lighting to pointlessness of your position.
    uncle frogy

  26. grumpyoldfart says

    A workmate once said, “I don’t believe in god, but I’m still a Christian.”

    He seemed to think that there were Christians who obeyed the law, and non-Christians who broke the law, and since he wasn’t a criminal then, by definition, he must be a Christian (and a lack of belief in God couldn’t change that!).

  27. says

    Unless you’ve got context it’s best to assume the person is being serious when they make statements like that. If PZ wrote some outrageous nonsense about needing God to be a good person we’d be almost certain it was a Poe because we know his positions regarding religion. Conversely we have no context for some randonm guy on Twitter, so it’s best to believe they’re sincere until proven otherwise.

  28. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    The Stupid… the Stupid…
    it huuuuurrrrrtttsss…

    Have some complementary grog, it helps…

  29. says

    The thing that annoys me about the Poe comments is that a lot of people (not all) do not know what a Poe actually is. Hint: if you are sure that it’s satire, sarcasm or some form of joke, then it is NOT a Poe!

    The whole point about Poe’s law is that you truly cannot tell satire from sincerity without additional hints. There is literally nothing too dumb for a Xian to say sincerely – see fstdt if you require proof.

  30. ckitching says

    I’m not entirely sure why people are so certain that it’s satire either. It is oddly phrased which may be suspicious, but on the other hand, there are many who would be in favour of compelling atheists to attend church services. There are also many who would happily condemn us to imprisonment or death for disbelief or leaving their religion, although thankfully this is relatively rare.

  31. stephenwaddock says

    Really???….what a maroon!

    Hey, he can drop out of the “Mythical Sky Fairy Club” any time he wants!

  32. DLC says

    A note: my car did not go to the DMV, I did. My groceries did not stand in line at the grocery store checkout, I did. I am not a grocery, auto or christian. Going to the DMV is not optional if you own an auto. going to the grocery store is not optional unless you are one of those totally self-sufficient farmer. Going to church is not only optional, but something I actively recommend against.

  33. Crudely Wrott says


    I’m not an encyclopedia but I sure love to read and learn.

    By bizarre logic I should be a library.

  34. says

    I just have to say that in my native tongue (Afrikaans) “poes” is the equivalent of the C-word. I’m having the hardest time reading posts here without interpreting it as such. lol.

  35. eucliwood says

    Howdy, theist. Grocery BUYERS stand in line. Car CONSUMERS stand in line. Church bullshit BUYERS stand in line. There ya go.

  36. says

    That FB post is extra hilarious since I often tell the more smug religious folk around me that going to church doesn’t make one a good person any more than going to a garage makes one a car.